At The Fostering Network we understand the importance of stability for fostered children and young people and the detrimental impact of making the wrong match between a foster family and child. We also know how important cultural and religious support is as part of making the right match first time. This can include either matching within a child's own faith or with a foster family with the knowledge and openness to encourage them to explore their culture and faith fully. The Fostering Network embarked on a national programme, funded by Better Community Business Network (BCBN) and in partnership with Mercy Mission UK and My Foster Family, which aimed to highlight areas of challenge in the current system and encourage greater emphasis on elements of faith and identity when placing a Muslim child with a foster family.
The objectives of the Muslim Fostering Project:
- identify the number of Muslim children being fostered at any one time;
- build a picture of the number of Muslim children being placed with non-Muslim foster carers, and the reasons behind these decisions;
- build a picture of the experiences of Muslim foster carers and those who enquire but do not proceed to become foster carers;
- explore the recruitment and retention of Muslim foster carers, highlighting barriers and identifying good practice; and
- review existing resources, training and support available for non-Muslim foster families who foster Muslim children to identify if fit for purpose.
What we did:
- A full literature review of existing research into fostering within the Muslim community.
- Partnered with four local authorities and one independent fostering provider to examine local practice and identify good practice.
- Conducted surveys and interviews with Muslim foster carers and those caring for Muslim children in foster care to explore their experiences and the challenges.
- Surveyed local authority fostering services and independent fostering providers to gather evidence on policies to enable foster carer recruitment from local communities.
- Surveyed over 1,000 Muslims who enquired but did not proceed with an application to foster to determine the barriers presented.
What we found:
One of the primary tasks undertaken within the project was to conduct a literature review on what information already existed on the experience of Muslim children in foster care and Muslim foster carers, identifying the following key themes:
- Understanding the experience of Muslim looked after children.
- Understanding the outcomes for Muslim children in foster care in England.
- Supporting non-Muslim foster carers who care for Muslim children and young people.
Rejecting or rebelling against a culture or identity.
The Muslim Fostering Project report summarises the findings of the project and highlights the importance of training and support for non-Muslim foster carers looking after Muslim children. Recommendations include:
- Fostering services should consider how fostering service staff are trained and supported to conduct initial visits and assessment of Muslim applicants to fostering.
- Fostering services should review their recruitment literature and assess how it responds to the needs of a prospective Muslim foster carer and the wider Muslim community.
- The importance of collecting data about the number of Muslim looked after children and how a child or young person’s faith is taken into account when being placed with a foster family.
- Fostering services should identify the resources needed for its foster carers caring for a child with a different faith to their own.