Jennifer Kwakye

What does it mean to be an Adoption Outreach Ambassador?

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Despite the growing number of children in need of loving homes, there are significant disparities in adoption rates among different ethnic groups. Children of Black African and Caribbean heritage in the UK, experience long waiting times for adoption, resulting in a lack of stability and security during crucial developmental stages.

National statistics reveal that black children are disproportionately overrepresented in the care system. Evidence included in the Government’s Ending Racial Disparity report (2022), also confirms the longer waiting times for Black Caribbean and Black African children (30 and 33 months, respectively, compared to an average of 21 months for all children and 20 months for white British children). Children reported as having ‘any other Black background’ waited on average 27 months. 

As well as kinship care, traditionally those from African and Caribbean heritage are accustomed to looking after children who may not be related by birth or marriage, so in modern terms fostering is familiar and widely accepted. 

However, research shows cultural stigmas, myths, and misconceptions surrounding adoption can lead to hesitancy or reluctance across Black communities to pursue adoption as a viable option for building a family.

Furthermore, addressing systemic inequalities within the adoption process is crucial. This includes ensuring equitable access to support services, culturally sensitive adoption agencies, and resources tailored to the needs of Black families.  

We aim to raise awareness and provide education about adoption, to challenge stereotypes and foster open discussions about adoption, emphasising its positive impact on both children and families.

What are the challenges you face in your line of work? 

My role as an Adoption Outreach Ambassador is pivotal in advocating for the recruitment of prospective adoptive parents, specifically targeting individuals from Black Caribbean, Black African, and mixed heritage backgrounds within London.

This is a two year project for Coram, funded by the DfE, as with most new projects often things take time to get off the ground, for example, building new relationship and networks outside of Coram and with our LA partners, but so far everyone has been very forthcoming with support, advice, suggestions and ideas.  The Recruitment and Assessment Team are my first port of call along with marketing and communications.

I guess one of the challenges is finding the key people to get our message across to - either within our local authority partners or external groups and businesses and leaders in the communities.  

I am also aware that potentially there could be challenges ahead. The adoption assessment process  rightly requires a high level of scrutiny for safeguarding reasons but this can also deter people from coming forward. Some ethnic minorities’ experiences of institutional racism from statutory organisations mean that families may not trust us enough to share their life story, family history and personal challenges which are all part of the adoption assessment process. 

My role includes building that trust and offering reassurance that in Coram applicants’ histories and circumstances are treated respectfully and sensitively. Coram is a long-standing children’s charity and our objective is work with families which will lead to positive outcomes for children waiting to be adopted.

What difference does the work that you do make?

If I can encourage more people from African and Caribbean heritage to come forward, find out more or have their questions answered, this will have a ripple effect and hopefully lead to more Black African and Caribbean families considering adoption as an option.

By raising awareness and providing education about adoption, we can challenge stereotypes and foster open discussions about adoption, emphasising its positive impact on both children and families. 

Ultimately, by nurturing a culture of understanding, acceptance, and support for adoption within Black African and Caribbean communities, we can help reduce the waiting time for Black children in care and provide them with the loving families they deserve. 

Through collaboration with faith and community organisations within these communities, I actively work to dismantle barriers and inspire individuals from the Black community to explore the option of adoption. 

By fulfilling this role, I contribute significantly to addressing the placement needs of children from Black African and Caribbean heritage, ensuring they find loving and supportive homes.

Jennifer Kwakye, Adoption Outreach Ambassador for Black African and Caribbean families, Coram Adoption