Foster Parents Who “Get Too Attached”

As a private foster care and adoption agency, the staff at Nightlight Christian Adoptions have heard many express the fear of “getting too attached” to foster children placed in their home. This fear is real, scary, and full of tension: the worry that the family will grow to dearly love, bond, and attach to a child who is very likely (and hopefully) returning home to his or her biological family. This fear is one for foster families to sensitively navigate as they process what this means for their family as they live in tension with these children and/or teenagers in their home, but also one to embrace for the sake of children in care so that maybe they may grieve a little less.

Children in foster care have experienced unthinkable trauma, simply by being placed into foster care. Children come into care at no fault of their own, and many may not have experienced the kind of love, stability, and security that a family is supposed to provide but may not be able to just yet for a multitude of reasons. The inherent loss in foster care is so deep and raw for these children, as they are removed from their home, their biological family, and much of the time, their community, teachers, friends, and pets. Sometimes, they are even separated from their siblings. Foster parents have a unique opportunity to fill the gap for these children and families. And it is always the perfect opportunity to “get too attached” to these children.

These children likely have many unmet needs (educational, physical, emotional, psychological, etc.). Predominately, these children need caregivers who can provide attachment and consistent, loving care, no matter how short a period these children remain with their foster parents as their biological families work hard to bring their kids home to them. The reality is that children in foster care may not have had the opportunity to experience the kind of care they need. Foster parents can show children, the most vulnerable of our population, what it means to be a family, to have attachment, and to receive unconditional love, with the hope that their biological family will be able to do it very soon.

All children need attachment, especially those who have experienced trauma. Their relationships with their caregivers are the blueprint for all future relationships in their life. It teaches them how to interact with the world and others around them. And for a foster parent to step in, fill the gap, and pour into these children the way they truly can – the results are lifelong and eternal. Foster children are one of the most vulnerable populations in our society, and we all have a duty to step in for our most defenseless and stand in the gap, no matter how long.

Foster care is messy, but oh so necessary because sometimes families are broken and need help to get back on their feet. Foster care is also costly, as families pour into littles who may not stay. And these children deserve for others to fill these needs for them when their parents cannot for a period of time. Imagine the impact for generations to come, to love on children and families and be an instrument of impacting families in true, lifelong ways. When these children leave, they carry with them the time spent in a safe, secure home where their little souls were dearly loved and a picture of what family can truly mean. In the end, for these children and teenagers, we have a duty to risk our hearts to break so that their hearts can break a little less.

In no way does this diminish or negate the very real feelings of loss that foster parents will feel when children leave. But if we don’t do it for these children, who will? Ultimately, the grief that is so real, so raw, is always, always worth it for the children who already have lost so much.

 

Why Reunification is so Important in Foster Care

 

What is the primary goal of foster care? That’s the most important question to ask yourself no matter where you are on your journey through the foster care world — whether that be a prospective foster parent, a first-time foster parent, a veteran seven-year foster parent, or a social worker.

The answer can be a tough pill to swallow for many.

We often bring these precious children into our homes for one reason – to protect them. We want to protect them from the ones who have in some form or another caused them harm. Our basic instinct is to shelter them, hold them tight, and never let them go.

But the reality is that our job as caregivers to these little ones is to keep them safe and protected until they can safely return home. Until a judge decides that parental rights are to be terminated, reunification is 100% the goal.

Since roughly one-half of foster children are reunited with their parents or a family member, it’s important to refocus our lenses a bit. If we can view foster care in a more holistic approach, focusing on the big picture of reunification, we can work from there to better help our foster children in a way that best prepares them to return to their biological families.

Biological families need and deserve support as they work through the process of regaining custody of their children. What can we provide? As we care for their children, we can provide them with time – plus an open mind and heart.

Reunification can offer the children:

  • Better outcomes – The child is less likely to have to transition again or change home. This gives more stability and security, as well as a feeling of “home.” It puts them back into their own traditions, culture, and maybe even their first language.
  • A positive impact on their parents – Fostering allows parents the time and space they need to make a lifestyle change or to get the medical help they need to become better caregivers. The system offers them accountability.
  • Less stress – Reunification can allow children to return to a consistent environment with routines they know.
  • Positive ties to extended family – Reunification supports more than just the child, mom, and dad. It supports their relationship with extended family as well as they’re often not involved during foster care.
  • Better development outcomes – A fear of moving, changing schools, and living with strangers can cause anxiety and depression for children. When they can return home to healed, prepared, and loving parents, they can develop better socially and academically.

