So you’ve decided to adopt. After you’ve gone through all the preparations, you feel like you’re open to transracial adoption. If you feel like adopting a child of another race isn’t any different from adopting a child of your own race, you may be surprised to learn that transracial adoptions can significantly impact your life and the life of a child.
Being culturally aware and preparing for a transracial adoption is immensely important. Many hopeful adoptive parents will say that their child’s race or ethnicity does not matter. What they mean by this is that they will love their adopted child unconditionally, no matter whether they look alike or share their cultural heritage.
But the fact is, race and culture do matter. Losing the connection to their racial heritage, or being raised in a family where their race isn’t acknowledged can affect a child throughout their life. In order to help an adopted child thrive, you’ll need to learn about and respect their birth culture and find ways to maintain their connections to it. Here are some things to consider about transracial adoption.
What is Transracial Adoption?
Simply put, transracial adoption (also called interracial adoption) is the adoption of a child from a different race than their adoptive parents.
Transracial adoptions are growing more common and socially acceptable than in decades past. Today, couples welcome children of many backgrounds into their home to be part of their family. Adoption brings children into a family of love and acceptance. It goes beyond genetics and race. This being said, there are important things to consider when you decide to adopt transracially.
Questions to Ask Yourselves About Transracial Adoption
As adoptive parents, you must search your heart to figure out your views on race and all the circumstances involved with transracial adoption. You might start by considering these questions:
- How will your extended family react to a child of another race or ethnicity in your family?
- Are you ready for public attention–both positive and negative?
- Will you give the child too much attention compared to your other kids? Not enough?
- Why do you want to adopt a child of another race?
- What are your views on race?
- Will you raise your child to respect their race?
- Will you help them understand their race’s history?
- Will you help them have a racial identity?
Transracial adoption isn’t for everyone, so it might not be the best choice for your family. You must decide if you can parent a child of another race and love them like you do your other kids. In addition, you’ll need to consider their unique race and help them learn and value it as their identity.
The Thoughts of a Transracial Adopted Child
To fully understand transracial adoption, it can help to put yourself in the shoes of an adoptee. Thoughts that a child adopted transracially might have include:
“I look different than my family.”
Your adopted child will realize early on that they look different from you and their family. They may feel awkward or upset because they don’t look like anyone in the family.
Encourage them to share their feelings with you. It’s normal and important they express these feelings. Being different isn’t a bad thing, and you can encourage them that they have an identity as a member of your family no matter what, and you love their skin color because you love them unconditionally.
“I want to understand my culture.”
Give them opportunities to learn about their race and its history. Provide them books, movies, and of course, friends and other families of color for them to learn from.
“Who am I?”
All young people need to figure out who they are and what they believe. Your child may go through some rocky times as they figure this out.
They may have questions about dating and interracial marriage. How will you help them when they experience racism? Are you prepared to help them and encourage them as they grow into young adults? Are you willing to help them make a cultural connection?
Essential Tips for Transracial Adoption
Continue to Educate Yourself
As an adoptive parent in a transracial adoption, your education on race can never truly be over. And a great place to begin is by seeking out books and podcasts on the subject. Also, we encourage you to subscribe to blogs written by adoptive parents who have adopted a child of another race. White Sugar, Brown Sugar is a popular one, and here’s one blog post of hers that we love: “Dear Sugar: If You Adopt Transracially…”
Share Their Story
Make your child’s history an everyday conversation at home. Don’t make the adoption a big mystery, and make sure to bring up the topic early on. There are many children’s books that can help you explain to your child in an age-appropriate way.
Talk about their adoption story, show them pictures, and reminiscence about the day they came home. Make their racial background a conversation, too. Discuss race and current racial issues.
In our society, colorblindness does not exist. So in your home, color needs to be acknowledged and celebrated, not ignored.
It should be normal for your child to see people of all races in their neighborhood, at church, in their class at school, and around town. If you’re seeking an interracial adoption, you need a diverse group of friends, including several friends whose race is the same as your child.
If you’ve been thinking about adopting a child of a race different than your own, connecting with other families formed by transracial adoption will be an invaluable resource. Lifetime hosted a Q&A webinar all about transracial adoption, and our guests were three adoptive mothers who have adopted a baby of another race. If you’ve wondered how to talk about adoption with your future child, you’ll want to hear what these adoptive moms have to say! Tune in here.
Find Appropriate Toys
Give your child toys that represent them. If you adopt a black child, give them a doll or action figure with skin color like theirs. Your child needs to see themselves represented in their toys.
Hopefully, as you consider all these things, you’ll understand the complexity and beauty of adopting transracially. It requires a commitment to learn and deepen your understanding of another race and understand the complexities your child may go through. It will also enrich your family forever.
Linda Rotz, CWCM-S, CWCM-Trainer, ACC, is the Director of Adoption Services at Lifetime. Linda has worked in the field of adoption for 20 years within the child welfare/foster care system in Florida. She has degrees in Mass Communications and Human Development, and completed graduate studies in social work.
Due to her extensive expertise, Linda was called upon to write adoption procedures and training materials in Florida. She is certified as an Adoption Specialist, Child Welfare Case Manager Supervisor and Child Welfare Trainer in the state of Florida.