The conversation is starting around getting more black families in Pierce County to foster black children.
"African American kids are overrepresented in our foster care system, so compared to the general population, African American kids come into the foster care system at high rates," said Trey Rabun, family outreach specialist for Amara, a local foster care organization and he's also a foster parent to a black child.
"Just really having the culturally appropriate home where the parents look like them is just one less issue that kids have to deal with," he said.
Rabun held an informal meeting with folks from the Tacoma community Thursday at Amara’s new offices in Tacoma. Represented were people of color who have worked with foster youth as well as a young woman, Brittney Lee who spent 16 years in the foster care system with foster families who she said loved here but weren't black.
"I felt like I had to play catch up after I left foster care when it came to movies, music people were making fun of me like, ‘Oh you haven't seen this you haven't heard that song you don't know who that artist is,’ so that was hard and the learning to love my hair and skin where growing up in the home they didn't have my hair or skin or wide nose or you know," said Lee.
State statistics find that while 16 percent of children in Washington state are black or multiracial, only 7 percent of the foster homes in the state are black. The numbers are similar for Pierce County.
"I saw that number, and I really wanted to kind of close that gap," said Raybun, who notes that there are fewer homes interested in adopting black kids in comparison to other races.
“Even once they're up for adoption we can't find homes that are willing to adopt those kids. I think there are stereotypes about black kids and specifically black men and teenage boys and this perception that they have of black men in society, so I think some families are a little scared of that," said Rabun.
He hopes Thursday’s meeting will lead to a greater conversation in Pierce County and Tacoma on growing the black foster family population
"I think it's important for them [black foster kids] to grow up learning to love their hair and their skin, especially in this day in age. I have hopes for the goals that Trey has and what he's trying to do,” said Lee.