As a Social Worker, I pride myself on being empathetic, fair, and inclusive; however, as I journey to build Harbor of Hope, I realize that I still have a great amount to learn about diversity, available support systems, and resources. Making assumptions about one’s cultural background can come off as ill-informed by the person doing the assuming, but also hurtful towards the individual you were doing the assuming about. (I have been on both sides of this, and I am humbled.) You might be asking, ‘what does this have to do with foster care.’ And I would respond, ‘it has A LOT to do with foster care’. From the professionals you work with, the kids you care for, the bio families you mentor, etc.
Culture in the case of the kids that foster parents care for can extend past their racial and religious background. Culture is in the neighborhood the child is accustomed to, family traditions that they are familiar with, etc. Ideally speaking, we would have families that closely matched the cultural background and proximity that a child is from when they are entering foster care, but we are in a crisis here! Unfortunately, there are more children in foster care in Texas than families to care for them. As a new agency, Harbor of Hope is determined to look for families based on their desire to be open to various cultural backgrounds, are open to providing therapeutic approaches to parenting, and to not have the mind set of ‘It’s good enough for a foster child’. No. Our kids deserve better than that!
If we can’t exactly match a child to a family with the same background; how are we aiding the support and transition of that youth? Are we open to taking a child to the church of their preference? Would we consider cooking the child’s favorite dish? Are we open to enrolling our child in activities that they are familiar with? Are we willing to listen to our child, acknowledge the differences we might have? Would you build up a child’s self-esteem and assist in maintaining their self-identity? I guess to put it simply. Can you accept and support a child in being themselves?
When I think about resources, support, and relationships, I think about what groups I have intentionally made efforts to reach out to. To learn from and to add to my tool belt of resources to pass along. I recently met with a church who does a beautiful job in supporting the LGBTQ+ group in the area. As I planned on creating an inclusive agency, I thought for sure I could ‘hang’ as an advocate as well. I learned quickly that I was not familiar with most of the terminology of this group AND I wasn’t even considering some of the issues LBGTQ+ face. Humbled. I went back to my office and researched. I found tons of resources, that I disseminated and added to our Diversity Training. That’s when I realized, this training would probably constantly be updated. We are blessed to live in a free society and diversity is what enriches who we are. A thought I, embarrassingly, very rarely consider.
There had been so many times in which I felt the clients I worked with were isolated, or not supported because of unknown resources. The information sharing among agencies who are experienced, training opportunities, etc. are all a part of the movement to make foster care a better experience for foster children, foster parents, families, and treatment team members. It’s just taking that step to ask. To not be afraid of going to unfamiliar places and building new relationships. Thinking a bit outside of the box to find creative and helpful ways to support our children and support one another. Knowledge is power, and learning means growth. A huge part of the passion that Harbor of Hope and its partners possess. Come join us!