By Kevinee Gilmore
To say that Kevinee Gilmore is an inspiring woman is the understatement of the year. She is a former foster youth who spent a large part of her childhood growing up in 13 placements consisting of group homes, psychiatric wards, and foster homes. At the age of 18, she was one of the 3% of youth who aged out of foster care and went on to get a college degree (a Bachelors in Social Work from Cleveland State University). Since graduating college, she has dedicated her entire life's work to advocating for youth in foster care.
Kevinee was the former child welfare strategist on Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign, she was awarded The Community Activist of the Year award alongside the "Original Freedom Rider" Lewis Zuchman, AND she was awarded The Nelson Mandela Madiba Humanitarian Award.
Kevinee also played an instrumental role in the signing of House Bill 50 which extended foster care to age 21 with an 11 million dollar budget by former Governor John Kasich.
On top of all this, she has recently purchased a home in Cleveland, Ohio with her own capital, which will serve as housing for extended youth in foster care.
These days she is working as a digital activist for her non-profit 501c HashTag FosterCare. She engages with celebrities, brands and elected officials in the plights of foster youth to afford them exposure and access to social capital via social media. HashTag FosterCare has impacted thousands via social media, and has also made incredible opportunities available for kids in care. In 2017, Kevinee was able to take several hundred foster youth to Jay Z's concert in Cleveland.
Kevinee is breaking the stigma and removing shame around foster care and therapy by designing her fashionable Foster Mom, Foster Dad, Foster Kid, and “I’m in Therapy” teeshirts.
The reason I am laying out Kevinee's accomplishments in such detail, is because despite all that she's done - despite running her own non-profit, despite raising millions of dollars for youth in foster care, despite working on Capitol Hill, and despite surviving foster care herself - there are still foster and adoptive parents who have the audacity to tell her that she doesn't know what she's talking about and reject her advice when she takes the time out of her day to offer it.
Parenting is hard. Parenting kids from trauma is really hard. Parenting a child who is a different race or ethnicity and who has also experienced trauma is a whole other ballgame and is a tremendous amount of responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. People like Kevinee are the ones we need to be listening to more so than anyone else. More often than not, former foster youth, adoptees, and birth parents aren’t the ones who are asked to share their story. We so often turn to other adoptive parents for advice while ignoring the ones who actually have the knowledge, life experience, and wisdom to help us raise our children.
Today, Kevinee is talking about the responsibility that white foster and adoptive parents have when parenting a Black child. (This post is specifically about Black children, but many of these points are applicable if you’re parenting a Child of Color). Whether you are currently parenting a child outside your race, or you’re considering becoming a foster parent in the future, this post is for you.
“If you don't support BLACK Women, Black Businesses, and Black Nonprofits, then why are you fostering and adopting BLACK children?” - Kevinee Gilmore
7 Truths for White Parents Raising Black Children
By Kevinee Gilmore
1. Listen to and respect Black perspective
Not all women have lost their children as a result of drugs, abuse and or neglect. So many Black women are railroaded within the system. Black women are given sentences, while white women are given treatment. The foster care industry is like any other industry- it’s a business and in my opinion I see it as modern day slavery with Women Of Color being the prey. Our trauma’s of engaging with people who do not look like us have not been pleasant. Think Devonte Hart, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice.
We have barriers when it comes to trusting you. However, in my experience most white women have a barrier with how we communicate and immediately go into DEFENSE. We are entitled to our opinions and we engage with you according to our knowledge. We say it how we feel it - not how you think it should be said. When you don't hear our perspectives, minimize our color, and then think you can do it better you perpetrate “white privilege”.
2. Understand that it takes more than LOVE to raise a Black child (or any child for that matter!)
Words without action are just slogans!
No, love is not enough to raise a child.
It takes honesty ( e.g “I don't want to go into black neighborhoods”).
It takes time (e.g “I don't want to watch youtube to learn how to do black hair properly or understand black perspectives”).
