The Customized Child: The Customization of Children of Color in Foster Care

Janene Ryan, Rutgers University

Statistics tell us that although children of color are least likely to enter the foster care system than their white counterparts, when they do, they are three times more likely to remain there for an extended period of time. These children of color, and especially those from urban and marginalized communities, are often placed in unrelated foster homes with Caucasian families that don’t represent their own experiences. Postcolonial literature suggests that the child of color is in need of, not only, protection from themselves, their parents and their communities of origin but also a conversion from their standardization, to a new level of normalization. The conversion to having a “normal childhood” consists of leaving behind some foundational lessons deemed uncivilized, thereby placing them in a greater position for future redemptive structures in and of society, thus enabling a customization. This paper looks to frame the notion of the customized child, as coined by Sircar and Dutta (2011), by means of three postcolonial theories: politics of representation, the notion of compassion and the act of assimilation. This paper also considers how colonization views the relegation and ‘othering’ of the unprotected child of color, and how the marginalized child of color has been framed, and continues to be molded, to suite the standards of a civilized child within the US foster care system.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 261. Save the Children?: Childhood, Charity, and Humanitarianism