Equality, equity, diversity and inclusion: promoting inclusive practice in fostering

Every child deserves to be recognised and celebrated for who they are. Through building the foundations of equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the fostering community, we can better support all children and young people in foster care to have the opportunities they deserve. Together, we can make fostering the very best it can be.  

What do we mean by equality, equity, diversity and inclusion? 

Equality, equity, diversity and inclusion are distinct concepts, but it is important to consider them together. 

  • Equality is about giving everyone an equal chance to take part.  

  • Equity is about giving people what they need, to make things fair. 

  • Diversity is about recognising and celebrating differences between people, and placing value upon these differences. 

  • Inclusion is about making sure everyone is involved, by removing barriers that prevent equality and undervalue diversity. 


Equality and equity 

Although the words sound similar, equality and equity are different. Equality means that all people are treated the same and should have the same opportunities to be successful. Equity recognises that not everyone starts from the same place in society, so some people need additional resources to reach an equal outcome. It is about giving people what they need to be successful. 


About equality, equity, diversity and inclusion in foster care 

The fostering community is made up of a diverse range of individuals from a range of different backgrounds, all with different experiences and identities. Treating everyone fairly and valuing their identity enriches the way we live our lives and influences the way we treat and support each other. It directly impacts on the experiences and welfare of all children and young people who need to be recognised and celebrated for who they are. 

Legislation in the UK (including the Equality Act 2010, see also the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland) makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone with protected characteristics. These include age, gender reassignment, disability, religion, sex or sexual orientation and ethnic or national origin.  

Country-specific children's and fostering legislation, regulations, guidance and standards also outline important principles and values in relation to equality, equity, diversity and inclusion. These underpin the need to promote a child’s identity, as well as safeguard and promote their welfare and wellbeing. It is essential for the team around the child, including foster carers, social workers and other supports, to understand anti-discriminatory practice and how experiences of discrimination can be complex and compounded by intersectionality. 

Our communities are stronger when everyone has what they need to thrive. Within the fostering community, we have a shared responsibility to make sure that everyone feels supported, valued and empowered. This includes celebrating what we all have in common and learning about and learning from our differences. 


What is intersectionality? 

Intersectionality is a term used to help understand how aspects of a person's social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege. Intersectionality identifies multiple factors of advantage and disadvantage, which can include class, gender, ‘race’, sexuality, age, religion and belief. These intersecting and overlapping social identities may be both empowering and oppressing. 

More information about intersectionality can be found online. You may find these of interest:  


Taking steps towards inclusive practice  

Many people in the fostering community – children and young people, the families caring for them, the social workers supporting them and others in the team around the child – are affected by the stigma and discrimination that surrounds ‘the care system’ in the UK. Deep-rooted structural inequalities affect our attitudes and behaviours in ways that we don’t even realise. To change the narrative, we must embed and champion inclusive, anti-discriminatory and anti-racist practice in fostering.  

The first step in understanding and embedding inclusive practice in fostering is to start with 'where where you are at':  

  • Think about if and how your fostering service recognises and supports diversity and difference now.  

  • What do you do well? How do you know?  

  • Recognise that not everyone’s values, beliefs and experiences are the same, or shared. Start a conversation about discrimination and how people feel about and respond to it. This may be uncomfortable, but being aware of the impact of discrimination, and understanding where it comes from, is an important part of making lasting change.    

  • Encourage everyone in your fostering service to think about their responsibilities, as part of the fostering community, to champion inclusion and challenge discrimination in all its forms. What support or training opportunities are in place, or could be introduced, to help everyone to do this?  


Making practical changes  

As well as understanding the importance of equality, equity, diversity and inclusion, there are practical steps you can take to embed inclusive practice in your fostering service. You might want to consider:  

  • What does your organisation look like?  

Do you have the right people in your fostering service to represent, support and inspire a diverse range of children and young people? Make sure that your recruitment and progression policies are designed to attract, retain and reward people with different experiences and perspectives. 

  • Who makes the decisions?  

Does your fostering service have a range of voices feeding into the organisational decision making? Take proactive steps to ensure that your existing policies and procedures are explicitly anti-discriminatory by setting up a working group for diversity, equality, equity and inclusion. Under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, public authorities have a statutory duty to promote race equality. 

  • What are you saying about inclusion, and to who?  

Does your fostering service use words and phrases that accurately represent a range of different people? Think about what resources, tools or training you can offer to help people in your fostering service talk to each other, and to children and young people, about issues of discrimination.   

  • What support is in place?  

Does your fostering service offer specific staff, foster carer and/or young people’s support groups for those who have or are experiencing discrimination? Are there opportunities to discuss and reflect on issues of discrimination, for example in supervision?  

  • What does sustainable change look like? 

Listen to and learn from others – in your organisation, in the wider fostering community, and in society as a whole – to make sure that your fostering service and community is being proactively inclusive, rather than just ‘ticking a box’.  


