9 Resources For Non-Black Parents Of Black Children, Recommended By Experts & Families
Parenting is a complex job for most every family, but raising kids across racial lines presents its own set of challenges. But there are many excellent resources for non-Black parents of Black children available to help caretakers navigate the concerns and questions that come up, not only in these tumultuous times, but on an everyday basis. Parents in biracial marriages, stepparents, and those who have adopted transracially can all use this support.
"Parenting is extraordinarily stressful in the best of circumstances, but if you’re worried about a kid’s safety and self-concept because of race, that’s a whole extra level of stress on top of it," Dr. Fern L. Johnson, Ph.D., a senior research scholar and professor emerita of English at Clark University, tells Romper via phone call. "I am the white mother of two African American sons. My wife, Marlene Fine, and I adopted them as infants, and they are now 29 and 31 years old... we worry about them every day." Dr. Johnson's sons have been subject to racist remarks in the workplace, trailed by state troopers for miles, and much more. Like any parent, she still fears for her grown children, and she's also keenly aware of the fact that "any of these encounters could have turned very bad in a split second."
Mental health professionals acknowledge this added difficulty. "It is a hard time for parents who are raising Black children during this climate," Diana Anzaldua, a BIPOC Licensed Clinical Practitioner and Founder and Owner of Austin Trauma Therapy Center, tells Romper. "Children are confused and are looking for guidance just as the parents are. Educating the self (and the family) on how to be anti-racist is needed right now." To assist in that education, and help you find supportive communities, here are some of the organizations, groups, websites, media, and other resources available for non-Black parents of Black children, all recommended by experts and parents who know.
1. Successful Black Parenting Magazine
Dr. Johnson recommends Successful Black Parenting Magazine, which was first launched as a print publication in 1993. Now with a robust online presence, Successful Black Parenting Magazine features articles on everything from book reviews to parent hacks. A recent article addressed how to discuss the riots with your child, based on their age.
2. Culturally Fluent Families
If you're looking to share stories and support with similar families, then social media is often a good starting point. "There is a Facebook group called Culturally Fluent Families (CFF) that I find to be super helpful, and much better than any of the other groups for transracial families (most of which I found to be pretty toxic)," an anonymous parent tells Romper. "CFF focuses on navigating and appreciating the value of Black culture and communities. It pushes parents to integrate their families into the Black community. It teaches that focusing on Black excellence is important to helping our children thrive in a racist society." With over 6,000 members, CFF has been supporting meaningful dialogue over Facebook since 2017.
3. Local Black Community Organizations
Seek out local organizations with ties to the Black community. "For a Black child in a white (or other race) family, this might mean having them participate in activities run by organizations serving the Black community, and seeking out positive role models for them that share their skin color," Caitlin Hill, MS, an adoption counselor at the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Romper via email. "Allowing for the full picture of who they are to develop is critical for healthy identity integration over the long term."
Not sure where to start? Here are a couple of groups that may have a chapter in your part of the world: "Anyone parenting a Black child should connect with their local SURJ or Movement For Black Lives chapters," parent Trista Schroeder tells Romper. "You must be a part of the efforts to eradicate racism for all Black people, not just your Black child."
4. Individual Therapy
Don't neglect your own mental health and well-being during this time, either. "Seek out a mental health therapist," says Anzaldua, because "this can be a good place to rest and take a break from holding all the heaviness of the world and just resting for 45-50 minutes a week, so that it doesn't turn into depression or anxiety. If it feels culturally appropriate, perhaps seek out a therapist who has experience working with mixed families, or even a BIPOC therapist."
In fact, most experts interviewed for this piece recommended therapy in some form for parents. "I’m a huge advocate for therapy, because a lot of these things you can’t discuss with family members because there are consequences," as Dr. Howard Pratt, D.O., child psychiatrist with Community Health of South Florida, tells Romper. A good therapist will encourage you to be honest and acknowledge what's bothering you.
If this is your first go at counseling, Web MD has tips for finding a therapist, and Bustle shared tips on getting therapy during the coronavirus quarantine. It's definitely possible to find some mental health support while following social distance guidelines. Romper's list of mental health resources for Black moms also has some helpful resources, like the inclusive therapist directory at Therapy Den.
