08/30/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Case in Race: A Case in Foster Care

Not one news program today went by without a story about race: Glenn Beck calls our
President a racist, the professor and the police officer await a beer to find resolution, and an email surfaces disparaging Professor Gates. But hey, let's find the teachable moment.

As adults, we have come to believe that our children--or their children --will ultimately be the ones to learn not to just tolerate people, but actually appreciate, accept and love everyone for their humanity, while at the same time honoring their heritage. But how can we expect this to occur when everything they like, watch and participate in is still scrutinized through the eyes of adults with their own biases? How can our 11-year-old former foster child return home after an unsuccessful placement, when she is black and we are white? Because those who see her once a month, for an hour, or never at all, have determined that her identity has been compromised because she likes the wind to blow her hair when the car window is down, and she has a crush on Nick Jonas?

This is all too familiar in our foster care system. Children are placed in the only home available. The child adjusts, and in this case thrives (after a rocky start)--academically, socially and emotionally. Since we are forever mindful that foster care means family, she is placed with a family member. We all decided to co-parent so she can sustain our relationship, continue with her friendships, and attend school with her classmates from last year.

We have not left her, we are remaining in her life, while she reconnects with family.

Unfortunately, the placement doesn't work out and the child calls her lawyer to ask to come home. Lawyer files motion, motion is denied, and now she is in a black home an hour away.

The system is satisfied, yet the child is not. She will now know who she is because her caretakers are black, so it is believed. Again, remember that she wants to come home.

I wasn't born yesterday and know that race is an issue in our society. But once again, it lies within the minds of adults, not our children. Haven't we all seen two children playing and at the end of playtime say, "What is your name again?" They don't care about your name just as long as you are nice.

All this child wants is her friends back, her room, a home where adults care for her when she is sick, where she had a ton of laughs throughout the day and a great school where she was one of the most popular students. All we want is to see that smile and little person come bouncing through the door saying "How was your day? And what happened in the world today?"

Is that too much to ask? Is that really about race? Spend a day with her and you will discover it is not.

Let's face it. While we wait for our children to change our world, we taint them in the process. In doing so, we undercut whatever advantage they might have to make things right. For our most vulnerable children-- those in the foster care system-- these imposed biases can do great damage. All children love to learn about their own and others' cultures. They want to know the trials and triumphs that accompany every member of this human race. Let them have it. Let them lead.