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Transracial Families

The Importance of Racial Socialization on Transracial Adoptees


The Evan B. Donaldson Institute just reported on a research study that found: racial socialization and NOT focus on culture or ethnic socialization decreased adoptees’ sense of marginalization (and by extension—low sense of self worth), and resulted in greater self esteem.  The study sample included 100 adult and adolescent transracial adoptees.  Further details of the abstract can be found on the Evan B. Donaldson Institute website. 

    I wanted to post information about this research finding because, as an adoption professional and veteran adoptive parent, I believe that this is ESSENTIAL information for adoptive parents to get and use in raising their children. 

  Racial identity is THE salient issue for our children and families. Facing up to what we need to do in order to nurture healthy racial identity in them is a major responsibility. We cannot excuse ourselves from fulfilling that responsibility simply because we adopted through agencies/social workers who had no idea how important racial immersion experiences are in the formation of racial identity and allowed us to adopt, despite lack of diversity resources in the communities in which we live. (when that is the case)
We also have to face up to the fact that merely living in a racially diverse community is not enough.  We must help our children connect with adults of color, and we must recognize that our children need to see us doing the same. 

    Over the last couple of decades, I have observed how adoptive parents—especially those who have adopted internationally—focus on engaging in cultural events and activities, instead of dealing with race-related issues.  When they are confronted by adoptees and/or experts (social scientists, diversity educators, etc…) they make excuses for raising their kids in nearly-all-white environments and engaging in white social circles themselves on the basis of all they claim that they do to teach their child about his or her culture-of-origin.  That is and has been very disturbing.

    That is why this type of research is so very important to us, as members of the greater- transracial-adoptive family network, regardless of whether our children were adopted via domestic or international adoption, and which country they were born in/adopted from.  It is up to us to broadcast this information—research findings like this—throughout our adoption communities.  It is also important that we urge adoption agencies to educate themselves about HOW to assess prospective parents for transracial adoption and approve them only if and when they are able to provide the racial socialization that will be necessary for any child they adopt to grow up with healthy racial-ethnic identity.  With more people than ever wanting to adopt, and fewer identified children (internationally, at least) waiting for adoptive placement, there is no reason for agencies to place children in communities where they cannot have regular, ongoing immersion, their parents cannot make and keep friends of color, and there are no adult role models of color to be found. 

    As adoptive parents, we have to make this a priority and stop fooling ourselves that as long as we try to expose our children to birth culture, that is “enough"and they will be “fine.”  Evidence is now accumulating that demonstrates otherwise.  Our conversations now need to be about HOW we find and incorporate those essential people and experiences into the lives of our children and families that will truly help them develop healthy racial identity. 

Jane A. Brown, MSW

Replies

This is a very important study and I am glad to see evidence supporting the importance of racial socialization.  That being said, it can be very difficult finding and nurturing relationships with people of your child’s race.  My daughter is hispanic and we don’t live in a very racially diverse community.  I’ve taken her to hispanic activities in neighboring towns to try to meet other children, but haven’t had any luck.  I wish I would have known about the importance of racial socialization before we adopted transracially.  While we don’t regret our decision to adopt transracially at all, we would have liked to have been better equipped to make an informed decision.  A lot of people go into a transracial adoption with the attitude that love will conquer all, but sometimes this isn’t realistic.

Posted by Joanne0911 on Sep 15, 2011 at 12:05am

Did the study take into consideration socialization with children of other ethnicities as well? We belong to a wonderful adoptive families group locally, and go to as many events as possible. Our daughter is Korean, and there are quite a few Korean adoptees in our group, but we also have Ethiopian, Caucasian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and a few others as well.

I am just curious if it HAS to be socialization with just their own ethnic group that helps or is it socialization with any and all other ethnic groups, including their own?

Posted by Mommy2Kaelynn on Sep 15, 2011 at 1:50am

We live in a predominately white area, in a predominately white state (Wyoming) with two kids adopted from Korea. There are no groups here, neither Korean adoptee groups, nor transracial, not even general adoption groups. My husband and I have looked for such groups in the area, state and even gone so far as looking in other states nearby. While this seems difficult for our kids, we are choosing to talk about it with our kids (10 and 8). We are also working on getting the kids “pen pals” although it’s mostly through email now. We hope to take the kids all over the world to see that they don’t have to fit into one place or the other (Korea or America). We hope to teach them to become global citizens. To understand that they can fit in anywhere they choose. I can only hope that this will help them with the issues they will deal with as they grow. Thanks for the article and information!

Posted by sam on Sep 15, 2011 at 6:17am

When there is no diversity in your neighborhood you might think about moving.
I don’t know about socialization with only their group as I didn’t read the study.

Posted by Regina on Sep 15, 2011 at 6:18am

Regarding “The study sample included 100 adult and adolescent transracial adoptees”, what were their ages exactly? When was the “study” conducted and what were the pertinent questions? Who funded the study? Were there follow-up studies if the sample was taken from younger participants (say 15) as opposed to older adults (say 60)? Was the process/method of adoption by age considered? All of this is so IMPORTANT - academically, scientifically and practically - before making any BROAD statements about how to raise our kids.

