Fostering children from a different culture or religion
We are proud that, at Lorimer, we are able to offer safe, nurturing care to many children. Our matching process is designed to take into account the skills of each fostering household and the individual needs of the child looking for a stable home.
In an ideal world, we would be able to place children within homes that match their own cultural or religious backgrounds. Sadly this is not always possible, and this is why we are always looking to diversify the available carers that we have. Children should not have to be placed in area far away from all they know to achieve a cultural match; equally they should be able to grow up in an environment that supports and understands their unique identities and all that entails.
Luckily, most Foster Carers are open to caring for children from different cultural and religious backgrounds. However, this can bring additional complications to an already stressful situation.
Do Your Homework!
If you know you are going to be caring for a child from a different culture, spend some time researching. It might sound obvious, but being prepared and knowing about customs, diet, festivals and so on will help the child to feel accepted and understood. There will also be an expectation that you will support the child to learn more about these things, so you’ll need to know your stuff!
There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t know much about a particular religion or culture. This is a learning journey for you as a Foster Carer – and you don’t have to wait until you are asked to care for a child from a particular background. You could spend some time finding out where local religious buildings are in case you need to support a child to attend. What other resources are there locally that might be useful? Being prepared means that you will be able to make a child feel safe and secure more quickly.
Follow Their Lead…
For some children, there may be negative associations with their cultural or religious background. They may not wish to continue to attend a place of worship, for example. This is fine, and their decision should be respected absolutely. However, make sure you leave the door open for them to change their minds at a later date. Let the child know that it is their decision how much they wish to be involved with rituals, customs and so on. Communicate their decision to their social worker.
Be aware though that certain religious requirements such as eating a Halal diet MUST be followed if this is in the child’s care plan. If the child is telling you that they do not wish to do this, speak to their social worker. In the majority of cases, both the LA and the parents retain Parental Responsibility – if you are unsure speak to your Supervising Social Worker who will support you.
There are lots of fantastic ways in which you can easily and naturally include different cultures and religions into your household:
- We would advise all Foster Carers to have a ‘library’ of books for children of all ages. This should include books that explore culture, religion, gender, ethnicity and so on. Having these things in your home increases and improves the cultural literacy of all household members – this can only be a good thing!
- Support and encourage the child to express their culture and identity in their bedroom, and incorporate features of both of your backgrounds in communal parts of the home. This will increase the child’s sense of belonging. This could be as simple as making sure special colours are used, or the addition of artwork by artists from the child’s heritage.
- Expand your palette – cook using ingredients and recipes similar to those the child has eaten at home. This can be a wonderful activity to share with a child. Ask them to ‘show’ you the foods they enjoy and prepare them together. This sense of collaboration will further secure their sense of acceptance and security in the home.
- Talk about what is happening in the country that the child is from, or about the heritage of their birth family. This will promote their identity and sense of security, leading them to grow into adults with a solid sense of self. All children are curious about the world, so this is not as unusual as it sounds! Make conversation about world events a usual topic in your house.
- Learn a few phrases of the child’s language, if a different one has been spoken in their birth home. If the child is coming to you in a planned move, perhaps learn the words for ‘Hello’, ‘My name is….’ And ‘Welcome’. The child will understand the effort you have made and feel accepted. If you wish to go further, ask the child to help you label items in the home in both languages, or learn with them one of their religious songs.
- Go on field trips that incorporate the histories and celebrations of other cultures, heritages and religions. Most children love a day out, and this is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to learn.
What About My Beliefs?
Just as there are children in care who have cultural and religious needs, many Foster Carers also have important belief systems.
While we would never ask you to set aide your beliefs or compromise yourself in anyway, Lorimer promotes a culture of acceptance for all. Foster Carers should be open to having conversations about other faiths and beliefs, and consider how they might manage these alongside their own.
Imagine how your religion, culture and heritage has shaped the person that you are today. It may have made you stronger, more resilient, more secure in your understanding and navigation of the world around you. This is the very thing that we want for the children in our care too.
Making the effort in cultural acceptance can make the difference between secure and confident adults, and those who carry the fear of alienation and rejection with them.
During the assessment process you will have had discussions about caring for children from other religions and backgrounds, and these conversations should continue throughout your fostering career. If you have concerns about being able to provide care for children from different backgrounds, have a chat with your Supervising Social Worker.
Get in Touch
If you would like to get in touch, you can call, text or WhatsApp Rachael on 07938 575 738; or send an email to email@example.com. If you would prefer us to call you, please submit your details using the form below; and we’ll get back to you soon!