In a perfect world of reunification, these benefits would always be met. Unfortunately, we know this can’t always be the case. Foster parents are already loving and selfless people, and once we can change our focus toward reunification that helps families heal, we can begin to see a positive future for our foster children with their biological family.

Reunification can be difficult for most foster parents, especially after you’ve bonded with your foster child. You’re not alone. Your foster community is here to support you through the process of reunification.

 

written by foster momma, Cristy Buczko

Identifying Signs of Post-Adoption Depression

Much like the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy (also known as Post-Partum Depression), Post- Adoption Depression can sneak up on families during what seems like the happiest time in a couple’s life. Post- Adoption Depression can happen after a family welcomes an adopted child into their home, especially when reality does not meet expectation. Attachment and bonding do not always happen instantly, with biological children or children that have been adopted. New parents can be laden with negative feelings, like some of those listed below, and can often feel very alone during this time. It is estimated that approximately 65% of adoptive mothers experience symptoms related to Post- Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS). Listed below are some signs that you or a loved one might be battling PADS and some suggestions for what you can do!

Signs of PADS:

  • Losing interest or enjoyment in activities you once loved
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or increased need for sleep
  • Significant weight changes
  • Excessive guilt
  • Feeling powerless, worthless, or hopeless
  • Irritability, frustration, or anger
  • Feeling inadequate or undeserving
  • Retreating from friends, family or others sources of support
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation

Fighting PADS:

  • Take time for you!
    • You cannot take care of someone else if you are not taking care of you. Take care of yourself however you see fit- enjoy a healthy meal, spend time with friends, get fresh air, or participate in any other self-care that leaves you feeling a little more like yourself.
  • Remember you are not alone
    • Find other adoptive couples who have experienced what you are going through. Many of our families complete an activity with an “alumni family” as part of their educational instruction, so you already know at least one person who can help!
  • Give yourself time to bond with your child
    • Attachment and bonding are not always instant in adoption. Be patient with yourself and with your child and allow that process to happen at its own pace.
  • Ask for help
    • Never be afraid to speak up and ask for help for you and your family. Call your social worker, your best friend, your preacher, your Nightlight contact, or a licensed professional to help you today. You don’t have to be in a crisis or at a breaking point to ask for help.

Most importantly, if you or someone you know is dealing with Post-Adoption Depression, I’d like to leave you with this:

“If you are suffering with bonding issues or Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome, there is something you need to hear: There is nothing wrong with you. Bonding issues or PADS have no bearing on your worth as a parent. You are capable of this. There is nothing to be ashamed about. There is hope. You are not alone. This is not the time to duck and run. This is the time to dig deep, make a plan, assess and re-assess, pour your time into this, and fight for your child. You’ve got this, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Keep pushing forward, knowing you’re not alone.” – Melissa Giarrosso

 

 

No matter what problems you’re dealing with, whether or not you’re thinking about suicide, if you need someone to lean on for emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Other Resources:

https://www.adoptionstogether.org/blog/2013/01/07/why-arent-i-happy-recognizing-post-adoption-depression-syndrome/

https://adoption.com/overcoming-post-adoption-depression-syndrome

 

Trans-racial Adoption Support

With over 60 years of experience navigating adoption, Nightlight has created this booklet to help adoptive families learn how to navigate trans-racial adoption from a Christian perspective.

Click here to view this in the best format

Humans are the Image of God

Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in His own image”.

This is the basis of our equality, beauty, and worth. It is important for children to be taught this to help them understand the value of their own race, and the value of races that are different from their own.

Remind your child that they are not defined by their appearance. In Acts 17:26-29, Paul preaches to the Athenians, “God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth… we are all God’s offspring… descended from one person.” Your child is a human being like everyone else.

 

Handling discussions about racism

In the words of experts Beth Hall and Gail Steinberg, “Address [your] child’s needs without apologizing for being white.” You do not need to apologize for being white any more than your child does for their race. Far from an apology, it is a thing of planned beauty by God.

Think of the words of the prophet in Isaiah 43: 5-7, “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Remember that institutions cannot be guilty of sin: it is only individuals who are guilty. Focus on institutions absolves individuals of guilt. Since institutions cannot repent, the focus on institutions implies that racism is a permanent fixture. But if racism is an issue of individual sin, then your child is not a permanently oppressed victim. Instead, they are the observer of someone else’s sin.