Posted by LizLee on Sep 15, 2011 at 8:05am

There are a few studies on Evan B Donaldson. One is about adult Korean adoptees and how they were doing and about race etc. It is very interesting. I am sure there are a lot of studies on the topic.

I am sure there is information in many social science journals as well as other sites if anyone wants to look.

I have been to many trainings, read many articles and books, and talked to many triad members over 35 years and would say what this study shows pretty much is what always talked about but if you want to know more there are many resources. Tapes at http://www.nacac.org books check out Tapestry books, videos (there are some on this site) and research..you can google.

Posted by Regina on Sep 15, 2011 at 10:07am

Hi All.  I would like to respond to some of the comments you’ve shared, and I hope that Regina will, too.

  First, when racial socialization is encouraged, that does NOT mean taking transracially adopted kids to social gatherings with other transracially adopted kids—other kids who have white parents.  Nor does it mean that Korean kids only need to be engaging in relationships with other Korean individuals.
 
    Your children need to build and keep relationships with ADULTS of color—some who look like them and others who don’t.  So, a Korean child will benefit from getting to know and spending time with KOREAN adults, but also Vietnamese adults, African American adults, and Latino adults. 

    Why?  Children need to have the sense that these people feel familiar, instead of “different/exotic/ not-like-me-and-my-family.”  When children of color grow up with white parents and are surrounded by whiteness, they identify “white.”  They are surprised each time they look iinto the mirror because their FELT-racial identity is “white,” and they are not, then, comfortable in their own skin.  They try (unsuccessfully) to blend in, not call attention to themselves, and pretend to themselves and others that race doesn’t matter.  They not only see people of color as “different,” they also see them as of lesser value to people who are white.  That is called internalized racism.  It results in low sense of self worth because they devalue themselves.

    Secondly, pen pals, visiting with other adopted children of color occasionally, and merely talking about race and racial differences does not yield healthy racial-ethnic identity.  Sorry folks.  These children need everyday, regular, meaningful, ongoing relationships—not something that is “special, occasional.”  We also need to get honest with ourselves about the fact that being accepted by others (all who are white) is nice, but it is not at all the same as feeling that one fits in and is “normal.” 

    We can try to pick apart this study, however, there is plenty of other evidenced-base information out there, these days, and we also have had transracially adopted adults saying the same things for many years.  I’d also like to tell you about my professional experiences working with transracially adopted youngsters.

    I see thousands of these youngsters each year throughout North America and in the summertime, in Australia.  (age 5 through 16 in age appropriate groups).  I engage the youngsters in activities (from drawing to puppetry to games to debates to plays/skits—anything that launches conversations amongst them about adoption-related issues, including racial differences and their experiences in school & elsewhere).  There are always adult adoptee volunteers participating too—some adopted by same-race parents and some adopted transracially, so as to compare and contrast experiences.

    The ONLY youngsters who do not report that they are the victims of racial bullying and who do not feel “different” and wish they were not—are those who live and go to school in racially diverse environments.  They report the experience that their family has racial differences, but so do lots of others, and that is normal.  If and when a racial incident arises in school, the adults in charge KNOW how destructive that is.  They immediately step in and firmly put a stop to what is going on.  The child is always believed, and the adults stand by him/her. 

    Amongst the other children, more than 90% who are over the age of five report many incidents in which they have been bullied over their racial look and the fact that they look “different” from their parents and most of the other youngsters in their class.  They are also subjected to many, intrusive, hurtful comments and questions about being adopted.  They tell their parents once or twice, but when that doesn’t result in their parents successfully getting the cooperation of those adults in charge in school to stop this, they give up.  They don’t want to talk about it, to the point where they let their parents think its “no big deal” or that it has stopped.  By pre-adolescence, they are cynical: “why tell—none of the adults know what to do, or really care,” or “why bother? no one can do anything about this—its my lot in life,” or “I wish we could move, but my parents don’t want to and really don’t understand how hard this is for me.  They all say just walk away and ignore it, as though THAT helps.” Some of the kids report that they take their feelings out on others who are younger than they are because that relieves some of their frustration and gives them a way to vent some of their anger and resentment—THEY become the bullies. 

    By the way, I also witness far too much racially-charged behavior and words WITHIN the adoption circles.  Adopted children who are of Asian heritage refusing to hold hands to play games with children of African American heritage.  Children of African heritage saying that they don’t want to be in a group with those others because they are the wrong color.  Our children are not only the victims. Sometimes they are the perpetrators.

    Regina—thank you for having the courage to say what needs to be said—that transracially adopted children NEED to grow up in racially diverse communities, and families really should move if their children are growing up surrounded by whiteness.  The other things I observe/hear families doing that they THINK makes a constructive difference does NOT make a difference. 

    We would not raise a boy in an all-female environment and imagine for even a moment that he could really and truly feel comfortable with his gender or have any idea what it means to be a man—know who he will be.  We would not raise a child who is deaf in a community and school where there are no services to help him/her learn how to communicate and where he/she remained isolated, even if “everyone likes him.”  The psychological damage to our children, that happens by fooling ourselves into thinking that this doesn’t matter that much, or that we can take our kids to a camp for a week once a year and that will be OK is horrific. 

