Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Ibrahim Bilal Maynard (CF 119)

Children and Families Bill - Part 1 Adoption And children looked After (The Repeal of Section 22)

I myself was in care for seventeen years within Bradford’s Children’s Department from 1959 to 1976 initially in foster care that lived in Halifax and was white carers. These carers I met later on in life after seeing my file and the carers were really nice and showed me that they had put in to adopt me too. Due to being a very poorly baby with Meningitis and Encephalitis I was moved to Bradford children’s Hospital. For some reason I was then moved into a children’s home and remained in children’s homes until I left care . During this time I had eight moves which included two of these been Home on trial with my Mother. My Mother was Caucasian, British born and Father from Barbados and I met him when I was Six years old for first time. Subsequently we continued to have a good relationship up until I left care which has also enabled me to have contact and meet my wider family.

As a boy of Dual/Shared Heritage I believe there was a very important time in my childhood which had been missing and I had to see my file and talk to people to try place together the final jigsaw of my life. Because of my experience in Foster Care with no positive black images this added to the fact of growing up with no positive Identity and left me asking the question "Am I Black or am I White"?

When we set up the ‘Black and in care ‘a national organization I became more aware of issues around identity and around being black and the implications about it enabled me to have something positive in my life. Much of my life was spent in confusion about who I was which made it very difficult for me to make progress .This discovery helped me to understand a lot more about my life as no one had ever taken the time to help me understand all the issues about race and the confusion that resulted from being in placements that did not reflect my identity. This awareness prompted and encouraged many positive changes in my life. Although I believe not enough has been done to enable the extent where legislation has tended to let some of the policies and procedures practice of Local authorities appear to have variation with that legislation, through a watered down approach in the actual support they provide which expects to give due consideration to children’s ethnicity, religion and culture and language before placing them in homes and this has resulted in many people lives being messed up as adults. Through a watered down approach in the actual support they provide.

Children’s Services and voluntary and private agencies must be committed to meeting the needs of minority ethnic including those of Egyptian, Malaysian, Chinese and eastern European background etc.by placing them permanently with families that match their heritage. It is important to have an appropriate approach to recruiting adoptive families from the widest range of all minority ethnic communities in the UK to meet the needs of all children in care both for adoption and fostering.

My view is informed by being care leaver and my current work with care leavers and from research and work done with Professor Mike Stein. I have also had involvement, with the National Foster Care Association, The National Association of Young people in Care and Black and in Care. I have undertaken research with the Race Equality Unit (Home from Home) Linked to the Lady Wagner Report, A Positive Choice to those placed in residential care. The fact that some adopted children are equally in care and may be fostered prior to adoption but sometimes due to issues arising where there is conflict to the extent the adoption breaks down.

With this in mind Every Child should matter and to remove the specific requirement takes away the importance of a child identity in terms of their religion, race, culture and linguistic background.

I agree entirely with the following from Mary V Hayes who wrote in the Foster care magazine from December 1988 which I as well as many of the members of the Black and in care would say is relevant today and more so with the Asylum seeking children and refugee families we have in this country. She starts off with how we come to terms with the huge numbers of black and shared heritage young people who suffer from Identity confusion and internalized racism.

"It is astounding that black children here in Britain an increasing number that come from unions of Shared Heritage and are raised in white homes and communities that deny their Blackness.

Many meaningful but never the less ignorant white substitute parents are adding to this confusion by lying to the child and telling them they can chose to be white if they wish .

Far too many tans racial placements break down unnecessarily, primarily because some white parents refuse to accept a very significant feature of a child in his or her colour.

If you really care and love the child then accept him or her in total for what and who the child is and when this is done be healthier for it.

If as carers you want sound and healthy and undisrupted placements for yourselves and truly want to have proud healthy and stable children especially if they are from different ethnicity or religion then you must be aware of this formula:

a) Recognize the difference between yourself and the child.

b) Accept the difference s and acknowledge them.

c) In some instances stress the difference.

If you recognize the differences but choose to reject or deny their existence that’s when the problems begin and it is at this point of rejection that the placement begins to deteriorate.

As a care Leaver and like many others it is evident that those who have experienced care which include Adopted are the ones who are the professionals of it. The vast amount of work by The National Association of Young people In Care and Black and In Care as well as Who Cares? Trust, Association of Black Social workers and Allied professionals and Race Equality Unit (within NISW) was able to articulately contribute to various government reports Like the Short Report - Social Services Committee session 1983 -84 CHILDREN IN CARE and The Wagner Report, RESIDENTIAL CARE - A Positive Choice 1988.It was clear that the child’s identity is crucially important to where a child sees themselves when they become Eighteen. Due to difficulty and coping strategies they have tried to come to terms with who they are? What they are? And where did they come from? Some children even like me wanted to scrub themselves White. Who takes responsibility for those grown up without positive identity, who develops distrust, become angry and then end up in the Youth Justice system or the Mental Health system?

Another option or added Amendment would be to have every local authority set up or develop a Black cases panel similar to the one that’s been in existence at Leistershire for many years and Bradford had one too for a few years and currently re- looking to re- develops this. It is a panel of professionals from diverse backgrounds and work disciplines within children’s services to advise as a panel resources available to children of different ethnic background  e.g. if a social worker refer a child from a particular Asian background or African background that has to be adopted to a white family because no other family available then the panel can assist with resources that are available to ensure the Childs cultural and racial and religious background are taken into account through ensuring they are aware of local resources to meet the child’s  needs and assists the adopting or fostering family. Advice on local resources could be specific foods or books or clothing shops and where their local respective temples or mosques or churches etc are and information about religious festivals and health support like sickle cell and Thalassaemia etc.

I appeal to the law changers even though the Children and Families Bill is in its final stages to include the above and to a least ensure there is some positive acknowledgement and taking into account of a Childs Race, Religion, Culture, and Linguistic needs.

April 2013

Prepared 26th April 2013