Lets talk honestly and put everything on the table. I adopted my son because I love him and because he asked me. After watching him struggle for years in Foster Care , and watching the system first ignore him then use him when his story went viral I knew immediately when he asked me to adopt him that I would do whatever it took to be his mom. Almost a year later and a long legal fight (behind the scenes) we were able to legally be a family.
Race was not part of my decision in that moment but in the years leading up to it, I had thought about it intensely. What some people may not know it that when I first started to look for families for Davion as a recruiter, I went to the Black Community. He spoke and told his story in Black Churches because I believed there had to be a Black family in those audiences. I knew that I was not the “right” first choice. I loved him enough to do whatever it took to find what I believed he needed… which was a strong connection to his culture. I envisioned a Mom and Dad who had walked the footsteps I could never walk and in turn could guide and nurture Davion to become a strong Black man. No matter how much I lived a racially acclimated life, I knew I could NOT give him these things.
Now wait… because what I am going to say next is going to make many readers upset. But I ask you to listen with openness and understanding because as I said , we are going to be real here.
What many people don’t know is that the Long Term Foster Care erases a child’s race and cultural connection.
Strong words, but the facts is that hundreds of children are removed everyday for abuse and neglect and although race is noted on their intake what placement needs is a immediate placement. The question they ask is… “is this Foster Home willing to take a child of this race? ” not “is this child willing to go to a family of this race? ” Think about that for a moment and let it sink in. The system focuses not on what the child wants but what they have available. Facts.
This does not mean that Foster and Adoptive Families ( many whom I have on an admiration pedestal) don’t nurture, love and care for children of different races, because they DO. But in a culturally competent system, children who are removed by CPS would be placed in homes most like their own by race, culture and religion. It’s a given that children whom are not returned to biological parents, placed with relatives or adopted by their Foster Parents can spend years in multiple homes and facilities that are distinctly different from their family of origin.
Is this bad?…not always, but it does create challenges for children who already have enough to deal with. Learning about other cultures by experiencing them first hand can help later in life and can build compassion for differences. For both of my sons, after spending their lives in Foster Care they came to me questioning who they were.
My youngest son who I adopted at age 12 is white and experienced surviving in over 42 placements. During this time he acclimated into the black culture, or rather what he thought was the “cool” Black culture . He spoke, dressed and continues to identify with the Black community and culture. His journey to identify with his skin color and Italian heritage has come slowly and now at 16 he has great unique blend of who he is. My oldest son who is Black is just now finding peace with who he is racially and culturally. I discovered his uneasiness when I placed him in a large high school which was racially 80% black . All my children attended there and I was excited thinking he would really like it there. in reality he struggled in the overwhelmingness and worried constantly he would have to defend himself. He had real fear from misperceptions gathered throughout his life. Sadly, his perception of his race and culture learned while in foster care was through media like video games and music. The reality was just too vast and complex for him at the same time as he was learning to live in a family home. Eventually we found a small charter school with still a majority black student body but one in which he could meet other teens on his own terms. As he continues grow in loving who he is as a Black man ,he has also come to understand and accept his biological family for who they are an not what he imagined them to be. I always smile though when he is determined to call me “MOM’ usually quite loudly whenever we are around women who are Black. It’s like he is claiming me and I always start to tear up through my smile.
The Foster Care System continues to struggle to find enough Foster Homes much less address the matching of race, culture and religion based on where a child originated from. If we are all honest about our lives and our struggles then we can help educate the system to be aware and to focus on this issue. Understanding and helping foster children know where they come from is a beginning. Acknowledging biological connections, creating systems that allow children to have all the pieces of their lives so they are intact emotionally will make a difference. But first we must be real and put it all on the table.Back to Blog Archive