    Although the agencies allowed our children and we to get into these situations where our children can’t get their needs met—and they are FOUNDATIONAL needs—WE are now responsible.  I know that it is uncomfortable, worrisome, and upsetting to read/hear this if you are living in a community where your child is racially isolated, my hope is that you will start figuring out what to do that will change this for your child.  Sometimes adoptive parents get very defensive and angry with me.  I always feel bad because I KNOW how dearly they love their children and how well-intentioned they are.  However, I care enough about them to tell the truth instead telling them a feel-good set of half-truths that they can somehow nurture healthy racial identity by doing things that really aren’t going to yield that. 

    Hearing and seeing the accumulated pain and sense of low self worth amongst transracially adopted youngsters and adult adoptees has propelled me to be very direct and blunt.  No individual deserves to grow up feeling inferior to others and accumulating psychological damage that will haunt them lifelong. 

Jane A. Brown, MSW

Posted by Jane Brown on Sep 15, 2011 at 9:35pm

As a bi-racial (African American/Caucasian) person adopted by white parents (also have a white sister who is my parents biological child, and an adopted Korean brother), I agree that transracially adopted children need to see and be around people who look like them.

Because we live in a predominately white state, my parents chose to live in the city so that we would be around all races of people and would see this at school, in activities, at the store, etc. There were of course times when we were the “only” like in church having been raised Lutheran.  Ironically, I now have an adopted son who is full African American and we live in the suburbs because it’s close to the company I work for and the public school district is excellent. Depending on the situation (like swimming lessons at a swim school), my son has been the “only” child of color. We have since done community education swimming lessons and other activities and there are people of color. The diversity in the suburbs is getting better, my concern is that he is not the “only” in situations, and how to handle that when he is due to where we live. My son is currently in a Montessori where he is the only child of color in his class, but his teacher is African American and there are other children of color at the school. Moving back to the city is always something in the back of my mind but there are other factors to consider besides just geographically living in the city.

Posted by MNUT on Sep 16, 2011 at 12:02am

HI Jane and Regina,
My husband and I are a white couple living in Brooklyn.  We have been blessed with a baby girl from DRC (congo) and will bring her home soon.  We live in a diverse community, have friends who are Asian, Indian and Haitian (though no AA close friends who live near us) and will also join a Congolese immigrant group in our area.  We were always planning on have one child and adopting one—but now that our adopted child is coming first—we are exploring the best options for her.  Will it make a difference to her racial identity and self confidence if she has a congolese brother or sister?  I.E.—since we have a choice should we adopt two instead of having one and one?  Please let me know if there is any research on this.
Thanks so much

Posted by Larabrooklyn on Sep 17, 2011 at 12:06am

I agree, wholeheartedly, with many of the points raised in the initial post and in Ms. Brown’s reply post. I disagree, however, with the condescending tone of both posts. I find it at best irritating and at worst offensive. It is completely possible to offer words of wisdom and promote critical thinking WITHOUT insulting the intelligence of your audience.

Posted by Felicia on Sep 17, 2011 at 9:36am

I don’t know of any research off hand. This is a starting point http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_trans.cfm
Another good starting point is at http://www.adoptioninstitute.org
Let us know what you find.

The pro about adopting two children is that it is usually less expensive because you travel once. The con is the child may have such high needs that it is difficult to care for two children at once.

It is such an individual choice.

Posted by Regina on Sep 17, 2011 at 4:59pm

Hi Lara,

  There is no research, but transracially adopted adults often write and speak about the experience of having siblings of color and/or siblings who were born to their parents.  Most all of them do share that it is comforting to have a sibling with the shared experience of being racially different from their parents with whom to go through life, and of the challenges for them of being the only one who does not share either racial-ethnic background nor ancestral history.  Yet, families DO make it work, either way, as long as they make themselves aware of the potential issues and deal with them directly with their children, so that those issues do not become a barrier to the siblings building a close relationship. 

  One of the most important things that does promote a stronger relationship between a transracially adopted child and his/her sibling (who is their parents genetic child), is when the non-adopted sibling is knowledgeable enough about race that he/she stands up as an ally with his/her sibling.  You might look for information about this from Dr.John Raible whose doctoral work looked at the effect of being part of a transracial adoptive family on the non-adopted siblings. (John, by the way, is an adult transracial adoptee and the adoptive father of two sons).

Jane A. Brown, MSW

Posted by Jane Brown on Sep 18, 2011 at 12:23pm

Hi Felicia.  I am not sure why you were offended by my writing style, but I am certainly sorry that you were.There was no “condescending tone” intended in my post to this forum.  I am quite direct, and I do a considerable amount of writing about adoption, and so have developed my own unique style of writing.  Perhaps you read a tone or attitude into my writing because of my, particular style. Again, I am sorry that you do not like the way that I write. I hope we can get past that.

Jane A. Brown, MSW

Posted by Jane Brown on Sep 18, 2011 at 12:28pm

Hi Jane,
Thank you so much!!  I really appreciate the advice and will read John’s research for sure.

