Negative experiences of Britain’s immigration system and other key institutions are taking their toll on Black African parents’ trust of and engagement with child welfare services.
In the face of historical issues, it’s not surprising that many parents are afraid that authorities (including the police and courts) are unfair, and therefore likely to harm their children’s opportunities.
In research conducted with 25 individual Nigerian parents in Greater London (Nigerians make up nearly one-third of all foreign-born Black Africans in England and Wales), participants revealed perceived and real oppressive treatment from health, social care, education and criminal justice professionals, which they linked to differences in race and culture.
In the opinion of these parents, the authorities were not there to help. Instead, they saw professionals as being uninterested in the well-being of Black African children and their families.
In one case, teachers reportedly referred parents to social workers for smacking their son. After initially reporting the pre-teen to his parents for being unruly in class, the teacher asked the boy how his parents had disciplined him and the boy disclosed that his mother had smacked him. Following the school’s referral, social services initiated a section 47 child protection investigation.
The mother, however, believed the teachers were deliberately misrepresenting her “African values” and blatantly relishing the pain and suffering her family was undergoing throughout the investigation. She was also distressed about teachers failing to make any other effort to support her son in class. The mother maintained that frequently subjecting her son to temporary exclusions during what was clearly a difficult period of child protection investigation had been unhelpful.
Participants in the aforementioned research shared that they were often misunderstood and misrepresented in encounters with professionals.