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.

Transracial Adoption Panel 1

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.

 

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)

 

  1. 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:
https://www.lovewhatmatters.com/two-kids-that-was-our-plan-i-expected-a-no-way-but-he-started-talking-about-it-before-i-did-family-adopts-after-hosting-foster-child-he-was-meant-to-be-here/?fbclid=IwAR0ZAmKWbe2khAB6DdGw4aIf3a4W4dxSIwA8PqS7af0xgEanx1AtfhD_EBI

 

  1. 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.

 

  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?

 

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.

 

  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?

 

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.

 

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

 

S family: The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tigsby, Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

 

  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?

 

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!

 

  1. 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.

 

  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?\

 

S family: We keep a house full of books with racial mirrors. Young Gifted & Black, The Crown, Chocolate Me, The Little Leaders Series

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

 

Racial Reconciliation and Adoption

 

Reconciliation is at the center of the gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

Jesus Christ was sent to this world to reconcile our sinful selves to God and call us to the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation means “to restore to friendship or harmony.” Christ first restored our relationship and harmony with God and now offers this same act as a ministry for us to participate in with others. Reconciliation is the very act of adoption – we were brought into God’s family after our brokenness was restored through Christ.

We see much division across our nation due to differences in perspectives and experiences. This spans across values, politics, faith, and racial issues, just to name a few. God calls us to walk in harmony with others and seek reconciliation. He calls us to see value in those that may look, act, or believe differently than us and not to separate ourselves. One of those areas is racial reconciliation, which has come to the forefront of our nation’s attention. For transracial adoptive families, you have been confronted with many feelings, fears, and concerns as racial tensions now confront us. As a world, we are challenged to consider what it means to seek harmony when any of our community is hurting and in need. What should reconciliation look like?

The process of reconciliation should first look like opening and evaluating your heart, mind, emotions, and actions, through guidance by the Holy Spirit. Laying yourself before God and praying along with David in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” As God reveals sin in our thoughts, words, and deeds, we can ask Him first for forgiveness and then turn to seek forgiveness and harmony from any that we have hurt. How might this look in a racial reconciliation context? We can allow God to examine our hearts for any judgments, prejudices, or racist thoughts, words, or deeds.

Being surrounded by our culture that has been permeated with racism, these thoughts can creep inside us, often without our realization. God can reveal these to us through prayer, reading books that address racism, listening to the voices of people of color around us, and examining our hearts. When we as individuals can do this, it plays into the greater movement of our society seeking harmony and restoration with others that have been wronged. We can seek harmony with our brothers and sisters of color around us and speak to others through our ministry of reconciliation.

Where does adoption fit into the narrative of racial reconciliation? Adoption can move us in the right direction, but this is done through changes in our hearts: not simply through the act of adoption. Transracial adoption does not fix underlying problems. A family adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity into their family will not automatically rid them or others of prejudice. When the adoptive parents open their hearts to reconciliation as they consider adopting a child of another race, He can show you any places of racial prejudice inside you to rid from your heart and mind, as discussed above. Adopting a child from another race or culture will naturally bring up conversations and comments from friends and family that will allow you an opportunity to speak the truth and confront any of their prejudicial beliefs, whether conscious or subconscious. These conversations allow others to learn about someone else’s experience that differs from their own and challenges them to understand. These are changes that can come from our experiences in adoption and can impact the greater sins of racism around us if you are mindful to do so.

Recognizing the joys and true challenges of bringing a child from another race into your home is imperative. Our desire at Nightlight is to help guide our adoptive families in this journey through education and support. We are growing the resources we have available to transracial adoptive families and hope you keep checking back on the blog for more information in parenting your adopted child.

–Heather McAnear Sloan, Director of Post Adoption Connection Center

Talking with Kids About Racism

2020 will likely be remembered for many things. We have faced challenges in the forms of a pandemic, national calls to quarantine, businesses and schools shutting down, and lives being lost. We have also experienced protests erupting across our great nation due to an outcry for justice and an end to racism. The topic of racism is not only trending in many headlines and in bestselling books, but is also being discussed in our communities, churches, and around our dinner tables.