All the best,
Lara

Posted by Larabrooklyn on Sep 18, 2011 at 11:09pm

Such an important discussion, thank you. The tone is blunt, but maybe that is what is needed more than a feel-good set of half-truths as Jane says.

I’m an adoptive mother in South Africa where my son is part of the majority, but there are still very real challenges related to white privilege and the history of apartheid in this country.

I struggle to know how much importance to place on my son’s identity relating to race, birth culture and being adopted. They are all so important and very different to my experience and identity, but I don’t want them to necessarily supersede his spiritual, community, occupational identities. How do you find a balance? I feel a bit of internal conflict like MNUT - there are so many factors to consider.

Posted by RubyK on Sep 21, 2011 at 6:54pm

I agree that this is important. But could you please provide some constructive advice as to how to make this a reality for those of us for whom moving from our predominantly white communities is not an option?

I don’t think that going up to African American people at the store and saying, “Will you please be friends with us?” would be very effective wink

I am glad to see that adopting siblings of the same race is helpful. We intend to adopt more children after we (finally) get our daughter home from Ethiopia and this is one of the reasons why. I am determined that she not be the only dark skinned person in our predominantly blond family.

Posted by mommad on Sep 21, 2011 at 10:20pm

Jane,
There is a difference between being “direct” and being “blunt”-both adjectives you use to describe yourself.
Being blunt with someone doesn’t take into account their feelings or how your words will be perceived. Being direct with someone means telling them the truth.
Both of your posts were condescending and rude and I take offense to them as well. It is not your “personal writing style” that we take offense to. It is the air of superiority that you give off in your posts.
Felicia,
I 100% understand where you are coming from and appreciate your honesty about how you are feeling.

Posted by JerseyJenna on Sep 21, 2011 at 11:02pm

Keep in mind that this is MY opinion and I reserve the right to change it! smile

My husband and I hope to adopt an AA girl and while I am living in a predominately white state (Nebraska) we shop at the local grocery store. We eat at restaurants. We will utilize the day care around the corner where my best friend’s daughter goes because we know that our child will be well cared for there. We spend our weekends downtown at the public play area. We have purchased books that showcase AA art and people but we also have art from different walks of life and stories that feature Asians, Hispanics, Jewish and Irish people. We are going to teach our children that skin color doesn’t matter. It is the culture and the heritage that are important to us and we have created a life that borrows heavily from other cultures. Our children will make friends with other children in day care, school, church, and from our circle of friends. If the children are white, they are white. If they are purple, they are purple. Our children will see people of all different ethnicities out and about every day. We put a menorah up during Chanukah, and a Christmas tree up during Christmas, we put a box of hay under the bed for Three Kings Day and celebrate El Dia De Los Muertos among many other holidays. We honor the classic AA heroes- Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks and more. We plan to read Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Gwendolyn Brooks with our children as they grow up. But we will also read Robert Frost, Sara Teasdale, and Ranier Maria Rilke. Our children will be educated and hopefully be able to over look the color of my skin.
America is supposed to be a melting pot and I think it’s high time that we stopped focusing on the color of someone’s skin.
Check out our blog at http://www.thekingsareadopting.blogspot.com

Posted by JerseyJenna on Sep 21, 2011 at 11:10pm

I have personally never doubted that it’s important for transracially adopted children to be able to identify with people who look like them and to have role models that look like them. It just makes sense.

That said, I am conflicted about this idea that racial identity must be separated out from cultural and ethnic identity. One of the problems is, race is not objective—there is no biological basis for it. Racial categories are different in different countries and have changed throughout history. I am offended when people suggest that my Ethiopian-born children should take on the identity of African Americans simply because they share the same skin tone. Africa is the most diverse continent on the planet and African Americans are Americans, who have developed a particular culture from a long, complicated and tragic history in this country. What does it mean to be “black?” Absolutely nothing in and of itself—it must be considered in context, just as the term “Asian” or “Hispanic” must be.

Why isn’t it enough to say that adopted children who look nothing like their parents ought to have opportunities in their environment to see and know and learn from a diverse range of adults, some of whom look like them, so they can integrate the physical part of themselves with the rest of who they are? I fear that playing up racial identity is a faulty attempt to address a real issue - one that ends up perpetuating myths about race and identity formation.

It also seems to me that if there is emphasis placed on cultural socialization, the “racial identity” issue often gets addressed at the same time.

Studies I read about in the book NurtureShock seemed to say the opposite of what you’re saying here: That the more racially diverse a school is, the more children segregate themselves by race. Whereas, in less diverse schools, the children tend to mix and mingle. I’m not claiming to know what the real truth is here, I’m just saying that we need to consider all the studies carefully, listen to adopted children—at all developmental levels—and see where this leads us when it comes to helping our children grow up to be happy, healthy adults.

Posted by Alexa on Sep 22, 2011 at 1:03am

I have so many thoughts on this thread that I don’t know where to begin.  Thanks Jane, for articulating so clearly the importance of socialization, and what exactly that means, and the importance of hearing, really hearing, our kids. 

As for Nurture Shock, which I read and recommend, I recall that white families continually dropped out of a study that required them to talk with their children about race. 

