Following events across the globe, sparked by the death of George Floyd in the USA, we feel that it is important to open up discussions within our fostering community about racism and discrimination. Racial bias is a hugely complex subject and linked closely with differences in language, culture and faith. We recognise that talking about racism can be difficult and emotive.
Here at Fostering Rotherham, we are committed to getting better at talking about racism with each other and with our children, and to ensuring that we are doing enough to challenge racism within society.
We want all our foster carers to feel supported and able to have discussions around racism with the children and young people in their care.
In this blog, we offer some suggestions as to how you might approach the topic of racism and we have also included links to websites and useful resources which offer further information and advice.
Before speaking to children, it may be a useful exercise to reflect, recognise and challenge our own unconscious biases. Through our lived experiences, everyone develops internal biases that, when left unexamined, can become troublesome. These are often unconscious, so the person hasn’t made a decision to think this way, but unless these biases are dismantled they can lead to inadvertent unfair treatment of others. Through self reflection and inquiry, we hopefully will feel more prepared to speak to the children in our care about racism and diversity.
Children are actually very good at recognising difference - and at talking about it. It is often adults who find it difficult. In our experience, ignoring or avoiding the topic leaves children less prepared to face the racial bias that exists in our society.
When children ask tricky questions or pass comments, we should not ignore the issue, change the subject or answer indirectly. Instead, make efforts to take the time to respond thoughtfully and in a way that is developmentally appropriate to the child. Sometimes, you might need to admit you don't know something but that together you can explore it. It might help to think in advance of the sort of questions that you might find difficult to answer and prepare some responses.
“Sometimes you might need to admit you don't know something but that together you can explore it”.
Exploring the past together to better understand the present might be one way to open up discussions about racism. Depending on the age of the child, finding out about historical events like the end of apartheid in South Africa, the civil rights movement in the United States and other movements for equality around the world can help to develop an understanding of past struggles and shine a light on how far we’ve come and also how much further we still need to go. These shared learning experiences can further help your child understand and see the world from different perspectives.
Another way to initiate discussions about race and diversity might be to bring the outside world into your home. Explore food from other cultures, learn about key festivals, listen to music and watch films from different regions of the world. It can also be useful to reflect on the toys and resources in your home, such as books, puzzles and dolls, to ensure that they represent diversity in your culture and other cultures.
“It can also be useful to reflect on the toys and resources in your home, such as books, puzzles and dolls, to ensure that they represent diversity in your culture and other cultures”.
Here at Fostering Rotherham, we are committed to our own continued learning and development around issues of racism and diversity and hope to offer our carers and future carers support in this also. We hope that with continued discussion, shared learning and continued efforts to educate ourselves, we can do a great deal to make positive and continued change in our communities and society as a whole.
By taking every opportunity to challenge racism, demonstrate kindness and stand up for every person's right to be treated with dignity and respect, we will be acting as wonderful role models for the children and young people in our care and doing our part to help stamp out racism for good.
Web links & resources
UNICEF has produced an article with ideas about how to talk to the children in your care about racism: https://www.unicef.org/parenting/talking-to-your-kids-about-racism
The Red Card is the UK’s leading anti-racism charity. Resource packs and activities are available on their website: https://www.theredcard.org/resources-and-activities
Booktrust put together a reading list for Black History Month 2019. It includes examples of non-fiction, fiction, picture books and young adult novels that can be enjoyed by children of all ages: https://www.booktrust.org.uk/booklists/b/black-history-month/
Bello Collective has collated podcasts, featuring a range of experts, for both parents and children. They include young activists and some lively dance tracks: https://bellocollective.com/8-podcasts-that-help-you-talk-to-kids-about-race-e5a4b639ac3f
We hope you found this article useful.
If you’d like some more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our fostering team or download our fostering information packs.