Matters of Race; In Adoption and Foster Care, Part 2

National Adoption Awareness Month and the topic of race has been a good discussion. I am glad this dialogue is taking place, when this month passes, I will continue to have the dialogue regarding trans-racial adoption. I believe hearing from the people who have been involved in the adoption process is beneficial.

As I mentioned last week, I spoke to four people about a small part of their experiences/thoughts on trans-racial adoptions. The same questions were asked to all four people.

The third person I spoke with is a black woman who is a mother of two sons, and she has not adopted. She did share her honest thoughts on this topic. Here are her responses:

Would you ever adopt a child of a different race? Why or why not.

Yes. As a parent you have unconditional love for your child. It wouldn’t matter what color they were. 

Do you think transracial adoptions are a good or bad idea?

Yes and no. In all candidness it depends on how you choose to raise the child. For example, an African American child adopted by a Caucasian family that literally has no interaction with people of color. How do they learn about themselves? How to do their hair? Which seems simple but if you are raising a daughter our hair is our crown. It must be taken care of and sometimes it is no simple feat. How do you make her proud of hair and not envy the straightness of their adopted parent and all the people that she sees around since she is unable to see a reflection of herself?

For African-American males this is a hard time for them growing up in America. Many of us have seen the newly released American Son and I, too, as the parent of 2 black sons, one of who is college age have had the conversations of what he may or may not experience especially as he attends a Predominately White Institution as his college of choice.  My husband and I fear for him. My husband discusses things with my son I simply cannot identify with. Who has those conversations with their sons? Who helps them if they are pulled over or treated unfairly due to the color of their skin and their adopted parent cannot identify with their experience?

However, I believe that if you are engaging in a transracial adoption in culturally diverse areas that it may be easier because you may have more resources to help your children identify with aspects of their culture that you cannot quite understand. That’s just not Black children…it could be children of Hispanic descent, etc.

Do you know anyone who was adopted by someone of a different race? Do you feel as an outsider looking in that the child was made to feel as he/she was included?

Yes, I know one. Yes, she made sure her baby was included. 

In the area you live in do you see a lot of transracial adoptions 

I’ve seen a few, but not a lot.

Many good points brought up in her responses. African American children being adopted and not having any interaction with other people of color, whew! Yes, that happens more than we may care to discuss. I have seen this with my own two eyes. Some folks will adopt a child of a different race and not even consider the reality that the child will benefit from being around people of his/her own race. I have wondered how the topic of race and adoption goes with adoptive parents, Is this something they consider?

Hair care is another topic, years ago I was at the store and a white lady who had a black daughter whom she had adopted was in the aisle in tears by the ethnic hair care products. I looked at her and asked if she needed help and she said yes. I helped her find the right products for her daughters’ hair, gave her a phone number to a hairdresser and we exchanged phone numbers. She texted me a picture of her daughters’ hair a few weeks after and she said she couldn’t believe the confidence a new hairdo gave her daughter. Yes its “just hair” but come on now black folks hair is different than Caucasian hair and knowing the basics of hair care is beneficial.

The third person I spoke with is a white woman who is married to a black man. I love the fact that she brought up the importance of listening to adoptees about their experiences and I hope to be able to talk to some adoptees soon. Here are her responses:

Would you ever adopt a child of a different race? Why or why not.

We adopted a biracial child who has the same racial background as our biological child. As a result, this is not really considered a transracial adoption because my child was adopted into a family with the same racial makeup as her biological parents.

Do you think transracial adoptions are a good or bad idea?

I am pro-adoption, but I do believe adoptive parents must educate themselves and be willing to make changes (neighborhood, schools, church etc.) as needed. 

Adoptive parents should teach a child about his or her culture and help the child connect with his or her heritage. I know lots of adoptees and I also read the writings of adoptees. Some adoptees had terrible experiences and others had wonderful experiences. We should listen to adoptees whether they had good or bad experiences. 

In the area you live in do you see a lot of transracial adoptions 

Yes, in the city where I love there are lots of adoptees of all races.

Trans-racial adoption just like giving birth to a child is a unique experience, no two stories are alike, I am thankful that folks agreed to share just a small part of their overall experiences.

Race and adoption is not complicated, the unwillingness by some that adopt children of a different race to ensure that they not only teach their child about the child’s race/culture and find mentors for their children that are the child’s race is heartbreaking. Love is love and big part of that love when involved in a trans-racial adoption MUST include the child learning about his/her race.

Just think for a moment how you would feel if you were not taught anything about your own heritage/culture?

Families don’t have to match. You don’t have to look like someone else to love them.”- Leigh Anne Tuohy

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Matters Of Race; In Adoption And Foster Care

As we continue with National Adoption Awareness Month I want to talk about trans- racial adoption/foster care. I recently asked four people to share their feelings/thoughts on the subject of trans-racial adoption. Three of these folks have adopted or fostered children of a different race. This week I am going to share two of the four responses and the remaining two next week.