I think our job, as parents of children of a different race, is to acknowledge that racism exists, learn to recognize it and finally, to talk about it. 

In my experience, talking “race” with white people is really hard.  They don’t want to talk about, and they don’t have to.  But it’s what being an ally is all about, and if you choose to adopt a child of color, you are choosing to be an ally. 

You will see your child “othered” and you will have to react in a way that lets them know you recognize it, and that it’s not OK.

I’m a white mother of two African American girls (aged 5 and 6) and being open to cultural differences has been enriching for me.  I still don’t have as many black friends as I would like, but I hope I am on a good path.

I hope this doesn’t come off as condesending or too blunt—after 6 years of trying, I’m still not very good at talking about race.

Posted by Anne 427 on Sep 22, 2011 at 4:28am

THANK YOU, Jane, for writing such a wonderful article! It is NOT condescending at all! It simply outlines things that many transracial adoptive parents NEED to think about and should think about before adopting- I do not think it is fair to expect a child to grow up in an area where no one looks like them nor is it fair for a parent to think their comfort level comes first! As parents it is our job to put our child first and while there are many transracial adoptive parents who get this there are many who do not! For those who are making the efforts this sort of article is a nice reminder and for those who don’t it is a much needed wake up call…I am still learning and appreciate any assistance in making my daughter’s life better. And I am fed up with hearing from other trans racial adoptive parents say that they are dealing with things by isolating their kids from racists but not going out of their comfort zone and living a life amongst a more diverse group of people- yes, it might mean a longer commute but that seems like a small price to pay for a child’s well-being, racial identity and self esteem!  Not to mention the need for diverse friends, schools, and activities! Many of the responses on this article show just how needed Jane’s words are for trans racial adoptive parents! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Posted by mel123 on Sep 22, 2011 at 10:29pm

Dissent does not necessarily equate ignorance.

Posted by Felicia on Sep 23, 2011 at 12:18pm

I need advice for those of us who can’t afford to live in neighborhoods with a decent number of people who are the same race as our children (Asian).  We live in central Maryland and the housing costs in areas with healthy Asian (primary Korean or Chinese) populations are $$$$.  My husband and I had hoped to move into one of these neighborhoods after we adopted our child, but we were completely priced out.  And now the the real estate market has really tanked, those houses are cheaper than when we were looking, but our house is worth less too so we’re still stuck.  (We moved out of a neighborhood with a substantial African American population because the schools were so bad that they were placed under direct state supervision.  Also, our son was getting a lot of racial teasing from the African American kids—-much more than from the white kids.)

Posted by Gudrun on Sep 27, 2011 at 3:19am

First off, and maybe it’s because I agree with everything Jane said, but I did not find her comment condescending or rude at all.  She simply said exactly what I was thinking.  Honestly, if you interpret what she is saying as condescending and/or rude, I ask you to step back for a second and try to remove yourself from a defensive position. 

I know how hard parenting can be and trust me when I say if I knew then what I know now, there’s a good chance I’d be single and childless and living in a loft in downtown Chicago.  Parenting is a ton harder than I ever thought it would be and the difficulties are only exacerbated when we add race into the mix. There are no easy answers and we all want to do what is best for our kids.  That being said, I think you are not doing yourself or your children any favors if you write off what Jane wrote. 

If I sound condescending and rude I will apologize at the get go.  I don’t mean to sound either way but I ask that parents of young children learn from others with older children and from adult adoptees. The vast majority of whom will tell you it is imperative that you live in a racially diverse area and have friends of your child’s nationality. This is not a “it would be nice if..”  sort of thing.  This is a MUST.  It is up there with a roof over your child’s head, food on the table and doctor’s visit’s when your child is sick.  I am sorry if you don’t want to hear this but it is the reality of adopting across racial lines. 

I don’t care how nice the people in your neighborhood are, do you/your white neighbors know how to behave as a black man being pulled over by a policeman for DWB so that you are not arrested or worse?  Do you/your white neighbors understand how it feels to walk through a department store being followed by security because they are sure you will be shoplifting something?  Do you/your white neighbors know how to respond if someone uses the N-word?  (or what to say when your teenager thinks it’s an okay word to use?)

When we adopt transracially, we give meaning to the saying it takes a village.  My village is not only my family but my friends who are the same race as my sons.  They provide assistance when I have questions from skin care to racism and I wouldn’t be able to parent my boys without them.

I encourage you to create your own village.  It will only help your children…and you too.

Posted by kthlava on Sep 30, 2011 at 8:36am

Jane,
As a fellow mental health professional who also addresses adoption-related issues in my work and, more importantly, as a fellow adoptive parent in a transracial family, I just thought I would briefly share my thoughts on this thread.
You definitely bring up some excellent points about racial socialization and helping our children best cope with their adoption status.  I’m just wondering if your points and message are being lost because, in my opinion, your posts do come across as somewhat condescending and with an air of superiority. 
We are all parents through adoption who want the best for our children.  Instead of reprimanding each other, we would benefit from creating a climate of mutual support and understanding, while still being honest with each other, about what our children likely need.