For our adoptive parents and especially for those parenting children of color, the discussions you may be navigating with your child in this season about race and racism may be more difficult than those you’ve faced in the past. It is heartbreaking to see children hear about, experience, or digest what racism is and the brokenness, division, and pain associated with it. However, this is a topic that our children will inevitably be faced with. It is important that we engage the conversation with them and set a precedent of talking openly and honestly about the issue.

Our desire is to help encourage, support, and equip you to talk about race and the difficult topic of racism in your home. These topics can be uncomfortable and challenging. Many parents are hesitant to discuss them because they are fearful of saying the wrong thing. However, if we want to raise the next generation in a way that will empower them to achieve greater racial equity and unity, then it’s critical to lay the groundwork in engaging in these discussions. If you’re raising a child of color, it is crucial that you create a safe environment in your home for these conversations to be had. Latosha Morrison, the creator of the organization, Be the Bridge, has stated that “you can’t fix something that you can’t acknowledge.” By teaching our youth to recognize unfair treatment or inequality, then we can also teach them to stand up for themselves and others.

Here are some recommendations and resources for transracial adoptive parents that we hope will help empower you to have deeper, more beneficial discussions with your kids about race and racism:

1)      Build a solid foundation.  Children have a deep desire to know their history. It is our responsibility as their parents to not only discuss issues related to race but to instill a sense of pride in our child regarding their rich heritage. What an honor it is to be able to communicate to a child that they are created by a loving God who made them in His image, exactly as they are. If you have been given the honor of a child of color then you have the responsibility to help them develop a strong and enriched racial identity. You can do this by teaching them to be proud of the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, and the richness of their culture. Affirm who they are and the unique gifts that they’ve been given. Instilling a positive racial identity is something that takes time, effort, and intention. Children face new insecurities and questions about their identity at each stage of their development. Helping them to feel valued, worthy, special, and confident in who they are is so worth every second of thought and action you can put into it!

NACAC’s Seven Tasks for Parents: Developing Positive Racial Identity has some great tips for how to do this well, and The Conscious Kid’s website is dedicated to promoting healthy racial identity development in youth.

2)      Celebrate your child’s racial/ethnic heritage and history. What an honor it is to not only get to celebrate who your child is, but also to celebrate their culture and the rich history of those that came before them! Adoptive parents with children of any race that is different from their own should be intentional about embracing their child’s racial and cultural community. Introduce them to books, TV shows, and toys that include characters and historical figures of their race. Listen to music, eat foods, and participate in celebrations that are well known in their culture. Hang beautiful art that reflects people that look like them in your home. Find activities in the community where your child can interact with other kids who look like him or her.

3)      Outsource.  Seek out men or women of color who are willing to speak into your life and your son or daughter’s life. If you are not a person of color yourself, then your child’s lived experience is something that you won’t be able to fully share with them. You won’t know what it’s like to be a minority in this country or what it feels like to be stereotyped or treated differently due to your skin color. It’s okay if you don’t know how to answer every question that your child has as it relates to race. It will be a gift to you and your child to have someone else who can offer their perspective, experience, and support.

4)      Talk about the hard things. While there is much to celebrate in embracing your child’s race and culture within your home, it is critical to understand the challenges that come with raising a child of color in a society where racism exists. The history of racism in this country is undoubtedly difficult to discuss. However, the fact that prejudice, discrimination, and racial inequality still exist and that racial tension in this country has recently received so much national attention, has brought about increasingly heavy and painful conversations as children of color try to make sense of it all. Creating a safe space for your child to talk and share about difficult issues related to race and racism is so very important. NCFA recently released a wonderful publication, called Proactive Engagement: The Adoptive Parent’s Responsibility When Parenting a Child of a Different Race. It addresses the responsibility of discussing issues surrounding race and racism with children, and the complexities adoptive parents face trying to protect their children from racism whenever possible, while at the same time preparing them for the racism that they will inevitably face. We highly recommend referencing this article as it also includes wonderful resources and advice about what’s appropriate to discuss and share according to the age and developmental stage of the child.

