Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Raising Cultures Mama Keia Jones-Baldwin on Foster Care, Adoption, and Being a Multiracial Family

I had the honor of meeting Keia Jones-Baldwin after seeing her viral Facebook post when she and her family announced to the world that they'd finalized their foster son's adoption. What about Keia's family captured the internet's attention? Keia and her husband are Black, and they're raising a Black daughter, a biracial son and daughter, and now Princeton, who is white. 

In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month, I wanted to get to know Keia more and share her incredible journey with you. Because as we know, there's a desperate need for foster parents in the United States.

Rachel: Like me, you have a big, multiracial family. Break it down for me: who is who?

Keia: I'm Keia Jones-Baldwin (36), and a therapist. Then there's Richardro (36), a police officer. There's Zariyah (16), Karleigh (16), Ayden (8), and Princeton (2). We live in NC.

Rachel: You're a multiracial family, with some of your adoptions being transracial. What's the reaction been to your multiracial family, especially to your white son? 

Keia: We have received so many mixed reactions. Our intention is to always try to educate others on multicultural families so that it will be normalized. We are sometimes met with rude comments and remarks such as, "Why didn't you adopt a black child?" Or "Why would you not allow him to live a better life with white parents." It is this kind of thinking that holds the world back from seeing the beauty in our differences. Differences should be celebrated and appreciated!

Rachel: You adopted from foster care. Please clear this up for everyone: if you are fostering a child, the goal is reunification, right? But if that isn't possible, then what? Did you plan to adopt, if possible, or were you shocked when your boys became available for adoption?

Keia: My husband and I were foster parents first. We had no intentions on adopting initially because we didn't know if we would have the capacity to love a child the way we loved Zariyah.  When a child comes into care, they tell you that reunification is the first plan. After they see that the paln is going in the way of adoption, they give you the option to adopt first. We had both Ayden and Princeton for 2 years before they became eligible for adoption. By that time, those were my children. I loved them, cared for them, and couldn't imagine them not being a part of my life. There was not a second thought in our minds to adopt our sons after 2 years of so many ups and downs. They deserved stability and a forever family. As parents, how could we look at our children and tell them that the only mommy and daddy they knew was no longer going to be in their lives. I would never! 

Rachel: What are some of the challenges foster parents face? Were you prepared for these, or did you learn as you went? Any resources you recommend? 

Keia: I will always tell anyone that is considering becoming a foster parent, be prepared for a child to be reunified with their birth families. It will be hard because during the time you have them in your care, you will become attached, we're human! My husband and I have a saying, "We are gap standers." We stand in the gap for the parents that are trying to get back on track in hopes of being reunified with their children. It was trial and error, we learned as we went, with each foster child. They all have different needs! Support groups for foster parents have definitely been instrumental in helping us to maintain that balance as well as the support of our families, and our foster care supervisors.

Rachel: What's the best thing someone says to your family about adoption/foster care/race? What's the worst? 

Keia: On our family blog Raising Cultures, we have met some wonderful people, other multicultural families that have given us so much hope and encouragement surrounding our decision to adopt transracially. Our motto is, "Love is Colorful." We don't all have to look alike to love alike! The worst thing someone told me was I should of left my son in the "pound" with the rest of the "white dogs" ...out of all the things I've heard and been faced with, that was probably the most disturbing and gut punching. As a Therapist, I try to keep in mind that people who think like that are bitter and living with hatred in their hearts, and that's the sad part.

Rachel: You have social media pages entitled Raising Cultures. Tell me about why you chose that name and what it means to your family.  And, what's next for your crew? 

Keia: Ah! Raising Cultures! It was literally God sent. I woke up one morning out of a dream with the words "Raising Cultures" in my spirit. I meditated on it and God provided me with the vision of the blog. I've had the blog since July 2018, that's what most people don't know! People think I just started the blog a few weeks ago in light of our adoption, but no! I started the blog to share the love my family has for one another in hopes that it will inspire others to make adoption an option! Now! Raising Cultures is this "thing"! I'm so tickled and a little bit shocked at how the page has taken on a life of itself! It's full of resources, education, and love for foster, adoption, and all families! We preach inclusion and respect! That's my cyber family! 

As for what's next! We we're just on the Kelly Clarkson Show to discuss our adoption love story! It was so exciting! It is important for multicultural families to be represented! We have to move the conversation forward about transracial and interracial adoptions, especially black families adopting children of other races so that it's not frowned upon or looked at as a "bad decision." We are now just trying to take it all in so we can start preparing for the Jones-Baldwin Turkey Day shenanigans! 

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