I think everyone knows, I am a non-native foster parent who has had Native kids in and out of my home. Understanding the history and the importance of trans-cultural adoptees and foster children staying connected to culture, I want to do it right. Many of the foster parents I know would say the same but don't know where to start. When I was recently placed with a native child, I scoured the internet for resources for raising a Native child - not just a how to or how not to adopt one - and there weren't any. Not a one.
The honest truth is that the majority of white American knows very, very little about Native American history and even less of the current realities of being Native in America - on or off reservation. When I started to regularly volunteer on reservation and get to know Native Americans in my own community, I was amazed at the thoughts in my own head as well as questions, comments, from my non-native friends when I got back home. "What are their houses like?" "What do they eat?" "Come'on, racism isn't that bad in America." Wait, reservations still exist?" "Why would anyone choose to live there?" "Why don't they just move?" And in looking at my photos, "Oh my gosh - those babies are beautiful, how could you not just bring them all home?!" The vast majority of non-native America has NO IDEA what it is to be Native in America.
It is my firm belief that unless we start to provide meaningful information to all sides of the adoption community (social workers, children birth families, adoptive families, foster families, tribes and our friends and family), we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past on a smaller scale. Native kids will continue to be placed with uninformed non-natives and without providing them tools, the children will continue to be raised without a huge piece of their story.
Someone needs to step up and admit that: yes, native children should be placed with native families, but for various reasons, sometimes they are not. When that happens, How can we do it differently? Because the truth is, there are non-native foster and adoptive families out there who would like to learn. Like to be taught as the parents of these children, a better way. Of course there is the flip side of adoptive parents who don't care, don't want to learn, would rather not think about the race of their adopted child, but we can hope that with training - that close-mindedness would become less and less.
Our history is ugly - our future doesn't have to be.
Conversation heals and conversation changes things. So let me hear your thoughts - as many as you have - pro/con from native or non-native - anything said respectfully will be heard. Questions I have:
- How could there be more recruiting of Native families to foster and adopt? How can we encourage agencies and counties to encourage qualified families? Are there current stumbling blocks to native families becoming foster/adoptive families that I don't know about?
- What would you like to say to foster families who are currently fostering a Native child?
- What would you like to say to potential adopters who are thinking about adopting a Native child?
- What would you like to say to non-native families who have already adopted a Native child?
- In those cases where Native children ARE adopted by non-native families, what can the families do to nurture their child's Native heritage?
- What resources are there currently or would there be in an ideal world to help Native children adopted by Non-natives stay connected to culture?
I plan to pull together some of the comments and resources here along with the comments from the other comments sections on the blog to put together some cohesive thoughts... Excited to start this conversation.