How important is it to place foster kids of color with families from their own ethnic group? What about children of mixed heritage?

How important is it to place foster kids of color with families from their own ethnic group? What about children of mixed heritage?

In our efforts to grow our family through adopting children from the foster system, I've become disturbingly aware of a misguided policy whereby race is not considered when placing children in both long-term and permanent homes. I agree that in an ideal world race should not be an issue. Unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world where the slogan “Black Lives Matter” can be considered controversial, the use of ’N’ word is commonplace, and children of color stand out when they are the minority.

 

As a former foster youth, and woman of mixed race (Caucasian and African American), I know what its like to live in homes where I was racially different from the families who cared for me.  In some homes I felt as though I was a public display of the foster parents’ “liberal values.” In some homes my foster siblings bullied me because i was racially different from them. The state licensed foster mother who I spent most of my time growing up with wouldn't allow me to watch the Fresh Prince because she considered the film to be “too black.” When she was angry she even called me the ’N’ word. 

 

To be a racial minority at home often translates to be considered, or considering oneself, as not as “good” as the other children in the home. Even when the foster home appears to provide everything imaginable— well-intended and nurturing parents, safe environment, and perhaps even new found affluency, the foster children of color may still resent their adoptive parents. But if a child feels out of place and “lees than” the child could blame their insecurity on the parents. One only needs to visit various blogs or social media sites to see I am not exaggerating. 

 

When my husband and I, a mixed race couple, began to foster to adopt we thought we could help ease this problem. As a woman of mixed race I looked forward to being familiar face and a comfort to biracial children. Few people understand the complexities of being of two races and living in two cultures simultaneously. All too often individuals and organizations lump mixed children with what would be considered their “racial minority" side. (Side note: To me this is akin to the “one drop rule”). The truth is I and my mixed race brethren are both of two cultures, and our own separate culture. Being placed in a mixed home can help a child navigate that confusion and feel as though they are forced to choose a race with which they will identify.

 

I feel discouraged when I see so many Black children adopted by Caucasian couples. Knowing many such families I can’t help but wonder if these particular children were adopted as trophies. Caucasian couples may feel that they are more liberal or more pious for choosingto raise a Black child. Yet the child is living as a racial minority in their own home. I have unfortunately heard religious people talk about their "black son" not just their son.

 

While the color blind placement policy was created to ensure that there are enough homes for all children, the ruling favors Caucasian adoptive parents. Not considering race is like putting one’s head in the sand. Race matters. Who better to teach children about dignity, and resilience, and overcoming prejudice than those who have walked and continue to walk, in the same shoes. 

 

I am not alone in my thinking. I have met several state officials who agree with me. Many older adoptive parents who have experience with translational adoption have also come to agree with me. Statistics and common sense tell us that race and identify do matter no matter what we’d like to tell ourselves.

 

My husband and I are a mixed race, middle class family who can meet the emotional and financial needs of our children. I am also a full time parent to our children. Yet, a month ago CPS was looking for a homefor a biracial, legally free child in our town. For some reason, that was never explained to us, we were notconsidered. How could that be when I see many single working foster parents caring for children of color? (Please note, I am not judging the quality of care these children are receiving, I am only pointing out that our family had somehow been overlooked of process.)  

 

Despite my advocating for placing children in homes where they will not be a minority, I would by no means want to obliterate transracial adoption. My husband and I are in the process of adopting our Caucasian foster son. This boy came to us as a temporary placement but he is now legally free to adopt. In his case, I believe that we are the best family to adopt him. Over the past year he and our birth son have built a strong bond as brothers and severing their relationship would be detrimental to both boys. 

 

I believe my own situation illustrates that I'm not suggesting that each and every child be matched with families of their own race. There are amazing transracial families out there and I think we are one. But adoption is a case by case situation and when race is not considered, the policy itself becomes racist and does not serve the best interest of the children in care. 

 

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Seattle’s Amazing Foster Mom, Tess Thomas Has Fostered 135 Children!

Seattle’s Amazing Foster Mom, Tess Thomas Has Fostered 135 Children!

Today I had the honor of sitting down with Tess Thomas and Mark Weinstein (Finding Family’s foster care consultant) in the cozy dining room of Emma’s BBQ restaurant on South Rainier. Tess opened Emma’s, after fostering 135 children (all boys)! This morning was also a long over due reunion for Mark and Tess who have not seen each other since Mark retired in 2011. During the time Mark worked for the Washington State Department of Health and Human Services he placed several children in Tess’ home.

As we sit in and chat at a sunny table, two of Tess’ foster sons and her own biological son, Michael, come and go. One foster son just dropped by as he does every week but Michael and another young man came in to a consist Tess in coking for the day’s lunch crowd.

Tess has mothered boys with a variety of learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and emotional challenges. Tess believes that showing a child love and teaching them to respect themselves can go a long way toward healing wounds from past trauma. She attributes her ability to work with and raise so many children to her gift of patience—a gift she tries to pass on to all of the children in her care. 

Out of all of the kids that have been placed with Tess over the years, she has only asked to have two children removed from her home. “They were too traumatized by their past experiences to stay with me. They were dangerous to the other children” Tess explains. Tess will continue to care for youth who are involved in the juvenile court system but is adamant about their need to change if they want to remain under her roof. Even after youth leave her home Tess always here for them. “If they want to talk to me I’ll listen. If they’re hungry I’ll feed them. If they need a place to crash for a night or two I’ll provide that.”

Most of Tess’s foster sons have gone on to live productive lives and raise families of their own (I can’t even guess how many grandkids she’s got!). A few kids, however, have served time in either juvenile detention or prison. “But,” Tess tells me, “…these kids come back to me and say, ‘Mamma Tess, you taught me better and if I’d listened to you then none of this would have happened.’”

When I asked Tess why she only fosters boys she replied “Girls are chatty, catty, and always want the last word!” It is important to note that Tess’s son Michael has given her three granddaughters and two great granddaughters, all of whom she is very proud.

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Finding Family Movie is Looking for a Communications Intern!

Communications Intern

Responsibilities:
- daily posts to twitter and FB

  • -  write blogs for the project website

  • -  update the project website

  • -  set up meetings with local politicians to get statements of endorsement

  • -  compile lists of potential donors

  • -  help write grant proposals

  • -  the intern is also welcome help with the film production and scheduling, but this

    is not mandatory

    Finding Family

    (www.findingfamilymovie.org)

    There are two main components to Finding Family:

    1. Finding Family Movie
    Finding Family Movie is a feature length dramatic film based on a trues story.

    Log line: A horse trainer and her husband want to adopt a baby. Foster care convinces them to take in three troubled teens instead, including a boy with a history of animal abuse.

    This film is intended to encourage families to consider fostering older children and sibling groups. The script realistically portrays the joys and challenges of fostering kid who fall into this category.

    The film will be given free to foster agencies to help them promote fostering older children and sibling groups. Our team also intends to use the film to educate the general public about foster children by seeking online and theatrical distribution. All proceeds will either be donated to organizations that hep foster families.

    2. Finding Family Interview Project

    Our team has been interviewing adults who grew up in foster care, foster parents, and social workers who work in the foster system. These interviews provide resources for potential foster parents. They are available on the interview page of our web site. (http:// www.findingfamilymovie.org/interviews-1/)