The politics of Matching: Ethnicity, Religion and Muslim-heritage Children in Care in the UK

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In 2014, in order to improve outcomes for children from ethnic minority backgrounds and to speed up the adoption process, the UK government changed the Children and Families Act. The legal requirement on adoption agencies to consider ethnicity in the decision around 'matching' was removed, thus clearing the way for transracial placements. This article interrogates the impact of the change in law on social work practice around adoption, using the experiences of diverse Muslim-heritage children as a case study. Grounded in the sociology of religion, the findings presented here are based on semi-structured qualitative interviews (n=28) with those involved in the care of Muslim-heritage children. In discussing qualitative findings, all adopters and prospective adopters interviewed in this research insisted on adopting children who 'look like them', and social workers continued to look for the 'best' possible matches. Children from minoritised backgrounds continue to wait for long periods before finding permanent homes. Our evidence raises questions about the efficacy of policy guidance. Based on this evidence we conclude that greater strategizing is needed around the recruitment of adopters from diverse backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4571-4587
Number of pages17
JournalThe British Journal of Social Work
Issue number8
Early online date20 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • adoption
  • looked-after children
  • matching
  • minoritisation
  • religion
  • transracial placements


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