We continue to navigate a time of lockdown which has led to us perhaps spending a bit too much time online instead of having the opportunity to be out in the world socialising with others and meeting new people.
For some this may have reduced social awareness and acceptance as well as raising anxiety levels, perhaps being influenced by some of the continued aggressive negative stereotyping of marginalised groups or those perceived as ‘other’, particularly online.
We find this in fostering in relation to preconceived ideas of who fostered children are and their reasons for being in the care system, as well as the motivations of foster carers and the care ‘system’ in general. We have seen this more recently affecting decisions from landlords unwilling to allow tenants to foster from their rented home to people who sadly believe that children cannot be helped after a certain age so will not consider caring for certain age groups of children.
Wouldn’t it be great for some of those people be able to speak with care leaver who has experienced the foster or residential care system, a young parent, unaccompanied asylum seeker, or foster carer, so that they could have a proper discussion about their life and experiences, good and bad, to better understand each other? Well, I came across an interesting post online (thank you Kwesi Amoa-Awuah) with an interesting idea that could offer an option for those who may want to get involved. Here is an excerpt from Atlas of The Future website explaining the concept of a Human Library:
“We’ve all heard the expression ’don’t judge a book by it’s cover’. Yet we’re all guilty of doing it. And you know we’re not talking booked here.
Everyone makes snap judgements continually throughout the day. We read facial clues, watch postures and gestures, and make judgements about people from their backgrounds and appearance.
The Human Library Organisation has created a cool storytelling project to help us ‘unjudge’. You borrow a human being from a ‘library’ and leaf through their story as if they were a book.
A broad selections of characters become published living books and you become the reader; invited to share a moment with a complete stranger in the hope of fighting taboos and stigma.
The idea is to spark open and homes conversations so we can all better understand diversity. “We create a safe space where strangers can discuss taboo topics openly and without condemnation” the team tells us. “we believe that this contributes to creating more inclusive and cohesive communities across cultural, religious, social and ethnic differences”.
A ‘book’ is a person that volunteered to represent a stigmatised group who is willing to share their backstory and answer questions to help challenge perceptions…..”The idea is fairly simple. We arrange for people to meet and talk in a safe and secure environment” Ronni explains. “That has proven to be a useful and effective method for allowing people to get to know each other through conversation”.
The Human Library (or ‘Menneskebiblioteket’ in Danish) was born at a music festival in 2000 when journalist and human rights advocate Ronni Abergel, his brother Dany and colleagues Asma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen decided they wanted to raise awareness against youth violence in Copenhagen and challenge stereotypes through dialogue.”
I’m not sure how many foster carers or those with care experience are signed up to volunteer for these projects – perhaps if this is you then you could consider getting involved. I’m sure they would be glad to hear from you!
Obviously, currently most face-to-face events are not taking place due to social distancing requirements, but some are offering online sessions.
https://atlasofthefuture.org/project/human-library/ – Atlas OF The Future Website
https://www.facebook.com/kwesiaa/posts/10161045725040968 – Kwesi’s post
https://humanlibrary.org/about/ – The Human Library Organisation website
https://humanlibraries.co.uk/ – UK based Human Libraries
https://www.humansofnewyork.com/ – Well known site with stories from people living in New York
by Lynsey Dobbs – Senior Recruitment Officer, UK Fostering