1.7 Race, Ethnicity and Culture
All children have a right to grow up safe from harm. In order to make sensitive and informed professional judgements about a child’s needs, and parents’ capacity to respond to those needs, it is important that professionals are sensitive to differing family patterns and lifestyles and to child rearing patterns that vary across different racial, ethnic and cultural groups.
Working in a multi-racial and multi-cultural society requires professionals and organisations to be committed to equality in meeting the needs of all children and families, and to understand the effects of racial harassment, discrimination and institutional racism, as well as cultural misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
The needs of the individual child must always be the focus of the assessment process. This process should always include consideration of the way religious beliefs and cultural traditions in different racial, ethnic and cultural groups influence their values, attitudes and behaviour, and the way in which family and community life is structured and organised.
Professionals should be aware of and work with the strengths and support systems available within families, ethnic groups and communities, which can be built upon to help safeguard children and promote their welfare.
Professionals should be careful to guard against myths and stereotypes, both positive and negative, of black and minority ethnic families. Anxiety about being accused of racist practice should not prevent the necessary action being taken to safeguard a child. Careful assessment, based on evidence of a child’s needs, and a family’s strengths and weaknesses, understood in the context of the wider social environment, will help to avoid any distorting effect of these influences on professional judgements.
It must always be borne in mind that cultural factors neither explain nor condone acts of omission or commission which places a child suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm.
Lord Laming’s Report of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry addresses in Section 16, Working with Diversity, some important issues related to Race, Ethnicity and Culture. These include:
- Guarding against the effect of assumptions based on race, ethnicity or cultural background;
- The dangers of feeling inhibited from acting in a child’s best interests for fear of being accused of racism;
- The dangers of considering cultural issues before the primary objective of the safety of the child