Cristal Lake-Sanders, LPC

Posted by Josna on Sep 30, 2011 at 9:22pm

I was really struck by this whole conversation and ended up blogging about the issues - http://thrivingdespiteus.blogspot.com/2011/10/love-is-not-all-we-needsorry-john.html

Posted by kthlava on Oct 06, 2011 at 11:08pm

I have to say that I am concerned by the thought that other adoption agencies are not preparing families for transracial adoption. I work for a large social service agency that always puts great efforts to ensure that families are appropriate, well educated and “prepared” before they adopt. Part of our assessment is always looking at the friends and family members ethnic backgrounds and connectivity to their adopted child’s background. We have a very diverse adoption team, which helps educate our families and helps them understand some of what their child will be faced with. We train our parents how to deal with racial issues (which is taught by staff that are of different backgrounds (Lithuanian, Colombian, African American, Japanese, Panamanian) and caucasian. We help them understand what it means to be a tranracial family and have them speak to some of our other transracial families (it is set up as a mentorship). After placement (or adoption) we walk with the family through their post placement and beyond. We help families deal with racial (and any other issues that come up) issues.

I don’t want families to think that all adoption agencies are failing to prepare their families. Which is not true! There are many excellent agencies out there that have been focusing on transracial adoption for years and are doing a great job.

Just my two cents.

Connie

Posted by Adoption Specialist on Oct 07, 2011 at 9:08pm

I am new to posting and hope to get comfort from you all during the adoption journey.

I am a white female with an AA female partner in the process of adopting an African American child and do understand the importance of ensuring he is accepting of all people regardless of race,etc. and also understand the importance of teaching him that not all people are equally accepting. I have to say I do not believe moving to a neighborhood that is predominately AA is the solution to curing racism. My parents did not shelter me from other races nor did they try to ensure I was engaged with other white children. They let me be a child and find my way by teaching me morals,ethics and human decency. When I started the path of adoption I was questioned why I did not specify race. One of my best friends was involved in the conversation and she said “oh she’s colorblind”. I promptly disagreed. I am not colorblind nor would I engage in a behavior of diminishing someone’s worth as a individual based on race. I made choices which were right for me and my family which is all any of us can do in this wonderful journey. I have friends which did have a racial preference because they wanted children which resembled them - this was their choice and it should be respected. It appears Jane is very passionate about adoption, sometimes that can produce strong opinions from the individual and can be received as the person thinking they are “a know it all” - no offense intended Jane it is just a perception based on your writing style. I appreciate the viewpoint and providing of educational material.

I personally belive what this boils down to is we love our children and,speaking for myself, I will not have someone else tell me how to rear my child which,without the source meaning to, insinuates questiong my love and the type of lifestyle I believe is best and which I provide for my child. Funniest event so far is my mom, his MiMi, telling me she knows what is best for him regarding his eating..he is 7mnths old and I have had him since birth - he was a premie and now weighs a whopping 19lbs but she’s not sure he’s eating enough when he does his 2 seconds of fussing when his formula is all gone. I just assure her his peditrician is monitoring his feeding and “her baby” is doing just fine - more LOVE for him so I am grateful.

Posted by 4evermommy on Oct 07, 2011 at 10:32pm

@Sam- I have a suggestion that you may or may not have considered. I don’t know your family situation other than knowing that you have an 8 and a 10 year old adopted Korean daughters. Have you thought about sponsoring a Foreign Exchange Student from Korea? Since your girls are old enough they could learn so much culture from a teenaged Korean girl as well as having an older sister of their race/culture to be pen pals/ e-mail/picture pals with for the rest of their lives. I have adopted from foster care but besides being a foster parent I have always wanted to sponsor a child in the foreign exchange program once my children were old enough. My friend here sponsored 2 girls a couple of years ago at the same time, one from China and one from Korea. My family loved these girls as did their host family. She is also still in contact with the girls in the program that came from other Asian countries as well. It was a great experience for all involved. Since you have limited cultural exchange in your area this might work for your family.

Posted by serfmom on Oct 07, 2011 at 11:13pm

@Sam- I have a suggestion that you may or may not have considered. I don’t know your family situation other than knowing that you have an 8 and a 10 year old adopted Korean daughters. Have you thought about sponsoring a Foreign Exchange Student from Korea? Since your girls are old enough they could learn so much culture from a teenaged Korean girl as well as having an older sister of their race/culture to be pen pals/ e-mail/picture pals with for the rest of their lives. I have adopted from foster care but besides being a foster parent I have always wanted to sponsor a child in the foreign exchange program once my children were old enough. My friend here sponsored 2 girls a couple of years ago at the same time, one from China and one from Korea. My family loved these girls as did their host family. She is also still in contact with the girls in the program that came from other Asian countries as well. It was a great experience for all involved. Since you have limited cultural exchange in your area this might work for your family.

Posted by serfmom on Oct 07, 2011 at 11:13pm

@Sam- I have a suggestion that you may or may not have considered. I don’t know your family situation other than knowing that you have an 8 and a 10 year old adopted Korean daughters. Have you thought about sponsoring a Foreign Exchange Student from Korea? Since your girls are old enough they could learn so much culture from a teenaged Korean girl as well as having an older sister of their race/culture to be pen pals/ e-mail/picture pals with for the rest of their lives. I have adopted from foster care but besides being a foster parent I have always wanted to sponsor a child in the foreign exchange program once my children were old enough. My friend here sponsored 2 girls a couple of years ago at the same time, one from China and one from Korea. My family loved these girls as did their host family. She is also still in contact with the girls in the program that came from other Asian countries as well. It was a great experience for all involved. Since you have limited cultural exchange in your area this might work for your family.

