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Statement from the Anna Freud Centre in relation to Child Q

The Anna Freud Centre is deeply concerned about the events surrounding the strip searching of Child Q, which have been highlighted in a safeguarding review for the London Borough of Hackney.

The incident took place in 2020 when a 15-year-old Black girl was subjected to an intimate search at her school by two female police officers, without an appropriate adult being present and without parental consent.

Peter Fonagy, Chief Executive of the Anna Freud Centre said:

“I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to Child Q and her family for the traumatic experiences they should never have had to endure. This is a highly disturbing case and one that has had devastating consequences for Child Q and her family. The report outlines how unfounded suspicions about a child’s substance misuse were escalated without any apparent concern for her own wellbeing or protection. The lack of care for the safeguarding needs of Child Q and for her welfare is clear to see. Equally troubling is the review’s conclusion that had Child Q not been Black, then her experiences are unlikely to have been the same.

“We know that racism is embedded in so many aspects of our society in the UK. Racism is corrosive; it demeans individuals and communities, undermines self-esteem and harms mental health. We need to address all aspects of a culture which allows children to be treated differently because of their ethnicity or race. As a mental health organisation, we are committed to embedding good mental health across the whole school community. This includes building an anti-racist culture in schools. We will continue to support all school leaders and staff to work with us to achieve this goal.

“As an organisation, we too will continue to work towards becoming truly inclusive. We ask of ourselves what we would ask of others, to challenge racism in all its forms, create open conversations, and take practical steps towards championing anti-racism. This is part of our absolute commitment to promoting inclusivity, diversity and equity.”

In January this year, the Anna Freud Centre reached out to education staff with a series of podcasts, Tackling Racism and Mental Health in Schools, to support anti-racist work in schools. These have been developed in collaboration with BLAM (Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health) UK and the Honourable Stuart Lawrence, with more resources to be published this month. These seek to enable schools to build robust and confident approaches to tackling racism across the whole school community.