By CBC News |

Last weekend in St. John’s, École des Grands-Vents was buzzing with a hive of languages. Greetings were exchanged in a plethora of languages, including Arabic, English, French, Hausa and Swahili.

There was excitement in the air, as parents gathered for a one-of-a-kind session.

The parents came from far and wide: 16 different countries and, at the very least a dozen languages. The sheer amount of diversity in the room was astounding.

The parents — who identify as visible minority immigrant — were there for to learn about the Children and Youth Care and Protection Act.

They had also come to talk — openly and frankly — about what it means to raise children when most of the people around you are white, and you’re not, and they grew up here, and you didn’t.

Challenging the myths

You may not know the acronym VMI. It stands for visible minority immigrant, it applies to these parents, and it was a thread that ran through the day.

“[It is] a huge myth that black parents don’t love their children. If my colour breaks laws, no one will support me,” said one mother, Clemence Maluma, alluding to the perspective that black parents are seemingly harder on their kids, and that they believe society does not offer them a fair chance solely based on the colour of their skin.

Many times, this is perceived as black parents not loving their children, which could be construed as neglect and potentially might be reported.

The session was helmed by Lloydetta Quaicoe, chief executive officer of Sharing Our Cultures, and Paul Banahene Adjei, assistant professor of social work at Memorial University. One of the things that sparked this forum was new research into the perspectives of black parents about raising children in three cities — St. John’s, Winnipeg and Toronto.

The study underlined how many black parents feel their abilities to maintain their parental rights are often undermined by child welfare practitioners and policy makers who often fail to recognize and respect cultural variations in child-rearing and caregiving practices.

Wading through unknown waters

Once discussed, the results prompted parents at the session to share some parenting styles which could be reported as neglect and abuse. Language, methods of showing affection and disciplining styles were some of the themes discussed.

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