Friday, September 7, 2012
"Foster Friday" Guest Post: Love is Colorblind
We knew going into it that we were not the "typical" foster parents. We were young and black. Our first class we attended was on my 26th birthday, and my husband had just turned 30 the month before. I remember the instructor asking for our opinions and just general class discussions. There were two older white couples sitting behind us, and almost every time I had answer for "what would you do in this situation," I could hear them say things like "They're young. They don't know." and things like that. So badly, I wanted to turn around and say, "oh, but lady, I do know!"
Life hit us hard when I was around 12 years old, and we began to live in different women's and homeless shelters. Life was pretty much unstable growing up after that, and I could write a book about my life. Believe me! I remember not opening up or listening to adults and counselors because they never told me, "Hey, I have been there, and look at me now!" They just did their job, got in their Lexus, and went home at the end of their shift, while I stayed there with angry, bitter women. So when I grew up and out of my circumstances, I wanted to help other children.
Immobile Munchkin who was initially placed with me! :-). She was our youngest at the time at 11 months old. When we got the call for her, we were so excited! Now, I'm not gonna lie to y'all... I was shocked when I opened the door to see a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby! I had assumed by her name that she was black! (hahaha! I still laugh at that moment. :-) Munchkin was also in a full body cast from a broken femur and a helmet from a non-related surgery, neither of which CPS had told me about (gotta love CPS and their "we tell you everything we know...") At first I assumed the stares, looks, and whispers were because she was so young in a full body cast, so I paid no mind.
CPS would always remind me that the girls were only with us because "they needed a stay-at-home mom" because of all of the doctor appointments that Munchkin had and that I was the only one they could find. Princess would ask us why all of the workers (play therapist, CASA, CPS, speech therapist, and agency) would go into her room, shut the door, and ask her every month if we (more so my husband) ever touched her or her sister. I would tell her that they just wanted to make sure she and her sister were safe. She would say, "but you're already doing that!" (Gotta love that kid!)
One of the most hurtful situations that brought back a lot of my childhood issues regarding race was when I was in my car with Munchkin and a white dude pulled up next to me in a big diesel engine truck and began to make racial slurs towards me. He saw that I had a white child in my car and called me a ni**er thief. He said she deserved to be with her own kind, let out a huge burst of smoke out of his exhaust pipe, and purposefully filled the inside of my car.
It was always hard at Princess' school when it was time to pick her up. They always had different teachers outside, so I always had to have proof that she belonged with me. They were used to seeing black kids with white foster parents... not the other way around. Children would ask Princess, "Why are they black?" She thought it was mean to call us "black," but I explained to her what race is and to never judge anyone by the color of their skin.
My husband came across the girls about a year after they left as they were walking along the road. Munchkin screamed out "Daddy! Daddy!" He wanted to go to her, but their mother made it seem as if he was a strange, scary black man and he noticed people watching so he just kept going. He said the girls watched him until they couldn't see his car anymore. I have run into Princess once. I pray to see her again soon because it's been too long.
I know many of you have black foster children and have adopted black children. I say "thank you for showing people that love is color blind!" At the same time (remember that I am a realist and blunt :-), remember to acknowledge and embrace your children's differences. Let them know that you love their tangled hair, their smooth rich brown skin, and their dark beautiful eyes. Let them know you embrace their differences. When it comes to nicknames like "Chocolate," make sure they are okay with them. I know I hated it when my family would call me "Heinz57" or "Oreo." It was just another reminder of "Hey! Look at me! I'm different from y'all!" And of course, as a child, I never said anything because no one asked me how it made me feel. Keep loving these kids! I will keep loving these kids! And society can just kiss my bronzed booty because any child... black, white, Hispanic, Asian, whatever!... is going to experience and know love in my home. They will see what love is between my husband and me.
When I was a child, I wished there were more black foster mothers. Even now, at times I wish there were more black foster mothers on support groups like me so I can be completely honest. I seem to be the only one every time. I am hoping to start a group for African American foster families or to speak to my worker about getting something together. I'm not a "lay down and be quiet" type of gal. :-) My husband and I try hard to be an example for other young African American families, and we have motivated a few to foster, but I want to reach more!
If it wasn't for fostering, I would still not know what it feels like to experience love as a mother. Now that I know... That's all I want to be.