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Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual
Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual

7.16 Placement of Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic or Mixed Ethnicity Children for Adoption


Guidance to enable timely and appropriate adoption placements for black, Asian, minority ethnic and mixed ethnic children


key Legislation

Adoption and Children Act 2002
Adoption Minimum Standards 2011
Race Relations Amendment Act 2000

Key Local Authority Circular documentation

LAC (98)20 Adoption - Achieving The Right Balance

Policy Links

Research Brief. Pathways to Permanence for Black, Asian and Mixed Ethnicity Children 2008 - Selwyn, Harris, Quinton
J Thoburn. Outcomes for Children of Minority Ethnic Origin Placed With Adoptive Families


  1. Principles
  2. Definitions
  3. Assessment of Children's Needs
  4. Timescales For Homefinding
  5. Assessing and Preparing Adopters
  6. Requirements for Families who don't offer an Ethnic Match

1. Principles

Children must be matched with adopters who best meet their assessed needs. The National Minimum Standards require wherever possible this will be with a family which reflects their ethnic origin, cultural background, religion and language. The recent guidance has clarified however that the lack of an ethnically matched adopters should not stand in the way of placement.

Underpinning this is the understanding that a sense of identity is vital to a child's emotional well-being. To help children develop this, their ethnic origin, cultural background, religion and language must be fully recognised, positively valued and promoted. Children of mixed origin must be helped to understand and take pride in all elements of their racial heritage and feel comfortable about their origins throughout their childhood and beyond.

However, delays in making decisions and in placing children with a family who can meet their developmental needs can have a severe impact on the health and development of children and should be avoided.

This raises a dilemma when there are not enough minority ethnic adopters for our children. All research shows that the percentage of black and ethnically mixed children adopted is significantly lower than that for white children and there are more delays in progressing their adoption placement plans.

Where a child cannot be matched with a family which reflects their ethnic origin, cultural background, religion and language, every effort must be made to find an alternative "suitable" family within a realistic timescale (see Section 4), so as not to prejudice the child's long-term health and welfare by leaving them waiting indefinitely in our care system.

Where siblings do not share the same ethnic backgrounds the principle of not separating them takes precedence unless they have been assessed as needing separate parenting (see Procedure & Practice Guidance for assessment of Siblings). This raises an extra dilemma as it may not be possible to match families to share every ethnic, cultural or religious need of each of the children.

2. Definitions

For this guidance the following definitions apply:-

  • Black - children with both birth parents who are African or African/Caribbean
  • Asian - children with both birth parents who are Pakistani, Indian, South East Asian or Chinese
  • Minority Ethnic - applies to any other ethnic group that is numerically smaller than the predominantly white group, such as Mediterranean, Eastern European, Jewish, Travellers or Irish
  • Mixed Ethnicity - refers to children who have different birth parents from any of the above ethnic groups, including one white parent.

3. Assessment of Children's Needs

The assessment of a child's needs for adoption must be completed by the child's Social Worker. Black, Asian and Mixed Ethnicity children must always have an assessment of their total needs to enable an appropriate match to be made with adopters. The focus on ethnicity is only part of these and the wish for a 'same race placement' must not dominate the description of children's identified needs. As in any adoption a full assessment of the child's health, emotional, developmental and behavioural needs must be completed in the Child's Permanence Report and be addressed in the subsequent match with any prospective adopters.

An increasing number of minority ethnic children are of mixed ethnicity with a wide variety of ethnic heritages. In considering an adoptive placement it is unhelpful to refer to a mixed ethnic child as if they comprise one meaningful group. It is important to differentiate and be explicit about the precise ethnic origin, culture, religion and language of each child. An increasing number of children come from families with Mediterranean & Eastern European backgrounds & these principles equally apply to them.

In the assessment of the children's needs the social worker should be clear about the difference between a child's ethnic background and their cultural traditions as the two are not the same. Ethnic labels do not necessarily help in understanding the child's culture, ie the traditions of their family's everyday life and ways of viewing the world, and every effort must be taken to find out the specific cultural implications of a child's background. Part of the Assessment Framework should provide the information about the child's home, community and cultural background. In placing children with diverse ethnic backgrounds, including different ones from each parent, it is the details that are so essential to ensure a potential match may be identified to promote all the child's needs for their future. Research shows that many trans-racially adopted adults report feeling alienated, displaced or disconnected from their community of origin and struggle to understand who they are.

The significance of religion should be given proper recognition and social workers should be clear about the precise religious practices of the child's birth parents and the significance of that religion in the child's daily life. Where parents want their child to be brought up in their own religion this wish should normally be respected unless, because of a shortage of adoptive parents in that religion, the child's prospect of having a permanent family at all is threatened.

For mixed ethnicity children, families are to be sought to help the child have access in their day to day life to those cultures of their birth parents that are most marginalised in the wider society.

Adoption obliges social workers to take the wishes and feelings of birth parents and the children into account and they should do their best to place a child with a family which comes as close as possible to that requested by their parents. However, in all occasions it may not be possible to do this as their wishes may be too restrictive or looking to their own needs rather than the child's, or may even be unrealistic or misguided. Adoption is a service focused on meeting the needs of the children as the first consideration. In any assessment the reasoning behind decisions should be clear and recorded.

A child's language is a key part of a child's identity and will in the future either enable or alienate them from their ethnic and cultural community if not either spoken in the home or promoted with everyday usage.

4. Timescales For Homefinding

Once the Child's Permanence Report has been to Adoption Panel and the plan for adoption agreed, the homefinding team is alerted by the City Adoption Service (CAS).

