6. Memorandum submitted by
We will look here at the reasons for the "apparent"
breakdown in the African Caribbean family and the implication
this has, on the occurrence of young people in crime statistics.
We will see that the picture is unclear, for there are many reasons,
many of which overlap. The concept of "break up" and
models of family form and functioning, differ from group to group,
and is not a fixed or given variable and so what we may perceive
as breakdown, may not be that at all. We will also look at adaptive
nature of African Caribbean culture, as being in a fluid changing
1. This is a joint response from Barnardo's
and the BabyFather Alliance who are pleased to have this opportunity
to give evidence to the Home Affairs Committee. We have been working
together exploring family and parenting issues with the African
Caribbean community and feel we have some contribution and insights
2. Barnardo's works with more than 110,000
children, young people and families each year across the UK, providing
over 380 services. The services are located in some of the most
disadvantaged neighbourhoods, where child poverty and social exclusion
are common features. Approximately 14% of the children and young
people are from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, with
5% with a "Black or Black British" background.
3. The Babyfather Initiative, based at Barnardo's,
has as its focus the welfare and support given to the Black child.
Its philosophy is reflected in the proverb that "It takes
a whole village to raise a child". We have, for the last
three years toured the major urban conurbations of Leeds, Manchester,
Liverpool, Birmingham, London, and Bristol, organising forums,
workshops and other events to discuss with professionals, the
African Caribbean community and African Caribbean men/fathers
in particular, the role and impact of African Caribbean male parenting.
4. Given the nature and focus of our work,
in this evidence we shall look at family breakdown in African
Caribbean families, including the role of fathers and the incidence
of African Caribbean young people in the criminal justice system,
as perpetrators, suspects and victims. The comments made draw
on the discussions we have had with fathers, families and professionals,
Barnardo's practice experience and research which seems particularly
relevant in this context.
The Family Life of Fathers
5. Research, practice and fathers themselves
are now highlighting that the concept of family breakdown needs
to be examined more critically. This leads to a reassessment of
roles, in particular the role of fathers. Much has been written
about mothers, children and young people, and how to safeguard
their interests and welfare. This focus has often been, objectively,
at the expense of understanding and valuing the contribution of
fathers beyond that of economic provider. The picture however
is far from clear and often conflictual.
Family Breakdown, Fathers and Young People: What
6. From the USA, the Morehouse (1999) study
of African American families, we understand the lack of effective
father involvement promotes in young people a condition they have
called "father hunger". African Caribbean children unable
to forge a father child closeness experience a trauma, leaving
them vulnerable to peer pressure and external influences. Their
research states, "There are boys and young men who without
the protection and guidance of fathers struggle each day to figure
out what it means to be a man, improvising for themselves expedient
and too often violent and self destructive codes of manhood".
7. Critically this study implies, families
and children who experience father hunger are more vulnerable
to influences, action and behaviour resulting in anti-social behaviour,
as perpetrators, suspects and victims.
8. If we consider the number of children
being raised in lone parent households where the father is absent
and disengaged from the children as an indicator of family breakdown,
there are a high number of African Caribbean families experiencing
family breakdown. Consequently, there are a significant number
of African Caribbean children being raised in this manner, compared
with other ethnic groups, (David Owen 2001), with a greater potential
of experiencing father hunger.
9. It has been noted (Rebecca O'Neill 2001)
that the context in which families exists can exert great pressure
on families to such an extent the normative functions of the family
become disabled. The result is increased levels of frustration
and friction between its members. Within African Caribbean communities
there is considerable evidence of multiple deprivation, and many
African Caribbean families experience high levels of unemployment,
low educational attainment, poor health and poor housing conditions.
We note here also the existence of institutional racism confronts
many African Caribbean people on a daily basis.
10. The cumulative affect of these pressures,
(Raymond T Smith 2001; Race and the Criminal Justice System
2005), takes its toil on parents and their capacity to service
and maintain family cohesion. Social disadvantage may test the
ability of some African Caribbean couples to maintain the integrity
of their family, literally to breaking point. The process can
force African Caribbean families apart, weakening parental control
that leads to children's estrangement from the family. Consequently
we see a greater portion of African Caribbean youth at risk of
involvement in anti-social behaviour.