Set the example that we oversee our own attitudes. Whether or not to be a victim is up to us. We can choose to go through life laughing or crying.

 

Before an Adoption takes place

Consider your family members who will also be a part of the family when you adopt. Some people have decided not to adopt transracially, after determining their parents, the grandparents-to-be, are unlikely to ever accept their child. Others have determined the same sad reality but decided not to care what the grandparents-to-be will think.

This is a decision you will have to make. But if it helps, remind your relatives of Leviticus 19:34, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Consider your neighborhood. Some families have moved to different neighborhoods out of sensitivity to their child’s needs to be accepted and to be around a greater amount of cultural diversity. Know that this will make your adoption public. You must be okay with that. Decide now what your response will be to comments from strangers about your adoption. Will you say something funny? Defensive? Instructive?

Have a sense of humor. It will do everyone well.

Consider more than the required number of trips to their country of origin, both before and after an adoption takes place. Your child will probably ask for this, so start thinking about it early on. Especially when your child is mature enough to process and appreciate the trip, make it happen.

 

Preserving Culture

Preserve elements of culture. Culture includes food, clothing, music, language, and holidays. Learn to speak some of the phrases and teach them to your children if they do not remember/never learn. Learn to cook the food even if they don’t remember/never experienced it. Read books or visit websites that come from their culture. Celebrate the holidays.

Culture also includes things like worldview, values, religion, relationship dynamics, expectations people have of one another, and the view of individual versus collective autonomy and responsibility.

Become familiar with these more complex issues and share with your child when age appropriate.

Do not be threatened by your child’s desire to connect with their race, ethnicity, country, and culture of origin. This is a good thing. But do not feel compelled to insist they pursue this more than your child desires to.

Communicate with the birth family. Or, if not practical, available, or advisable, then communicate with extended in. If that is not possible, then communicate with people from the community/country of origin. By communicate, we mean through social media and the exchange of gifts, letters, photos, etc.

Spend time with people of the same ethnicity. Preferably, find a church with someone of your child’s ethnicity, and even peers that can be friends. Or find an older mentor. Meet with someone online. Seek out someone who they can see looks like them.

 

Self-Esteem and Race

Increase racial self-esteem the same way you increase self-esteem in general: showering them with praise, giving them autonomy to make their own decisions, finding something at which they excel, and letting them thrive at it. Tell them you love them. Give them hope that they will be successful.

Focus on unity and similarity. Most racial rhetoric today divides. But the Gospel unites. In Galatians 3:28, Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The Gospel unites, while the world divides. The Gospel focuses on our oneness, while the world is teaching us to focus on differences. The prevailing lens of the media sees the world in terms of the oppressed and oppressors (this is the fundamental tenant of Marxism). But the Gospel sees Christ, and the one-people he died for.

Tell them they are beautiful. Do it every day. Make sure they know it. And remind them that their beauty is a part of the promise of heaven. Three times in Revelation we are told that the Church triumphant will be comprised of people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, (Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 1:11).

 

Parenting

Listen to your child. Some children may feel no loss at all over their racial identity. The degree to which your child identifies with race will vary. Do not assume. Tell your child that you are here to listen to them.

Understand that being a small ethnic minority affects dating. Your child will wonder whether they should or will be attracted to someone of the same race, or a different race.

Hair is not a trivial issue. If you are raising black children, know that hair care is different and that you will need to learn more about this subject. You may need to go to an expert salon.

Know there is a struggle to fit in. Transracially adopted children universally express this experience, so do not be oblivious or dismissive. It will happen.

Your child will hear disparaging comments sometimes. Be prepared for it. Tell your child what racism is, so they know it when they hear it. This will help them put the burden on the other person, rather than on themselves. Remind them that some people are toxic. Assure them that they deserve to be treated with dignity.

 

Self-Care

Join a support group or a group of friends who have adopted transracially. If one does not exist in your city, then do it online. You will need to share your experience, struggles, and advice.

Do not compare your child to others. This is good advice for every parent. It’s good advice, especially, for adoptive parents. But it is good advice for transracial adoptive parents.

Be solution-focused, rather than problem-focused, as if there are no solutions and nothing will ever change. Instead, create the attitude that we are not here to point fingers or cast blame, but we are all part of the solution. Have hope in the future.

