Transracial Placements - Fostering and Adoption Service

This chapter was added to the procedures manual in October 2021.

1. Introduction

Transracial placement is the placement of a Child in Care with foster carers or adopters of a different racial background.

Due to the individual nature of each case, this guidance aims not to be prescriptive but rather to raise awareness and provide a framework to assist those making placements to consider how to plan what is best for each child.

2. Legislation and Guidance

Adoption & Children Act 2002 - Adoption Guidance 2011

Adoption National Minimum Standards 2011

Care Planning

Regulations and Guidance - Department for Education

Article 20 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

This Article states that: 'A child temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family environment, or in whose best interests cannot be allowed to remain in that environment, shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the state. When considering solutions, due regard shall be paid to the desirability of continuity in a child's upbringing and to the child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background.'

Statutory guidance on adoption July 2014 - unnecessary delays in the adoption process and in finding a suitable family for a child may prove detrimental to the child's welfare and their chances of adoption. Agencies should take the following steps as a minimum to make the process work well for the child, birth parents and prospective adopters: Place a child for adoption with a prospective adopter who can best meet most of the child's identified needs even if that prospective adopter does not share the child’s race, religion, culture or language.

Children and Families Act 2014 - Adoption agencies no longer must give due consideration to a child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background when matching a child and prospective adopters.

3. Principles

3.1 Duty of Foster and Adoptive Families

All foster and adoptive families should assist children placed with them to understand and appreciate their background and culture; this can include providing opportunities for children to meet others from similar backgrounds, to practice their religion, both in a formal place of worship and in the home. Maintaining continuity of the heritage of their birth family in their day-to-day life is important to most children; it is a means of retaining knowledge of their identity and feeling that although they have left their birth family they have not abandoned important cultural, religious or linguistic values of their community. This will be of particular significance as they reach adulthood.

3.2 Identity

Children develop their sense of identity from the environment in which they live and the role models and relationships that are significant in their lives.

The development of a positive racial identity is extremely important to the overall wellbeing of a child or young person, and a positive identity is unlikely to be acquired without positive support and reinforcement.

Life story work is a very important tool to assist a children or young person in understanding and feeling positive about their identity.

3.3 Challenging Racism

The effects of racism and stereotyping are often subtle and insidious and negative beliefs are not only held by some of the majority population but may also become internalised by minority groups who may acquire negative feelings about themselves or people from other ethnic minority groups.

Where either apparent or covert racism is perceived to be part of the attitude or behaviour of anyone involved with the care and placement of looked after children this must be challenged in accordance with any policy and/or regulations that applies to their role.

Appendix 1: Extract from the National Minimum Standards for Foster Care: Standard 7: Valuing Diversity 

3.4 Children of Mixed Parentage

Like all children and young people, children and young people of mixed parentage should wherever possible be placed with families who reflect their ethnicity e.g. with a carer who is also of mixed parentage or with a couple who between them reflect the child or young person’s ethnic mix.

Where this is not possible, the wider needs of that child or young person must be considered. A child or young person of mixed parentage who is positive about their ethnicity should feel comfortable being placed with carers who reflect either part of their ethnicity. However, this may not always be the case if perhaps that person has only experienced being cared for by one parent. It may then be more appropriate to make a placement with a carer who is of the same ethnicity of that child or young person's main caring parent. The decision should consider the wishes and feelings of the child or young person and also those of their parent(s).

When a child or young person is placed with a carer who does not reflect their ethnicity, that carer should have a good understanding of the issues that face children and young people of mixed parentage and be competent to meet the child or young person's needs. Where a child or young person does not have a positive self-image, work should be undertaken to enable that person to feel positive and be comfortable with their identity.

Where a child of mixed parentage (non-white) or the parent of a child of mixed parentage does not acknowledge the full ethnicity of the child, efforts should be made to work with them to explore and resolve this. The child and parent need to be supported to attain a positive view of their origins and to acknowledge that in general, someone of mixed parentage will not be viewed as being white by the wider society.

3.5 Balancing the Child's Hierarchy of Needs

To be placed with a family from the same or similar ethnic background should be the key priority within the child's hierarchy of needs. Family finding should be undertaken to recruit carers from the same or similar background.

However, where a child or young person has a diverse hierarchy of needs these should be prioritised taking into account the wishes and feelings of the child or young person and their family and "a good enough " match to the child's full range of needs should be sought, with each case being considered on its own merits.

Language

For instance, the language needs of a child or young person will have particular significance for someone who is newly arrived in the UK and if no appropriate placement is immediately available then a decision will need to be made as to which aspect of a child's identity is to be given precedence. For example, a newly arrived French speaking child from Zaire could feel more comfortable with another black African family even though they were non-French speaking but who are likely to share some racial and cultural similarity than with a French speaking white family. Any such decision should be led by the wishes of the child or young person, as age appropriate and assessment of the social worker. Interpreters should always be brought in to aid communication.

