1. Introduction
  2. Culture
  3. Language
  4. Religion
  5. Disability
  6. Gender

1. Introduction

In order to understand other people’s identity we need to understand our own. This helps us to identify whether there are differences between us and the children that we care for and their families and whether there are gaps that can be bridged. You and your family should try and spend some time thinking about this before you start caring.

A person’s identity is complicated and is made up of a mixture of the things below;

  • How we look including our skin colour;
  • How we dress;
  • How we sound and the language that we speak;
  • Our views;
  • Our family values and traditions;
  • Our religious beliefs;
  • Our family history and background;
  • How we form relationships, including our sexual orientation.

It is important for you to develop and promote a child/young person’s identity. It is vital that you uphold and develop the child’s identity particularly when they are not living with their own family or else it will weaken their sense of who they are.

Within our own culture we often do this without thinking or meaning to by assuming that what we do is the same as everybody else. The way in which we celebrate Christmas is an example of this.

Our understanding is helped by understanding the child/young person’s background and should be addressed in the Placement Plan at the start of their placement about how this will be done.

Where children are placed with you from different backgrounds or cultures, the fostering service will provide additional training and support and information. This will make sure that the child/young person receives the best possible care to develop a positive understanding of their background and heritage.

2. Culture

Culture is part of a child’s/young person’s identity and heritage. All foster carers should respect and value a child’s cultural heritage. Children's parents can be helpful in telling you what the child or young person is used to.

Culture describes the way people live their lives. Culture is based on many different factors, memories, common experience, background, language, racial identity, class, religion and family attitudes etc.

Sometimes conflicts arise in foster homes between the way you are used to living and the ways that the child/young person is used to. Dilemmas arise about what is the right thing to do. When a young person doesn’t want to follow the way that is expected of them there are rarely easy answers when sorting these problems out. Examples can be as simple as eating at the table, or religious observance. You should talk to the child and their family (where appropriate) to try and understand what their views are and find a way forward. Your Supervising Social Worker and/or the child’s social worker can also provide help.

3. Language

It is possible that a child whose first language is not English may be placed with you.

Language is an important part of a child’s identity and culture. Every effort should be made to preserve a child’s linguistic and communication skills; otherwise they may lose a large part of their culture.

If you need more information or advice about a child’s cultural and linguistic needs contact the child’s social worker or your Supervising Social Worker.

Black children will have particular practical needs in relation to their identity. They may have specific needs such as hair and skin care which may be different from the foster carers experience. Toys and educational material such as books and DVDs and birthday cards should reflect positive role models for the child. These will promote their sense of black identity. If the child’s identity is different from the carers, there will be other Islington foster carers who can advise and support. Please speak to other foster carers who will be pleased to invite children to cultural events and advise you about suitable food or toys.

You should look for ways in which you can promote the child’s identity. Discuss this with your Supervising Social Worker and the child’s social worker. This information will be important should the child return home or move to another carer.  

4. Religion

The religious upbringing of a Looked After Child is very important.

The right to determine the child's religion is one of the rights all birth parents retain for whatever reason the child comes to live with you.

Some parents may express strong preferences. However, religion is only one aspect of a child's care needs and you will be expected to respect the child’s religion. If the child has a different religion to you, you may need help and advice from your supervising social worker or other carers to meet the child’s needs.

5. Disability

A child/young person’s disability is a part of who they are and the arrangements that are made to meet their needs are a part of respecting their identity. It is important to offer disabled children the opportunities for family life which all children deserve. The fostering service is committed to ensuring this. Please speak with your supervising social worker about any help you need to offer the child a full range of experiences or any training you would like. We are particularly keen to offer family life to children with autistic spectrum disorders.

6. Gender

Some young people may identify as transgender (i.e. as a different gender from their birth gender) or as non-binary (they may not identify as either male or female). Girls, boys and transgender/non- binary young people should receive equal opportunities and encouragement to pursue their talents, interests and hobbies. Sexist stereotypes of behaviour must not be imposed or condoned, for example there should be equal expectations that boys and girls will participate in domestic tasks.

Young people who are experiencing gender identity issues should, in general, be given space and support to develop their own gender identity, However it is important that they are protected from adverse effects such as bullying and discrimination.

Some young people may wish to discuss specialist medical intervention, or may require specialist support. Discuss this with your Supervising Social Worker and the child’s social worker.