By Shadim Hussain
It was reported on January 15th that an independent review of children’s social care will be launched in a bid to ‘radically reform the system’, ensuring that the lives of England’s most vulnerable children are improved. Josh MacAlister has been appointed by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to lead the review which is hoped to address failures in the current system and make improvements for children in care.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson had stated that, ‘We have known for some time that despite the best efforts of hardworking and dedicated social workers, the children’s social care system is not delivering a better quality of life and improved outcomes for those it is designed to help.’
The statement is welcomed and comes in light of the many challenges faced by children in foster care and adoption. Every child deserves a loving, stable home and they also deserve to have their identity, faith and culture preserved and nurtured. Sadly, the reality has been that many children in the care system have not had the experience of being able to retain their identity.
One such example is of a dear colleague who sadly passed away of Covid-19 yesterday who had spent most of his life in care. Yusef was born as a Muslim and grew up in care since the 1960s. Sadly, care agencies had changed his name to Paul as they felt that this would enable him to be accepted by foster carers instead of preserving his visibly Muslim name. This change to his name is a testament to the fact that more needs to be done by the care system and by those who are working in fostering recruitment agencies to ensure that each and every child has the right to be themselves and be proud of their identity.
Yusef went through many challenges throughout his life but after leaving care he had got married and had children. It was Yusef’s lived experiences which spurred him to become a foster carer and adopter himself. Yusef focused most of his time on training social workers to be more sensitive towards children in care and he supported the development of The Muslim Fostering Project. Yusef has helped many people on their journey to fostering and adoption and has been actively campaigning for the care experienced community. Yusef was also passionate about art and expressed his lived experience, feelings and identity through his painting and sculptures.
He had rediscovered his birth name, faith and cultural identity only as an adult when he was able to trace his original birth certificate. On his first visit to Regent’s Park Mosque with CEO of My Foster Family Shadim Hussain, Yusef said, ‘I love the architecture and felt connected to Islam, a sense of belonging to the community. It was interesting to see how so many strangers from diverse backgrounds came together to pray.
We can see from the tributes on social media that Yusef has touched and inspired many lives, his legacy will continue in all the people who met him.
There are many changes that need to be implemented by the government in its latest care review. One such pivotal change is the need to ensure that every single child has a right to know their true identity and be nurtured for who they really are. It is hoped that this care review will understand the need for cultural and faith based sensitivities of children and ensure that they are placed in loving and stable homes that give enable them to reach their full potential throughout their lifetime.