Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Nattlyn Jeffers (CF 135)

As both an active campaigner, advocate, reflective practitioner and care-leaver; I feel that it is a draconic outcry that the law of protection of religion and ethnicity becomes repealed. In short I myself experienced over 12 years in a trans-racial foster care placement based in Leeds, West Yorkshire, as a West-Indian child I grew up with white foster carers who did not meet my cultural needs nor my Rastafarian faith and religion. In doing so at the tender age of 21 years and with the help and support of a positive advocacy service (Leeds Children's Rights Service) and an expertise children's law solicitor based in Huddersfield Ridley and Hall together we put a case against Leeds Local Authority for the failure of care under my emotional health and well-being and failure to maintain a care plan, social workers and most importantly my culture/heritage/religious needs and faith thus impacting upon my Identity,

Over the years there has been too little research in the full impact of trans-racial placements and the impact that has on many issues e.g. identity confusion; racism, indifference, culture and heritage and the impact it has on both the service user and service provider. I feel the issues stretch far beyond resources and placements it is more complex and lies at referring to each individual case. Recently I was approached to comment from Channel 5 about the recent UKIP case; it seems that the issue of race, identity and ethnicity do not come into light until a high media profile case. The law needs to be in place to offer other young people either in foster or adoptive care (looked after)/leaving care the opportunity to recognise the importance of identity, race and difference and provide a voice to have their say; surely this is their human right and under the 1989 UN Convention on the rights of the child.

As a professional in the field I have seen it too often where carers on both the adoptive and foster care side who are of different ethnicity than the child they look after, e.g. Asian Foster Carers, Black Foster Carers do not gain enough support from their local authorities or social workers on the grass roots level to provide the relevant support required to meet the often complex needs of this group in society. Where there are more complex placements e.g. shared/dual heritage backgrounds widening the contexts; where do we stop in terms of reference to adequate support and same ethnicity placement matches. Over the years social research and practice indicates young people just want to be loved and cared for; however this is not enough if they face oppression and discrimination and lack of equality of opportunity if they are denied their identity/race.

If the Law is repealed then I believe it gives way for poor practice, less social research in the field and more cases of isolated abuse, victimisation, poor mental health, identity confusion and more draconically being further marginalised from the mainstream big society agenda.

The current law as it states; some would argue is not enough as it is not being clearly implemented into practice. As a recent Master of Arts graduate in Youth and Community Development I would turn to the proverb "It takes a village to raise a child".

As a recent self employed cultural educator I have worked with Professor Mike Stein, Professor Bob Broad and social care sector organisations such as Save the Children Fund, Barnardos, NCAS, The care leavers foundation and the Care Leavers Association. The Who Cares Trust and most recently I was commissioned to draft and devise the care leavers charter launched in Oct 2012 at the Houses of Parliament with Edward Timpson, I was keen on underpinning the crucial need for the aspect of culture, heritage, identity and race to be included in the national charter.

April 2013

Prepared 26th April 2013