Law for Life and Roma Support Group-Structural Racism and Roma Families in the Chiild Protection System

Mary Marvel and Dada Felja from our members Law for Life have written an

article for Community Care on how structural racism faced by Roma families in the child protection system can be tackled.

During their project between 2017 and 2020, Law for Life investigated the disproportionate increase of Gypsy/Roma families in England facing child protection investigations compared to the size of the Gypsy/Roma child population. Their aims were to look for 'ways to address these problems and improve access to justice for Roma families.'

Existing research showed that 'historical disadvantages, linguistic barriers, and the fact that Roma families have predominantly negative experiences with public services and so are reluctant to engage' contributed to the increase in social work involvement.

Law for Life's investigation uncovered three main findings:

  • Local authorities often didn't provide adequate interpreting services leading to misunderstandings, including incorrect assumptions about the intellectual capacities of Roma parents.
  • Roma parents often lacked knowledge about what was expected of them, both in terms of parental responsibilities and in engaging with child protection investigations, and that this had an impact on the outcomes of care proceedings.
  • Children's services and courts work with Roma families in ways that many Roma parents do not understand.
  • In the course of their investigation, Law for Life worked with thee Roma organisations: Roma Support Group (London), Roma Community Care (Derby) and Clifton Learning Partnership (Rotherham).

    Working with these organisations and other stakeholders, Law for Life produced a multimedia toolkit consisting of an information guide, a short film narrated by Roma in their own language, Romanes, and community training for Roma champions.

    The

    independent evaluation of the project

    found:

    'the toolkit made a significant contribution to building capacity within Roma communities to engage more knowledgeably and confidently in child protection investigations. The evaluation also noted that there are indications that this helped some Roma families to keep their children in cases where they may otherwise have been removed into local authority care.'

    Law for Life's project provides a model for best practice when working with Roma communities. Roma Support Group echo Law for Life's call for children's services and professionals working with Roma families in a safeguarding context to use the resources that they have produced. These can be found on Law for Life's Advicenow

    website.

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