Actively championing anti-racist practice in fostering

Everyone working in the children’s care sector, including foster carers, social workers and managers, has a responsibility to actively promote racial equality and inclusion, and plays a vital role in challenging injustice. Being aware of the impact of discrimination and inequality, and developing the knowledge, skills and confidence to tackle racism can shape good practice to make sure that everyone involved in fostering feels supported, valued and empowered. 

Race discrimination is illegal in the UK yet 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 the deep-rooted racial inequality and prejudice that exists in our society. To make foster care the very best it can be, and to enable every child and young person to reach their full potential, everyone involved in fostering needs to recognise that racial discrimination exists and take proactive steps to challenge, embed and champion anti-racist practice.  


Getting started 

Starting the conversation about racism, and how people feel about and respond to it, can be uncomfortable. But having these conversations is a vital part of bringing about meaningful change. It is important that racism is specifically named and consciously addressed, alongside work to champion equality, equity, diversity and inclusion more broadly.  

An important step in understanding and promoting anti-racist practice in fostering is to start with where individuals ‘are at’. This means not assuming that everyone’s values, beliefs and experiences are the same, or shared. Children cared for by foster carers, and foster carers themselves, come from a range of different backgrounds, so it is important for all fostering services to take a considered, compassionate and respectful approach to conversations about racism to make sure issues of racial inequality are uncovered, discussed and addressed. To embed anti-racist practice, fostering services must take a zero-tolerance approach to racism, and make sure this is communicated to everyone involved in fostering, at all levels.  

You can begin by:  

  • thinking about how your fostering service recognises and supports diversity and difference – see also Promoting Inclusive Practice in Fostering. 

  • reviewing your communications: is it clear that your fostering service takes a zero-tolerance approach to racism? 

  • recognising the need for sensitivity in conversations about racism, and creating safe spaces for individuals and teams to talk, share their experiences and develop their knowledge. It is particularly important to create safe channels for minoritized ethnic groups to have their voices heard and respected. 


Making practical changes 

Embedding anti-racist practice in fostering also involves addressing and dismantling structural and systemic racism within your fostering service – this includes policies, procedures and structures or systems that cause or uphold racial inequalities. It may not be immediately obvious where or how structural racism exists in your service, so it can be useful to take a systematic approach to reviewing how things work.  

You could start by exploring the make-up of your organisation and considering how your recruitment strategy, policy and procedures actively value and promote ethnic diversity and inclusion. Think about the language, images and channels you use, or could use, to reach staff and foster carers from different backgrounds. What changes can you make? Use your fostering service’s values and principles to develop an anti-racism strategy or commitment and a realistic action plan for bringing about change. 

Some things to consider in relation to promoting anti-racist practice in your fostering service: 

  • Consider how decisions are made in your fostering service. Are there meetings, policies or procedures that might favour or omit people from different backgrounds? 

  • Consider how people in your fostering service feel about raising issues of racism. Do they have confidence in your processes for dealing with discrimination? Does everyone know about your whistleblowing policy?  

  • Explore, review and develop resources and networks to enable your social workers and foster carers to talk with each other and to children and young people about issues of racism. It may be helpful to begin that conversation with your staff team first. 

  • Consider your fostering service’s ability to recognise, understand and promote cultural competence. Do you have the expertise to move this conversation forward, or could you benefit from some external support? 

  • Consider the power of the words and phrases used to describe people from a diverse range of backgrounds and reflect on/ review how language respects and promotes or undermines particular groups.  

  • How are your staff and foster carers supported through reflective supervision? Consider any outstanding needs and how these could be addressed for them, their managers and others. 

  • Explore what specific support could be offered for those affected by the situation. (See also our stress support service details below). 

  • Does your service provide specific staff, foster carer and/or young people support groups – and if so, do they ensure effective preparation, de-brief and follow-up of sessions?  

  • Be pro-active and not reactive - listen and learn from others. 


Help for our members 

To encourage and support you to move forward with your own action plan, we have brought together a collection of useful resources. These include links to practice information, resources for foster carers, children and young people, and additional information to help you develop your knowledge and confidence in thinking about equality and justice, and understanding the impact of systemic racism in society. We hope that these resources are helpful in your work and personal/ professional reflections, and in continuing the commitment to challenging racial discrimination and promoting anti-racist practice.  

We want to work with all our members to develop action plans to support organisational change and develop ways of working that promote anti-racist practice. We are grateful to everyone who has worked with us to adapt the BASW anti-racist framework to enhance its application in the context of fostering. 

These action plans, from The Fostering Network’s regional independent fostering providers (IFP) forums, have been adopted within the terms of reference for The Fostering Network’s UK-wide IFP group. These are available to all member organisations of The Fostering Network to encourage all services and those they support to engage in the journey from walking on eggshells to being an ally.  

Please help us to keep these resources relevant and up to date - email with any updates or new resources you use or come across that might be of benefit to others on this journey. 



Resources to inform and promote anti-racist practice 



British Association of Social Workers (BASW)


Community Care Inform


Coram BAAF




Nuffield Foundation


Research in Practice (RiP)




Social Work England (SWE)


The Fostering Network



Legislation, guidance and national reports



Local Government Association (LGA)








Reviews and audits

Things to watch, listen to and read

Community Care:


Community Care Inform:




NSPCC Learning:


Research in Practice:


Blogs and articles -various:



Information to support young people talk about racism

CBBC Newsround:


Books for Topics:


British Red Cross:


Channel 4:


Embrace Race:




The Black Curriculum:



Other organisations that can help

BASW: Black, Asian and minority ethnic community resources

Black Economics: Black Organisations Supporting Young People

Black Thrive: Black Thrive Global


Childline: Racism and racial bullying

Childline: Discrimination, hate crime and equality

Citizen's Advice: Discrimination because of race

CORE (Coalition of Race Equality Organisations): ROTA - Race On The Agenda

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF): Ethnicity

Mind: Diversity and difference

Runnymede Trust: The Runnymede Trust

Show Racism the Red Card: The Red Card

Survivor's Network: Anti-Racism Resources

The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network (BAATN): The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network

The Black Care Experience: The Black Care Experience

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 Members’ Helpline for all members of The Fostering Network.  

Practice support: The Fostering Network offer practice support to our member fostering services across the UK and 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 & consultancy to find out more. 



Updated February 2023