So much of my fosterhood experience has been about race and class. This New York Times article, that has been listed in my links, unpacks a lot of the issues New York City struggles with regarding color. Here are some of my current and still evolving thoughts:
1. In general, I agree with the idea of matching foster kids’ color and culture to foster parents’ color and culture. The less adjustments and changes a child has to experience when they’re removed from their home the better.
2. I think the best foster parent for a black child would be a college-educated, black parent. I remember when Jacket and I first moved to our neighborhood in Brooklyn, I was struck by the number of black people around who were professionals (a stark contrast to the East Village- not sure why). I remember being caught off guard thinking “these are the black Americans I want Jacket to know and be proud of”.
3. Until there are enough of #1 and #2, white, college-educated foster parents are also a pretty good option. The pendulum regarding race decisions in foster care has swung in the opposite direction from all-white to all-black (and Latinos). All with good reason, but white people shouldn’t be put off.
4. Probably my biggest argument for #3 is that white people still have most of the resources in this city. By resources I mean financial, educational and social connections which lends to more resources (e.g. a few phone calls and I can get a top-notch pediatrician pro-bono). Monetarily I’m pretty poor, but I’m “resource rich”. Foster kids, no matter what color, are a great place to share the wealth.
5. On a much bigger picture, I think it’s good for white people to get involved in the black community as opposed to “Hey, black people, we’re not racist, you can come to our all-white ___coffee shop, church, bar, fill-in-the-blank___ whenever you want”. Really? Instead, I think it’s the privileged people’s job to step outside their comfort zone. This doesn’t mean white people have to get their hair braided in corn-rows or watch BET everyday, but it could mean being the only white foster parent in an (seemingly) all black foster agency.
It’s been my experience (not just foster care) that organizations which are predominantly black and minority actually place particular value in white people participation. Who hasn’t heard a white person talk about their amazing experience of going to a black church? The more I verbalized my awareness of being a white girl in a black foster care community the more at ease we all got. It also made the experience a lot of fun— in my MAPP class I had to raise my hand a lot and ask for a “translation for the white girl in the room please” (Do YOU know what a “play-play cousin” is?).
In typing this, I realize that for two years as a foster parent, I, for all intent and purposes, gave complete control of my life over to a black community. It was lost on me at the time, but now I think there’s something pretty meaningful there.
Oh my god, get me off my soap box now. I must have been smoking something last night.
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- reneenicolesays likes this
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- leahj said: Is anyone going to tell us what a play-play cousin is?
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- paperinthewind said: Thanks for another great post. Happy Mother’s Day, Rebecca.
- masquesoporfavor said: I live in Atlanta, so I do know what a play cousin is! YESSSS I might be a pretty good foster parent…
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