11. Typically, the process of family break
up puts the father outside the home, following which infrequent
patterns of contact can develop that are compounded by unsuitable
accommodation, as fathers attempt to re-establish themselves.
We see a pattern here of fathers, who relying on family networks,
often return to the cramped conditions of their family/mother's
home or move in with their new partner. In these conditions African
Caribbean fathers develop and maintain close bonds with their
children and participate in the raising of their children. This
results in guidance as an occasional activity and as "weekend
discipline", it is ineffective and may be counterproductive
to the father-child bond.
12. Using this model, as many more African
Caribbean families can be found in the lower economic rungs of
society, many more African Caribbean families are at risk of family
break up. This process that places fathers outside the home, directly
contributes to leaving many more African Caribbean children, as
opposed to other ethnic groups, exposed to father hunger and subsequently
at risk of offending, as young boys, especially, externalise their
loss and lack of guidance, express their anger and confusion through
anti-social behaviour and disengagement from mainstream society.
13. Whether resident or non resident, engaged
or disengaged from the family, we would draw attention, to the
stereotype of the Black male's identity within wider society.
This image had a negative impact on many African Caribbean fathers.
It can lessen the aspiration, self belief and confidence of African
Caribbean fathers to function effectively as parents. This can
leave young people without positive role models of males including
14. "Evidence shows people from BME
groups continue to be disproportionately represented in the criminal
justice system. For example Black people are just over six times
more likely to be stopped and searched, three times more likely
to be arrested, seven times more likely to be in prison than White
people" yet "Black British people between the ages of
10-25 years are no more or less likely to commit crime than their
White counter parts" (Race and the Criminal Justice System
15. In light of such research and evidence,
the fact that young African Caribbean people are overrepresented
in crime statistics, suggests that some African Caribbean fathers,
are not perhaps as effective in this role as they could, or are
allowed to be, indicating African Caribbean fatherhood may be
suffering a crisis or rather a collapse of confidence.
Traditional Methods of Control
16. In our discussions with members of the
African Caribbean community, many of whom were born here in the
UK, they explore their own experiences of childhood, including
being raised by parents from the Caribbean, where guidance rested
on authority with corporal discipline as a feature.
17. Today, the sons and daughters of "Windrush",
reflecting on their childhood, now seek to guide their children
using different means. To a greater or lesser degree this cultural
revision is a work in progress. In some families there may be
a gap: traditional African Caribbean methods of parental control
are not acceptable but new methods are not yet always fully formulated
and established. This incomplete process can increase the likelihood
of family break up as children can become estranged from parents
who do not always have effective methods of setting boundaries.
18. Fusing traditions from the Caribbean
in a European context will take time and whilst this process continues,
young people of African Caribbean descent will be vulnerable to
the more destructive elements of youth culture as victims, perpetrators
and suspects, and display anti-social behaviour.
Parents, Children and Crime
19. Fathers Direct have found 59% of boys
with a convicted parent go on to be convicted themselves. We know
that many of the young African Caribbean men in prison are already
fathers and that their young children are at risk. In these cases
we believe culturally specific parenting course for fathers, such
as those that have been offered by the Babyfather Initiative to
young men in prison and young offenders institutions, exploring
the impact of their actions on their children and helping them
develop positive relations with them, will contribute to breaking
African Caribbean Young People as Victims of Crime
20. Whilst there is a focus on young African
Caribbean people as suspects and perpetrators of crime, evidence
suggests they are also the victims of crime. At Barnardos we feel
it is important to remember this, and begin to develop services
to support young vulnerable African Caribbean people.
