DVD: Culturally Competent Parenting

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Culturally Competent Parenting
Foster Parent College: Training for Adoptive, Kinship, and Foster Parents
Northwest Media Inc.
30 minutes. Interactive DVD plus CD-ROM with Viewer Guide, reproducible handouts: $99.

Thorny interracial issues that affect many adopted and foster children are expertly addressed by Tanya M. Coakley in this accessible interactive DVD course for parents. A professor of social work at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Coakley specializes in helping transcultural families, defined as families of a majority culture fostering or adopting children of a minority culture.

In an opening overview, host Sarada Thomas and Coakley – both African-Americans – speak from frames on either side of a screen showing images and text. A child’s culture affects his life no matter who raises him, Coakley explains. Even very young African-American, Hispanic or Asian children quickly discover that outside their home, some people treat them differently.

In a “historically racist society,” says Coakley, children from minorities are at “great risk for developing negative views about themselves.” Some might “experience psychological or emotional problems” and even reject their culture, adopting the mainstream culture to avoid pain and stress. This course’s goals for parents are to help children appreciate their own cultures, build their children’s confidence in dealing with prejudice and racism, and advocate for rights on their children’s behalf.

Four real families learn about such strategies in onscreen counseling sessions with Coakley, as photographs illustrate their experiences:

• Six-year-old African-American Brittany and her white foster mother Virginia talk about classmates teasing Brittany about her hair. A stranger at the mall – where Brittany chose a white Barbie doll – asked intrusive questions. Virginia also reveals that she doesn’t know how to handle Brittany’s hair. Explaining how Brittany is picking up cues, Coakley suggests that an African-American beauty salon is a great place for Virginia to learn about both Brittany’s hair and her culture. She also recommends finding a foster parent support group.

• Biracial 15-year-old Jamal lives with his white grandparents in a suburban neighborhood with little diversity. He identifies with his white schoolmates but is disturbed by their teasing him about “your people” when driving through a black “slum.” An automated “cultural confusion exercise” helps viewers understand Jamal’s viewpoint. Some answers are both true and false because Jamal is conflicted about his identity. In discussion, Coakley suggests that Jamal’s grandparents seek out interactions for themselves and Jamal with “successful people of color” and openly discuss Jamal’s feelings.

• Single white foster dad Harold is angry about racial profiling endured by his 11-year-old dark-skinned son Michael in their small-town store. Coakley coaches Harold on teaching Michael about his heritage and skills for keeping safe, as well as taking action on Michael’s behalf.

• Ben and Carol, white foster parents of 8-year-old Antonio, are frustrated by his disruptive behavior in school. Antonio’s reports of his classmates’ bullying are not confirmed by his teacher, who says she can’t understand his Spanish accent. When Coakley’s probing reveals that even Antonio’s teacher is victimizing him, she suggests ways that Ben and Carol can advocate for him.

This enlightening program offers a variety of actual experiences in cross-cultural parenting. Viewers’ interactive responses reinforce the learning of wise strategies. An accompanying CD-ROM includes printable documents: a review questionnaire, a list of key points, suggestions for parents’ actions to “enhance children’s cultural identity,” and a 19-page viewer’s guide.

One of several trainings also available online, this DVD version is designed for individuals, groups and lending libraries. (800) 777-6636, www.sociallearning.com; online course at fosterparentcollege.com.