In the Wake of Father’s Day

13499786_10210391085832230_1047922313_o.jpgMany people struggle with Father’s Day.

It is not always a day of celebration. Some remember those who have passed away, such as my own father, while others mourn the distance between themselves and their child. I know that although I am surrounded by my children every Fathers Day, I still hurt for Zay.

Others struggle because Father’s Day is the continued reminder that they dont always know who they look like when they look in the mirror. Even more children wait out Father’s Day in a residental group home, restlessly waiting for a father to walk through the door and adopt them – feeling a rough bitterness from knowing this dream may never come true.

To the women, forced to play the role of both parents, who struggle to raise their children alone. Thank you for swallowing the bitterness of being left a job undone – I understand your struggle.

To the young men out there that are struggling with being a baby daddy because there was no one teaching you how to be Strong Fathers. I know that the struggle is real.
As a dad, I have a responsibility to teach my children all that I know. However, I can only draw from my own life experiences. I seem to have come up in a time and an environment where father’s were absent; were almost expected to be absent. Now I find myself trying to parent boys that have been abandoned by their own fathers; trying to teach them the true meaning of fatherhood.

So as I looked at my five boys on this past Father’s Day, I tried to put myself in their shoes and contemplated how i culd live out their dream father.The more I work towards this, the better they will be when they become fathers.

 

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Raising Black Foster Children Today

#BlackLivesMatter!

#AllLivesMatter!

Source: blackyouthproject.com

I’ve seen these two movements argue to the point of nausea. Of course ‘Black Lives’ matter as does all life. That said, imagine the label of a black foster child who stuck in a residential facility.

I recently asked seventeen-year-old son how he felt about being black.

He responded by saying something to the effect of, “I never knew what to do until I came to live here; it always seemed like everyone looked at me as a child in need or a problem. Before coming to live here I had never seen a black man looked at in a positive light unless he was an athlete or entertainer. I was just so angry because I was struggling to figure out who I was and how I could matter. After I met you, I realized that I could be one of those positive black men by being a good father like you.”

I was floored.  This very insightful young man was teaching me the importance of a role-model as well as why open dialogue is so crucial to our own development.

I was once a black teenager going through the same struggle for an identity, but I can’t pretend that I know what he is and has been going through simply because I perceive our experiences as similar.

In order to parent a black foster child, we must empathize with them first. The only way for me to gain clarity was to ask him the tough questions.

This started a barrage of questions from me to him:

“Do you feel like you are treated different by authority figures because you are black?”

“How does it feel to be the only black kid in a room?”

“How do you view white families?”

“How do you think that women perceive you?”

“Are you afraid of police and if so, why?”

WE CANNOT BE AFRAID OF THESE CONVERSATIONS!

Source: art.blacklivesmatter.com

We had to talk! But I couldn’t have this dialogue with him until we had first built trust and respect. While I asked him all of these questions, I also shared my experiences and feelings.

In preparation of him driving one day, I told him the horror story of a routine traffic stop were an officer treated me like dirt and spat racial slurs towards me. I told him that I was scared and that all I could think about was getting back in my car and going home. I told him how I have a different kind of fear when a police officer gets behind me but when given the chance, I have been able to show him  exactly what to do during a routine traffic stop. Despite the images that we all have seen on the news and on social media, I have been able to model proper behavior despite my fears of a worst-case scenario.

Learning all of these things about him and how he feels about certain situations gave me an advantage. I am able to upload this information into my menRolodexodex and parent him accordingly.

I also have to be a great model because this conversation reminded me he is a sponge that will always follow my lead.

Source: kpfa.org

I refuse to pretend that I have all of the answers as it pertains to raising a black foster child. However, there are things that I have done that I have had success with, which are;

1) Helping to mold a positive self-image.

2) Keeping the dialogue completely open for clarity.

3) Modeling proper behavior.

Our Village

They say it takes a village to raise a child.

Recently, my wife went to Hati to teach a few Haitians the basics of foster parenting and, while there, I was reminded how incredible of a “village” we have to support us in our times of need. Being gone for five days, the special people in our lives provided support for our family through so many meaningful ways.

This is how the village stepped up:

  • My cousin made dinners for all five days.
  • My brother came over and stayed with the boys until I got home from work.
  • My son’s coach came to pick him up for basketball practice.
  • My mother-in-law took a kid to a counseling appointment.
  • My son’s mentor took him and a couple of friends to the park so that I could get some work done.

I can’t stress enough the importance of a “Village.” Everyone that I have mentioned above has taken the time to fully understand our lifestyle and our belief that every child deserves a loving home. We know that, for us, a loving home will always consist of an extended network of people who love everything and everyone our home stands for.

You may not have the capacity to take in a child and foster them as we did; however, everyone has the ability to do something, to play even a small role in a child’s life through the support of a family.

To our village, thank you!