Identity


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Culture
  3. Language
  4. Providing Care for Black and Minority Ethnic Children
  5. Religion
  6. Disability
  7. Living in a Positive Environment
  8. Gender
  9. Safe from Bullying and Discrimination


1. Introduction

In order to understand other people’s identity we need to understand our own. This helps us to identify whether there are differences between us and the children that we care for and their families and whether there are gaps that can be bridged. You and your family should try and spend some time thinking about this before you start caring.

A person’s identity is important particularly for black and minority ethnic children and can be made up of a mixture of the things below;

  • How we look including our skin colour;
  • How we dress;
  • How we sound and the language that we speak;
  • Our views;
  • Our family values and traditions;
  • Our religious beliefs;
  • Our family history and background;
  • How we form relationships, including our sexual orientation.

It is important for you to develop and promote a child/young person’s identity. It is vital that you uphold and develop the child’s identity particularly when they are not living with their own family or else it will weaken their sense of who they are.

Within our own culture we often do this without thinking or meaning to by assuming that what we do is the same as everybody else. The way in which we celebrate Christmas is an example of this.

Our understanding is helped by understanding the child/young person’s background and should be addressed in the Placement Plan at the start of their placement about how this will be done.

Where children are placed with you from different backgrounds or cultures, the fostering service will provide additional training and support and information. This will make sure that the child/young person receives the best possible care to develop a positive understanding of their background and heritage.


2. Culture

Culture is part of a child’s/young person’s identity and heritage. All foster carers should respect and value a child’s cultural heritage.

Culture describes the way people live their lives. Culture is based on many different factors, memories, common experience, background, language, racial identity, class, religion and family attitudes etc.

Sometimes conflicts arise in foster homes between the way you are used to living and the ways that the child/young person is used to. Dilemmas arise about what is the right thing to do. When a young person doesn’t want to follow the way that is expected of them there are rarely easy answers when sorting these problems out. Examples can be as simple as eating at the table, or religious observance. You should talk to the child and their family (where appropriate) to try and understand what their views are and find a way forward. Your Fostering Social Worker and/or the child’s social worker can also provide help.


3. Language

It is possible that a child whose first language is not English may be placed with you.

Language is an important part of a child’s identity and culture. Every effort should be made to preserve a child’s linguistic and communication skills; otherwise they may lose a large part of their culture.

If you need more information or advice about a child’s cultural and linguistic needs contact the child’s social worker or your Fostering Social Worker.

You should look for ways in which you can promote the child’s identity. Discuss this with your Fostering Social Worker and the child’s social worker. This information will be important should the child return home or move to another carer.


4. Providing Care for Black and Minority Ethnic Children

Black and minority ethnic children will have particular practical needs in relation to their identity. Books, DVDs and birthday cards should reflect black people, culture and identity in a positive way. These will promote a positive sense of identity.

When the child is placed with you, it would be useful to talk to the child’s birth family or their social worker about the kind of things that are important to them and that they may be used to having in the family home. This may be to do with food or it may be their skin and hair care. You could find out how to cook particular dishes and introduce them to the rest of the family which also helps to extend their understanding and experiences.

Skin care is generally important to everyone but is really important to black children as it is naturally dry and needs to be creamed regularly, more so in winter months. You should try and find out what they already use or try oil based products e.g. cocoa butter

Hair care for black children and mixed heritage children is different to European children and should generally only be washed once a week and will usually need special products. Again try and talk to either the birth family or the child’s social worker for specific details. Some children because of religious beliefs should not have their hair cut e.g. Rastafarians and Sikhs.


5. Religion

The religious upbringing of a Child in Care is very important.

The right to determine the child's religion is one of the rights all birth parents retain for whatever reason the child comes to live with you.

Some parents may express strong preferences, but when they do this is usually reflected in the choice of a foster family for the child.


6. Disability

A child/young person’s disability is a part of who they are and the arrangements that are made to meet their needs are a part of respecting their identity.


7. Living in a Positive Environment

It is useful to think about all the things a child or young person comes into contact with. For example, toys books and posters. Do they have positive images of children who are from different cultures or who have a disability?

This may seem like a small thing but it can have a big impact on a child if for instance all they see are images of white children and they are black, this is also important for things like birthday cards.


8. Gender

Some young people may identify as transgender (i.e. as a different gender from their birth gender) or as non-binary (they may not identify as either male or female). Girls, boys and transgender/non- binary young people should receive equal opportunities and encouragement to pursue their talents, interests and hobbies. Sexist stereotypes of behaviour must not be imposed or condoned, for example there should be equal expectations that boys and girls will participate in domestic tasks.

Young people who are experiencing gender identity issues should, in general, be given space and support to develop their own gender identity, However it is important that they are protected from adverse effects such as bullying and discrimination.