Siblings

Siblings should always be placed together where possible and this may only be possible with a foster family who do not match the ethnic origin of the children to be accommodated. It is always preferable to keep siblings together, particularly in a short-term placement.

In some cases, siblings may have different ethnic origins. It is important that all children within a family group with diverse origins are placed with a family where all aspects of their background will be understood and valued or where they can access their culture or role models from a similar ethnic background.

Disability

Where a child or young person from an ethnic minority for instance has a disability, learning difficulty or child mental health issue and it is not possible to identify a carer from a similar ethnic background with relevant experience it might well be more appropriate to make a placement with a carer who has that experience and a good understanding of the health and/or disability issues. Their ability to manage those matters on a day to day basis and their ability to impact positively on that on the child's quality of life would then be the overriding factor.

Location

Location is an important issue for children and young people from minority ethnic groups. Care should be taken not to place children and young people in areas where they may feel isolated or vulnerable.

In some cases the need to safeguard the child or young person from restricted or prohibited contact with parents or previous carers from whom they have experienced harm must be an overriding priority. In these circumstances the need to place children away from a particular locality will override other considerations.

Religion

Defining suitability of placement with a focus on religion may be a complex issue. For example, a family for a Bengali Muslim background and a child from an Indian Sikh background may well be described as of the same racial origin. However, in such circumstances the religious needs of the child may well take precedence and although the match may be of the "same race" other factors may actually make the placement inappropriate.

4. Carers

Any foster carer or adoptive parent caring for a child or young person from a different minority ethnic background should have the necessary skills, attitudes, support network and knowledge to meet the child or young person's needs. They must be able to demonstrate that:

  • They have a good understanding of the nature of prejudice, discrimination, and racism;
  • They can prepare a child to deal with discrimination;
  • They can provide a positive environment and opportunities for that child or young person to have contact with people from the same community. The following issues should be considered as part of any specific assessment aimed at determining the suitability of any carer to look after a child from a different ethnic background to their own:
  • Understanding and experience of other ethnicities, cultures and religions;
  • The motivation of the applicant and what support systems are in place, both for the child or young person and the carer;
  • Evaluation of the ethnic mix of the area in which they live and whether there will be role models and peers within the community;
  • The knowledge the applicant has of the background of any specific child or young person for whom placement is being considered, assessing whether they have the parenting capacity to support someone from a different background;
  • The ability to accommodate any requirements or needs the child or young person may have arising from their ethnic origins;
  • The capacity to help the child or young cope with the prejudice and discrimination they may encounter and put strategies in place both for the child or young person and themselves to deal with difficult situations.

5. Training

Caring for children from different backgrounds, challenging racism and implementing strategies for children and young people to deal with racism should be a core requirement of training programmes for foster carers and adopters.

Carers must be able to show a sound level of understanding and meet the recognised CoramBAAF competency requirements in showing 'an ability to promote equality, diversity, and rights of individuals and groups within society."

All staff and managers should undertake regular training on issues of equality and managers should ensure that all workers involved in the making or supporting of placements where children and young people are placed transracially have the knowledge and competence to ensure that the cultural, religious and linguistic needs of each child or young person are met.

6. Recording

Details of a child or young person's ethnicity, religion and language must always be recorded correctly on the child or young person's electronic file at the time of referral. Any subsequent information that is verified and differs from the initial recording must be added and the original entry amended as necessary.

7. Planning

7.1 General

All placements should fully consider the child or young person's race, ethnicity, culture, religious and linguistic background.

The specific needs of each child or young person must be identified in all Care Plans and other written assessments.

Where possible all children and young people should be placed with carers who reflect their identity.

7.2 Emergency Placements

Every effort should be made to ensure a planned placement where possible and to avoid emergency placements if safe to do so for a child or young person. Where the local authority are considering a placement into care from a child's home or a placement move, it is the responsibility of the child's social worker, manager and professionals around the child to access the various support services available to families and carers to secure a child's placement where appropriate and if in the best interests of the child. If a move is likely an early alert to the Fostering Duty Team to plan and match a child with the right in house placement if the move becomes needed and to reduce the possibility of an emergency placement with the risk of a poorer match than can be achieved with a planned move. If no appropriate placement can be found in house the Commissioning Team will identify a suitable alternative IFA placement.

Although a child or young person's race, ethnicity, culture, religious and linguistic background should always be given priority this will not always be possible in an emergency when there are other important factors to consider, such as the need to keep a child safeguarded.

Where it has not been possible for a child or young person to be placed appropriately in an emergency such that their needs in terms of gender, religion, ethnic origin, language, culture, disability and sexuality cannot be adequately met, steps should be taken to achieve a suitable placement so long as it is appropriate, taking account placement needs and resources available and the child/young person’s hierarchy of needs.