5. Books & Other Media By Black Authors
It's been said many times in the past few weeks, but simply listening to the voices of Black people is invaluable. "The stories and voices of Black people are the best resource for learning what it might mean day in and day out for your child to live in a Black body here in the United States," says Dr. Johnson. "Fiction, historical accounts, memoirs, poetry, journalistic commentary, blogs for Black Americans — just about anything from a Black voice that focuses on race."
These resources can help you develop the tools to talk about tough issues with your own family. "'The talk' in white families growing up is often about sex; however, in Black families or families raising Black children, the conversation needs to be about interacting with police officers," as Anni K. Reinking, Ed.D., early childhood educator and author of Not Just Black and White, tells Romper. "In the book The Hate U Give, the main character really dives into this concept, but it is something that Black families talk about and white parents raising Black children need to be aware of and have these conversations."
6. Your Own Support Group
Most every expert who spoke to Romper talked about the importance of relying on a strong support group, even if you have to create one yourself. Dr. Johnson created a support group of other interracial families, and found that she benefited from the friendships as much as her children. "So many times we have talked to the adults in this support network when we were feeling overly stressed," says Dr. Johnson.
Others echoed this sentiment. "I have a great group of friends, of many racial backgrounds, that are able to talk, bounce ideas, and mourn/grieve with me," Dr. Reinking tells Romper.
Sometimes, simply asking for advice or input is all it takes to create a new connection. "(You might be) surprised about how much you’ll get out of the community, because people can be so supportive," says Dr. Pratt. "People for the most part are willing to help if it’s coming from a place of love." So don't be afraid to ask your neighbors or other community members for parenting advice or support if you need it.
How do you create a support group from scratch, though? First, join online groups such as Culturally Fluent Families (mentioned above), Transracial Adoption, or Facebook parent groups for your part of the world. For more in-person meetings, look for local groups in your area similar to the Families of Color Seattle parent group to mingle with other families.
7. Moms of Black Boys United
Dr. Reinking also recommends MOBB (Moms of Black Boys United), an organization dedicated to supporting moms of Black sons by promoting positive images of Black boys and men, as well as by affecting policy change. The origination's goal is to become the go-to resource for parents of Black sons.
8. "A History of US" by Joy Hakim
Add this one to your reading (or listening) list. "Another resource that I have found very helpful is A History of US by Joy Hakim audiobooks," an anonymous parent tells Romper. "It is a US history series that isn't the 'rich white men' history that I was taught growing up. It directly addresses racism and bigotry throughout our country's history. Understanding how we got to where we are is incredibly important for understanding how things are now." For those who prefer the printed word, all ten A History Of Us books are available from Oxford University Press.
9. Pact, An Adoption Alliance
For parents who have adopted across racial lines, Pact may be an invaluable resource. "Parents can and should learn from those who have lived the experience their own children are embarking on to learn from those who know," Beth Hall, director of Pact, An Adoption Alliance, tells Romper via email.
An adoption placement, education, and support community, Pact offers a tremendous amount of information and other resources for families interested in transracial adoption. The Transracial Adoption/Interracial Adoption Resource Library from Pact is loaded with articles, essays, and videos about the topic, exploring everything from white privilege to racial identity formation. For instance, in one short video, Hall discusses what parents need to consider when adopting transracially. People who have already adopted may benefit from the video about supporting transracially adopted teens.
In addition, Pact also offers online chat groups, educational workshops and conferences, the nationally acclaimed Pact Family Camp, and one-on-one consultations about transracial/transnational parenting.
Not surprisingly, Hall has also written a book on the subject (along with fellow co-author Gail Steinberg) titled Inside Transracial Adoption. Hall co-founded Pact in 1991 to help combat the discrimination she witnessed against adopted children of color.
Fern L. Johnson, Ph.D., senior research scholar and professor emerita of English at Clark University. Author (with her spouse Marlene G. Fine) of The Interracial Adoption Option: Creating a Family Across Race and the forthcoming Let’s Talk Race — A Guide for White People, due out next year from the New Society Press.
Dr. Howard Pratt, D.O., child psychiatrist with Community Health of South Florida
Diana Anzaldua, LCSW, BIPOC Licensed Clinical Practitioner in Austin, Texas
Caitlin Hill, MS, adoption counselor at the BaltimoreTherapy Center