Friday, September 7, 2012

"Foster Friday" Guest Post: Love is Colorblind

Hey, Y'all...  Well to start, I am not blessed with artistic writing like our Tammy, so bear with me!  My name is Natasha, and my husband (Donald) and I have been fostering (try to adopt) for four years now.  I had always wanted to foster children since my early 20s.  When my husband and I moved in together, I brought it up and he was all in!

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!"

My mother is white, and my father black.  I didn't know him growing up.  I was raised an only child in the early 80's in a small country town in Texas.  Being biracial in this small town was far from acceptable.  I remember standing on top of toilet seats hiding in the restroom all day in elementary school.  I wanted so badly for someone to look like me.  My hair, my tanned (year-round) skin, my full lips...  I grew up thinking and being told I was ugly.  My mother was raised in an orphanage in the 50's, but there was no segregation in there...  They were all "unwanted" children.  So she taught me to be strong through all of that.

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.

Our third placement after Donald and I began fostering was "Munchkin" (*** Sidenote from Mimi - Yep!  The very same 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.

A few weeks later, we received a call asking if we could take Munchkin's older sister "Princess."  Of course, we had no idea she even had a sibling!  Princess came to our home that night around midnight.  She took to me instantly.  She did not know how to read or write, yet the school system was just passing her along because she was "a good, quiet kid."  We weren't having that, so before we knew it she was making 80's and then 100's on her weekly spelling tests.  We were so proud of her growth!

We were a family in the house, but as soon as we all stepped out together or the girls and just my husband, it was always a problem.  When Donald was with the girls alone in public, many, many times people would ask Princess (right in front of my husband) if she and her sister were okay.  Once an elderly woman even wrote down his license plate number and reported it as "suspicious."  He took the girls to the park once without me, and he said he was watching Munchkin from a short distance playing with another toddler.  When he walked over to her, a white lady came literally running toward him and frantically scooped up her daughter.  It hurt him to always be judged like that with the girls.  He is a 250 pound teddy bear!

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!)

At one point when their CPS worker asked me "How do you keep them in touch with their culture" for the sixth time, I had finally had enough.  I was really, really tired of that question by that time.  My response was "Open your small country county eyes!  (I knew we were the only black foster family that particular small county had dealt with)  I AM HALF WHITE!!!  My mother is white!  And these girls are actually a fourth Hispanic.  I have many Hispanic friends, and I teach them what I know of Hispanic culture.  And we see white people everywhere we go!!!"  Needless to say, that was the last time she asked me that question.  But as we all know as foster parents, once you bump heads with the kids' worker, you can pretty much forget about adoption.  From that visit on, Munchkin's caseworker would have me remove the baby's diaper and would check her whole body including the bottom of her feet (which I still don't get) every month.

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.

I love that girl dearly.  I will never forget one night she asked me, "How many stars are in the sky?"  I said billions and billions.  She replied, "That's a lot.  That's how much I love you."  I will always cherish that moment.  She never wanted to leave.  She would always ask us if her mom could live with us so they could all be safe.  She wanted us all.  She wanted both of her moms.  They day they left, Princess asked me to promise to never forget her.  They thanked us for teaching her how to read and write because now she could "teach her mom how to read."

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.


CandCFamily said...

Thanks so much for your post! What a hard, but rewarding experience. We once had a white foster boy, who I also assumed was black until a blond hair, blue eyed boy showed up, Isaac. We only had him for a week, but I can imagine it would have been hard for hubs. Although, he said we shouldn't exclude any race on our application, I was going to list all but white. Good luck with your next placement!

MamaFoster said...

oh my word. first of all, I am a mess reading this. i am so frustrated for you about the hate that got spewed at you! i honestly don't know how you did it. if i had the workers acting like that with my kids every time they came by I would have quit.

i love your strength and your heart. what you did for those girls is amazing. I am SOOO proud of you!!!

The Campbell's Journey said...

Thank you for sharing! We currently have a "chocolate peanut" in our home. Thank you for opening my eyes to one day asking her if it is still ok to call her that (she is only 20 months old right now). She was dubbed that because she was only 4 pounds when we got her and she looked like a peanut in my husband's hands (he's over 6 feet tall and a really big guy). We love her to death and we will always make sure she embraces her ethnicity (we are praying we will get to adopt her one day)!

Dena said...

I'm so sorry for your struggles. People can be so thoughtless. I am the proud foster mom of a beautiful dark chocolate baby and I love her more than imaginable as does my family. Even with me being white, I get the odd looks and muttering under the breath but I try not to let it bother me. Baby girl is happy and that's all that matters to me. Good for you for sharing this message.


Catherine said...

I am 27 y/o (single) with my first foster placement. I know exactly what you mean about the constant stares and discomfort with me appearing as the mother figure for this 2 yr old, malnourished child who is shades away from me! She throws fits if the wind blows wrong which has made me very cautious of taking extra trips with her. Do you have a blog?? I would love to follow you!

Joy Kinard said...

Thank you so much for posting this!

Mary said...

How unfortunate that you and your
"250 pound teddy bear" husband have had to endure such judgments from others. And the guy in the diesel truck- What the Heck?!!

Thank you for sharing your experiences about being color blind but at the same time reminding others to acknowledge and embrace any differences in the children we foster.

Carrie said...

Thank you for sharing your heart for children. It's so sad that you have had to endure these insensitive remarks and harassment from social workers! Good for you for continuing on!

Anonymous said...

I truly give it up to ANY foster family that has to deal with the scrutiny of making their foster kids get naked during their CW visits or whatever..I understand that bad foster parents ruin it for the rest..but do that in their OWN time like when they have them w/ the case aide at the visits with the birthparents or whatever don't make you feel shamed for doing what you were called to do!

God Bless you and your teddy bear...

Kristin said...

This was an amazing post. You did/are doing a great job.

mystepsRordered said...

I would also like to follow your blog.Link? I'm black, but I am lighter than you. My whole life people have assumed that I was black AND white, so I can sort of relate. My husband is white, but there's never been any crazy comments about race from our workers. There have only questions about our preferences. We don't have any preferences, but like you, I found it odd that both of our placements have been white, mainly b/c the percentage stats.

Delphine Astor O'Brien said...

I loved reading your post, and the emotions it invoked left me just a big old mess! Keep on keeping on!

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