7.3 Short Term Placements

For any child who is likely to be looked after for longer than six weeks, that child should be placed with a family who as closely as possible match the ethnicity, culture, religious and linguistic background of that child or young person as closely as possible, in conjunction with using appropriate in house resources, unless another placement is deemed to be appropriate due to other factors in the young person's hierarchy of needs taking preference and the resources of the department. For instance, these may concern the child's educational or health needs, or arrangements for contact with family or rehabilitation plans.

The child's needs should then be more specifically considered within the written placement agreement when the placement has been made. Any deficits in the placement should be identified and plans made to address any shortfall. For instance, if the child is of a different faith, arrangements may need to be put in place to enable that child or young person to practise their religion. Similarly, the carer may need advice on hair and/or skin care, and there may need to be restrictions on the way in which food is prepared.

7.4 Permanent Placements

Every effort should be made to find carers that reflect or are clearly able to support a child or young person's race, ethnicity, culture, religious and linguistic background. Where a suitable match cannot initially be identified in house, early efforts to identify suitable carers should be made through family finding.

The needs of the individual child, including full consideration of how any needs arising from their race, ethnicity, culture, and religious, linguistic background will be met should be fully assessed in any matching process without delay to the permanence needs of the child.

7.5 Friends and Family (Kinship) Care

Where children of mixed parentage are to be placed within their own extended family networks it should not be assumed that no issues of prejudice will arise. For instance if a child with a mother from a white background and  a father from a black African Caribbean background were placed with maternal family it is important that the family are able to be positive of both sides of the child's identity, irrespective of their relationship with the child's father. Any other deficits in the placement regarding religion, ethnic origin, language, culture should be identified, and plans made to address any shortfall.

7.6 Conversion from Short Term to Permanency

In many cases a short-term foster carer may express an interest in coming forward to offer permanency to a child placed with them through permanent fostering, Special Guardianship or Adoption. When this is a transracial placement careful consideration should be given to such a plan. Any foster carer expressing an interest in a specific child in these circumstances should be informed of the issues regarding transracial placements as in this document and these should be addressed in any permanence reports such as a Special Guardianship or Adoption placement Report.

All carers wanting to convert a placement from short term to a permanent arrangement will have their capability assessed, focussing on their ability to care for that particular child on a long-term basis. Where a child or young person is from a different background, the assessor should pay particular attention to the carer's ability to meet that needs of a child or young person placed transracially.

Efforts should be made to ensure that the child or young person feels positive about their identity and any negative ideas they may hold in relation to being placed with carers from their own ethnic background should be addressed.

Efforts should also be made to ensure that the child or young person is choosing to stay with the carers because they feel that they have arrived somewhere where they feel comfortable and safe and are with people who value and support their difference positively.

If the child is unable to express their wishes and feelings, for example a younger child, the assessing social worker should make the assessment based on their observations of the child and how the carer has demonstrated they can meet the child's ethnic, religion, linguistic and cultural needs.  The foster carer's supervising social worker along with the child's social worker should then complete the Matching Report which will then be presented to the Fostering Panel for consideration.

Appendix 1: Extract from the National Minimum Standards for Foster Care

7.1 The fostering service ensures that children and young people, and their families, are provided with foster care services which value diversity and promote equality.
7.2 Each child and her/his family have access to foster care services which recognise and address her/his needs in terms of gender, religion, ethnic origin, language, culture, disability, and sexuality. If a foster placement has to be made in an emergency and no suitable placement is available in terms of the above, then steps are taken to achieve the above within 6 weeks.
7.3 The fostering service ensures that foster carers and social workers work cooperatively to enhance the child's confidence and feeling of self-worth. Foster carers' and social workers' training covers this issue.
7.4 The fostering service ensures that their foster carers provide care which respects and preserves each child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background. Foster carers' preparation and training cover this.
7.5 The fostering service ensures that their foster carers support and encourage each child to develop skills to help her/him to deal with all forms of discrimination. Foster carers' preparation and training cover this.
7.6 Each child with a disability receives specific services and support to help her/him to maximise her/his potential and to lead as full a life as possible, including appropriate equipment and, where necessary and appropriate, adaptation of the carer's home and/or vehicle.
7.6 The fostering service ensures that their foster carers give each child encouragement and equal access to opportunities to develop and pursue her/his talents, interests and hobbies. This is set out in the information provided to foster carers. Disabled children are provided with services and supports which enable them to access as wide a range of activities as is possible for them.

Appendix 2: Extract from the National Minimum Standards for Foster Care: Standard 7: Valuing diversity

"A sense of identity is important to a child’s well-being. To help children develop this, their ethnic origin, cultural background, religion, language and sexuality need to be properly recognised and positively valued and promoted