In the UK, Pentecostal churches play a very important role in the African community, particularly in London. These religious groups consider themselves ‘people of the bible’ who focus on living their lives according to the Word of God. According to the doctrine of being born-again meaning you must break out from old habits and adopt a new code of moral conduct that prohibits drinking, lying, and cheating, among other behaviours. For young children born into a Pentecostal family most especially outside Africa where this practice is more pronounced it can be very confusing for them trying to focus on a life style inherited from their parents or the doctrine of a society that encourages absolute independence and a life of choice but if the latter is the case this could have an adverse effect on the family where the social services are more likely to get involved.
Recent government statistics show that in all groups, children from African homes have an extremely high figure on the child protection register under the category of physical abuse and neglect leading to other forms of abuse compared to white children creating the view that black people and their socio-cultural lifestyles needs to be looked into more closely.
Africans Unite against Child Abuse (AFRUCA) was established in May 2001 developed out of African communities in the UK as a response to the growth of many cases involving what African children and parents face and bridging the gaps that exist within the child protection system for African children in the country with the sole aim of providing Prevention and Early Intervention services so African children are not taken away from their parents. The organisation’s achievement makes it one of the most successful black-led charities in the UK to have dealt with many cases mostly families from the so called pentecostal churches.
Speaking with Debbie Ariyo OBE founder of AFRUCA who was minddgapent.com ICON OF THE WEEK a multi-award winning social entrepreneur, Ms Ariyo explained that contrary to people’s perception of the social services it is never in the government interest to take any child away from their parents as this cost above £3k a week to look after a child in care in this austere times. She said parents from pentecostal churches are the ones that are more likely subjected to child abuse interventions by social work agencies based on the doctrine of “spare the rod, spoil the child”. This could be evident based on the numbers of parents AFRUCA has assisted over the years and inadequate parenting is the major cause for the surge. She emphasised that taking a child to church or mosque everyday is not necessarily good parenting as more effort should be placed on parents being a good role model to their children. Children spend more time with their parents than they do else where and how they behave is a representation of what they see.
Debbie also talked about different parenting styles and how difficult it is for African parents to bring up their children in an environment where the law is very strict about how to treat children. This makes it appear that the UK gives more freedom to children to do what-ever they like with legal consequences deterring parents to use known methods that includes tough love and physical discipline which is common in the African society.
Debbie who has received many awards and commendations including the appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2011 for her work with children and families explained that in a situation where an African family is in crises because their children have been removed due to physical chastisement and the social services is involved, the job of AFRUCA is to help the family to come back together by working with the parents to acquire new parenting skills that helps reshape the perception of the parents about how their children should be brought up to conform with the UK law. AFRUCA does this by holding one-to-one parenting sessions with parents to enable them understand different parenting styles and techniques they can utilise to bring up their children successfully without beating them. This happens based on the stage they are in the child protection process. For example when there is a referral request from a member of the public or a professional to the local authority to support or protect a child, the police or the local authority child protection team will first assess if the child is at risk of harm, if not the child will be returned back to the parent and depending on the outcome of the investigation a protection plan will be put in place. At this stage where AFRUCA’s social workers could get involved is to take the parents through the necessary skills needed to avoid a repeat. If it’s a case of a child taken into child protection plan, AFRUCA can assist in ensuring that the parents go through the necessary training that could lead to the child being returned to them. AFRUCA can also act as an intermediary between the parent and the social services by working closely with both parties in the best interest of the child. The agency can give regular report and counsel on the parents to the social services and in the case of court proceeding for a judge to decide if the child is to be released back to the parents AFRUCA can provide evidence that shows new skills acquired by the parents based on the work done that would ensure the children will no longer be at risk. Every year AFRUCA supports about 50 African families this way in its two offices in London and Manchester.
Finally Debbie Ariyo, who has practically dedicated all her adult life to support and address issues affecting African families and children in the Diaspora most especially in Europe said she understands the pain of any parent losing their child to social services because she had dealt with so many cases. As a mother herself it’s not something she would wish on anyone but the fact still remains that the Government has a duty to protect children even if the risk of danger is coming from their parents. She advises that parents should seek the necessary help and advice from institutions and organisations like AFRUCA who are dedicated to supporting African families in crisis or at the point of breakdown through effective early intervention services.
If you need more advice and information on child protection please CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE AFRUCA WEBSITE OR CALL THE AFRUCA HELPLINE ON 02077042261 Debbie is a great lover of African culture and entertainment. She is a big fan of the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the Nigerian Afro-beats maestro. She enjoys travelling, exploring unique and historical places around the world.