Posted by serfmom on Oct 07, 2011 at 11:14pm

@Sam- I have a suggestion that you may or may not have considered. I don’t know your family situation other than knowing that you have an 8 and a 10 year old adopted Korean daughters. Have you thought about sponsoring a Foreign Exchange Student from Korea? Since your girls are old enough they could learn so much culture from a teenaged Korean girl as well as having an older sister of their race/culture to be pen pals/ e-mail/picture pals with for the rest of their lives. I have adopted from foster care but besides being a foster parent I have always wanted to sponsor a child in the foreign exchange program once my children were old enough. My friend here sponsored 2 girls a couple of years ago at the same time, one from China and one from Korea. My family loved these girls as did their host family. She is also still in contact with the girls in the program that came from other Asian countries as well. It was a great experience for all involved. Since you have limited cultural exchange in your area this might work for your family.

Posted by serfmom on Oct 07, 2011 at 11:14pm

My take is that comments like Janes and others make us stop and evaluate.  Ultimately in any situation we need to decide what is right for our children, but where we don’t have prior experience its good to know what is important for our children.

Racial socialization is important?  That is good news for us, since we can’t live in a diverse area, we can make the most of the people we do have here and realize it is even MORE important to make real connections with people, to have both adult and child friendships and other relationships.

When we moved last year (within the same community), I made sure our house was close to another mixed family that I knew of, so our daughter would ride the bus to school with their kids.  Although we are not religious, we have joined a church with a diverse population and a strong black history.  My daughter’s friend who is black? I take special care to support that friendship.  ANY potential relationship with a non-caucasian person is explored.  These things do not make up for a diverse neighbourhood, but being conscious of the need for it influences our decisions.

Both of our kids have special needs and a move to the diverse populations we have access to would affect them negatively in potentially very serious ways.  This doesn’t let us of the hook actually it makes our job harder.  But I also know we are in the right place for our family right now.

Posted by lovemykids on Oct 07, 2011 at 11:25pm

I am sorry. Computer issues resulted in my post being posted 4 times and I evidently can edit but not delete them. I AM usually passionate but this post was not meant to be on here 4 times. (blush) Sorry.

Posted by serfmom on Oct 07, 2011 at 11:52pm

I have said this before, but want to reiterate that I really do agree with many of the points brought up in Jane Brown’s posts (and then later reinforced in kathlava’s blog post). And I do appreciate heads of transracial families, especially those with older children, sharing their experiences and attempting to help those of us with younger kids or those who may just be starting their journey. My problem has always been with tone not content. I for one do not expect ‘sugarcoating’....false words that gloss over the intricacies of transracial parenting. But I don’t equate a courteous tone with sugarcoating.

Jane, you mentioned in kathlava’s blog comments that you feel parents who offer resistance often return to read more of your writing in part because they love their children and your writing offers a knowledgeable perspective. That is definitely true for me. Your writing style often rubs me the wrong way, as I have obviously admitted in the past, but I appreciate your knowledge. For my part, I will try to overcome my sensitivity to what may essentially be an issue of writing aesthetics.

It would be a great benefit to this forum if we could, as a group, move on from the ‘us vs them’ divisiveness that some individuals have commented on and start having discussions about positive solutions to the challenges of transracial parenting. In other words, rather than our simply listing what must be done and why it must be done, let’s have some conversations about HOW to do what must be done. I think this is really where new or relatively new transracial adoptive parents feel a sense insecurity or inability. The HOW is where veteran transracial adoptive parents can offer great insight.

Posted by Felicia on Oct 08, 2011 at 3:13am

I want to say that I’ve been intently following this thread on my phone for a couple of days, and I’ve been DYING to comment but typing this all out on a tiny screen was daunting! 

Felicia: I really appreciate your latest post on this thread, and I think your point requesting more HOW info is very well made.

To all the folks talking about how hard it is to find diversity in your neighborhood and claiming that cultural experiences are all you can come by within your resources: then make the most of what you have.  Someone up above said they don’t feel comfortable just walking up to people of color at the grocery and asking if they want to be friends.  I agree, I feel the same way.  I feel like it’s a racist assumption that they would want to be my friend just because my brown baby needs a mentor.  But at cultural events focused on people of color, the type of people you’re most likely to bump into and mingle with and possibly forge relationships with are the kind of people who are interested in nurturing and fostering their culture and I think it’s reasonable to guess that some of them would be interested in being a friend to me and/or a mentor to my kid.  The point of Jane’s link to the study isn’t to say that cultural events and experiences are useless, but to say that relationships with adults of color are the most important thing.