—Daniel Nehrbass, President

Challenges and Strengths of Those with Autism

ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Known as a “spectrum” disorder, there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms in individuals. Every individual exhibits different characteristics and patterns; therefore, various challenges can arise throughout adolescence and young adulthood as they go through changes in their lives. While this can present some challenges, it can also show great potential for excellence in many areas of life. Here are some potential challenges and strengths for autistic people.

Challenges:

  • Verbal and nonverbal communication (i.e., difficulty communicating own thoughts and feelings, difficulty processing and retaining information, difficulty reading or using facial expressions/social cues)
  • Social Differences from peers (i.e., difficulty making and keeping friends, difficulty understanding social behaviors of others, difficulty empathizing)
  • Imaginative and Cognitive Rigidity (i.e., difficulty coping with routine changes, struggles to engage in play beyond their interests, sensitivity to sound, sights, and textures)

Strengths:

  • Often can focus intently for long periods on a subject that is of interest
  • Often have advanced learning and memory ability
  • Excel in identifying patterns and memory recall
  • Often display a distinctively imaginative and expression of ideas
  • Less likely to judge others based on social status, career, accomplishments

It is essential for autistic people and their families to identify both their challenges and strengths. By identifying their challenges, the individual and their family can find the best resources and services to address their challenges and allow them to grow as much as possible. Identifying their strengths will allow them to find hobbies, organizations, and jobs that they enjoy and will enable them to shine! Everyone can face various challenges throughout their lives, so it is important to utilize our strengths and support systems to preserve and overcome those challenges.

Here is an article, https://www.trade-schools.net/articles/jobs-for-autistic-people,  with a list of jobs from a variety of industries that can be a good fit for autistic people. These jobs include being a software developer, a photographer, a librarian, a data analyst, and a video game designer. The key is to identify the strengths of the individual and to find a job that showcases their talents. This article also includes tips on how to prepare those with autism for getting a job. This includes ways to prepare, ways to explore unique programs, and ways to ask for what you need from employers.

 

 

Other resources that may be helpful:

Autism in the Teen Years: What to Expect, How to Help | Interactive Autism Network (iancommunity.org)

Autism in Teenagers (verywellhealth.com)

The Unique Challenges for Teenagers on the Autism Spectrum | HuffPost Life

Why Does Nightlight Require Families to Abstain from Pornography?

It is standard practice for adoption agencies to ask about pornography usage during the home study.  In fact, these questions are part of the SAFE home study questionnaire, and also the Prepare-Enrich questionnaire.  Why is pornography usage relevant to a home study?  And why does Nightlight ask families to abstain from its usage, and to seek counseling if it has been a problem?

Though the research is abundant, the definitive study on pornography is the “Meese report” commissioned by the attorney General and delivered to congress in 1986.  James Dobson, from Focus on the Family, was a key member of this commission.  The pertinent pages are 321-324 (see below).

The findings are:

  1. Pornography causes people to view women as inferior and as objects for men
  2. Pornography is produced by criminal organizations
  3. Pornography usage is associated with violent behavior
  4. The actors in pornography are victims of sex trafficking (see p. 354)
  5. Pornography causes men to misunderstand that “no” means “yes” since this is a common theme
  6. The instance of pornography that is non-violent and non-degrading is a very small percentage of the material produced

https://epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2396&context=lnq

The home study process is an invitation to families to come to the healthiest place possible, as they prepare to take in an adopted child.

Daniel Nehrbass, President

 

Does Nightlight Support Parent’s Rights?

Many of our Christian clients are advocates of the “parent’s rights” movement, and Nightlight supports them.

The Parent’s Rights movement is the notion that parents, rather than the State, should be in control of how parents raise their children.  The issue is not actually unique to Christians, and it has created some odd coalitions of very conservative and very liberal people at times.

Here are examples of some of the issues behind the Parent’s Rights movement, and how they affect our home study requirements:

  1. We are supportive home school, and vouchers for it
  2. While we encourage vaccination, we are supportive of families who choose not to vaccinate.
  3. While we ask for proof of medical insurance, we are supportive of families who opt for programs like Medi-share or alternatives to medical insurance
  4. While we prohibit foster parents from spanking, and we offer all families education on alternatives to spanking, we do not require parents to promise that they will not spank children after adoption
  5. We support parents having sole authority over education and health care for their children, and to have full disclosure about all health care their children seek or receive

Nightlight is here to support parents in their beautiful responsibility of “training up a child.”

Daniel Nehrbass, President

Trends in Special Needs Adoptions

Why are there less “healthy” children or mild identified special needs available for international adoption?

