The newest child in our home is just the same as all of the other children in our home.
Yet somehow when some people look at her, all they see is different.
The state foster care system recently placed a child in our home who looks a little different than my wife, three daughters and me, who are all pale white with freckles. To state the obvious to anyone who sees her, she is black, and we are not. She joins our home which already had a Hispanic foster child in it providing a little diversity.
It’s our first time fostering non-white children. To be perfectly honest, our day-to-day lives aren’t that different. Children are children, regardless of skin tone.
When she’s happy, she has a great big smile on her face, just like any other young girl.
When her feelings are hurt, she cries. She wants to be hugged and told it will be OK.
When she’s apprehensive, she wants to be reassured everything will be fine.
She likes candy more than dinner. She doesn’t want to go to bed when it’s time. She gets crabby when she’s tired. And she needs help getting boogers out of her nose.
These are all perfectly normal things for a perfectly normal child, including our two foster placements. Almost instantaneously, we stopped seeing color, especially when being called “momma,” her preferred term for anyone caring for her.
Sure, we had our own apprehensions going into things. We weren’t sure how they’d be different. We made some borderline racist Google searches, especially when it came to caring for skin and hair, out of our own ignorance. The girls’ social worker, who is black, was a great resource.
Frankly, the only differences thus far are cultural with our newest placement. She does have beaded, braided hair, which is a new thing for us to learn. Her mother is insistent she be the only one to re-braid her hair during visits, and we respect her right to do that.
When we’re out and about, we’re aware of more eyes on us. We’re aware our family looks a little different than it did when we all had the same skin tone.
Her circumstances for ending up in our home are frankly no one’s business but her mom’s and the state’s, although it’s not drugs, the question most often posed to me. As foster parents, we’ll continue to care for her until the state deems her mother or another family member ready to care for her again.
What makes us different makes us interesting. It doesn’t make us undesirable or unwelcome, though, at least not in my home. I’d hope the same could be said for this country, a nation of immigrants who’ve learned over the years how to get along and respect both our divergent histories and our shared one.
I don’t expect the world to drop everything and acknowledge its prejudices just because we have a foster care placement. I do hope each of us takes a little time to rethink our own, though, and realize the human race has a lot more in common than in opposition.