The Fostering Network, in conjunction with Mercy Mission UK, is running the Muslim Fostering Project to undertake ground-breaking work funded by the Better Community Business Network (BCBN). The project will focus on the links, or otherwise, between the Muslim faith and fostering and how we can help fostering services across England to ensure that their foster carer population is reflective (and meets the cultural needs) of the children they care for.
Every 20 minutes a child comes into care in the UK in need of the support, security, and stability that a foster carer can provide. Some of these children will have the Muslim faith; it is estimated around 3,000 Muslim children come into care in the UK each year, although total numbers of Muslim children in foster care are unknown. Yet a child’s faith may be a key facet of their identity, providing the one constant in what could be a traumatic young life, particularly if they have arrived into the country unaccompanied from a war torn country such as Eritrea, Syria or Afghanistan.
It is a requirement by law that every child that becomes looked after by a local authority has a care plan, determining the services and support they will receive including in regard to their:
• family relationships
• hobbies and interests
This information will also be used when matching a child with a foster carer, ensuring they are placed with carers who can best meet the full spectrum of their needs. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a child’s faith, religion, and culture is not routinely captured, or is not explored in sufficient detail to provide the complete picture of a child’s identity. This not only presents issues for the child but also for the foster carer tasked with caring for them.
We began our Muslim Fostering Project hypothesising that there aren’t sufficient Muslim foster carers to meet the needs of Muslim children. What we have found are some inspiring examples of cross-cultural fostering placements, providing the nurturing and stable home environment so vital to the child. A child’s religion or faith is an important consideration, and can affect the chances of a successful placement, but has to be considered alongside other health, education and family needs. The need for better training and support, however, has become very apparent throughout this project, not least for foster carers but also for the supporting staff in fostering services.
We have also explored some of the barriers as to what prevents Muslims coming forward to consider fostering. Targeted marketing and tailored support are just two of the ways to improve this but both stem from a fundamental understanding of how the local community operates and considers the intervention of the state.
The Muslim Fostering Project: Practice Learning Day will showcase the findings from the project to date but also aims to expand on learning through the sharing of practice from the event’s participants. The rich data we gather will be used to inform our final report and recommendations, which will be launched in this year’s Foster Care Fortnight. We hope this project will be a platform from which to launch our wider Identity in Fostering programme, researching the experience of other faiths, religions, and cultures that contribute to the UK in the context of our foster care system.