Cultural Diversity in Foster Care: What It Means To Families
Foster care, by its nature, is culturally diverse. Abused and neglected children are placed in strangers’ homes, where expectations and communication styles are very different from where they came from. No matter how welcoming their foster parents are, foster children have to adjust to rules and traditions that are not their own. Some have never had a birthday party or a bedtime. Others have never been taught not to curse at the dinner table or to bathe daily. Learning to deal with these differences can be challenging for both foster parents and foster children.
Some argue that a child’s transition into a foster home can be made less traumatic by placing him with foster parents of the same race and/or religion. Others say that race and religion should not play a role in where the child is placed. They feel the child should go to any foster family who is ready, willing and able to care for him.
Cultural Diversity in Foster Care: Why Children Are Placed In Homes Of Different Races Or Religions
Many child welfare agencies try to place children in foster homes of the same race or religion whenever possible, but this is difficult when there are few foster families of the same race or religion in the community.
Southern California Public Radio Station 89.3 reported that, as of January 2014, there were no Korean-speaking foster homes in Los Angeles, and few Asian foster homes as a whole, even though there are approximately 800 Asian children currently in foster care in the city. The report cited reasons for the shortage as misconceptions about foster parent requirements and the fear of impacting one’s immigration status.
Some religions are underrepresented as foster families. To counteract this, Orthodox Jews and Muslims are sometimes called upon personally by their communities to take in children from foster care who are living with Christian or non-religious foster parents. There are many websites, including ohelfamily.org, muslimfamilyservices.org and muslimfosterandfamilyservices.org, dedicated to this effort.
Cultural Diversity in Foster Care: Positives and Negatives
It’s easy to see how a foster child missing home might embrace having some familiar foods or activities in his/her foster home. Maureen Learned, a California foster mom who fostered and eventually adopted a Korean child after a long transition told 89.3 KPCC, “If he’d gone straight into a Korean home where he hadn’t lost his language, where he hadn’t lost his food, where he hadn’t lost his smells, where he hadn’t lost the overall community, the TV shows, everything — he could have felt like he could have been himself.”
Being at peace with one’s self can be a hard task, no matter where you’re from and what your circumstances, but when achieved, it can make a lasting impact on how a person views and treats others. Tolerance and acceptance learned at home can have a lasting impact on how a child perceives the world. Sometimes it is not only the foster child and foster parent who are different. Often, other foster children in the home may be other races or religions too. Many foster families enjoy honoring their foster children’s culture by making special foods or celebrating different holidays in their homes, as well as sharing their own dishes and traditions. This exchange of ideas and beliefs can foster feelings of belonging and respect.
Cultural diversity in foster care is a hot topic. There are pluses and minuses on both sides of the issue. Where do you stand?