The UK’s increasing ethnic diversity is putting pressure on councils to recruit foster carers from minorities

The UK’s increasing ethnic diversity is putting pressure on councils to recruit foster carers from minorities. Kate Saines reports

A young child from Somalia arrives in the UK without their parents.

They already have to cope with the loss of family, friends and all that is familiar. This is coupled with fear and confusion arising from their inability to communicate feelings to the host population and from being in an unfamiliar country with different traditions and culture.

Local authorities and fostering organisations are working hard to find homes for such children. But with an estimated 10,000 foster carers needed across the UK, finding people from ethnic minorities is an arduous task.

Half the authorities surveyed for a recent Fostering Network report had identified a need to recruit carers from specific ethnic groups.(1) And a report by the Commission for Social Care Inspection said finding placements for children from ethnic minorities was especially difficult.(2)

Claire Dickinson of the Fostering Network says this means many fostered children are forced to cope with a family with a different lifestyle or culture to their own.

And personal stories and research, according to Gwen Rule, development and training officer for the British Association for Adoption and Fostering southern region, show that black, Asian and mixed-heritage children who had been placed with white families were more likely to experience confusion about their racial identity and isolation regarding their culture.

Dickinson says that for many people from ethnic minorities a fear of discrimination often deters them from applying to become a foster carer.

Also, many councils did not have comprehensive strategies when searching for carers, which suggests many might not be targeting their advertising campaigns or failing to make information accessible, for example by not translating it into other languages. But despite this, some pioneering councils have seen recruitment campaigns produce results.

Brighton and Hove Council has a dedicated recruitment officer with experience of community work to help match children with the right carers and this has helped boost the number of foster parents from ethnic minorities.

The council has also made links with Mosaic, an organisation that promotes the needs of ethnic minority children, which, with which the council, runs information sessions.

In Tower Hamlets, east London, social workers have been successful at securing carers from Bengali backgrounds. The council began working with the community five years ago particularly building relations with community and faith organisations.

Sukhjinder Nunwa, communications officer for fostering and adopting at Tower Hamlets, says: “There were several issues when we started but we have now been able to build trust within community groups and social services.”

The social services team advertise on radio stations that target black and Asian listeners such as Sunrise Radio, Club Asia and Choice FM. They campaigned at local events such as the Brick Lane Festival and the London Mayor’s annual Rise Festival. And all their literature is translated into other languages.

Nunwa says: “When we come to evaluate our campaigns, word of mouth or referrals from existing carers are in the main the most popular way that people hear about our services.”

Nunwa says getting the foster carer drive up and running has been major challenge and adds that the council still has problems recruiting African-Caribbean carers. But she says: “We have a growing Vietnamese looked-after children population, and have

In a globalised world, waves of migration mean that what are the pioneering actions of a few local authorities should become the best practice of many.

(1) Improving Effectiveness in Foster Care, April 2006,
(2) The Right People for Me, May 2006,

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