Friday, August 24, 2012

It's Not Just Hair

from our marketing intern, Alexis Jackson

All parents are aware of the steep learning curve that exists when raising a child—including everything from “How do you protect them without sheltering them?”  to “How do you get them to eat their vegetables?” 

This learning curve goes for adoptive parents as well; however, the questions include “How do I help them with their emotional and developmental issues?”  “How can I get them to open up?”  And for transracial adoption the question of cultural consciousness is raised – an increasingly important question in light of the fact that approximately 40 percent of adoptions in America are transracial. 

A quick scan of online adoption blogs and message boards, will result in an endless number of posts from parents concerned about what to name their child, where to put their child in school, and what ethnic holidays to celebrate all in an effort to establish their children’s cultural consciousness.  Learning how to groom a different texture of hair, though noticeably absent from most of these posts, is a critical part of this cultural consciousness. 

A few examples: Actress Angelina Jolie sought advice on how to care for her Black, adopted daughter’s hair; and many recall the Sesame Street “I love my hair” video that the show’s writers created for his adopted daughter when she expressed a desire for long, blond, straight hair.

Hair carries a significant cultural identity, and learning how to care for a child’s tight curls or pin straight tresses teaches that child how to take care of him or herself while also sending positive, affirming messages about that little person’s texture and cultural identity. 

Even today, as a Black woman raised by Black parents, I struggle with the cultural part that my texture represents.  I’m constantly trying to straighten it or put extensions in it simply because I’ve been taught that caring for my hair meant straightening it to make it more manageable.  This personal struggle has led me to seek affirming and helpful messages and videos on Pinterest and YouTube.

During one of my most recent “Pinterest sessions, I found this website specifically designed for White parents of Latino(a) or Black children called Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care. The White administrator whose daughter is Black wrote “Hi, I'm Rory, and I write about pretty much everything you wanted to know about my journey learning to care for my daughter's beautiful, naturally curly hair. It's a chronicle of what I do and why I do it.” 

'Nuff said!

This site not only provides step-by-step tutorials on how to care for hair, but also includes testimonials and product-reviews.  After spending just a few minutes on this site, I had learned about three new products and two new ways to increase my hair’s moisture retention—all things my parents  never taught me.

So, whether it’s locked, in an afro, straightened, naturally curly, or chemically processed, learning how to take care of hair is important.  And since a lot of cultural identity is coiled up in our tresses, let’s appreciate it for everything it is and teach our children, nieces and nephews included, to do the same.
Since we’re all learning, I encourage you to share your hair stories. Everything from saving a bad hair day to helpful websites on the topic is welcome!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Single Parenthood

Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman recently said that women don't need equal pay because money is more important to men. So it’s no surprise that Grothman has now introduced Wisconsin Senate Bill 507 in early 2012. The Bill would require the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. One-third of Wisconsin's parents are single parents. But the law was written to criminalize an even larger sector, as it applies to even non-married couples, including, of course, same-sex couples. The National Adoption Center will be keeping a close eye on this Bill, which we of course strongly condemn.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Our Philly Fellow's Continuing Story

Abi continues getting to know NAC

This is the beginning of my second week, but it feels like I’ve been here a little longer than that. My first week here (last week) I spent learning about the context of the work NAC does. The majority of the first day I worked on the online course “Foster Family to Forever Family,” which explains the foster-to-adoption process to individuals/families considering adoption. Through the course, I became familiar with basic adoption terminology, the legal steps required to adopt a child, ways of responding to some challenges unique to foster/adoptive children and families (e.g., determining what level of interaction is appropriate for the child(ren) to maintain with birthparents), and how the relationship between older adopted child and their adoptive parents/families is a special kind of a relationship.  

To be honest, the first few days were quite emotional for me as I read some of the success stories on file and thought about how trying it is for older children seeking permanent homes. As someone who has been with my birth family from day one, I could not imagine the difficult road that had led some of the kids to foster care in the first place, and how they could manage to keep hope alive when dealing with the uncertainty of their living situation on top of the ordinary challenges one faces as a child growing up and trying to process the world. How does one recover from this kind of experience? Can one speak of “recovery” at all? Anyway, these are questions that I’m sure I will revisit as I continue on at NAC.

