By Richard Clay
Before young Black males learn anything in school, they need to live in homes that provide them with plenty of: love, nurturing, protection, knowledge, motivation, discipline, guidance, and life’s basic necessities. While it is somewhat difficult to define what a “stable” home is today, I consider a stable home to be one that provides our developing sons with these essential elements. A single parent could thus create a stable home. Thanks to some hard working, committed parents, some young Black males do live in “stable” homes.
Yet teachers are dismayed by the fact that far too many of them live in unstable and dysfunctional homes that fail to bestow the essential elements discussed above upon them. Often times, the entire educational process stalls, and both psychological and behavioral fall-out occur when guardians at home do not adequately support their children’s development or education.
What causes the greatest disruption to the educational process however is students who do not know, or who never have known any real sense of home. While this sad and tragic situation applies to many students, I am specifically referring to the tens of thousands of young Black males that are hopelessly trapped in America’s hell-whole called the foster care system. Many of our sons are born into the Foster Care System and live in it as wards of the state for their entire childhood lives.
America’s Foster Care System, which provides housing and adult supervision to otherwise homeless or parentless children either in group home facilities or the homes of private citizens, is extremely overcrowded, highly disorganized, ill conceived, and poorly regulated. Above all, it is a chaotic system that none of our children should have to grow up in. Yet unable to live in the homes of their biological parents, or any other responsible family members, record breaking numbers of young Black males are being abused and neglected in every possible manner inside this system.
Denzel Washington co-starred in an insightful docudrama regarding this topic called Antoine Fisher. Antoine Fisher was a movie about a socially reclusive, angry young Black man who grew up verbally, psychologically, physically, and sexually abused by the two Black women that comprised his foster care family. The main character Antoine Fisher struggles as a young adult to put his torturous childhood past behind him so that he can move on to make something positive out of his life. As many of our sons do, he takes out much of his built-up anger by physically fighting with others.
A CBS News Report in December of 2003 stated that the government reported having a little more than 500,000 children living in the American foster care system at the end of 2002. Various sources estimated that as low as one third or as high as one half of those were Black children.
I am glad that I can honestly say that I have met some Black children who were wonderfully raised and taken care of by their sincere and loving foster parents when there was no one else available to raise them. In order to prevent our children from becoming homeless orphans out walking the streets, we desperately need more sincere and loving adults to step up to the plate and become these kinds of foster parents to hundreds of thousands of guardianless Black children.
Young Black males in foster care often times are dealing with a lot of deep-seated personal and social issues that begin with, but do not end with being separated from their original family members. One Detroit foster care social worker recently stated that the Black foster kids on his caseload were struggling to cope with and overcome the following list of issues:
- Separation anxiety;
- Loss and grief;
- Physical aggression (constantly fighting);
- Verbal aggression;
- Hoarding or stealing food;
- Eating out of trash cans;
- Sense of being out of place;
- Constant attention seeking;
- Sexually acting out (like constantly exposing themselves or voyeurism);
- Loss of childhood-over responsible;
- Disruptive in class;
- Constant arguing; and
- Doing poorly in open settings.
The same social worker added that his Black males specifically were suffering from a lack of stable role models, a lack of mentors, and a lack of male responsibility development programs needed to teach them vital social and life skills. If we really want the masses of these youth to excel academically, those working within the Foster Care System, schools, and community organizations must work with greater unity and purpose to provide them with the necessary counseling services and skills-based developmental programs.
At the present time, many young Black males are being unjustly removed from their homes away from the legal supervision of their guardians and placed into the foster care system. Proven child neglect, child abuse, drug trafficking, and reckless endangerment are understandable reasons for removing children from their homes. Yet America is irrationally intensifying its efforts to further criminalize both Black parents and Black youth by constantly expanding the laws that govern the reasons for which youth can be taken from their homes and placed under juvenile detention or foster care supervision.
For example, many of us Black adults can remember an instance, or instances when our parents had no choice but to leave us at a young age at home alone while they went out for a moment to conduct some extremely urgent business. This is nothing new. It has been happening for decades, and will no doubt continue to happen from time to time even among responsible parents. This holds especially true for poor single parents who lack strong family support networks.
Today however, the American legal system and corporate controlled media vigorously lobby for all Black parents who get caught leaving their children at home alone, for any length of time, to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. They want the parents’ children taken from them whether something bad happens to them or not. They have equated the catch phrase “left at home alone” with one committing an unforgivable, immoral, criminal act. Yet not being able to afford a baby sitter while one briefly goes off to take care of some urgent personal, family, or financial business constitutes neither without first looking at the detailed facts of each case.
Like unemployed Black fathers and Black parents who cannot afford to keep their utilities on, Black parents who get caught leaving their children at home alone momentarily are being criminalized by the American Justice System’s ongoing war against the poor. In many other situations like these, poor Black parents are learning from the courts that it has virtually become illegal to be poor in America.
