There are many places to receive education and training during the adoption process. In addition to books, online resources, and professional trainings, we want to offer personal experiences from some of our transracial adoptive families through an online Q&A panel. These parents offer just some of their personal perspectives for you to read and consider for your individual family situation.
- Introduce us to your family.
S Family: We are white parents to five adopted children. Three of our sons are adopted from Uganda and they are 9, 10, and 12. We have a 5-year-old daughter from embryo adoption who is black and a 3-year-old biracial (Hispanic/White) son through embryo adoption.
P family: We are Adam and Ashley (Caucasian) and have adopted son: Arkyn (afro-Colombian, age at adoption was 13, currently age is 15), and biological sons (two): 1-Auden (Caucasian age 12) 2- Asher (Caucasian age 9)
- When starting the adoption process, what made you open to adopting a child outside of your race?
S family: We specifically started the adoption process to adopt from Africa. My husband’s uncle is from Uganda. My husband had been as a pre-teen and had wanted to adopt from Africa since his first visit.
P Family: Our story is a little different than most as we were not actually seeking out to adopt but were rather lead by the Lord to adopt. If you’d like to know more details of our story, you can read it here:
- What is something unexpected you have experienced, either positive or negative, as a transracial adoptive parent?
S family: We have had a lot of experiences due to having been transracial parents for over 10 years. I think the most frustrating thing is the common occurrence of intrusive questions from strangers who are curious about our family. Asking questions about our children’s story in front of them can be very difficult for our kids. Another fairly common occurrence when my daughter was young was that white women would frequently want to touch her hair. I have always intervened to confront someone when it happens, but now that she is older she is empowered to confront people on her own.
- What have been the reactions from members of your community that share your child’s race? Any comments, questions, or experiences with them you’d like to share?
S family: I think one of the most encouraging parts of this journey has been the interactions with members of the black community. They have always been encouraging and helpful. I have been in the black haircare aisle and had women come up to me to ask me if I needed help or tips. Whenever I have reached out to a black woman for hair help, questions, etc—I have been welcomed. When we attend church services of our local black church, the staff and congregation has been overwhelmingly kind. We have even developed a relationship with the pastor and been able to share concerns and thoughts about raising black children in our town.
P family: Most people have been very supportive. We live in a small town where most everyone knows each other to some degree, so when we hosted Arkyn and needed to advocate for him the community “followed along” so to speak and so when we began the adoption process everyone rallied around to help in fundraising and supporting that process. So with that being said there are lots of people that already “knew” Arkyn before he was home. The most questions we have gotten have been about hosting and the program and how that all works.
- There has been a lot of learning, discussion, awareness, and conflict this past year regarding how people of color are seen and treated in our society. What lessons learned this year would you want to pass along to other families considering or currently parenting a child outside of their own race?
S family: I spend a lot of time talking to white families navigating this journey. I think the first step if you are new to the discussion and opening your eyes to systemic racism—learn to sit in the uncomfortable. The initial reaction to any type of information that goes against the filter with which we have seen the world is challenged, it can be easy to shut down and get defensive. Parenting a child of a different race requires the humility to learn and listen, really listen, to those who share the culture and race of your child. My second recommendation is to fill your life feed --- whatever media that may be that you allow to inform your mind—to have more voices that resemble your child than you. Whether it be podcasts, books, social media or movies…start shifting the content to creators that are the voices of your child’s culture, race and journey. It is especially important to listen to these privileged voices in the space of transracial adoption. The voices that carry the most weight with how you navigate this journey should be adult transracial adoptees. They are the best representation we have of what our children might be feeling and experiencing as they grow.
P family: It has been a hard year in that area for sure and I think the hardest thing was having to have those hard conversations with our son who came from a place and country that he had never experienced such harsh discrimination.
- What is something you wish you had considered or learned more about before bringing your child into your home, specifically in regards to racial identity development?
S family: I think I was just unprepared for how hard it is for those who have grown up with privilege to recognize it. It costs a lot to admit that your trajectory in life may not have been determined only by your merit. People can really have difficulty realizing that just because you overcame difficult circumstances or challenges doesn’t mean that systemic racism doesn’t exist. I think the often used quote that white privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, it just means that the color of your skin isn’t one of the things that makes it harder.
P family: I can’t think of anything specific but I don’t think you can ever really learn enough or stop learning about their specific culture and where they come from and include it in your family as much as possible!
- Do you have any good resources to share on how to learn more about your child’s racial experience in the U.S.?
S family: There are a lot of adoptee voices being highlighted on IG, FB and podcasts. Never stop trying to understand because it is a lot to try and comprehend when cultures is just something that washes over you from the day you are born. Understanding a different racial identity will be a lifelong learning journey.
P family: I would say staying involved as much possible in their culture and connecting with other transracial adoptive families.
- Do you have any children’s books that you’ve read to your child regarding racial identity and/or adoption that you would recommend?\
S family: We keep a house full of books with racial mirrors. Young Gifted & Black, The Crown, Chocolate Me, The Little Leaders Series
- What has been the biggest challenge for you as you learn to parent a child outside your own race?
S family: I think the biggest challenge is having to try and lift the veil of white privilege from the eyes of friends and families. It’s an enormous undertaking to try and get those you love to see what persons of color are dealing with on an everyday basis. If white people can start to unpack their privilege, it would have such a ripple effect on our communities.
- What do you see is the main role a parent can play in the lives of their child concerning their racial identity development?
S family: I consider my role to be a facilitator to give them experiences and relationships with those who can really help them develop a positive racial identity. There is so much that I can’t teach them due to the differences in our racial identities. Another role I consider really important is having a relationship that fosters the openness that any question or topic is welcome in our home. We use current events and their own personal experiences with discrimination to help them process what it means to be black in our current world.
P family: Just being supportive and meeting them where they are and answering any questions they may have. Supporting them as they choose to explore their heritage and not pushing your own ideals or heritage on them. Leave stigmas out of it and let them choose their path and who they feel they need to be, they come from hard places and don’t need any added pressure.
- Anything else you want to share that wasn’t covered by the questions above?
S family: I just encourage families to keep learning and sitting with the feelings of discomfort that come with changing and altering your view of the world. We are choosing to educate and learn for our children. Research is continuing to show that transracial adoptees struggle with racial identity plus the trauma and loss that comes with losing their birth families. Adult adoptees are asking us to combat the colorblind mentality that was typical of most of our upbringings and asking us to see the world as they see it. Our children can only be more prepared for discrimination and bias if we are open to having the hard conversations and believe the experiences that people of color are sharing to those who listen.