The Black Care Experience - Creating a lasting difference for Black children in care

For Black History Month we are highlighting the amazing work Black people involved in fostering do. We also show where foster care has to do better to make sure it is the best it can be – both for Black foster carers and Black children in care. 

First up is Judith. She is a speaker and author and the CEO and founder of The Transformed You, which delivers intervention and support mentoring programmes to care experienced people to help them transform their lives and thrive. Judith has also served on social care panels and is chair of The Black Care Experience and care experienced herself.

In blog 1 of our series, she tells us all about The Black Care Experience and the issues the Black care community has struggled with for decades.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, Judith?

I was placed in foster care when I was nine years old and experienced various challenges throughout, such as exclusions from school and college and run ins with the law. When I left care at 26 I went through a crisis that led me to struggle with my mental health. However, with the right support I recovered and went on to work with care experienced people and people involved in fostering in different capacities. I also wrote my autobiography called ‘Foster Care and Me’.

You are also the founding chair of The Black Care Experience.

Yes, the team came together as a result of a shared concern around the care and outcomes of those who are Black and in care. To be very clear, we understand that being care experienced does come with its challenges for all, however, we also know that the experience of care does come with an extra set of challenges for those of us who are Black.

We were also concerned about how our voices will be represented at England’s Independent Children’s Social Care Review and saw a chance to help shape the care experience for the next Black and In Care generation of children and young people.

The Black Care Experience did a survey in 2020 to document the experiences of Black care experienced people of all ages. What were the key findings?

Our survey specifically focused on comparing two different care experiences and their impact: the experiences of those of us who were placed with a foster family/in residential care/a community, we could not or cannot culturally identify with; and the experiences of those of us who were placed in an environment we can or could culturally identify with. 

We were able to identify issues, so called ‘consistent and emerging themes’, that mainly exist in the lives of those who have been transracially placed. Among those are that, often,

  • placements are unable to promote our culture and identity, which had an impact on how we see ourselves
  • placements have a direct impact on how our hair and skin is cared for
  • placements are unable to prepare us to return to and be a part of our community, impacting on how we see our community
  • placements fail to prepare us for the racism and discrimination we may face in the world we live in
  • placements are not seen as a safe space, where our voice in regards to our culture and identity is heard and understood.

It is not the first time the Black community raises these concerns. Similar issues were already flagged at The Black and In Care conference in 1984. Why do you think certain issues are still not addressed?

In 1985, The Black and In Care conference report was published and even presented the House of Commons Select Committee on Social Services, which led to the creation of the Children Act 1989.

Unfortunately, the only reference in the Act relating to how Black children should be cared for is that local authorities are to give consideration to the ‘religious persuasion, racial origin, cultural and linguistic background’ of the child to be placed.

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations (Volume 4: Fostering Services) outlines that foster carers ‘should be informed, trained and confident about dealing with issues relating to gender, religion, ethnic origin, cultural background, linguistic background, nationality, disability or sexual orientation and be able to involve external professional advice and support as necessary.’ 

I do believe that this is very vague and has led us back to the starting point of raising the same issues about the outcomes and care of Black children in care.

What do you hope The Black Care Experience Report 2021 will achieve and what are the next steps for you?

After the report was published, a few organisations got in contact to say they had read it and will be using it to help develop better practice. This is good news, but the hope is that the report will influence a national movement of change, with every children’s social care department being open and accountable for how Black children and young people in care are looked after.

Working within our children’s social care system, it is evident that much change is needed to improve the care experience and outcomes for all, and so there isn’t really a ‘next step to take’, but rather a call to purposefully continue to create and implement new ways of working, to help make a lasting and impactful difference.