Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Nkechi Ode (CF 123)

Children and Families Bill 2012-2013

1. I would like to submit a response with regards to Part 1 of the Bill which specifically relates to a child’s ethnicity no longer being of paramount importance for permanency, in order to reduce a child’s length of stay in the care system.

2. I qualified as a Social Worker in 1991 and since that time have practiced in various local authorities and my area of specialism has been within Children and Families. I am currently employed as an Advance Practitioner in a Family Centre in the London Borough of Enfield.

3. During the late 80s I was relatively young and had not yet entered the Social Care profession but worked as an Administrator in a Social Services team. I can recall at that time a vigorous debate and campaign about the concerns by Black professionals about the plight of Black children being placed outside of their cultural and racial identity and the psychological impact of their wellbeing as a result of being placed in long-term placements where their cultural heritage was not reflected or given due respect. This culminated in a number of Black children suffering an identity crisis about who they were and the internalisation of self hatred about themselves. It would appear that when placing a Black child in a White family little thought is given to their psychological well being and it was and still is the case that white practitioners and politicians are still making decisions without any form of understanding about the psychological needs of a Black child in a society that has been defined as Institutionally racist ( McPherson report 1999).

4. Although we live in a multi cultural society, Britain still remains a divided society where we see that Black and minority groups (particularly Black people) are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, Mental Health, low educational attainment and so forth. How does a non white parent caring for a Black child help them to make sense of their experience in the society that we live in? How can a white parent teach a Black child to have a balance view of themselves when they can only teach from their own cultural frame of reference which is the complete opposite to a black child? We often hear that love is sufficient to meet the needs of a child but I would argue that love alone is not sufficient to raise a black child in a white family. How does a white parent help a child to deal with all the negative stereotypes that they are likely to encounter throughout their life? These issues are deep and go beyond just basic care needs. In actual fact I have observed that white carer’s are still ignorant around basic care needs and children especially girls can be seen with unkempt hair which is ironic.

5. I agree that children should not be allowed to drift in care but there needs to be a more robust approach to recruiting Black families to care for Black children. How is it in the best interest of a child to be placed with a family just because we consider love to be sufficient. It concerns me that the views of Black professionals are never given the credit that they deserve as if we do not know what is best for Black children. It would be useful to know how much research has been utilised when considering racial ethnic and identity development such as Parham 1993, Cross 1971.

April 2013

Prepared 26th April 2013