5)      Celebrate heroes and advocates. When considering how difficult it is to confront issues like discrimination and racial inequality with children of color, I recalled an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. In that episode, Fred Rogers talked about when he was a little boy and would see scary things on the news. He stated “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” It is so important to teach children about the many good, caring people in our communities who are working for change. A good starting place could be teaching them about civil rights heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Ella Baker, John Lewis, Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Whitney Young, Ralph Abernathy, Ruby Bridges, and so many more. In addition, it is important to discuss and celebrate individuals who are currently leading the way in educating about racism and advocating for better standards for racial equality. Who are you learning from? What community leaders do you see trying to make a difference? Who are people or organizations that are bringing people of all races, backgrounds, economic statuses together? While we still have important work to do in this country, let’s remember the helpers and talk about ways that we can all be a part of the change.

6)      Pray together. Pray as a family for racial equity and reconciliation in your community, city, and nation. We know that the Kingdom of God will include every nation, tribe, people, and language. We can pray together for help in loving our neighbors well, and for God to bring people together in ways that we haven’t seen or experienced before. When you feel led, take the opportunity to lament as a family over instances of racial injustice that occur. Many times, lament comes before healing. Pray that God will bring healing to our brokenness, that He will move and change hearts, that He will raise up godly leaders, that He will reveal to us our own biases, and that we can be a part of the work of reconciliation that is so close to His heart.

In our work with transracial adoptive families, Nightlight has worked to educate families well on issues related to parenting children of color. We are seeking to strengthen our education and thinking through ways that we can better support and equip our families both before and after their adoption. Part of the work we have been doing was to update the list of resources that we recommend for transracial families. There are so many new books and websites available and we have tried to compile a thorough list of helpful materials. We hope you will find some resources that will be a blessing to your family.

–Amy Eudy, Home Study Manager

Adult Adoptees’ Perspective on Interracial Adoption

 

The Debate on Interracial Adoption: Since the 1970s, there have been debates in America on whether children of one race should be adopted by parents of another. One camp argues that children adopted interracially lose their sense of identity and culture, while the other claims that regardless of race, it is positive because these children are finding homes. So, what do adult adoptees have to say about their experiences with being adopted by parents of a different race?

Kiana’s Experience: On the Archibald Project’s 48th episode, Race & Adoption Advice from Adult Adoptees, Kiana speaks about her experience with being a black child adopted and raised by a white, single mother (https://www.thearchibaldproject.com/). Kiana was adopted at age two with two other girls from her orphanage. She grew up in a community that had many adopted children, so her family unit seemed normal to her until the age of five. When Kiana began Kindergarten, children asked why she did not look like her mother; it was difficult to constantly explain that she was adopted and know what level of detail she needed to share. Thankfully, Kiana’s mother encouraged open communication with her daughters about adoption, and together they came up with a plan on what to say to the other kids.

Kiana’s mother made an effort to incorporate Haitian culture into their daily life. Every Haitian Independence Day, the family would cook traditional Haitian food, fly their national flag, and celebrate. They had dance parties to Haitian music and even attended an annual summer camp with other adoptees from their orphanage. Although she speaks fondly of these memories, Kiana explains that interracial adoption is complicated. As an adult, she is most uncomfortable around black individuals because she fears them calling her “white washed.” She continues by saying, “it feels like you are standing at two tables (black and white), and you don’t have a chair at either one.”

My friend, Dante*: It has been over a decade since I met my friend, Dante. Our friendship has been close, and I am immensely grateful that he chose to share his adoption story with me…and all of you! At the age of five, Dante was adopted from Guatemala along with his younger sister, Agostina*. They were adopted by a white couple in the American Midwest.

This time was scary for Dante as he was in a foreign place and did not speak the same language as his adoptive parents. However, as with Kiana, experiencing this transition with a sibling made it much easier. Over time, Dante and Agostina began to trust and bond with their new parents. His parents took a different approach than Kiana’s as they chose not to incorporate Guatemalan culture into their children’s lives. Although Dante regrets losing his Spanish speaking skills, he still embraces his Guatemalan culture as an adult. Dante loves listening to Guatemalan music and learning about the country. Overall, adoption has been a positive experience for him, and he is extremely grateful that his parents made the decision to adopt. Dante reported, “I am thankful for my parents and everything they have given me. Without them, I would have likely ended up in a gang or participating in illegal activities because of where I came from. Instead, I have a good life.” Dante desires to adopt children of his own some day because he “has seen how adoption can change someone’s life for the better.”

