There’s a lot going on right now, and I don’t know how to fix it. I’m not qualified or educated enough to talk about most of it, but I can talk about what I know: foster care.
If you are watching everything that’s happening and wondering how you can be a part of the solution, I suggest one option is becoming a foster parent and supporting foster care in your area. I don’t know where you’re reading this from, but in most areas, Black children are disproportionately represented in the foster care system. In South Carolina black children make up 31.5% of all children under 18 (source) and they make up 34.3% of children in foster care (source). We also know black children in our state are removed from their homes at a higher rate than white children (source).
Foster Care is designed to promote family restoration and strengthening. If we want to help our black friends and neighbors, we should advocate for and support family reunification in foster care. We need foster parents who will care for all children without judgment and will work alongside the biological families to reunify and restore families. Thankfully, many of the foster parents I know do just that. Regardless of race, foster parents love the children in their care and advocate for their families to be reunited (if it’s safe). They choose the pain of loss if it means the joy of reunification.
June is National Reunification Month. Foster parents can support black families by coming alongside and working with them to bring families back together and support them before, during, and after reunification. Shared parenting is a powerful opportunity to show solidarity and let them know that you are with them in this struggle and fighting for their family to be together. Here is a resource to check out if you want to learn more.
The truth is, we need more black foster families, but black communities tend to have a general distrust of government systems based on a history of poor past experiences. This contributes to a shortage of black foster parents and can make some families reluctant to work with DSS throughout the case planning and treatment planning process. This is another reason why I believe the Church should be involved in child welfare. The Church should be a nonjudgmental third party who seeks restoration and reconciliation. They can come alongside families and tell them ‘I understand why you feel that way and I’m sorry about what has happened. We can‘t change what happened, but we want to work with you to correct this and bring your family back together.’
It’s not going to be fixed overnight, but with the love, understanding, and empathy of foster parents and communities working together with biological parents and passionately advocating for family reunifications we can set an example of unity and support that will make a difference for generations.