The Roma definition: the Roma community is a group of people who have migrated throughout the world over the course of several centuries. They are sometimes referred to as the Romani people, or pejoratively as ‘gypsies’.
Stacey has been working over the years to develop and promote better understanding of Roma culture to ensure full consideration of this in practice. Her interest in this area started when she was allocated cases of this natureshortly after joining Cafcass.
“As a new area of work for me at that point, I devoted much time to learning and educating myself on how to best engage with Roma families,” says Stacey. “Unfortunately, there wasn’t much readily-available information on Roma families and their culture,” says Stacey. “The families I worked with didn’t always want to open up to me about their world.” For Stacey, finding a way to support Roma familiesbecame almost like a challenge – she was interested in finding out more about their culture and the marginalisation that Roma families had experienced across Europe.
Training run by the Derby Roma Support Group was particularly helpful. “Members of the Roma community also attended the training so there was an opportunity to sit with them and ask specific questions to help build on my knowledge base,” says Stacey. She spoke with some young people who discussed the general customs and social norms of family life, and the adjustments they have needed to make in order to engage with the wider community.
Having noted an increase in cases with Roma families over the past two and a half years, Stacey urges the importance of finding the best way possible to work with these families while also ensuring each service user that comes into contact with Cafcass is treated as an individual and that assumptions are not made about their circumstances. Through her work, she has sourced practice tips and resources to use and share within Cafcass. Adding to this library she has spent time outside of work developing tools and worksheets that can be used with Roma children and young people where appropriate, which have been shared with her team. She has also worked hard to get information translated so it is readily available to all staff to support communication where needed.
It has not been all ‘rainbows and sunshine’ though, and Stacey recalls occasions where she hasn’t been able to engage with families: “There is a risk that families have experienced discrimination and oppression and can be untrusting of professionals as a result. It can feel disheartening. At first, you can be viewed as a threat – that’s why we need to take the time to listen, try to understand any relevant cultural issues and make sure everything is explained clearly to all families we work with.
With the new Cafcass Practice Experts project, Stacey is able to share her experience and knowledge with everyone else. “It is my goal to ensure that I can help others successfully engage with families from the Roma community, and raise awareness of the challenges in working with hard-to-reach communities.”
The introduction of this Practice Experts project will enable experts to provide their Cafcass colleagues from around the country with advice, guidance and information on these topics via phone consultations.