A birth mother’s experience of Racist and Oppressive Social Work in Child Protection and Foster Care

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Introduction: The voices, racialised and oppressive experiences of immigrant, non-fluent English speaking birth mothers from Black, Asian and other ethnic diverse backgrounds are rarely articulated in social work literature.   
Aim & Objectives: This paper aims to reveal the devastating consequences of oppression and racial discrimination impacting birth mothers from racialised backgrounds. The objective is to illustrate the lived experiences of birth mothers through their interactions with key safeguarding agencies and the profound, cumulative effects on the child, mother, wider family and cultural identity.  
Methods, if relevant: Conscious of my positioning as a South African, mixed-race social worker and mother, the use of ethnographic research is beneficial as it facilitates the use of unstructured interviews. Thereby allowing opportunities for counter- storytelling, freedom of expression and critical reflections of Black, Asian and other ethnic diverse birth mothers’ lived experience of children’s social work.  
Findings/Outcomes: The emerging key findings highlighted strong notions of power inequity, systemic failure, coercion, racism, deprivation and social class oppression. The data analysis framework draws on Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic violence (1977) and Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality (1989) to recognise multiple layers of discrimination and oppression for single, immigrant mothers on low income, excluded in the child protection and foster care system.  
Discussion/Conclusion: This research study identifies what racist social work and safeguarding practices look like and how it is experienced by birth mothers who are marginalised, stigmatised, excluded and silenced in contemporary social work practice.  
Implication(s) for Practice: Key research findings demonstrate a breach of social work values and divergence from ethical social work practice. The effects of malpractice have been revealed, placing an urgent responsibility on the local authority to address the issue of oppression and racial discrimination amongst birth families.  
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2023


  • racism
  • social work
  • BAME
  • birth mothers
  • child protection
  • foster care

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