March 12, 2024

Considerations If You Want to Adopt Transracially

 

So, you have decided to adopt! How exciting for your family! Now that you have decided to grow your family through adoption, you will be faced with many more decisions that will shape your family’s specific adoption journey. One of the myriad of decisions you have ahead of you is whether you are open to and equipped to adopt transracially. Your decision to grow your family through the gift of adoption was surely not a quick one and surely did not come without thoughtful consideration and pondering. I encourage you to continue to apply thoughtfulness and careful consideration to the decisions about the child your family may welcome into your home.

The beginning of the adoption process requires a lot of preparation and hard work as you prepare your home, complete paperwork, submit documents and have interviews with social workers. This season of preparation is a great time to delve deeply into yourselves as parents and to prepare your hearts and minds for the joys and challenges of adoptive parenting. Being an adoptive parent is a special and unique role that comes with its own specific challenges different from those of biological parenting. As you prepare your heart and mind for this special role, especially if you are considering adopting a child transracially, it is important to be introspective and to also take time to step outside of yourself to see what your home would provide for a child of a different race. If you are in a place where you are contemplating adopting transracially, I encourage you to carefully read the following suggestions and to take time to process the provided information as a couple and family to help you prepare for the possible journey ahead.

Evaluate your village: Take a look around your community and your immediate family and friends. Does your friend group have mirrors for the child(ren) you are thinking about parenting? Does your community have mirrors? Look at your church and school district. Does your community have cultural connections that can help the child feel supported and included? Think to yourself, would a child of this race or ethnicity feel welcome or like an outsider in my friend group and the community where we live? Think about your family members, do any of them have cultural or racial bias that may cause them to react poorly to a child of a specific race or ethnicity?

Evaluate your own bias: This one may feel easy to brush off, but please don’t oversimplify. Ask yourself hard questions and sit with hard things. When we say things like, “I don’t see color,” the complexities of race and ethnicity are minimized. It is more helpful to think through the unconscious thoughts and reactions we have and to evaluate whether those would be helpful or harmful for a child in our home. Monitor yourself when you are observing other people and when you are watching the news– what are your unconscious reactions to things you see and hear? Can you listen to minorities speak about their experiences and react with empathy and care? Do you hold certain beliefs about the characteristics of people of a certain race that you do not even recognize? Would you feel comfortable placing yourself in situations where you are in the minority, so your child feels connected, seen, and heard?

Prepare yourselves: Preparing to be an adoptive parent is hugely important on its own, and preparing to parent an adopted child who is a different race than you and your family is even more important. If you are choosing to embark on this path, it is important to have a good heart and mind attitude. There are several ways to prepare yourselves for the journey ahead:

  • Take time to talk to other parents who are navigating the complexities of transracial adoption
  • Listen to the voices of adult adoptees – learn from people who have lived experiences that can provide you with valuable insight into the experiences your future child may face
  • Find community connections and begin building a village of support for yourself and the child who may enter your home
  • Find a mentor for yourself – identify someone who can provide you with direct support, accountability, and insight into racial and cultural experiences you may not know about
  • Research and begin to learn more about the cultural practices, heritage, and holidays associated with the different ethnic groups you are considering parenting
  • Gather books and toys to provide mirrors and positive stories of adoption and multiculturalism
  • Prepare yourself for navigating hard conversations about race, racism, and cultural and ethnic differences (prepare for these conversations with strangers, friends, family, and your child)
  • Prepare yourself for comments and questions that may be insensitive and frustrating – begin to think about how you will respond to these kinds of encounters in front of your child. How will you help to build their sense of self positively, while also teaching them about responding to others in a way that educates them through kindness?

Choosing to grow your family through adoption is an exciting choice that will lead you into an exciting new chapter. In the joy and anticipation of this new chapter, do not forget to take the time necessary to truly prepare yourself for the journey ahead. The day your child comes home does not mark the end of your adoption journey but instead marks the beginning of a beautiful, complex, sometimes challenging, but overall wonderful chapter of life.

