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The Importance of Black History Month for Children in Foster Care

February is Black History Month and CASA for Children wants to honor the significance of this month for our children in foster care. Oregon's history is particularly riddled with overt and subtle racism that greatly impacts Black and African American youth in foster care today. In Oregon's child welfare system, the percentage of Black and African American children experiencing time in foster care is more than twice the percentage of Oregon's Black child population. 

We see that Black youth in foster care are more likely to be removed from their homes; are less likely to receive services; are less likely to reunify with their families; and spend more time in foster care. In an article written by American Academy of Pediatrics  , they found that when any child enters foster care and especially when they remain in foster care, they face development issues that affect their relational attachments, sense of time and their responses to psychological stress. So, for a Black or African American child, whose rate of stay within the system is longer, their likelihood for experiencing further environmental racism, greater levels of mental and physical health issues, lack of permanency, and other delays increase.

According to KidsCount  , Black children in foster care were less likely to be adopted than their white counterparts, leaving them without a permanent home or the potential to heal from the trauma they have experienced and posing them at a higher risk to undergo more trauma. Since Black children are also more likely to remain in foster care and less likely to be reunified with their families, they are more likely to be placed in group care, age out in greater numbers, and become involved in the criminal justice system, all of which have lasting effects on their lives. 

At CASA for Children, we strive to continuously improve our practices to not inadvertently perpetuate harm that we know is caused by the dependency system. We advocate internally and externally to prioritize anti-racism, anti-oppression, justice, and healing by acknowledging the inequities and trauma that exist both in our internal work community and in our broader community. 

We believe that we have a responsibility to not only acknowledge the disproportionality, its historical context, and the harm that accompanies it, but to actively serve our children in equitable ways. CASA volunteers – through extensive training and mentorship - have the opportunity to offer a bridge to understanding, services and, ultimately, a safe home in a system that, all too frequently, leaves Black children behind.

As we honor Black History Month throughout February, we will be celebrating 2024’s theme of “African Americans and the ARTS”. Whether through painting, writing, poetry, performance, or any other medium, art has long provided Black and African American people  – some of whom have experienced the foster care system - with a way to document and share their experiences. 

 

Sources:

1    2022 Child Welfare Data Book, Office of Reporting, Research, Analytics, and Implementation, Oregon Department of Human Services, published December 2023

2   FROM THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS| TECHNICAL REPORT| OCTOBER 01 2015

Health Care Issues for Children and Adolescents in Foster Care and Kinship Care

3   KidsCount Data Center

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Jacob Lawrence, Painter

Experiencing foster care as a child, Jacob Lawrence was the first African American artist to be represented by a major commercial gallery and the first to receive sustained mainstream recognition in the United States. Today, his work is represented in almost two hundred museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Sade Daniels, Poet

Sade grew up in foster care and is passionate about lifting up foster youth and their voices to create change. She is a writer, speaker, and activist for young people in foster care. The managing training director for the California Youth Connection, Sade also served as Chair for the California Foster Youth Education Task Force. Her poem, "Young, Gifted, and Black" is a poignant glimpse into foster care for Black and African American youth in the system.
Watch now.

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Ángela Quijada-Banks, Author

When she left North Carolina’s foster care system as a teen, Ángela had to scramble to find housing, just days before the start of her college classes. Now living in San Diego, Quijada-Banks wrote a book that she hopes will guide young people on the right path as they transition out of the foster care system. Released in 2020, “The Black Foster Youth Handbook” provides more than 50 lessons for youth and their adult supporters, alternating personal stories with poetry and self-discovery exercises. 

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