Some young people may wish to discuss specialist medical intervention, or may require specialist support. Discuss this with your Supervising Social Worker and the child’s social worker.


9. Safe from Bullying and Discrimination


Bullying

Many children are subject to bullying at some time in their lives.

Children in Care may be more vulnerable and carers need to be aware and watch for signs that indicate that a child or young person may be being bullied. These may include:

  • Coming home with cuts and bruises;
  • Torn, damaged or lost clothing;
  • Losing money;
  • Falling out with friends;
  • Being moody and bad tempered;
  • Being quiet and withdrawn;
  • Wanting to avoid leaving the house;
  • Wanting to avoid going to school;
  • Doing less well at school;
  • Insomnia;
  • Anxiety.

KCC has a school anti-bullying policy that outlines the expectations of schools to ensure zero tolerance of bullying.

The government website has sections for young people and carers offering advice, videos, and contributions from young people. It also has information on ‘cyber bullying’. All this information is available on the website in a number of different languages. Childline also has useful information about bullying.


Discrimination

Most children are bullied because they are ‘different’ in some way. Children in care may also be discriminated against for a variety of reasons - because they are ‘in care’, because they don’t live with their parents, others may become aware that they have suffered abuse and are vulnerable. They may also suffer discrimination because of their ethnicity, physical or learning disability, sexuality, religious beliefs, etc.

Kent County Council has an Equality and Diversity Strategy which outlines the Council’s general position on equal opportunities and includes disabilities, race and ethnicity, sex discrimination, age discrimination and harassment. These policies apply to the recruitment of foster carers and the care of Children in Care.

The Fostering Service is committed to equality of opportunity and opposes all forms of discrimination. In order to provide the most effective care for Children in Care and to help them to reach their potential, staff and carers need particularly to have an awareness of the specific needs of children from black and minority ethnic groups and those of children with disabilities.

Culturally Competent Care has developed a set of prompts for carers to help them to consider whether the care they are providing meets the child’s needs in terms of their culture. These prompts include:

  • Are you providing a diet that meets the child’s cultural, ethnic and religious background and dietary needs and choices?
  • Are you listening to the child’s/young person’s views and opinions in the decision-making processes which affect them?
  • Who is advising you, if it is not the same as your usual family diet? Are you talking to the child/young person about their diet and what they want?
  • Are you listening firstly to the child’s or family’s wishes regarding the choice of clothes or personal requisites, in view of the child’s cultural, religious or ethnic background?
  • Are you encouraging the child to take part in activities and leisure interests which take account of their race, culture, language, religion, interests, abilities and disabilities? Is it ensured that the child/young person is facilitated to lead on these decisions?
  • Are birthdays, name days, cultural and religious festivals celebrated where appropriate, and can you plan for these events with the child?
  • If the child has a different religion from yourself, then are you getting support from Social Care or within the community, to enable them to participate in religious ceremonies?
  • What positive role models is the child getting about people from their own culture? What links are you able to make?
  • What messages is the child receiving about what it means to be disabled e.g. is disability minimised or is it prioritised to the exclusion of any other identity need?
  • What positive examples of disabled people (e.g. from sport) does the child receive? Is the child’s understanding being checked on an ongoing basis?
  • Have you found out about the meaning of family in the child’s culture? Are roles, hierarchy, obligations, or taboos the same or different to yours? Is the child’s understanding checked regularly?
  • If they are different can you explain these to the child and use pictures or stories to help develop an understanding of their culture of origin?
  • Do you have ongoing conversations with the child regarding culture?
  • Are you encouraging the child to reflect on and understand her/his history in an age appropriate way?
  • Are you ensuring the communication methods are age and ability appropriate?
  • Are you seeking support on appropriate engagement if you need it?
  • Are you keeping appropriate family keepsakes for the child? Does the child/young person understand and get involved with this?
  • Are you confident about sex and relationships education with the child?
  • If you need support to meet the needs of disabled children or children from a different culture to yourself, then ask!
  • How are you helping the child to deal with racism? If you feel unsure, ask for advice and support from your social worker.

The National Youth Agencies’ on-line service provides an online information booklet for young people on dealing with discrimination.

Foster Carers can assist by:

  • Giving children and young people support;
  • Building on children’s pride and self-esteem;
  • Finding out what you can about the child’s background, history and culture;
  • Discussing with the child/young person their dietary preferences;
  • Discussing with others ideas of how to deal with racism and discrimination;
  • Finding out where there might be local resources where children can meet others of their own culture or religion, or other disabled children;
  • Attending training on how to deal with discrimination;
  • Thinking carefully about taking responsibility for a child from another culture;
  • Challenging discrimination.