Supporting Foster Youth through Caring for Children of Color

Grant Recipient


Awarded Amount

$30,000 over one year

In 2023, the Steelcase Foundation awarded $30,000 to Osofomaame, to support its Caring for Children of Color initiative, which provides education, tools, and resources to families caring for Black youth in foster care, focusing on hair care, skin care, cultural competency, and advocacy.
Hear from Osofomaame’s founder and executive director BeAnka Masefiade, as she shares her learnings through this work.
Name: BeAnka Masefiade
Organization Name: Osofomaame

Brief overview of your organization and what you do: Osofomaame’s mission is to empower Black youth and families through access to culturally competent and equitable educational support, programming, and resources. We do this through two local Kent County/Grand Rapids, MI programs: “Caring for Children of Color” which provides education, tools and resources to families/caretakers caring for Black youth in foster care/adoption and the “Abundant Life Academy” empowerment program which provides basic needs and life skills development to youth ages 15-21 in institutions.

Please provide an overview of the grant and how you became involved with the project.
In 2023, Steelcase Foundation partnered with Osofomaame to support our learning series “Caring for Children of Color” through a $30,000 Rapid Response + Emerging Action Fund grant. The primary goal is to uplift families and empower Black foster care youth by providing culturally/ethnically competent education tools and resources.

Black youth are overrepresented in the foster care system and there is a lack of Black foster families in West Michigan due to historic mistrust of organizations and systemic and institutional racism and biases. Because of this, Black youth are often placed in homes outside of their neighborhoods and culture, and many times in rural and predominantly white homes. This often causes secondary/cultural trauma for youth who are removed from their homes and are placed in spaced not connected to their identity and personhood and with families who are not knowledgeable in culturally affirming care, which is critical to a child’s overall development and well-being.

Through Caring for Children of Color, Osofomaame helps to reduce barriers to care and trauma by cultivating spaces and homes where Black foster youth can be affirmed in their personhood and ethnic identity to thrive.

Please describe the work that you’ve engaged in so far and your hopes for the work through the remainder of the grant period.
So far, we have strengthened our local community partnerships with foster care agencies and organizations who serve and support Black foster youth. We’ve also been able to connect with and serve over 20 families through community outreach and engagement. We provide classes and workshops on topics such as haircare, skincare, cultural competency, and advocacy. In our workshops, we educate parents on basic techniques for caring for melanated skin and thick curly hair, such as using the correct moisturizers/conditioners when washing hair to prevent breakage and bathing skin after a day at the beach or pool to keep skin healthy. We also unpack the cultural significance and historic racism and bias practices in caring for Black youth in foster care, and the impacts on youth mentally, socially, physically, and emotionally. We discuss the harmfulness of not “seeing color” and ways to celebrate cultural/ethnic differences in a multicultural home, and how to advocate for youth and help them navigate social structures of racism when they encounter them. We distribute culturally relevant books, hair, and skin care products to help families get started. We also give out local contacts and resources to shops and places to find items and ways to continue the journey of learning and caring going forward.

Parents have shared with us how informative, helpful, and impactful the work/engagement has been in caring for their Black foster youth. We’ve personally been encouraged and impacted from listening to youth as they share with us the joys of receiving a book with a character that looks like them. Our hopes for the remainder of the grant period is to continue to serve, uplift, and empower as many youth and families as possible through our classes.

What have you learned and what might you share with others who are engaged in similar efforts?
We’ve learned that it’s important to take it one step at a time. Sometimes, you have to start small and take a bottom-up approach to create a ripple effect in social justice work to have an impact and create institutional change. Don’t be afraid to partner. It takes a village, we are the village, and there is enough to go around. Find people and organizations who are doing the work or passionate about the work and have mission alignment. Partnerships and collaborations are powerful and impactful to create lasting community transformation.

How does this work impact the Steelcase Foundation’s overarching mission of cultivating communities where children can thrive?
When we think of thriving communities for children, we think of spaces that are equitable, where even the most vulnerable youth are seen, supported, and affirmed. This work validates our belief and aligns with Steelcase Foundation’s mission by empowering youth/families and cultivating spaces in the community for the improvement of their overall well-being.

Is there anything else you’d like to lift-up about this work?
This work is unique because it is innovative, specific, and timely. It serves a sometimes overlooked and undervalued need in the community which is the lack of support in education, tools, and resources regarding the care for Black youth in foster care. We are so grateful that Steelcase Foundation sees value and mission alignment in our work and are champions of serving our community’s most vulnerable youth and families.