The first person I reached out to is bi-racial (black and white). She is a feminist who lives in Southern California and her honesty and concern about the topic of adoption and foster care is genuine.  She and her wife have fostered and adopted a child.

This is what she shared with me:

Would  you ever adopt a child of a different race? Why or why not?

I have adopted a child of a different race (she’s white and Japanese). I do believe, however, that if an adoptive parent is not willing to understand and immerse the child in their own culture, then they have no business adopting that child. For instance, if a white person adopts a black child, it is their responsibility to take them to a black salon/barber shop, let them learn about black historical figures, and to allow them black mentors.

Do you think trans-racial adoptions are a good or bad idea?

I believe that transnational adoptions should not be initiated unless every other resource has been exhausted. For instance, so many children are adopted from 3rd world countries. Instead of adopting them, our nation (a rich one), could be aiding that country in bettering their resources, like providing actual housing, clean water, and food. Instead, we swoop in on vulnerable nations and take their children away from their cultures of origin.

Do you know anyone who was adopted by someone of a different race. Do you feel as an outsider looking in that the child was made to feel as he/she was included .

I know a few black children who were adopted by white families. Some have been ripped from their cultures and others have been immersed in it by their adoptive parents.

In the area you live in do you see a lot of trans-racial adoptions ?

Yes! I live in Anaheim, California, which is predominantly Latinx. Many of the kids/adolescents in foster care are from the Latinx community, so often times we’ll see kids being adopted by parents outside of their own culture. I think this is great, as long as families are immersing the children in their culture of origin.

The next person I spoke with regarding race and adoption is a white woman who has three adopted children who are now grown. They are ages 23, 30, and 34 years old.  She was very open and honest in the responses she gave me.

Here is what she shared:

Would you ever adopt a child of a different race? Why or why not?

Yes.I have 3 kids of another race.

Do you think trans-racial adoptions are a good or bad idea good?

Good.

Do you know anyone who was adopted by someone of a different race. Do you feel as an outsider looking in that the child was made to feel as he/she  was included. 

My three were all adopted by a different race and I certainly hope they don’t feel like outsiders…although at times they may when outside of our family.

Do you think people who adopt a child of a different race are responsible to help teach that child about his/her own culture or race. 

Yes, absolutely.

In the area you live in do you see a lot of trans-racial adoptions?

Not a ton but it is becoming more prevalent. Ours are 23, 30 and 34 now. 

You said your kids appear as black. Just want to clarify are they black or a different race?

All 3 kids are bi-racial. My daughters both have white birth moms. My son’s birth mom was bi-racial.

Have any of your children expressed interest in adopting children. 

My oldest daughter has 2 bio boys and wants to adopt a little girl from Kenya (we are involved as a family in support for World Vision and she and I both visited Kenya a year ago).

When your kids were younger what did you do to help them connect to their culture. 

When my girls (now ages 34 and 30) were younger I took them to multicultural events, museums, adoption support groups. Our church is somewhat multiracial (Unfortunately our pastor who was black left recently for another ministry.)

I have to admit that I was not as intentional with our son (age 23). (We adopted him from foster care, and the girls at birth. Maybe I was more worn out by the way he came along!) We did send our oldest daughter to a very exclusive private school for jr. high that had a lot more kids of color than our home neighborhood. We sent our son to a charter school for high school, where white was very much the minority (it was primarily Hispanic and Black.)

I can tell you that both of these women love their children.  When I asked them to share just a little bit of information with me they did not hesitate. There is so much more to discuss when it comes to trans-racial adoptions and foster care. I will continue to write about it even after National Adoption Awareness Month. I know that not everyone feels that trans-racial adoption is the best idea. The reasons for and against it are worth discussing.

What I will tell you is that we have so many children who are in foster care awaiting adoption and those children are not so much concerned with the race of the person who may adopt them as they are with finding a forever home. With that being said there is a responsibility for foster and adoptive parents to ensure that if the children they bring into their home are of a different race that they (the adoptive parents or foster parents) are making the time and effort to find ways to teach the children about there culture.

Now I know some may say “Well at least they have been adopted”. That is entirely the wrong response. Even though there are many folks who will say the race of the child they will adopt is not an issue. The reality is that when you adopt a child of a different race there are some topics you must look at from the start:

How will your family react to this adoption? Yes, you are adopting but this child will also be around your family. Is your family accepting?

Have you looked into where you can find mentors for your child? These mentors can help you answer the questions about race that your child will bring up that you will not be able to answer.

Find a local group that of parents that are the adoptive child’s race and get tips and advice from them. You can find these groups online you don’t even have to leave your house.  

Do a google search for cultural events and take the adoptive child to these events.

Adoptive parents are doing a child a disservice when they are not doing these things.  Adopting a child that is a different race does not mean that you get to bypass teaching them about their culture.

Trans-racial adoptions can work, and they do work.  The conversation must continue and the concerns that some have can not be ignored. No matter what the forever homes these children find must filled with love and inclusivity.