Black children are frequently overrepresented in the foster care system — and having a caregiver of color can go a long way in helping them to feel comfortable. Foster parents of any race can positively impact Black children’s lives, but a foster parent of the same race can better understand these children’s struggles, triumphs and experiences. As we commemorate Black History Month, join us in celebrating a few of our amazing Black foster parents at KVC Kansas.
Experiencing Different Cultures and Lifestyles
Gabby Hale is a single foster mom who says she’s always had a nurturing spirit. She is inspired by her own mother who was always quick to welcome children into her home. Gabby’s desire to love and care for children in need led her to become an officially licensed foster parent in 2019.
As a Black foster caregiver, Gabby believes foster care can be extremely beneficial to children as it allows them to experience cultures and perspectives they might never have encountered otherwise. “No matter what home they enter, they get a little culture,” she says. In Gabby’s household, a lot of the culture she shares is through the food she cooks. Gabby enjoys cooking homemade meals for children in her care every single night and a lot of what she makes are new cuisines the kids have never experienced before.
When it comes to being a Black foster parent, representation matters. Gabby sees how her race and experience affect how the community and even the children in her care view her. Because of this, she has taken on the challenge of being a foster parent and educating those around her.
At times, this means explaining to another person in the community that she is not a nanny or “mom’s friend,” but the current caregiver for her children, regardless of race. Gabby’s experience as a Black foster caregiver hasn’t always been easy, and she sadly recalls being on the receiving end of judgmental looks and commentary from others, simply while running errands or out and about with children in her care.
At other times, it’s an opportunity to help children in her care to unlearn stereotypes and negative perspectives they may have about other races. Particularly with children at such impressionable young ages, Gabby aims to teach her children that the color of their skin should not affect how a person treats them.
Creating A Familiar Environment for Children of Color
Michael Turner and his wife April, have cared for more than 120 children through foster care over the course of their lives! As Black foster parents, they are able to relate to Black children placed in their care in unique ways. However, Michael says his ability to relate to children in his care goes beyond race.
He knows exactly what it feels like to be displaced: In high school, Michael experienced houselessness. He has known what it’s like to face obstacles, and it allows him to appreciate what he has now. Having a difficult past gives Michael the ability to connect with them in a deeply personal and relatable way.
“I don’t care what you did before,” Michael strives to teach his children. “I’m concerned with what you’re going to do in the future.”
Being Changemakers in Kansas
Foster parents like Gabby, April and Michael are empowering the children they care for through KVC to have brighter futures and make a difference in our world. Cultural disparities and stereotypes can negatively impact the future of Black children in foster care, and Black foster parents have a unique opportunity to change these outcomes for the better. Curious to learn more? Don’t miss the excellent podcast, Diaries of a Black Girl in Foster Care.
Sometimes, this impact can happen in as little as a single night. And Michael never refers to anyone in his care as a “foster child,” he’s quick to share — simply children, no matter what. Even when Michael’s family had a boy stay with them only for the night, they still treated him as family and sought to pour love into him for the time they had him. His background was full of challenges, including time in jail and struggles with drug abuse. But Michael and April made it a point to share as much love and compassion as possible.
Then, years later, Michael unexpectedly bumped into the same boy. As they caught up, Michael was overjoyed with what he heard. This young man said that single night had completely changed his life for the better, and he was beginning a career of service in the United States Navy.
Sustainable, effective change happens in the home, even if that home is temporary. After saying goodbye to the first two girls ever placed in her care, Gabby had to take a step back and think about why she wanted to be a foster parent. Was it for the greater good, for the children or for herself? Ultimately, she decided it was all of those. She wants to be a safe haven for the children who didn’t ask to be there, she wants to experience all the joys of being a caregiver to those who need her and she loves having the opportunity to make a difference in the Kansas community.
How KVC Supports Foster Parents and Caregivers
At KVC, we believe in making meaningful, impactful connections with people in everything that we do. In the foster care system, this means supporting children, their biological parents and the foster parents to make it a positive experience for everyone. Each foster parent has a team at KVC whose mission is to empower them as caregivers and support them however they need. If you are considering becoming a foster parent, know that KVC is passionate about supporting you. To potential foster parents, Gabby has great advice: “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!”