Looked-After-Children (LAC) share the universal needs of all children in order that they develop into physically and emotionally healthy adults, with a positive sense of self.
However, when caring for mixed-race / Looked-After-Children , there are additional factors that must be given consideration. Do bear in mind that some, none or not all of these factors may apply. It is important not to generalise or stereotype. They are individual children with individual needs.
Factors to consider:
1. The vast majority of Looked-After-Children are living outside their birth families with paid carers. This can impact on how they see themselves and their sense of belonging.
They are not developing their identity with their birth family context, their new family will always form a large part of who they are. This is regardless of whether they reject or embrace it.
2. The journey into the care system – the Looked-After-Child will have experienced loss in the separation from their birth family. It may be perceived as rejection from the birth family or blame may be laid with professionals for removing them. It is equally likely that the LAC child will shift between the two.
They may go on to face further rejection within the care system. This can be in the form of placement breakdowns or birth families not turning up for contact.
3. The Looked-After-Child will often question their own value and worth because of the rejection, separation and loss experienced. It is hard to feel good about yourself when everyone around you seems to be rejecting you?
4. Despite the 1989 children act, Looked-After-Children will have little meaningful say in their own lives. The professionals around them make decisions / choices for them often without actively listening to what the children have to say. Sadly, often any meaningful understanding of what is truly in the best interest of the children regardless of the child's wishes and feelings.
This is particularly evident with the LAC mixed-race child. Professionals will make placement decisions based on their personal belief of the cultural needs of the child can best be met. There is no opportunity here for the child to navigate their own journey.
5. ‘A sense of belonging’. For the Looked-After-Child this can be very difficult to achieve without a sense of belonging. Children in the care system experience change on a scale most emotionally sound adults would struggle to cope with. They experience numerous placement changes, often at short notice. Changes in school, friends, changes in social worker, changes in geographical location. It is difficult to ever feel safe and settled.
With all of this change and very little say in it, it can be almost impossible for the LAC child to feel like they belong. These points have only been touched upon in the briefest of detail. However, as a foster carer to be most supportive to the LAC child these key issues need to be considered and further explored.
It is important to be curious about how these issues will impact on the developing a sense of identity of the mixed-race LAC child.
Helpine, further support etc?
Mix-d: Parenting is work in progress.
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