Transracial Adoption

One of the many challenges for transracial adoptees is that “they are, but they aren’t.” They are Asian or African or Russian but they aren’t. They are American but they aren’t. They are a son or daughter but they aren’t… There are people who look like be but I have nothing in common with them. There are people here who don’t look like me that I do have things in common. Often the adoptee must adapt to the new culture. Rarely does the family adapt to the cultural needs of the child. A level of ignorance occurs in order to function happily. Who champions the child’s cultural issues and needs? What messages are communicated to the transracial adoptee? You must change to our way of thinking and living or we change toward each other? 

White Sugar, Brown Sugar Blog shares some balance views of open adoption options…

We have a range of open adoption experiences and of birth parents.    In one case, both birth parents are involved in an ongoing relationship.  In one case, it’s a biological brother and his adoptive family, with occasional contact with birth mom.  In one case, we have contact with birth mom and some extended birth family.   

No one-size-fits-all.

My motto in adoption is this:   don’t make choices out of fear; make them out of education.   

I have gobs of resources listed on this blog and in my book.  I hope you’ll check them out.

When we are asked why we chose open adoption, I often share these things:

1:  Who are we to keep our children from their biological family members when these individuals pose no harm to our children?

2:  Why shouldn’t our children have access to as much information as they will want/need in the future, information we, as their adoptive parents, cannot provide them?

3:  Why should we not have access to family health history which can help us better meet our children’s needs?

4:  Why should our kids’ birth families not have access to updated information and photos of the children they gave life to and love?

Also, something to consider, is that if you, as an adoptive parent, are insecure in your position in your child’s life, that is unhealthy for your child and unhealthy for your emotional health.    Your child will eventually understand that you were the gatekeeper in his/her life, either fostering or diminishing the access the child could have to his/her biological family.

So ask yourself:

1:  Will the birth parents cause harm to the child?   

2:  Are the birth parents supportive of you as the adoptive parent (meaning, they respect your role as the child’s primary parents)?

3:  What is going on with me, emotionally, that I’m holding back from open adoption (and anything, really, adoption related)?   Where can I seek help for these issues?

4:  Does the child want a relationship with his/her biological parent?   Or, if my child is very young, would the birth parent knowing information/seeing the child bring the birth parent joy, peace, and assurance?

Open adoption is not an easy option.  In fact, it can be quite uncomfortable for everyone involved at times, or even for many seasons.  But …

Transracial Adoptions

Based on the book by Amy Ford

Helping adoptive parents with advice and experience in raising children of different ethnicity.

Top 10 Things White Parents Need to Know When Raising African American Children

  1. Darker skin is drier than lighter skin
    Expect to use a generous amount of lotion daily. Find a brand with the least amount of water content in order to maximize the amount of hydration.

  2. Sandboxes are not your friend
    Sandboxes are not your friend It takes an enormous amount of time and effort to remove sand from your child’s hair. Avoid the sandbox until you are ready for the challenge.

  3. Limit Your Child’s Exposure to Water 
    Your child’s hair is naturally dry and washing their hair as often as you wash your own will cause the hair to dry even more and break. Hair washing once per week is fine.
  4. Hair is Huge 
    Your child’s hair is nothing like your own. Your child’s hair is nothing like your own, don’t treat it as such.
    • Wash weekly with a hydrating shampoo
    • Condition, Condition, Condition
    • Oil
    • Comb for boys, brush for girls
    • Silk Scarf for girls overnight

  5. Do what it takes to master the hair 
    The hair of a minority child is an expression of cultural pride and is directly linked to self-esteem.
  6. White Privilege 
    You have it, your child doesn’t. White privilege is the undeserved, unprompted advantages afforded to whites in this country in the areas of banking, education, and society.

  7. Decisions, Decisions, Decisions 
    Not everyone in your life will support your decision to parent a child of a different race. You may lose some friends or family members. Can you handle it?
  8. Be prepared to become a minority
    Adopting a child of a different race automatically moves you into minority status. Gone are the days of being anonymous. Prepare yourself for the attention coming your way. It is helpful to practice how you will respond to questions about the unique nature of your family. Decide as a family how much information you are comfortable sharing. 

  9. Racism is wide spread in this country in ways that may not be visible until you accept a child of a different race into your family. It may take a while for you to feel it or see it, but your child will feel it immediately. It is part of his every day experience. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening. Embrace the differences and celebrate the likenesses. 
  10. Your African American child has needs you cannot meet. It truly takes a village to raise a child and never has it been truer than in raising one of a different race. Your child has physical, cultural, and emotional needs that you cannot meet without taking the time to build a support system. Look to churches, sports teams, parenting groups, child care workers, teachers, and play groups for support.

Ron Replies: I am currently working on a seminar on Adoption Clinical Skills concerning transracial adoptions and thought this could be helpful to prospective adoptive parents.