How The Fostering Network can help  

The Fostering Network, like many organisations, is working to better understand and support the development of anti-discriminatory practice both within our own organisation and in the wider fostering community.   

We are keen to work with our members on this journey and are developing awareness and new resources. See more on our learning and development and get in touch with our training team. 

Links to additional resources

There are many other organisations with specific knowledge and resources to help you consider issues around equality, equity, diversity and inclusion in fostering. Please help us to keep these signposts and resources relevant and up to date - email practice@fostering.net with any updates or new resources you use or come across that might be of benefit to others on this journey.  


ACAS: ACAS guide on age discrimination 

GOV.UK: Ageism no longer acceptable under new legislation

Care experience

Who Cares? Scotland: Care experience and protected characteristics (2018)  

STAF: Scotland’s national membership organisation for all of those involved in the lives of young people leaving care.  

Become: national charity for children in care and care leavers.

The Care Leavers Association: aims “to bring together the voices of care leavers of all ages so that we improve the current care system, improve the quality of life of care leavers throughout their life and change for the better society’s perception of people who have been in care.”


Social Work Today: Class and classism: How it affects social workers and the people with which they work (2022)  

Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Sociological perspectives on poverty 


ENABLE Scotland’s mission is to create an equal society for every person with a learning disability. 

ARC Scotland is a charity that works alongside people who need additional support (including people with learning disabilities, autism, sensory or physical disabilities) and their families, and people who plan or deliver support (including social workers).  

The LUNA Project is a charity run by young people with lived experience of disabilities, raising awareness and supporting disabled young people. 


Definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 Disability Unit


Disability Rights UK 

Mind: Disability and its legal meaning under the Equality Act 2010 



The Fostering Network: Actively championing anti-racist practice in fostering

GOV.UK: Writing about ethnicity 

Social Work England: Addressing racism in social work (2022)

Community Care: How to promote an anti-racist culture in social work (2020)


TACT: Language that cares - Changing the way professionals talk about Children in Care (2019) 

National Association of Fostering Providers (NAFP): Language in Fostering (2022)    

Ann Craft Trust: The Power of Language in Safeguarding Practice (2021) 

Friends, Families and Travellers: Languages and Glossary, Participation Packs (2022)  


Arc Scotland: are a charity that advances knowledge, practice and policy in health and social care for the benefit of people with learning disabilities or other support needs such as autism, mental health problems, sensory and physical disabilities 

Scottish Transitions Forum: lots of resources and knowledge around transitions for young people with additional needs becoming adults

What is neurodiversity? – Neurodiversity Association

About us - British Dyslexia Association (bdadyslexia.org.uk)


Religion and beliefs 

GOV.UK: Freedom of religion or belief: understanding this human right

Faith UK: Religion

Community Care: Social work and religion: 'It is painful to look back on the views I held' (2017)

Sex, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity 

Queer Street: supporting LGBTQ+ young people in the UK. Its mission is to create safe and inclusive spaces where LGBTQ+ people can find community, counselling and support. There are lots of resources for queer people, and for those supporting queer partners and queer children.   

Stonewall: have helped create transformative change in the lives of LGBTQ+ people in the UK.

Switchboard: the LGBT+ Helpline. A safe space for anyone to discuss anything, including sexuality, gender identity, sexual health and emotional well-being. They support people to explore the right options for themselves and aspire to a society where all LGBT+ people are informed and empowered.

LGBT Youth Scotland: Scotland’s national charity for LGBT young people, working with 13-25 year olds across the country. They deliver the LGBT Charter programme to schools, organisations and businesses 

One Body, One Faith: is a dynamic grassroots charity that enables LGBT+ Christians and advocates for change within the church, ecumenically and intentionally in partnership with likeminded organisations.

NSPCC: Sexuality and sexual orientation 

Equality and Human Rights Commission: Sexual orientation discrimination 

LGBT Foundation: exists to support the needs of the diverse range of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans.

GOV.UK: Advice and Support for LGBT people

NSPCC: Gender identity 

Childline: Gender identity 

Young Minds: Gender Identity & Mental Health - guide for parents 

British Library: Women's rights  

UN Women: What does gender equality look like today? 


More from The Fostering Network  

Advice and information: we offer advice and information to anyone interested in or involved in fostering in all four nations of the UK, including a Member Helpline for all members of The Fostering Network.  

Practice support: The Fostering Network offer practice support to our member fostering services across the UK, through our helplines across the four countries. Fostering service members in England can access local practice support through regional consultants who provide specialist guidance and expertise on all the latest sector information including enquiries, forums and practice information. 

Counselling and stress support service: members of The Fostering Network can access a confidential 24-hour stress support and counselling service on 01384 889 549.   

Legal advice: foster carer members of The Fostering Network can access our 24-hour legal helpline on 01384 885 734 for expert advice on allegations and help with any legal queries.  

Learning and development: Drawing on expertise across a range of fostering topics, our training and consultancy team can work with you to provide a range of products including in-house training, open courses and a suite of consultancy. Contact training and consultancy to find out more. 


Updated: February 2023