Theoretical or 'paper' potential adoption matches are then looked for by the homefinders. They are unable to look at anyone outside of Nottingham City's own resources until a Placement Order (PO) has been granted by the court, so it is vital that the child's Social Worker alerts the homefinders as soon as this happens.

Once the PO has been obtained the homefinder widens the search for a match outside this authority to our East Midlands Consortium. If no potential match can be identified a referral is made to the National Adoption Register. The Homefinder discusses each individual case with the Team Manager for Homefinding before advertising in the adoption magazines (Adoption UK and Be My Parent).

In accordance with the principles above (see Section 1, Principles) the homefinders initially search for a close match which reflects the child's ethnic, cultural, religion and linguistic needs.

If no potential match has been identified after 6 months other families are then considered who meet most of the child's needs as in the principle above (see Section 1, Principles). In widening this search for alternative "suitable" families, the following issues will apply:

  • This adoption agency would not place an all black child with an all white family unless there were "exceptional circumstances". These would always be discussed with the Service Manager, Adoption, first.
  • Care is taken to list all aspects of the child's needs and to explore how these may be realistically met by an alternative ethnicity mixed family. Any match would have to evidence how they are able to promote the identity needs of that child in all aspects of their everyday lives.
  • The closest match will then be explored. For example, where one adopter from a couple can meet the child's ethnic or cultural needs as in inter-racial couples.
  • All Asian families are not homogenous and the ethnic origin, different cultures, religion and languages must be explored and considered.

If after a year from Placement Order no match is identified, reconsideration should be given to whether the matching criteria are realistic or the adoption plan appropriate. This should be addressed in the LAC Review by the IRO. There must be a report from the Homefinder on which steps have been taken in the past year to find a match for the child and the probability of finding an adoptive home in the future.

5. Assessing and Preparing Adopters

All adoption assessments in the form of the Prospective Adopters Report, PAR, contain information of the families own ethnic origins, culture, religion and language. The PAR should evidence any additional qualities adopters may have if considering their potential to parent any child who may have a different ethnicity, cultural background, religion or language.

For the majority of adopters this potential is not present. The question is whether adopters can enable the child to develop a healthy racial identity, cope with racism and promote understanding and positive internal feelings for the child about their culture and religion.

In considering whether a family could offer a home to a child of different ethnicity or culture the assessment must be based on the realities of the daily life of that family and not on any theoretical attitudes. Any family that will be potentially considered for black, Asian or ethnicity mixed children must have an extra dimension to be able to offer a child a true understanding of their ethnic or cultural background to promote their identify. For example, families with a cultural mix themselves or families with a wider ethnic mix in their extended family. Research shows that in the most successful placements adopters empathise not only with the child but also with their birth family and their culture.

The following issues and questions should therefore be covered when assessing families for black, Asian or ethnically mixed children:

  • What is their understanding of the ethnic, cultural, religious and language needs of black or ethnicity mixed children? What lifestyle do they have that evidences they could meet these needs?
  • How would they meet the emotional needs of a child regarding race and culture?
  • How are they going to develop the child's pride in his or hers ethnic heritage?
  • How will they deal with any discrimination and racism by the community including that of children at school? How would they counter this so as to promote the child's positive self identity?
  • How can they provide appropriate ethnic and cultural experiences for a child? What contact is there on a regular basis, with different ethnic families? What is the form of contact? How personal is it? Is it in their own home? It is not enough for adopter(s) to say they could make links in the future. They must be able to evidence how links are already integrated into their current life.
  • What is the ethnic and cultural mix of their local community and their links with this? What contact would there be with children of other ethnicity or culture?
  • How will the child and adoptive family be perceived by the community - will they be 'accepted' by the community as a whole? How would it feel for a child if they are visibly different?
  • What is the ethnic mix of the school? How is it actively engaged in dealing with racism and how does it promote multiculturism? What steps would the adopters take if problems are in the child's school or in their friendships?
  • What is the adopter's religious beliefs and practice?
  • It is not possible for a family of one religious belief or none to bring up a child in a different belief as religious practices are an integral part of a family's way of life and values are imparted by their way of living. Some families say they are open to bringing up a child in another religion than their own but it is questionable whether this is realistic. It is better to be open and acknowledge that the best that can be given to a child is the basic appreciation of a religion.
  • What language is spoken in theadopter's home and/or by their wider family and friends? What language skills can they offer to a child so they could function effectively in the community of their origin, when adults?

6. Requirements for Families who don't offer an Ethnic Match

An alternative suitable family must:

  • Provide opportunities for children to meet and mix with others from similar backgrounds
  • Maintain the cultural heritage of the child's birth family in their day to day life. This is important as a means of retaining and integrating knowledge of their identity and feeling that, although they have left their birth family, they have not abandoned the important cultural, religious and linguistic value of their community;
  • Recognise that the issues of racism will inevitably arise at some stage in the life of a child at school, leisure or work. The adoptive family will need to be equipped to prepare the child for when it occurs and know how to deal with it so that the child can maintain a positive attitude and continue to be proud of their heritage. The responsibility to prepare children to deal with racism rests with the adoptive parents caring for them.

Ultimately matching may involve professional judgement to work with the balance of probabilities. The longer a child spends in temporary foster care the more difficult it is likely to be for that child to make the necessary secure attachments within a new adoptive family. Drift is never in their best interests.

  • When matching and linking individual children it may be that their particular needs are so complex or diverse as to limit the availability of choice. A match may identify some aspects where more input and support is needed and this must be clearly identified and addressed in the adoption support plan.