Group Care Foster Care

Black History Month Q & A

Ryan Akins

“In order to truly know where we are going, we must learn to embrace our past. When we know better, we do better. Having knowledge and understanding of our history can open doors and opportunity for growth.” – Stephanie Price

This month is Black History Month, and we desire to reflect on and celebrate black history. Here at WinShape Homes, we are blessed to have a diverse team and group of people that we serve. I am excited to introduce two of our staff who will be sharing some of their thoughts on Black History Month. Janine Leone and Stephanie Price are both Home Study Consultants that work with our families to approve their homes so they can bring in a foster child. They bring different backgrounds and perspectives to the table, and we are excited for you to hear from them.

Q: What are ways people can celebrate Black History Month?

A (Stephanie): There are several ways people can celebrate Black History Month: cook a soul food meal, sign up to mentor or be a big brother/big sister for a Black child, read books by Black authors, visit a Black history or civil rights museum, support a Black-owned business in your local community, call out racism and prejudice when you witness it happening, and educate yourself and others on Black History by reading Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It doesn’t matter how small; even the simplest of gestures is better than not doing anything at all.

Q: As a foster parent, why is it important to be aware of our culture bias?

A (Janine): Bias is one of the darker parts of our human nature. Stereotypes and biases exist on every level – gender, economic and social status, politics, demographic region, race, “micro-race” (seeing a darker Black or indigenous people group as lesser than a lighter-skinned people group or person). Being aware of our biases is very important, as foster parents will come in contact with birth families and child welfare workers who may be very different from them. We may have grown up in a home where prejudice, misogyny, and hatred were celebrated, or perhaps the sentiments were shared covertly, leaving us wondering, “Why are they saying that about others?”  We must be aware of our words, tones, reactions and assumptions. Cultural bias is ingrained in our society to a degree that we might not even realize. As a White person, I can be biased without even realizing it because of the environment I grew up in. It takes self-awareness work to become aware of your own biases.

Q: Why do we need to celebrate Black History Month?

A (Janine): As a third-generation Italian American, all eight of my great-grandparents sailed into New York Harbor and Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th century to come to the land of opportunity. I grew up hearing their stories and struggles, which produced a profound sense of identity in me – one that I share with millions of other Italian Americans. Unlike me, African Americans have been robbed of their family history in not knowing which country in Africa they came from and everything that surrounds that particular culture. As a subjugated people, they carry the pain of all the lost opportunities that have been felt for generations. African Americans fought and struggled to not be defined by their skin color. We should celebrate the inventors, scientists, artists, teachers, musicians and athletes. Outside of opera and classical music, most of American’s music history was created by African American musicians. A true line of history should be established to give credit to whom credit is due.

Q: Would you be willing to share a personal story about why having cultural humility is important is important?

A (Stephanie): Growing up in Rome, Georgia, I experienced a few ignorant people. At my place of employment as a kennel technician years ago, I was the only Black person who worked there. My manager once introduced me as their “Black token or token girl.” Immediately I was shocked and didn’t believe what I had just heard. I later addressed it with the manager and the owner. I shared this story because I want others to be mindful of the words they allow to come out of their mouth. Always speak up when you’re being mistreated or see others being mistreated. It’s not okay to say racially insensitive comments.

Q: What are some practical ways foster parents – and people in general – can have cultural humility?

A (Stephanie): Self-evaluation. Look at your own biases, attitudes, thoughts, and conversations you have with people about others. Be open and willing to learn about different cultures and be honest, accepting of others’ differences, and respectful of others. Don’t just invite others who are different to the party; invite them to dance!

We are so thankful to Stephanie and Janine for sharing their thoughts. We hope everyone finds ways to celebrate Black History this month and beyond!