 

For a more comprehensive guide on introspection and preparing to adopt transracially, please visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website and view the fact sheets for families called: Parenting in Racially and Culturally Diverse Adoptive Families

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Below are some additional resources and authors you may find helpful as you are contemplating the decision to adopt transracially.

Isaac Etter – a transracial adoptee, CEO of Identity – a startup focused on providing resources and community for foster and adoptive parents

Inside Transracial Adoption – Podcast with Isaac and his adoptive mother “From the challenges   of interracial adoption criticized by society to the unique bond that pain and loss have fostered   between them, they open up about the realities that have shaped their lives. This podcast peels    back the layers of what it means to be a family built not from birth, but from love and                   understanding, offering listeners a window into the resilience and profound connection of an     adoptive mother and son.”

A Practical Guide: Transracial Adoption

A Practical Guide: Black Hair Care

Discovering My Identity – “ 5 part documentary series that explores the profound journey of adoption through Isaac's eyes, an adoptee uncovering the layers of identity, family, and belonging. Over four episodes, Isaac's heartfelt narrative unfolds, revealing the challenges of racial identity, the introspection sparked by parenthood, and his commitment to support and educate adoptive families.”

 

Rhonda M. Roorda – a transracial adoptee, Award-Winning Author

In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption

In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories

In Their Parents' Voices: Reflections on Raising Transracial Adoptees

In Their Siblings’ Voices: White Non-Adopted Siblings Talk About Their Experiences Being Raised with Black and Biracial Brothers and Sisters

 

Angela Tucker -- transracial adoptee, a filmmaker and an author.  The Founder of The Adopted Life and the Adoptee Mentoring Society

"You Should Be Grateful": Stories of Race, Identity, and Transracial Adoption

The Adopted Life (Webinar series)

Adoptees "Flip The Script" on National Adoption Month

The Adopted Life, Episode #1 -- Washington, D.C.

 

Empowered to Connect Podcast

[E129] Transracial Adoptive Family Support

[E162] Navigating Nuance: Transracial Adoption with Rhonda Mae Roorda

 

National Council For Adoption Trainings and Articles

Learning from the Lived Experience of Two Transracial Adoptees (Article)

Positive Practices in Transracial Adoption Parenting (Article)

The Adoptive Parent’s Responsibility when Parenting a Child of a Different Race (Article)

Parenting Children of a Different Race or Culture (recorded webinar with adult adoptee panel)

Race, Identity Formation, and Adoption (recorded webinar)

Navigating Race and Adoption Discussions with Children (for Parents) (recorded webinar)

 

Books

Cross Cultural Adoption: How to Answer Questions from Family, Friends and Community, by Amy Coughlin and Caryn Abramowitz – an International Adoption book about differing cultures that focuses on dealing with questions from well-meaning friends and relatives.

Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? A Parent’s Guide to Raising Multiracial Children, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa - This book discusses helping a child to understand their mixed racial background and prepare multiracial children of all ages for the color-conscious world. It also aims to outline ways for parents to deflect the attention of transracially adopted children.

Inside Transracial Adoption, by Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall – A resource guide for those considering transracial adoption with anecdotes and some helpful advice.

I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Bi-racial Children in a Race-Conscious World, by Marguerite Wright – While this book is not about transracial adoption, it does help parents and educators understand what kind of meaning race might have to the very young, and explains how to foster a healthy view of racial identity in a racially diverse and sensitive culture.

Dim Sum, Bagels, and Grits: A Sourcebook for Multicultural Families, by Myra Alperson -This sourcebook offers families a guide to the tangled questions that surround identity in transracial and international adoptions. As the adoptive Jewish mother of a Chinese daughter, Alperson provides personal as well as professional insight into topics like combining cultures in the home, confronting prejudice, and developing role models. In addition to drawing on extensive interviews with transracial families, her book includes a wealth of on-line and conventional resources for finding books, food products, toys, clothing, discussion groups and heritage camps to help families build a multicultural home.

 

 

 

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