Should I Incorporate the Culture of My Child’s Home Country in Our Lives?: The answer to this is… it depends. When a child is adopted, especially from a foreign country, they need to process their new life circumstances and decide what their identity is going to be. They often experience an inner battle between the culture of their homeland and that of their new home. Kiana recommends that adoptive parents give their children space to feel and process all of the emotions that come with creating a new sense of self. She said her mother did a good job of not taking it personally when Kiana pushed her away during these times. In addition, children in a sibling group may not react the same way to this process. For instance, Kiana enjoys learning about her heritage and visiting Haiti, while her sister has little interest in those pursuits. It is important that adoptive parents give their children opportunities to stay invested in their birth country’s culture. From that point, each child can decide whether he or she would like to learn about their heritage or fully embrace an American lifestyle. No path is wrong, and neither indicates that the adoptive parents are not doing a great job at raising their children.

Conclusion: It is difficult to state which side of the debate is correct. Both adoptees above said there were complications with interracial adoption, but also indicated that their experiences were overall positive. Based on these cases, a successful and healthy interracial adoption can be achieved by adoptive parents who 1) support open communication and 2) present opportunities to incorporate the child’s culture if he or she is interested in pursuing it.

*Names have been changed for anonymity

 

written by Heather Berry

How Hosting Changed My Life

My family was part of the first host program at Nightlight in 1995. It really was a unique program, the first of its kind, as school-aged children from overseas orphanages were being offered an opportunity to visit the United States. Ron Stoddart, Nightlight’s founder, brought over 12 children from a Children’s Home in St. Petersburg, Russia, ages 7-14 years old.  The children performed their version of The Little Prince at venues across Southern California.

 

We had actually only been home with our daughters, adopted from the same Children’s Home, 2 months earlier, so were dealing with our own adjustment as new parents. We agreed to host two 7-year-old little girls from the group of children our eldest daughter had belonged to at that orphanage. It was a wild 2 weeks! It brought up some issues with our daughters as their friends told them they would be going back to Russia and not to believe us that we were their ‘forever family.’ We did a lot of talking, processing of feelings and reassuring our daughters that they truly were here to stay. We became close friends with all the other families involved. It was an amazing experience!

 

We continued to host over the next 23 years, having over 75 children in our home! Nightlight had several years where there were two tours, summer and winter. After the first few years, I began to work at Nightlight and also took on the responsibility for the tour program. We hosted children from China, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Russia, Taiwan and Ukraine. It was a fun experience for our children, as they got to practice their Russian and Spanish or learn words from yet another language. We enjoyed experiencing another culture, as we tried new foods, listened to different music and heard their stories. Ron named the tours, ‘”Every Child Has a Name’” at remind us that each child has a story uniquely their own.

 

We brought the 10-year-old soccer champion team from St. Petersburg Russia one year. It was fun to take the children to different places and see their faces as we went to the beach, Costco, Disneyland or a real, manicured soccer field for the first time. The boys were used to playing with a ball made of tape and on a rocky playground. They didn’t have any equipment. Through families and sponsors, we sent them back with soccer cleats, balls, uniforms and a wonderful sign with all of their names. They were so excited!

 

Most of our tour programs over the first 15 years were performance tours. The children performed traditional folk dances and their National Anthem, having prepared prior to their visit. The first performance, the children would be very shy. However, with each performance, as they received applause and tokens of appreciation, the children blossomed!  They enjoyed sharing their culture with the appreciative audiences.

 

Each child came to the US with a small backpack, sometimes with one or two sets of clothing and a toothbrush, but more often, empty. They left with rolling suitcases and character backpacks stuffed to the brim with clothing, new toys and school supplies. We knew everything would be shared with the other children at the children’s home once they returned, so sent clothing, toys and supplies that would be enjoyed by children of all ages.

 

We saw the tour program as a way to advocate for older children hoping for adoption, we also saw it as a way to learn more about other cultures, share our home with children who may not have had a positive family experience. The children experienced having a story read to them before bed, cooking together and going swimming in the ocean. We kept in touch with some of the children, some for a brief time until they were adopted. We continue to stay in touch with others, long past the time they visited. One even stayed with us as she completed an internship for her university, at Nightlight.

