Is Transracial Adoption for You?
How adoptive parents can prepare for challenges their families may face
Transracial adoption, also called interracial adoption, unites parents and children of different races. While legal changes have made international adoptions harder in recent years, domestic transracial adoptions continue to increase because more infants of color are available for adoption, explains Beth Hall, executive director of Pact, a non-profit organization that serves adopted children of color.
Adopting a child of a different race requires that parents educate themselves about the challenges children of a different race and culture than their own may face.
A thoughtful decision
The decision to adopt outside of your own race involves more than saying, “I want a child, and I don’t care about race.” Hall suggests, “Ask yourself, How can I serve this child?”
Stefani Moon, program manager at Open Arms Adoption Network in New Jersey and the Caucasian mother of two African American daughters, says, “Adoptive parents need to take an honest look at the community they live in, the social and familial circles they operate in and ask themselves:
- Will my child have daily opportunities to see herself reflected?
- Will she have regular interactions with same-race peers and adult role models?
- Am I willing to ask for help from people who may know more about how to care for Black hair or skin?
- Am I willing to be a family that attracts attention wherever we go?
- Are we a good resource for a child of color?
If the answer to these questions is no, families need to accept that they may be a better resource for a same-race child.”
Mary Kasper, adoption coordinator at Adoption ARC in Philadelphia and mother of two, including an adopted child of a different race, says, “You must consider the reactions of your family and close friends to the adoption before you move forward. If someone is prejudiced against people of other races, you should reconsider your decision to adopt transracially unless you are willing to cut the person out of your lives.”
Support racial identity
Celebrating cultural heritage in adoptive families goes beyond observing Kwanzaa or the Chinese New Year. Parents should be prepared to incorporate artwork, toys, books and other objects into the home and everyday life that reflect the child’s culture.
Kasper recommends adoptive parents reside in a neighborhood with plenty of diversity, where they can enroll their child in a multicultural school, expose him to friends of other races and ensure that he frequents places outside school where he can encounter individuals of other races. These experiences can help an adoptive child feel comfortable with his racial identity in his home and community.
Mary Lou Edgar, executive director of A Better Chance for Our Children in Delaware and mother of five children, including two who joined her family through transracial adoption, says she took her Indian-born daughter back to India for a visit to help her claim her culture and show her daughter that her family cares about where she came from.
For children adopted at an older age, Hall says, “Stay connected to the positive things from their old neighborhood. The loss for an older child isn’t just family but also community. The less loss for them, the better.”
See page 2 for more resources on transracial adoption.
Jenny Hammond, who is Japanese and Caucasian, was adopted and raised in Philadelphia by Caucasian parents. In retrospect, she says, “One of the biggest challenges was not looking like my family. So many people still have an assumption of what a family should look like.”
Kasper says when her son was very young he asked her, “Why aren’t you brown like me?” She says, “I told him that although we’re different on the outside, we’re the same on the inside, and this is how God made us.”
Moon suggests, “Parents should talk about race with their children very early on. Use events like Women’s History Month or Black History Month as opportunities to highlight how people have been treated differently and how people continue to work to make the world better.” She also cautions, “As children develop, parents need to address racial issues from the media that their children will hear. If parents don’t teach their non-white children about racism and ways to protect themselves, they are sending them out into the world unprepared.”
“We have to educate society about these differences,” agrees Edgar. “Our families were made differently, but they’re all still families.”
Susan S. Stopper writers frequently for MetroKids.