21. Though the reasons for this are not
yet fully clear, for instance as more crime tends to take place
in the inner city where African Caribbean family are concentrated,
young African Caribbean people will be the victim of crime (Stella
Yarrow 2005). However as we have talked to fathers and parents,
they have pointed specifically to the phenomena of Black on Black
violence as a feature amongst young people, and explain it partly
as a function of self hate and low self esteem, internalised from
Revealed: The Family Life of African Caribbean
22. In groundbreaking work from the UK,
Beckford (2006), implies the concept of breakdown, as well as,
the traditional euro-centric model of family form and functioning
is misleading as viewed against the family types he has found
in African Caribbean communities in the UK. We find it more helpful
to recognise that African Caribbean family structure may be different
in some families, but fathers can be engaged or disengaged with
the lives of their children, both within and outside the nuclear
23. As we have found, from our discussions
with African Caribbean fathers themselves, and can see from research
evidence (Pine 2003), African Caribbean fathers do indeed contribute
to child rearing, able to have significant impact in raising esteem
and educational attainment. Tracey Reynolds (2001) also highlights
this point noting, specific areas such as guidance, protection
and security and economic provision in which African Caribbean
fathers are traditionally influential. We believe that it is important
to recognise these strengths and build on them in our work with
24. Social factors: social disadvantage,
high unemployment, institutional racism and other factors greatly
influence African Caribbean family's ability to cope. Thus whilst
it is important we look critically at African Caribbean families,
it is important we do not pathologise the Black family in the
25. Confidence: African Caribbean fathers
are undermined by the wider negative social identity of the Black
26. Controls: Traditional methods of control
are no longer viable in a European context.
27. Social policy: There is a critical lack
of support given to fathers generally and what support is offered
eg, advances in paternity leave has little impact on African Caribbean
men/fathers who experience difficulty accessing the job market.
28. The concept of break up and the family
must be questioned in light of research evidence as this relates
to service delivery set against the different models of family
29. The expression from grass roots community
groups and fathers for greater involvement has taken government,
social policy makers and statutory services by surprise. The Babyfather
Initiative has been contacted by such groups and individuals across
the country asking for us to work with them.
30. Barnardos BabyFather Initiative has
we believe, contributed to this movement by proactively developing
culturally appropriate parenting courses, and engaging the African
Caribbean community in and around these issues.
We Would Like to See
31. We would like to see efforts by the
Government to develop and support culturally specific initiatives
aimed at strengthening cohesion and the problem solving techniques
in African Caribbean relationships, to strengthen the parenting
32. We would like to see a greater link
between research such as that by Robert Beckford and J Pine and
the development of social policy.
33. As we begin to understand the hidden
role of absent but engaged fathers in families, we must begin
to reassess service delivery. Specific measures need to be developed
aimed at supporting African Caribbean fathers outside the home
through, for example, outreach programs, training front line staff
and management to understand the family life of African Caribbean
fathers, and greater support of voluntary and community groups
working with African Caribbean fathers.
34. The role of fathers must be made visible,
for whilst in literature parents are mentioned such as in Children
and Young People's Plans, Every Child Matters, National Service
Framework for Children and Young People, more focus must be made
to articulate and define the unique qualities African Caribbean
fathers bring to parenting.
35. Secondary measures that support African
Caribbean men in their role as fathers are needed, especially
in housing. For example changes could be made to the way accommodation
is allocated to take account of fathers shared care of their children
in different households.
36. Efforts to increase the confidence of
African Caribbean men/fathers and familes through celebration
of positive role models to counter the negative stereotype of
the African Caribbean male, achieved through, for example, the
school curriculum, museum exhibits, community days.
Father Absence Jeune Guishard Pine (unpublished, 2003).
Owen. D, Smith T.R, Reynolds. T,Caribbean
Families in Britain and the Trans-Atlantic World (Ed Harry
Gouldbourne and Mary Chamberlain, 2001).
Child and Young People Plans (Department
of Education and skills 2005).
Every Child Matters (The Stationery Office
Experiments in Living; The Fatherless Family
(Rebecca O'Neill 2002).
Fathers Direct (Inside Fatherhood 2004)
National Service framework for children and
young people (Department of health 2004).
Preventative service for Black and minority
Ethnic Group (Shama Ahmed, 2004).
Race and the Criminal Justice System
(Criminal Justice Race Unit, 2005).
Turning the Corner on Father Absence (Morehouse
Research Institute, 1999).
The National Evaluation of the Children's
Fund Shama Ahmed 2004.
The experience of young Black men as victims
of crime (Stella Yarrow 2005).