The first day also marked the end of a long period of anticipating what the office would be like. I didn’t know if it would be too quiet, too noisy, the staff interactive or consumed with their own work, the room too cold…Right off the bat I read that this is a comfortable and inviting place. (FYI The noise level has generally been fine, but the temperature can be rather cold though it is better than the first two days.) The staff members are also very approachable. Last, I was able to speak to about half of them individually to learn about what their specific roles are, how and when they got started at the organization, and new developments/future directions of NAC. 

I was actually most nervous the second day here because I had gotten quite a bit of information on NAC by that point but was not sure how to organize it mentally. And although I know most non-profits can always benefit from more helping hands, I didn’t know what I could offer to NAC. Yet, once I started to read some documents about NAC and talk to staff, the picture of what the organization does became more coherent and the needs of the organization more clear. In addition to the projects that my supervisor, Alex, spelled out for me, I was able to identify some other areas where I think I can be helpful. 

I look forward to getting involved in projects in different areas so that I can learn more about the inner workings of NAC, and know all that I need to know to do the best I can help it reach some of its goals. Working here also provides the opportunity to learn about how a non-profit is sustained and its services kept relevant in an increasingly competitive market, which will be useful if I continue non-profit work in the future. NAC is at a critical period in its history where it is trying both not only to expand its offerings but to carve out a more distinctive space for itself in the foster-to-adoption sector, and I am excited to assist the organization, in whatever way I can, to move forward in realizing this vision.

As for me, I hope to be a valuable team member at NAC. A successful year for me would be one in which I play a significant role in helping the organization build capacity and expand/strengthen its service provision. I also hope to generally learn something new each day I’m here, and use what I learn to inform my future studies and career pursuits. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Introducing Our Philadelphia Fellow

Greetings all! I want to formally introduce myself since I hope to contribute more to this blog throughout my year of service at the National Adoption Center/Adoption Center of Delaware Valley. My name is Abiodun (Abi) Azeez, and I recently graduated from Princeton University (class of 2012) with a degree in Public and International Affairs (Public Policy). I’m serving as a Strategic Advancement Associate at NAC, where I will be working in several different areas including website development, public relations, and fundraising. 

While I intend to go on to graduate school in the near future, I knew that I could benefit a lot from spending some time after undergrad working in the “real world” to get a clearer sense of my professional direction. I also wanted to spend more time in Philadelphia, my hometown, working in the non-profit sector because I had an invaluable experience working at one in this city in the past and feel that there are a lot of opportunities in the non-profit sector for graduates here. This is what motivated me to apply for Philly Fellows—an organization that connects a select number of graduates to work opportunities in non-profit organizations in Philadelphia—which ultimately matched me with NAC. I am happy to be working at NAC, and am even more excited (after some initial nervousness and uncertainty about what exactly I would be doing) now that I have completed my first full week of work. 

I had no prior experience, academic or otherwise, with foster care or adoption before coming to NAC. But, as aforementioned, I am interested in child welfare and saw this as a good opportunity to learn more about the policies, challenges, future directions, etc. of the foster care and adoption systems. In addition, I wanted to see what unique role NAC plays in promoting the adoption of foster children. NAC serves older children in foster care, some of whom have special developmental, emotional, health, and other needs. I wondered how the organization has been able to find families for these kids when, as the organization recognizes, younger (infant, toddler) children have been popularized in the media. I quickly learned that at the heart of NAC’s success in promoting the adoption of older foster children lies is its child-focused recruitment strategies— Freddie Mac Foundation's Wednesday’s Child, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, and match parties, to be specific. As time goes by, I am gaining knowledge of other steps NAC is taking to better respond to the needs of foster and adopted children, and prospective and adoptive families to ensure that these children are able to thrive in safe, healthy forever families. And, even though I’m new here, I am excited about where the organization is planning to go in the future.