Caring for Black Children and Families

What Can One Practitioner Do?

Amanda Lockett, MEd, CCLS

Disclosures

Pediatr Nurs. 2022;48(3):147-151. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Introduction

Racism has been declared a public health threat (American Medical Association [AMA], 2020; Eschner, 2020; Wamsley, 2021) that impacts various points of health care interactions; such a real and present danger requires us to anticipate and address the effects of racism on patients and families we see every day. One way to start is to think about how your own race may – or just as importantly, may not – impact your daily interactions. I, for instance, am a White woman and a Certified Child Life Specialist in various health care settings for over 10 years. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (2021), I would be classified as a middle-income, married, cis-gender woman. Thus, no experience in my life has ever prompted me to wonder: Did that happen because I am White? This is a privilege I have enjoyed that Black caregivers and children often do not share.

Much of what I have learned about race has come from marrying a Black man and becoming a mother to two Black biracial children, which is both useful and limiting at the same time. I yearned to ensure I was not "part of the problem" long before marriage and motherhood, but I never imagined I was so far off from the truth. Some of my past thoughts and reactions to our society's treatment of people of color were honestly, and with good intention, ignorant and oblivious. Despite what the fields of psychology and sociology have taught me about our human propensity to distance from the difference of the "other" (whether as a defense mechanism or an unconscious attempt to cling to the stability of power and privilege), I still wondered why it was only firsthand experience that brought me closer to understanding the problem of race.

Even though I understand my own position as a mother to biracial children, I do not know the intricacies and daily lives of caregivers of color – those who have been experiencing what I am now just beginning to learn about – for their whole lives, each day, every day. I am speaking only about my own experience and beautiful transformation as a mother, but also a mother to Black biracial children in the United States over the past three years. My own lived experience helped me think about the world differently and adjust my priorities accordingly (to what they always should have been). What I share with you may not resonate with other mothers of children of color and should not be used to categorize or generalize any people's experiences. I share my story, my partner's story, and my children's story in efforts to help, and to strengthen and improve the care we provide to all children and families of color in the United States.

You may be wondering, what expertise do I have to talk about this? Not much.

Why should I share my story and what I've learned? I don't know exactly. I feel the "weight" of speaking in this way; the undeniable truth that my account will still be not enough. I hope my words will help create space and continue this vital dialogue about how we can best care for our patients, families, and even one another, especially our colleagues of color, as we work side by side in sensitive interactions in our daily work.

processing....