Many families come into adoption wishing to adopt a young, healthy child and it is sometimes disappointing when they realize that this is not usually possible. Families sometimes look to international adoption because they want to adopt help a child in need. I have often had families ask me where there is the most need and my answer is always the same; we need families who want to adopt waiting children, which means children with special needs and older children. Why be a waiting family when you can adopt a waiting child?

The first thing I want to explain is how a child becomes available for international adoption.

  1.  Child is abandoned, removed from home due to abuse/neglect, or sent to orphanage after death of biological parents.
  2. The first thing that happens:  orphanage and authorities look for biological family to care for the child.
  3. If biological family is not found, then the authorities look for a domestic family to adopt the child.
  4. If a domestic family is not found, then the child is available for intercountry adoption.

 

This means that the children who are available in ANY country for international adoption are children who are older.  Most biological and domestic families are willing to adopt younger children who have no special needs.  This also means that even if a younger child is available that the child will have some type of special need that is not acceptable to biological or domestic families or requires more medical care than is available in the country. Domestic adoption has become more frequent in other countries which is why international adoption has changed over the years.

Even if a child is physically healthy, many of these children have emotional needs that may require them to see a therapist.  The children have undergone a lot of trauma in being separated from biological family, being raised in an orphanage, and then leaving the only life they have ever known.  Some children struggle to attach or bond to their adoptive families initially.  It takes a lot of time and work on behalf of the family for the child to feel secure in their adoptive family.

Please visit AdoptionBridge.org to see the children currently available through many of our programs. Below are some children currently waiting in our programs:

We also would encourage you to research some special needs further. A good resource for this is http://www.adoptspecialneeds.org/. Many families also seek the opinion from a doctor when looking over the list of special needs. You can either contact your pediatrician or seek out a clinic that specializes in international adoption (contact us if you need help locating one).

Keep in mind that there are many countries where it is possible to adopt older children or younger children with special needs who are not able to advocate for the children on Adoption Bridge. There are many waiting children in these countries as well. Some of these would include India, Burkina Faso, and more.

 

 

How to Prepare Biological Children for an Adoption

 

Bringing an adopted child into your family changes the dynamics of your home drastically… whether you become new parents or are a “veteran” parent who is already raising other children. During the home study and the waiting process there is often a lot of emphasis on education and preparation for the prospective adoptive parent/s gearing up for the adoption journey and for parenting an adopted child. However, there tends to be much less emphasis and education that is focused on preparing the children who are already in the home and whose lives will also change greatly through their parents’ adoption.

  • Educate– Talk with your children about adoption and ask them what they think about it. This can be an excellent way to both teach them about what adoption is and process through any misconceptions they may have about it. There wonderful children’s books available that you can read together that can be a springboard for great discussion about adoption. Here is a list of books that could be great resources to use with your children.
  • Encourage them to be a participant in the process– Some families hold off on telling their children much about their adoption process for fear that things could fall through or change. This is understandable of course, because there are so many unknowns throughout an adoption journey. There are ways to invite your children into the process without holding on to tightly to a specific outcome. An example would be to pray together for their new brother or sister and asking God to protect them, and to bring them home in His time. Invite them to help pick out a special toy or stuffed animal or draw a picture for their new brother or sister that can go in their room.
  • Don’t only highlight the good parts of adoption– It is easier to talk with our children about the exciting, joyful parts of bringing a new child into the family such as them having a new playmate, and the many things they’ll get to help teach their new brother or sister. However, it can be damaging to stop there. The other part of preparing your children for an adoption is to talk with them honestly and explain that some parts of adoption are hard. If you are adopting domestically and will likely bring home an infant, it’s important to talk about (in age appropriate ways), that the baby will have grown in another mother’s belly and why she may be making the loving choice for her baby to be placed with a different family. You will need to prepare them that when the time comes you will need to travel to meet a baby and to potentially bring that baby home. It is important to talk with them about who they would stay with, and what they could expect during the days you are gone.

