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Oct 03, 2016

by Kanetra Scott, LMSW, Foster Care Specialist, Bethany Christian Services of Georgia

God created so many beautiful cultures, languages, and ethnicities for our world to enjoy—each rich in vibrant color and history. Partnership parenting, also known as foster care, often results in one racial group parenting a child from a different racial group.

More than half of the 500,000 children in foster care on any day in America come from ethnic minority families, even though children from minority communities make up less than half the children in this country.1

Rather than be “colorblind,” it is essential that partnership parents acknowledge a child’s racial and cultural heritage. This is very important for the child’s emotional well-being. Not only is it traumatic for children to be removed from their homes and families, it can also be a cultural shock to be placed in foster care with a family that has a different culture.

As a partnership parent, just as you would help a child cope with their feelings about being in state custody, it is important to help them adjust to their new environment while respecting and celebrating their heritage.

Here are some practical tips to help incorporate a child’s culture into your home.

Do:

  1. Take time to understand the child’s cultural heritage. Explore its history and unique aspects such as food, music, values, beliefs, and customs.
  2. Ask the child what their favorite meal is, and ask the family for the recipe if possible. Engage the child alongside your family in creating the meal.
  3. If the child is bilingual, try to learn some key phrases. Children take pride in teaching adults new activities—this can be a fun bonding activity.
  4. Invite the family’s input on how the child’s hair should be managed, styled, or cut. If you are unsure how to style, ask the family to show you how to style the child’s hair during a visit.
  5. Understand and explain the unique characteristics of your culture to the child, and allow them to participate or abstain.
  6. Explore different cultural activities around your city that celebrate the child’s heritage.

Don’t:

  1. Don’t change a child’s name or nickname to fit into your own culture. This can be seen as disrespectful to the child and to the family, as it appears that their nickname was not good enough for your culture.
  2. Don’t judge or criticize the child’s differences. Children are smart and can pick up on body language and unintentional disapproval.
  3. Don’t assume a child knows your values, norms or beliefs. For example, some cultures eat primarily using their hands. Teaching a child how to use a spoon or fork will help them learn and not feel ashamed of not having that knowledge.

The most important aspect of transracial parenting is loving the child and family the way God loves us—honoring and cherishing our uniqueness. Partnership parenting can create beautiful opportunities to truly experience all the distinctiveness He has created.   

1Hill, R. B. (2006, Oct.). Synthesis of research on disproportionality in child welfare: An update. Seattle, WA: Casey Family Programs. 


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