Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Foster Care Link (CF 129)

Statement in Opposition to Proposed Changes to the Children and Families Bill which will repeal the requirement to give due consideration to the race, heritage and religion of a child when making adoption placements

Name and Position: Ismail Amaan, Director of Foster Care Link, specialist Independent Fostering Agency finding Muslim families for Muslim children

1. Foster Care Link was established in 2002 and obtained Ofsted certification to operate in 2004. Since then it has worked with over 28 Local Authorities to place over 100 children with well matched fostering placements where the race, religion, culture and heritage of the child is matched as closely as possible. We have also provided consultancy advice to Local Authorities on understanding and addressing the needs of Muslim children in care.

2. We totally oppose the proposal to repeal the requirement to give ‘due consideration’ to race, religion, culture and linguistic background when placing a child for adoption (through amendment to Section 1 Part 2 of the Children and Families Bill), and fear that the same policy would most likely soon apply to foster children through additional amendments in future if this amendment is successful.

3. As an agency, we have dealt with the repercussions of adopting this policy in many of the cases we have handled. Children that have been placed with families where their racial, cultural and religious identity have not been preserved and respected have been moved from placement to placement until they have settled with one of our Muslim families where these needs have been met.

4. Case study 1: SS and CS were two Somalian young Muslim men placed with a White British family. The children were not happy in the placement and the carers found the behaviour of the young people strange and unfamiliar. During certain months they would wake-up in the early hours of the day and eat a meal, and they would avoid all contact with the family pet dogs. When our agency got involved we explained that the boys were waking up to eat the ‘Sahoor’ meals during Ramadhan so that they were ready for the fasts, and that they avoided the dogs as their spittle was considered unclean under Muslim culture. The children were thereafter moved to one of our Muslim families and quickly settled to live productive and happy lives until they left care.

5. Case study 2: AK was placed with a family where his desire to read Arabic materials was misunderstood, and his regular attendance of Mosques was seen as possibly extremist behaviour. Our social worker was consulted, and looked at the materials he was reading, which were simply books about how to practice the Muslim faith. He was thereafter moved to one of our families where his needs could be accommodated and better met. He settled in and was eventually adopted by the foster family where he became an avid footballer and secure part of the family.

6. There are numerous other examples of instances where children and the parents of children have been adamant that they want to be placed with families where the cultural and religious needs of children are matched. For Muslim families, people of the same faith where the religious identity of the child would be preserved is the foremost consideration. This would be echoed by any scholar of practising Muslim background across any racial or cultural origin.

7. As you will be aware, many studies and research over many years has evidenced that children in care are most successful when their identity is preserved through placement in well matched households. Most recently, the research of Professor Richard Barn in the US has proven that such legislation as proposed does not improve the number of minority ethnic children in care.

8. We consider the repeal to be non compliant with the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Children, which requires all Governments to give due consideration to children’s race, culture, language and religion as part of their basic needs and fundamental rights.

April 2013

Prepared 26th April 2013