When my wife and I made the decision to be foster parents, there were obviously lots of questions. One of those questions was how to deal with the possibility that the children we bring into our home would look nothing like us. There was no way we were going to say no to a child in need based on race, gender, or ethnicity. So, we had to come to grips with parenting children who would most likely have different customs and traits. We would also have to deal with the obvious questions and inquiries, sometimes from complete strangers, that would surely come our way.
My wife and I are white. Our adopted daughters are black. We quickly realized there was no one handbook on interracial fostering or adopting. Yes, there are quite a few books and resources on the subject, but much of this we just had to handle on our own. Along the way, we learned a few things. Hopefully, our experiences can help you in this journey.
People will stare.
It will happen. You will walk into a restaurant or a party, and will feel like all eyes are on you. At first, it will be difficult on you. You may feel uncomfortable or even angry. My advice is to just relax. Most people stare not for malicious reasons, but just because they are curious. I can tell you that today, three years after we brought our daughters homes, I hardly even notice it anymore. If someone is staring too much, try this. Stare back! After a moment, smile and say, “I’m sorry have we met before?” Most people will feel ashamed and either look away, or just say hello and start a conversation.
You will need to learn about another culture.
There are things you will just have to learn. For example, our girls’ hair is much different than ours. So, at first, we had no idea how to deal with it. Over time, my wife became more and more adept at washing and braiding their hair. This is just one example. It is very important for your foster kids to feel like they are normal. So, work on making sure they don’t lose the customs they are used to.
This is a difficult subject, and I will try to avoid any controversial points here. But just know that although our country has come very far in eliminating the prejudices of the past, there are still those that just don’t get it. You may be looked down upon by those who don’t agree that races should mix. You will need to be strong, and know when to stand your ground at times. But you will also have to know when to use this as an opportunity to educate. Remember that racism, in many cases, is a product of ignorance, and we can be a positive example to the rest of our community.
You may encounter resentment from the biological family because of your race.
Understand that there is probably a lot going on in the bio family to cause a removal. Add to that knowing their children are being taken care of by a family that is not like their own. You may or may not have direct contact with the bio family, but this could make it more difficult to deal with getting information you need to help parent the children. You will need to be patient. The bio family needs to understand you are not the enemy here. You are here to help these children heal. Anything you can do to communicate this would be a good thing.
We have learned a lot in the time our daughters have been with us. Much of what we learned has caused us to make changes in our own thinking. For one, it has caused me to look at our world a little differently. There are things I now understand about the African American race I did not understand before. I also tend to give people the benefit of the doubt more. When I walk into a public place with my family and people stare, I am no longer upset. In fact, sometimes I chuckle inside. I know the family I have is something special. I know our place in the world is to educate, and I hope to show my girls that our diversity is something to be proud of, so that they can be a shining light in our society for years to come.
Being a foster parent is not an easy task. But boy is it ever an important one. Don’t let issues of race stop you. I would not have changed one moment of the last three years. There is a child waiting right now for a loving home to call their own.
Will yours be the next forever home?