Finally, to JerseyJenna, who said “We are going to teach our children that skin color doesn matter.”  I would STRONGLY, STRONGLY, and I say again (politely) STRONGLY suggest that you learn more about race and racism before you take that approach.  Denene Millner said it better than I could, and though she’s talking primarily about white parents teaching their white children, I think her point stands for transracial families, too.  http://www.parenting.com/blogs/parenting-post/denene-millner-mybrownbaby/race-matters  Further, she links off to some other blogs and articles that will allow you to explore other facets of the issue.

Not talking to your kids about race, or teaching them that “it doesn’t matter” is an approach that was tried with kids my age in school as a way of eradicating racism.  It left us with white kids unaware of their own privilege and kids of color whose racial self-concept came from tv, unless they had better teachers at home.  I’ve seen it NOT working first hand, which is why I’m so passionate about advocating against it.  Obviously, we all do what we do for our kids with the best of intentions and the best knowledge we have.  I hope the article I linked helps you find information that will help you decide what’s best for your kids.

Posted by Thalas'shaya on Oct 08, 2011 at 6:51am

This thread brings up so many concerns!  We live in a community that’s not very racially-diverse and my husband and I are researching communities to move to.  My husband is Asian, I’m white, we have a biological son and our daughter is biracial (African American/White).  It’s been hard to find a community that’s diverse with a good school system and that won’t make our commute even longer.  A friend of mine who’s African American says that she was the only brown person in her school but that it wasn’t an issue for her, she thinks a better school is more important but she’s not adopted.  Should we sacrifice our children’s education to be in more diverse area?  Or should we live in a less diverse area and join a black church, for example?  Will it be easier for our daughter since everyone in her family is a different race from each other?  Unfortunately, we don’t have many friends of color who live in our part of the country.  Thanks in advance for your advice!

Posted by 2xmom on Oct 08, 2011 at 10:58am

Your friend may have been the only Brown person in her school but her family was Brown so she had family friends church etc.

Only you can decide what is best. I find it interesting that over and over people are stating the diverse neighborhoods have poor schools. What a horrible thought in our country that all children are not given an equal education. I think that is a great example of white privilege that people are mentioning. Also that in so many areas there are no diverse neighborhoods. I guess we have a long way to go. Racism is still alive and well in the USA which is why it is so important we teach the children about what is right (no racism, equal opportunity for all) and how far we have to go to meet those goals. That is why statements like “I don’t see race” are nice but they rest of the world is not agreeing or we would have diverse neighborhoods with great schools.

I guess you are all a different race (you are White, husband Asian daughter biracial (AA white) and your son is biracial (Asian white)

You need to decide what is best for your family.

Posted by Regina on Oct 08, 2011 at 10:13pm
Posted by Frank Ligtvoet on Oct 09, 2011 at 4:24am

This article upset me and there are several reasons why.  Not because it is rude or condescending but accusatory.

As the white mother of a bi-racial daughter we constantly face new challanges.  We handle them the best that we can.  Adoptive parents who make the decision to adopt transracially know they have the responsibilty to teach their children about their culture and race.  That is part of the unspoken agreement when you adopt transracially.  I have yet to meet any transracial adoptive parents who did not take the task of educating their child very seriously.

Therefore, the accusatory tone of this article makes me upset.  Adoptive parents not only have parenting challenges but often race issues, adoption issues, abandoment issues, foster issues, abuse issues, etc. to deal with.  We are often misunderstood and not supported by members of our community.  So articles like this that accuse adoptive parents of not doing a good job raising their children annoy me.

Has the author posted on African American, Hispanic, Asian and othe non-white blogs/websites urging them to adopt children so they can be taught about racial diversity by their own race?  If she feels so strongly about racial identity has she criticized them for not adopting children of their own race so they will not be raised by white parents?

If the author meets a non-white couple who have put their children in a private school which is 90% white does she criticize them for putting their kids in a non-white environment?

Does she criticize non-white parents when their children are NOT taught about their heritage, race and culture?  How many non-white parents provide their children a thorough education about their race and culture?  Has she studied and criticized those parents?

In my opinion, transracially adoptive parents are MORE likely to be aware of race and how children should be in racially diverse environments. 

The article would have been more helpful if it had positive ideas for helping your children learn about their race instead of accusations that adopted parents are not doing a good job.

I believe ALL parents need to provide a racially diverse environment for their children, not just adoptive parents.

Posted by sassypants on Oct 18, 2011 at 1:31am

So… we’re in the process of adopting a sibling pair of Hispanic children, ages almost-10 and just-14.  They are old enough to be part of the process, and are choosing to come to us rather than remain in foster care or look for another match.  We’re a very good fit for them and them for us!  And yet we are white parents, and our bio children are white, and our two previously adopted children are white.  The new children have been living in a Hispanic foster home, have plenty of friends of all races, and don’t seem particularly interested in discussion of ethnic identity.  Their grandparents came from Mexio… but they don’t consider themselves Mexican-American, and show little interest in learning Spanish, although they take it in school and do very well.  I’ve been reading through all these posts and wondering what advice you all have for us—as a family adopting these older children who already have formed their identity and feelings about race/ethnicity before we ever met them.  Thank you so much—in advance—for your ideas!

Posted by VintageMom on Apr 16, 2013 at 8:09am

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