by Trey Rabun, Amara’s Family Outreach Specialist
I’ve worked in child welfare for over eight years and, from day one, I’ve been struck by the high numbers of black children in foster care.
As of January 2014, African-American children were disproportionately involved in the foster care system. From initial CPS reports, to removals, to placement in foster care, black children were overrepresented by more than double in the State of Washington.
Almost daily, I’d ask myself, “What can we do to help these children?”
Part of my answer involved becoming a foster parent myself. Still, I wanted and needed to do more – especially at the community level. Because it isn’t just a question for individuals – but for our community as a whole: “How do we, the black community, help black kids in foster care?”
Time and time again, I’ve seen black children placed in homes with families who have different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Generally, these families are doing great things for these kids. Still, entering foster care comes with so much loss for children. Placing them with parents who share their skin tone and culture is one less loss they have to experience.
As the Family Outreach Specialist at Amara, I have focused on finding culturally similar homes for children in foster care. I’m proud that Amara recognizes the need to create an outreach plan focused specifically on communities of color who would be able to provide support, and possibly homes, for black children in foster care.
Throughout 2017, I have been coordinating, facilitating, and promoting Amara’s outreach plan to the African-American community in Seattle and the South Sound. So far, we’ve facilitated three different events for black community leaders including local social workers and foster care recruiters, alumni of the foster care system, and any African-American organization interested in participating. These meetings provide space for those in the black community to learn about the disproportionate number of their children in foster care, discuss some possible causes for that disproportionality, how we can offer support to those children, and what the process is to care for children in foster care.
The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. As one participant stated in the Pierce County community meeting, “It’s so important to have African American homes because everybody’s culture isn’t the same.” Another participant, who is a social worker in Pierce county, said of African-American children in the foster care system: “They become the system’s kids and that’s not who they are. They gravitate to workers of color to figure out who they are. Culture matters because it’s who we are.”
In 2018, we will continue efforts to build partnerships and encourage ambitious outreach to communities of color. We recognize the urgent need for foster homes that reflect the diversity of children in foster care and will continue to encourage the black community to come together to provide children with the foundational care they need. But we want to get the word out in all communities: we must do more to confront the unacceptably high rates of African-American children in foster care.
For more information on how you can get involved, visit our “It Takes A Village” event page.
Trey Rabun can be reached at Trey@AmaraPutsKidsFirst.org – 206.260.1732