It takes social capital (e.g “I don't want to live in a diverse neighborhood that respects your culture”).
It takes honesty, wait I said that (e.g “No, I don't want to deal with BLACK women they are abrasive”).
It takes words of affirmation (e.g “No, I will not tell my Black son that the most powerful man on the planet is a Black man, because my mate is white”).
I could keep going but, as BLACK as I am I can't teach my son whom I love dearly, how to be a Black man! Because I am a Black woman!
Love is RESPECT!
3. Shop at Black Owned Businesses & with Former Foster Youth of color
“Currently, a dollar circulates in Asian communities for a month, in Jewish communities approximately 20 days and white communities 17 days. How long does a dollar circulate in the black community? 6 hours!!! African American buying power is at 1.1 Trillion; and yet only 2 cents of every dollar an African American spends in this country goes to black owned businesses”.
What’s your first thoughts on that data? Are you part of the problem or are you open to being a part of the solution? Our kids are learning economics from you and more often than not, you’re spending money with your culture not ours! You already have an advantage, privilege, and inheritance! It's extremely important to show your children that their dollars are powerful and that you too respect their culture by investing in it. They need to see you love their culture by visiting their communities- that reminds them to take PRIDE where they came from! Just in case you're STILL not comfortable to make that pledge to support BLACK businesses, try supporting former foster youth like me and Sade Burrell who’s a author, mother, speaker and all around educator. (List coming soon)
4. Support Black Non-Profits
Or in the words of Villanueva Edgar “Decolonize Wealth” (good book). Only 8% of grant money coming out of foundations goes to communities of color- Mary Morten.
Keep in mind our dollar only last 6 hours, so exactly how will we ever be in a position to serve in the capacity we desire? Here is where you could make ALL the impact in the world on a MACRO level of systematic oppression. Do events, fun-raisers, Instagram challenges to raise money for non-profits monthly, become board members, leverage your social capital.
5. Support Birth Families
Be all about REUNIFICATION! No woman carries a baby 9 months with the intent to harm them.
The color of our skin has always determined our outcomes in life and placements in child welfare. There is a misconception that "White is Right" that negates the Black mother and woman as a whole. Data shows us that 75% of girls who age out of foster care are mothers before their 21st birthday - leading to higher rates of poverty, criminal convictions, and child welfare involvement. Would your heart soften if you knew the mother was a former foster youth? With that in mind, how cool would it be to have gifts for mom or dad when a kid returns home? How cool it would it be to tell her "We have your back" and "I am always a resource for you" and to use your network to help with things like housing, school, therapy, all of the above. Get attached to wanting to see the overall family WIN. You have the power of breaking years of generational trauma.
6. Find Mentors
This sounds so cliche but it's true, I think your mentor should look like your child! How cool would it be if they were former aged out foster youth! Its like double serving! Or BLACK foster moms, I smell a clothes swap party! One of the biggest challenges of being in and out of foster care is that youth don’t have a voice. Ask your children what they need in "real life" not your life, because they may operate in a fear of losing you and not tell you that on Sunday they want "SOUL Food.”
7. Less Blogging More Engaging
Has social media perpetuated likes for a lack of social responsibility? The hearts on the face, perfect lighting, color schemes and matching outfits takes a ton of energy, time, and we are all certain you’re making money. I need you to use that same energy with engaging with the culture - trying our foods, going to our religious services, supporting Women of Color, and supporting aged out foster youth. Can we see a Black Lives Matter post? Because the love you have for our children will never ever change their skin color. I want to see you empathizing in ACTION!!
I also know people don't hear what you say, they hear what you keep saying - so I am a DM and email away. I will be checking in to see are you really expressing LOVE in its highest form and that's RESPECT.
Follow Kevinee on Instagram at @Hashtagfostercare and donate to her Non-Profit 501c HERE to help youth in care.