 

If you are planning to bring an older child into the family who has likely experienced complex trauma, then it is important that you explain that they will have challenges to work through in relation to their history (again, in an age appropriate way). A child who has experienced trauma, such as abuse or neglect, or who has lived in multiple placements could have various delays and could bring different expressions of emotions and behaviors into the home that could be unfamiliar and scary to your child/ren. Other challenges could be that discipline may not look the same for your adopted child, and that they may need a lot of your attention after placement because adjusting to a new home can be so hard. It is important for your child to know that these things are a possibility, and that it would be natural for them to feel sad, frustrated, or even left out at times. Reassure them that their feelings will always be important to you, and encourage them to tell you how they’re feeling during every part of the adoption journey. It is not uncommon for children to keep their questions and concerns to themselves after an adopted child comes home, for fear that their parent is too stressed or overwhelmed to talk. Continuing to reassure them that their voice and feelings are important to you is vital, both before and after placement.

 

  • Talk about families that don’t match– If you could be bringing a child into the family that is of another race or culture, then discuss how that diversity will add richness to your home. If you are adopting from another country, talk with your children about the foods, holidays, or customs that their new brother or sister will be accustomed to. Begin celebrating those differences before the placement occurs if possible.
  • Keep having fun! Adoption journeys can involve stress and challenges so it is important to continue to prioritize normalcy and fun while you are awaiting bringing a new child home. It is easy to get caught up in the waiting process and to be future-focused as you dream of bringing an adopted child home, but don’t be so focused on the days to come that you miss filling your present days with meaning and memories.

An adoption will be life changing for every member of the family without question. There is much to celebrate, and so much to look forward to, while also preparing your heart and the little hearts in your home that there are good and hard parts of every adoption. By approaching your adoption journey with your child/ren with honesty and good communication, you are setting a tone that is invaluable and will serve each member of the family so well.

Transracial Adoption Panel 2

 

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.

  1. Introduce us to your family.

 

X family (requested names and initials be changed for confidentiality): Our family has 5 people.  We, the parents, are white.  We have one daughter (11) biologically, one daughter (8) through adoption from China, and 1 son (4) through adoption from China.

 

C family: We are white parents to 4 adopted children – Issac (black, 16 years old, boy, adopted through foster-to-adopt); Vivianna (Caucasian/black/Mexican biracial, 14 years old, girl, domestic infant adoption); Jayden (black, 13 years old, boy, foster-to-adopt); and Jasmine (black, 9, girl, domestic infant adoption).

 

  1. When starting the adoption process, what made you open to adopting a child outside of your race?

X family: Adoptive mother (AM) lived in China for a semester in college and had the opportunity to volunteer in orphanages, spent several years studying Mandarin, and ended up in a career teaching English to kids from around the world.  Adoptive father (AF) was drawn to the idea of adopting a child in true need of a family and kids with special medical needs are at the top of that list.  The China program fit. In an ideal world, no child would be separated from their biological family and adoption should not be a first resort.  We really wanted to be a family for kids who didn’t have another option.  Out of honor and respect for the trauma our own children have endured, we support the Unity Initiative by Love Without Boundaries that works in China to keep families together by providing for the medical expenses of kids with special needs so families don’t feel so desperate that they end up choosing to abandon (https://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/programs/medical/unity-initiative/).

C family: We had been dealing with infertility, and were anxious to close that chapter of our life and become parents as soon as possible. So when we were being trained as foster parents, we were told the more open we had our home, the easiest we would receive a placement.

  1. What is something unexpected you have experienced, either positive or negative, as a transracial adoptive parent?

X family: On the positive end, we have gained a connection to our local Chinese community which has been so beneficial to our children.  Our kids have access to Mandarin classes, Chinese Fan Dance, Kung Fu, and more.

On the negative end, there is a cultural movement that elevates racial identity above all to the point where adoptive parents are being labeled as colonizers for not finding a way to place a child with parents of their race of origin.  We find this unfortunate because that often is not possible and leaves children waiting on an ideal that may never exist. We believe in a historic Christian, biblical view of race. We are one race – the human race, made in God’s image first, diverse in ethnicities and cultural practices.  In our opinion, a child gaining a family should not be limited by their ethnicity.

C family: A negative is that people often think we adopted our kids as an act of charity. What we’re really doing is raising our kids just like any other parent.

  1. 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?

X family: We live in a predominantly Asian community (this is an intentional choice to support an integrated identity for our children).  We have experienced acceptance by them and support in helping our children stay connected to their culture of origin.  Our local Chinese school teaches them Mandarin, celebrates cultural holidays with us, and provides opportunities for cultural dance, cooking, and lessons in cultural stories and traditions.  Local Chinese families have cooked traditional foods for my children as a gift.  The Chinese Parents Association at my children’s elementary school invited me to join so that my kids don’t miss out of cultural events they host.  They invite my bio daughter to join activities too.

