LOS ANGELES — A faith-based group formed to encourage more black families to become involved in the foster care system observed National Foster Care Month with a webinar highlighting the need for more foster parents.
The Faith Foster Families Network, established in 2018, believes in the strengthening of families and youth regardless of their circumstance. It’s a collaboration of the Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation, Center of Hope, City of Refuge Los Angeles, Crossroads United Methodist Church, Holman Community Development Corporation, and West Angeles Community Development Corporation, six faith-based organizations and churches in South Los Angeles who created a foster care ministry.
Nancy Harris, executive director of Faith Foster Families Network, said the webinar was held to start the conversation about the importance of becoming a foster parent and how people can play a part in providing resources to children, youth and families.
“This kind of an event is important,” Harris said. “It’s a great way to inform the public about the foster care system and a great way for the public to get some of their questions answered by people who were formerly in foster care, were or are foster care parents and funders.”
One of the panelists was Earcylene Beavers, who has fostered more than 1,000 children in her 30 years as a foster mother. She has legally adopted three and became the legal guardian to several others. Her story was featured in the HBO documentary, “Foster.”
Beavers grew up one of 18 (nine boys, nine girls) children in Arkansas. After her mother died at 45, she brought her two youngest siblings to California where she took on the role of their mother. When she married, Beavers wanted five children. Unfortunately, she and her husband were only able to naturally have one.
“A girlfriend of mine suggested I become a foster parent,” Beavers said. “I thought it was a good idea, so I did. I love children so I wanted to foster as many as I could. I still do.”
Beavers took part in the webinar because she wanted to let people know how fulfilling it is to foster a child and to stress the importance for people, especially black people, to become foster parents.
“I wanted to share with others the passion I feel for being a foster parent,” Beavers said. “I’ve always wanted a house full of foster kids. I grew up with an abusive stepfather. I wanted to give kids the love I didn’t get from him. Kids are my passion. It’s like a ministry to me.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services provides services to more than 30,000 children in any given month with 38% of all children in foster care in California residing in Los Angeles County.
Pastor Geremy Dixon and his wife, Adrienne Dixon of Center of Hope LA, have been married for 17 years and have been foster parents since 2016. They were part of the panel that included former foster youth, Jessica Chandler and Charity Chandler-Cole; Zahirah Mann of Ralph M. Parsons Foundation; and Elizabeth Cohen, who represented the Los Angeles County Center for Strategic Partnerships.
The Dixons, the natural parents of four children ages 11, 14, 15, and 16, became foster parents for “various reasons,” but especially after becoming aware of the staggering number of black children in the system.
“We initially became foster parents because we are in a leadership role and wanted to set an example by leading from the front,” said Adrienne Dixon whose parents also were foster parents. “We had found out about the real need for foster parents in L.A. County. Then we found out the number of kids that were in the system and we were horrified.
“We were taken aback because a large number of those children were children of color. We found out some families wouldn’t take African-American children and especially African-American boys.”
Adrienne Dixon said it was vitally important for black and brown people to foster black and brown children.
“It’s very important for black people to become foster parents so we can become a village again for our children,” Dixon said. “We held very strong as a village once, but it has deteriorated a bit. We have to rebuild our community and village of support.
“These children need a home with people who look like them who can relate to them. You have to think about things as simple as hair care. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a big thing, but that knowledge needs to be there.”
Dixon said black children need a home where they don’t feel like “the odd man out.” They need a “safe place for kids to land.”
“Some things just don’t translate easily from culture to culture unless a family does a deep dive to understand different cultures,” she said.
Dixon surmises that black people are not becoming foster parents because they don’t understand the process.
“A lot of people don’t understand the urgency and the need or understand what it means to be a foster parent,’ said Dixon. “They assume it automatically means adoption. We’re trying to educate them. Even if you don’t want to be a foster parent, there are other ways to support these children.”
Harris said, “The bottom line is that all of us can play a part in providing resources to children, youth, and families. We know there is a need for more black and brown foster parents. There are so many children in the foster system. The need is great.”
“It’s very important for black and brown parents to foster black and brown children,” she said. “But it doesn’t always happen like that. There are so many kids who need a home for someone to give them a chance. A lot of kids don’t get to go back to their parents. Everyone is looking for someone who cares.”