In cities across the country, the government is allowing giant monopoly utilities corporations to merge and become even more powerful. In Metropolitan Detroit for example, the gas company and the electric company merged to become DTE Energy. DTE forces its customers to pay combined, steeply rising electric and gas bills each month. DTE frequently cuts both services off if either one of them is not paid on time. In tag team fashion, the government’s child protective agencies then swoop down upon the resulting thousands of homes that lack both heat and electricity services to remove children from the care of their guardians. The children are placed into foster care.
Ironically, the resulting foster care placements often land the children in worse overall living conditions, even though the heat and electricity are on in their new homes. Instead of declaring such energy mergers and policies to be the criminal, antitrust, price-gouging tactics that they are, federal, state, and local government officials all pay lip-service to curbing the mounting hardships that they cause Black and poor residents.
Petty theft and curfew violation are misdemeanor crimes that youth have committed over the ages. Instead of light punishments and enrollment into rehabilitation programs, many cities across America today are targeting Black and poor youth for legal prosecution, high fines, jail time, and removal from their parents’ homes upon conviction of these and other misdemeanor crimes. Once removed, these children too are placed into foster care.
Concerned consumer advocate groups and Black community organizations are needed to lobby local and national politicians to reverse such heavy-handed laws, and stop the immoral, dehumanizing practices of the corporate utilities monopolies. Until we do this, tens of thousands of Black youth will unjustifiably be railroaded into the foster care system.
Currently, the Foster Care System, which underpays poorly screened, often financially desperate adults to house and care for disadvantaged youth, does not yield nearly enough happy endings. Lucky foster children get to stay with one stable foster family for years. Unlucky foster children are passed from home to home or from facility to facility, never learning the true meaning of the words home or family. The luckiest foster children are those who get adopted by Loving guardians who try their best to create stable homes for them.
Adoption into a decent family situation is the end goal for all of the children within the Foster Care System. White boys are by far the prime choices for adoption in America to the point that many adoption agencies have to put their clients on long waiting lists if they want to adopt a white boy.
As you probably guessed, Black boys are the slowest adopted children in the whole system. With all of the hoopla about white parents adopting Black children that surrounded the premiere of the movie “Loosing Isaiah,” the fact is that Black people who can are not adopting enough Black children. We especially aren’t adopting enough Black boys between the ages of 13-17.
Here is yet another very serious problem that we in Black communities can readily solve. Many of us are mightily struggling just to raise the children that we have, and understandably cannot afford to adopt any others. Those who cannot afford to or do not have raising children in their hearts should not consider adoption.
Yet there are many Black adult singles and couples who currently want to have more children, and can indeed afford to adopt. They should seriously consider adoption. Black adults who for whatever reason are unable to naturally conceive children should not follow the hottest scientific trends of unnatural childbirth. We as a people cannot afford the luxury of turning to any form of science to manufacture babies just for the selfish, emotional sake of proclaiming that they came from, or were carried inside of our bodies. Especially not when we have so many parentless Black babies and older youth who are hopelessly trapped in the foster care system, clamoring to be adopted into anyone’s home.
If this site has helped to move you to commit to working to save young Black males, and you are prepared to provide the essential elements to a child in your home, please contact the local adoption agencies in your city to investigate adopting one, or several children who best fit your personal circumstances.
Think this decision through carefully. Know that you will not get paid a lot of money for adopting, the amount of which varies from state to state. The last thing that foster kids need is to be adopted into another bad situation, or to be doomed to come into your home only to soon be bounced out of it back into the system due to financial reasons. Therefore, if money is a serious factor in your consideration, do not adopt.
If you are considering adoption, disregard all of those people who tell you that, “Those adopted kids are going to grow up and not appreciate anything that you have done for them because they’re going to resent the fact that you are not their real parent.” First of all, there are no guarantees that any of our children will appreciate what we have done for them once they grow up, biological or non-biological.
Secondly, if you raise them exactly as you would your biological children, and do your best at providing them with the essential elements of life, the chances are great that your adopted children will deeply appreciate and recognize you as the person(s) who most strongly influenced their lives. Let us rescue our sons from the faulty Foster Care System by adopting them, loving them, educating them, and raising them to be strong men.
Also, just as child daycare does, foster care provides legitimate business opportunities for those who genuinely love young Black males, and support our overall mission. If you own or rent a home with four or more bedrooms in it and you have personal time to commit to youth, you can and should obtain a license through your state or a local foster care agency to operate a residential foster group home for six-eight youth. The state will then pay you a decent allowance for each child, especially those with documented medical disabilities or juvenile court convictions. If we begin to properly run more of these types of home businesses with emphasis on the welfare of the youth first, we will greatly improve the overall bleak picture for young Black males trapped in the foster care system.
Finally, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 2005 scrambled thousands of more traumatized Black children from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast into the American foster care system. As a people, we must do our part to provide foster homes and adopted families for the Black child victims from the Gulf Coast.
These children have already been disrespected and neglected beyond human belief by the American government which: left them stranded and drowning in the flood waters, held back vital emergency aid from them, continues to hold back disaster relief funding that is due to them, and moved immediately to turn their entire public school system in New Orleans into a substandard charter school system. We must step up to the plate and let them know that we too have not abandoned them.