 

The majority of the children did find their ‘forever family.’ However, for those who were not adopted, they had a wonderful vacation where they got to experience a loving family who cared about them and shared their family life. They left with memories that would last them a lifetime. As our 4 daughters grew up, we found we had room for two more children and adopted our sons. We did not anticipate adopting again after our first four daughters, however hosting brought us our boys.  Hosting changed our lives in so many ways, leaving us with so many wonderful memories and best of all, our sons!

 

written by Rhonda Jarema | Executive Director, California Office Nightlight Christian Adoptions

 

 

Black History Month is for Everyone

 

As a 46-year-old white woman you may not think I pay much attention to Black History Month. Thankfully adoption has made it an integral part of my life and I’m honored to share what it means to my family. My Afro-Colombian daughter will tell you her race is black but her heritage is Hispanic. This puzzles many African Americans, particularly when she starts speaking Spanish to them. My husband, a white man, is South African and grew up under apartheid rule and was living in Africa when Nelson Mandela, who he calls a hero, became president. We consider our biological children African American even though their race is white. We also have a Hispanic daughter from Mexico. We talk about race in our home. A lot.

The truth is, adoptive parents’ love is not colorblind. When our family walks into a new environment we realize everyone sees a story of family building through adoption. So Black History Month in our family means embracing our daughter’s heritage and her race as she adds her story to the millions of black people in our country. Her story is both dark and brilliant with a future full of hope. And that is what we wish for all black Americans living in this country – hope.

Black History Month is so much more than learning about the history of African diaspora. It is about survival, hardship, victory, stereotypes, truths, music, language, food, fashion, cinema, minority, majority, hair, skincare, shades of brown to black, and all the differences in each and every one of those words across the different black cultures in our country. For instance, when my daughter talks about food from her afro-Colombian community it is quite different than the food I so love from growing up in the deep south. The race is the same but the culture is remarkably distinct.

As a family with four children, our favorite quote is from Martin Luther King Jr, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” We add to that sentence “equally” since our children are of different races. God created all of our skin tones which gives us enough reason to celebrate our uniqueness every day.

Hosting: Why it Makes a Difference

 

1995 was the first year Nightlight Christian Adoptions brought a group of children from a foreign orphanage for a hosting program. Children from a Russian orphanage had performed a wonderful program of traditional songs and dances for Ron Stoddart, Nightlight’s President, during his visit. He brought that group of children, ages 7-14, to California where they performed at churches, community parks and Disneyland. It was a success, as all of the children who came on that tour, ended up with permanent families. None of the families who hosted or saw the children perform and later adopted them, had any idea that they would be led to adopt after seeing and meeting those children. However, over the 23 years that Nightlight has sponsored tour programs, bringing well over 300 children to the US, the majority of those children have found permanent, forever families here in the US.

The intent was always to give these older children an opportunity to spend at least a few weeks in a loving, nurturing home with an intact, stable family. Even for those children who did not find their ‘forever family’, some by choice and some due to circumstances out of their control, they did have a wonderful vacation! Many of the children stay in touch with their host families long after the host experience. That is a reminder that the few weeks or month that a host child spends with the host family can be life-changing! My husband and I have hosted close to 70 children in our home over the past 23 years. It has been a wonderful experience for us and our children as we have been able to share our family with children from all over the world and learn more about their culture, while sharing ours. Our family is certainly a mixture of cultures as we adopted two of those hosted children, in addition to four others that were adopted internationally as ‘older children.’ It has been a reminder to our children about the children left behind, probably one of the reasons our children have always been such wonderful ambassadors, sharing about what it means to be adopted as an ‘older child.’

A few months ago, I was in a Starbucks waiting for my order. A young woman approached me and introduced herself. She had been on one of our earlier tours in the late 1990’s. I recognized her name and we hugged. She thanked me for bringing her on that tour! We reminisced and caught up on her life over the past 18 years. What an impact these hosting programs have had on the lives of the children and families!