The comments we receive most often from Chinese people are about how “lucky” our children are and how “wonderful” we are for adopting them because they would have “no future” in China given their special needs and orphaned status.  We usually respond with, “we are the luckiest parents in the world to have these children.” While these comments are well meaning, they aren’t helpful.  No child is lucky to lose their birthparents, to have little to no information about their origins, and to be raised in a family where they “stick out” as different.  We are not saying that adoption isn’t good, just that it isn’t “lucky.”

C family: We occasionally receive unsolicited advice on our kids’ appearance. Especially Jasmine’s hair. We’ve been approached by strangers recommending salons and stylists we should try. Years ago, our reaction was total humiliation and devastation. But we’ve become more confident to stand up for ourselves and our ability to care for our kids and their appearance.

A lot of this confidence has come from other black families who have supported us and given us great advice. “I’ve never had a black woman say anything about my daughter’s rough-looking hair at the end of a long week,” they tell us. “They said that because you’re white.” We’ve found this invaluable and encouraging.

  1. 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?

X family: We have been intentional from the start with our kids about helping them have an integrated identity.  We want them to know that every part of them is valued in our family, including their first language and culture of origin.  They attend Chinese school to keep their Mandarin alive. One of our hopes is that they will achieve bilingual fluency so that if they ever want to go back to China and look further into their story, they can do so without the complications of a translator.   We celebrate Chinese New Year and Mid Autumn Moon Festival.  Since we live in LA, we also have easy access to cultural events.

We have also chosen to live in a predominantly Asian area where our kids don’t visually stand out amongst their peers.  They have racial mirrors, young and old, whose presence communicates to our children a normality about being Asian American. Actually, our blond haired, blue eyed bio daughter is the one who sticks out.  One year she communicated a longing for straight black hair and brown eyes so that she could be like her peers at school.

We would encourage any current or prospective transracial adoptive families to consider what the community around your children will communicate to your children about who they are.  If they rarely see another person of their same ethnicity, will they feel connected to and comfortable with their dual identity or seek to suppress or even reject connection to their culture of origin in order to fit in with the majority group?  What will this mean to them when they are older looking back?  When they go to college or enter the workforce and are assumed to have certain identity markers specific to their culture of origin, will they feel lost – not belonging in any particular world?  How will you prepare them for this?

C family: We regularly have conversations with our kids to be aware of micro aggressions targeted at people of color based on stereotypes that people still don’t realize they have. We always validate our childrens’ feelings and experiences, and teach them not to assume intention. We tell them, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions like ‘what do you mean by that?’ and ‘where is this coming from?’ or ‘why are you asking?’”

Alternatively, when people are overly familiar or intrusive, we encourage our kids to not feel an obligation to answer their questions or provide explanations. Their story belongs to them, and they have a right to share it or not share it with whomever they choose.

  1. What books, resources, or people have challenged you to consider your own racial biases?

X family: A powerful book for us was “Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Love and Loss” by XinRan.  This book absolutely tears apart the dominant American narrative regarding Chinese orphans.  They were never the “unwanted”, but instead were at the mercy of cultural, governmental, and societal pressures that led to the loss of their birth families.  The pain of the mothers who have loved and lost their children will stay with us forever.  This is a must read for families adopting from China.

We appreciate the voices of adult adoptees.  The research they’ve taken part in and the forums they have chosen to participate in to help educate transracial adoptive families is so valuable.  We would encourage adoptive families to seek out blogs, books, and research centered around adult adoptee voices.

We are thankful for real life friends who are Asian American who have generously shared their personal experiences, hurts, and challenges with living a dual identity. Their voices help us be mindful of what our children are experiencing and to be more attuned to the specific education, support, and empathy they need.

We have also been so blessed this year by following The Center for Biblical Unity which is founded by a friend of ours from Biola University who is a Person of Color seeking to frame the conversation about racial identity and racial relations/reconciliation around the Bible.  You can find their resources at https://www.centerforbiblicalunity.com, and her podcast at https://www.centerforbiblicalunity.com/all-the-things.

  1. 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?

