It is doubtful whether most of their clients use the term in this sense - in a recent survey of 15- and 16-year-olds we found that only a third of young people of Afro-Caribbean origin and 15 per cent of those who were white used the term to include Asians. More important, the lack of differentiation in the term can hinder understanding. Ms Alibhai-Brown, for example, states that 'the disproportionate numbers of black children in care . . . make training crucial to ensure that it is not racism which is putting them into these institutions'.
In fact, children of mixed origin, the great majority of whom live with single white mothers, are greatly over-represented in care, children with two parents of African and Afro-Caribbean origin are much less over-represented, if at all (the evidence is conflicting), while children of Asian origin are greatly under-represented.
These particularities suggest that whatever harm racism causes to other aspects of their lives, it does not play a leading role in bringing children into care, and social work students should not be encouraged to substitute blanket terms for more careful analysis.
Institute of Education
University of London
12 AugustReuse content