Nightlight is partnering with Kidsave, a hosting organization, to bring children from orphanages in Colombia to stay with host families throughout the United States this summer. Ten children will be staying in Southern California, experiencing the ocean, bowling, museums, parks and likely Disneyland. When we ask the children towards the end of their stay about their most favorite part of their visit, we have received the same response consistently over the past 23 years. Over and over again, the children speak about the warmth and love showered on them by their host families. They certainly enjoy Disneyland and all the other activities, but it is the relationship they developed with the host family, over a period of a few weeks, that will last a lifetime! Nightlight has hosting programs during the summer and over the Christmas holiday season. Consider opening your home and heart to a child, hoping to spend some quality time with a family here in the US. Even if you are not able to host, there are other ways to participate, volunteering, donating funds towards their activities or the program itself. For those who host and volunteer, it is a wonderful opportunity to share your culture and learn about another culture, while giving a child the chance to possibly meet their forever family.

Home Safe Every Night

 

Today we have a guest blog post from Billy Cuchens, an adoptive father of children from Domestic Infant Adoption and Foster Care. He shares on an important issue to consider as a transracial adoptive family. (Heather McAnear, Post Adoption Center Coordinator)

We live a couple blocks from a Baptist church which holds bible study every Wednesday for middle school and high school students. Now that Daylight Savings has begun, we let Isaac ride his bike there and back. It seems like they don’t have a firm structure or end time, because every night around 8pm, we have same negotiation about his curfew.

I typically start by texting, “Hey, Buddy. Home by 830pm.”

Most nights he just responds, “Ok.” But tonight he texted back, “Can we make it 9?”

I respond, “Sorry. I don’t want you riding your bike home in the dark.”

“But we just started the lesson.” A few moments pass, then he responds, “Please.”

He understands I’m not suspicious that he would be up to anything. But he doesn’t understand that we’re not having him ride his bike home in the dark…even if he’s only fifteen houses away. When I was a kid, it seemed like parents were always telling us to watch out for cars or don’t talk to strangers. I guess their greatest fear was that we would get hit by a driver who wasn’t paying attention, or be kidnapped. But today, at least for Laurie and me, our greatest fear is a stranger seeing our boys alone in the neighborhood, assuming they’re up to no good simply because of race and gender, and taking action.

Isaac is thirteen years old, but he’s almost six feet tall and two hundred pounds. He’s also black. He hasn’t been a discipline problem since the day he came home. But to someone who has never met him, he could be seen as a threat.

Laurie and I try explaining our fears to friends and family, and some get it. But for the most part, people seem to think we’re paranoid. Or at least overly cautious. When the Trayvon Martin shooting happened, Laurie and I were and still are terrified the same could happen to our boys. To our family and friends, Isaac is this big, lovable jokester. “Oh that couldn’t happen to him,” they say when we share some of our fears with them. “Not to Isaac, he’s a good boy.” They don’t understand that to the outside world he is not an adorable little boy anymore.

Ultimately, we don’t need people to understand that we live in a biased and scary world. Nor do we need our boys to fully understand this either. At least not yet. Isaac has an idea of who Trayvon Martin was, but really he understands our rules simply because they’re Mom’s and Dad’s rules. As time goes by, we give him the information he needs as it comes up…stay on the sidewalk, don’t put your hoodie up, etc.  But we want him to be able to live in a world where he can still maintain the innocence of youth for as long as possible.

So he doesn’t think anything’s weird when I text him while he’s at bible study, “I’ll be heading to the grocery store and then meet you at the church at 9. I’ll drive alongside you as you ride your bike home.” When I arrive, he flashes me a big grin and waves goodbye to his friends, not at all embarrassed at how ridiculous we look as we pull out of the church’s parking lot side-by-side. We ride the three streets it takes to get home together, at about ten miles an hour, and talk about our day. Then when we get home, he takes a shower and I make him a snack. As he’s getting his pajamas on, we can hear him dancing around and singing a praise and worship song. Finally he comes downstairs in his men’s XL bathrobe, gobbles the snack I made, and gives me a big bear hug. “G’night, Daddy.”

“Buddy, I think you’re big enough for ‘Dad’ now. Don’t you think?”

“Nope,” he says. “You’re always gonna be Daddy.” Then he squeezes me harder, and buries my face into his chest. And with my face smothered in his red flannel bathrobe, I say in a muzzled tone, “Sounds good to me.”