X family: We wish we would have been better prepared for how to respond when people make negative comments about our children’s country of origin.  People have big opinions politically, ideologically, and otherwise about China and will voice them in front of our kids without a second thought.  Sometimes these comments leave our children feeling rejected or that their country of origin is “bad”.  We can certainly communicate to people close to us about how to consider the impact their words may have on our children, but ultimately our kids will bump up against this in the broader community one way or another.  Some people have even thoughtlessly commented that they disagree with our desire to keep our kids culture alive for them, since it was that culture that led to their abandonment.  We never want our children to feel that we reject any part of them.  We teach them that all cultures have both beauty and fallenness.  We celebrate the beauty, because cultures of the world offer unique reflections of God and amplify different aspects of His character.

C family: We learned that finding like-minded families is the most important aspect to being in a community. Other black families have black parents and black kids, so they don’t match our family dynamic in the same way other multi-racial or adoptive families do.

  1. Do you have any good resources to share on how to learn more about your child’s racial experience in the U.S.?

 

X family: Again, the most important experiences for us to listen to for the sake of our children are adult adoptees, who have a unique experience that differs from typical Asian Americans.  We enjoy the these transracial adoptee resources at  “Yes I’m Adopted, Don’t Make it Weird” that is a vlog (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmNviK-KxPVfU4iZD82oQ-A) and Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2154616001461723).  The Empowered to Connect Podcast covers the topic of transracial adoption in episodes 17-20 through adoptee interviews as well.

  1. Do you have any children’s books that you’ve read to your child regarding racial identity and/or adoption that you would recommend?

X family: We hired an artist to do basic illustrations of the life story of our children so that they could understand the narrative of their own history from a young age.   There are pages for: birthparents, finding place, orphanage, receiving a care package from us, the day we met, the day we arrived in the US, and a picture of us standing in front of our home.

We own many adoption books, but the favorite of our kids is, “God Found us You” by Lisa Bergren.

We also have several children books featuring Asian characters (not about adoption specifically).  Our kids particularly enjoy “The Mermaid” by Jan Brett, The Moon Lady by Amy Tan, and Really Rabbits by Virginia Kroll.  Our older daughter enjoys books by Grace Lin, particularly “Where the Mountain meets the Moon.”

  1. What has been the biggest challenge for you as you learn to parent a child outside your own race?

X family: The biggest challenge for us is feeling the weight of the division in our culture around race relations.  There are competing ideologies at play, but the dominant narrative being pushed is humanistic rather that biblical. We are trying to frame ourselves around a historic Christian view of race, anchoring ourselves to the truth of the Bible and relying on God to help us participate in true reconciliation and healing among races through the redemption and family offered in Christ.  We are looking forward to reading a recently released book on this topic from a Talbot Seminary professor, “Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth” by Thaddeus Williams.  See the book preview including the ethnically diverse group of contributors here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCuAkzHuRFE

C family: Honestly, we don’t often have these challenges because we’ve approached adoption and race issues very matter-of-factly with our kids. We are always working on finding the right balance between recognizing how out-of-the-ordinary our family is with how we’re just like everyone else.

For example, we don’t all agree with the athletes kneeling for the National Anthem. We’ve even had some heated debates. But we have boundaries and mutual respect for each other’s opinions, and we can laugh off the differences.

  1. What do you see is the main role a parent can play in the lives of their child concerning their racial identity development?

X family: Help them keep both parts of themselves alive and integrated – the culture of origin where their lives began and the culture of adoption where their lives are now. Do this together as a family.  Learn the language with them.  Cook their cultural foods together.  Find community members who can help educate them about their culture of origin or even about what it means to be an American with dual cultural identities.  Listen to adult adoptee voices.  Keep conversations about race, injustice, identity and truth a regular part of family life and stay grounded in the gospel.

C family: Be educated! Educate yourself, and those around you. Reach out to mentors within your child’s race for their perspective on social issues.

  1. Anything else you want to share that wasn’t covered by the questions above?

X family: Don’t get swept away by the pressures being put out there by social media, media in general, or the dominant cultural narratives about race.  Have real life, genuine relationships with people of other ethnic and cultural backgrounds and approach the things you don’t know or haven’t experienced with humility.  Listen, learn, and most importantly – stay grounded in Jesus who is the ultimate answer to the fallenness we see all around us.

C family: Please check your motives in choosing transracial adoption. Be careful that it is not your attempt to prove to those around you that you are anti-racist. It is not your child’s job to fulfill a dream for you or to bring diversity to your life. This is actually a form of micro aggression. Adoption should be about finding the best family for a child, not the other way around.

If you are interested in hearing from two more families on this topic, please check out our blog post Transracial Adoption Panel 1.