<p>It is vital that equality, diversity and inclusion are central to the work of fostering to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected, especially children and young people in foster care, whether that be in terms of class, gender, ‘race’, sex, age, religion or belief, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability must not be a hinderance to ensuring the potential and needs of individuals are maximised and groups are valued and respected.</p>
What do we mean by equality, diversity and inclusion?
Equality, diversity and inclusion are distinct concepts, yet it is important to consider them together.
- Equality is about equal opportunity and fairness ensuring everyone has the ability to participate.
- Diversity is about recognising and celebrating differences and placing value upon them.
- Inclusion is about ensuring access and removing barriers that prevent equality and undervalue diversity.
It is vital for organisations and fostering services to develop an awareness of equality, diversity and inclusion in order to effectively understand the wider societal impact of discrimination upon individuals and groups marginalised, and hence inform good practice to challenge and effectively address anti oppressive practice.
About equality, diversity and inclusion in foster care
Many children and young people in foster care, the families caring for them, the social workers supporting them and others in the team around the child, are affected by inequality, prejudice and discrimination. Treating everyone fairly and valuing their identity enriches the way in which we live our lives, and influences the way we treat colleagues, support foster carers and directly impacts on the experiences and welfare of children and young people in foster care.
Historically the UK has developed various legislation to protect the rights of individuals and groups on a range of grounds, including equal pay, sex discrimination, race relations, disability, employment (religion, sexual orientation, age), and equality (sexual orientation). More than 116 separate pieces of legislation have been replaced by one single act – the Equality Act 2010.
The UK has country specific legislation relating to children and fostering law, fostering statutory guidance, and national fostering standards, which all outline important principles and values that underpin the need to safeguard a child and promote their welfare and wellbeing. The responsibility of placing authorities, fostering services and foster carers to improve the outcomes and life chances of children must include an understanding and application of anti-discriminatory practice.
Principles of equality, diversity and inclusion
The following principles should apply in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion:
- Fostering services should have clear policies and procedures that promote equality, diversity and inclusion.
- Consider your fostering services’ ability to recognise and understand cultural competence i.e. awareness of the impact of culture, equality and diversity on practice, self-exploration, use of language, power, understanding challenges and overcoming obstacles.
- Staff and foster carers should be provided with learning and development opportunities to ensure a robust understanding of equality issues, and how to appropriately address issues of discrimination, unconscious bias and the promotion of good practice.
- Staff, foster carers and children living in foster care have the right to be treated fairly, to be valued for their differences and encouraged to reach their potential.
- Children and young people have the right to feel safe in their foster homes and at school
- Children and young people have the right to understand their identity in order that their needs can be met appropriately by their foster carers, social workers and others in the ‘team around the child’.
- The voices of children and young people should be listened to, their wishes and views respected, and they should be enabled to make informed choices about their lives irrespective of their identity.
- Everyone involved in fostering should understand their role, and responsibility to, promote anti-discriminatory practice. Promoting a culture where prejudice and discrimination is unacceptable and is appropriately challenged.
- An inclusive approach will lead to a greater sense of belonging, feeling valued and greater participation by all, irrespective of roles, hierarchy and privilege.