How We Celebrate Chinese New Year

 

Chinese New Year is upon us! February 16th marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebrations around the world for 2018. If you are not familiar with Chinese New Year it is an annual festival that’s not only celebrated in China but also by many other nationalities. Some celebrations last as long as 15 days so we wanted to share some special ways to observe this special holiday with your family.

Chinese New Year can be especially meaningful for families who have adopted children from China. It is so vital that adoptive parents find ways to embrace the culture of their home country and celebrate their child’s rich heritage within their home. In order to research some of the best ways to participate in Chinese New Year festivities, I turned to some of our adoptive families to get ideas of special ways they have enjoyed celebrating this time of year with their children.

One adoptive mom, Anne, shared that their church has a big annual Chinese New Year celebration. Many of the people who come wear special Chinese outfits. They decorate the fellowship hall in red and yellow-gold. At last year’s celebration one of the Chinese men in the church made over 700 homemade dumplings! They have a potluck meal in which anyone in the community that wants to come is welcome to come and join in the festivities. She shared the picture below of their special gathering and I could not help but be moved by the beautiful smiles of so many individuals and families who set aside this time to celebrate the rich foods and customs of this Chinese holiday together. I can’t help but think of each child represented and the memories that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives about how special these gatherings were.

 

Anne also recommended this book, Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin about a Chinese American family as they prepare for the Lunar New Year. In the book each member of the family lends a hand as they sweep out the dust of the old year, hang decorations, and make dumplings. Then it’s time to put on new clothes and celebrate with family and friends. The book beautifully illustrates the fireworks, lion dancers, shining lanterns, and a dragon parade to help bring in the Lunar New Year.

Another adoptive mom, Penny, shared traditions that they have developed to celebrate Chinese New Year since welcoming three precious children from China into their family. Each year their family sets aside a day to make lanterns to hang around their home. Construction paper or decorated scrapbook paper can be used to make these beautiful and festive lanterns. Here is a link that gives instructions for making lanterns and this is a craft that will be fun for all ages.

Two of Penny’s daughters are pictured below in their traditional silk dresses. We always recommend families picking out traditional Chinese clothes when they travel to China for their adoptions and purchase clothes in various sizes for their children to enjoy as they grow! Having dresses such as these to wear for Chinese New Year celebrations (or any time they wish!) can be such a special gift for adopted children.

In addition, when their kids were younger Penny would go to their classes and read a Chinese New Year book to give her children’s classmates information about the history and customs that make this holiday so special for Chinese families. Here is a link for some great books that teach small children about this special holiday.

And lastly, Penny shared that they save some sparklers from New Years Eve and light those on Chinese New Year as well. Penny shared the following:

I was so impressed to hear from an adoptive mom who wanted to share about one way they are celebrating Chinese New year for the first time after recently bringing their son, Langston, home from China. One custom that Brandy found that they could incorporate was that of hong bao which is an iconic symbol of Chinese New Year. A Chinese red envelope is simply an ornate red pocket of paper the size of an index card that holds money and it’s customary to leave the red envelope with two tangerines by a child’s bedside on New Year’s Eve. Brandy shared that they we worked on making red envelopes to put money in for Langston’s classmates (they shared $1). Langston was so excited about making these special envelopes and about sharing this custom with his new friends.

Another adoptive mom, Amanda, shared that they are hosting their own Chinese New Year celebration at their house for several other families that they know who have also adopted from China. They are having Chinese takeout, doing crafts with the kids with red envelopes, and have planned for some other activities that pertain to Chinese culture.

If you know of other families in your community that would want to celebrate with you but are not sure about preparing a huge meal yourself then why not invite each family to bring one dish from a local Chinese restaurant? What a fantastic (and affordable!) way to celebrate with other families in your community! If you have some helpful articles or ideas you would like to share on this topic, please submit in the comments below!

 

Here are a few other links with helpful hints about ways to celebrate Chinese New Year within your family and communities:

https://chinesenewyear2018.com/

https://www.leadtochina.com/travel/adoption-resource/how-to-celebrate-chinese-new-year-for-adoptive-families-202