Adopting a Child of Another Race
What Adoptive Parents Need to Know About Transracial Adoption
Adoption is beautiful for many reasons. Of those, one stands out: Family is more than biology.
Despite differences that may have historically caused division, adoption is a manifestation of love and unity. Although not related by blood, children who come home through adoption find love and permanency in a family and have the opportunity to thrive.
Many families considering adoption today are well aware of the fact that adoption could make them a transracial family. What does that mean, exactly?
Transracial adoption is when an adoptive family is adopting a child of a different race. Thankfully, this idea is not shocking or new to most people. It may seem silly to point that out, but we’re not that far removed from a very different cultural perception of adopting children of different races.
While we’re thankful for the progress that has been made concerning transracial families, there’s still room for improvement. Additionally, there’s always a need for continued education on the part of parents who are thinking about adopting a child of a different race than their own. Complex challenges attached to race, culture and heritage will come up in this unique parenting journey. The more open you are to learning about the nuances of adopting a child of another race, the better chance you will have of helping your child thrive.
Why it’s Important to Talk about Transracial Adoption
We, as Americans, don’t love discussing sensitive topics. Race is about as sensitive as it gets. This subject is complex and ever-changing. That’s why it is so important to keep an open mind and humble attitude as parents.
It’s common to hope that love will cover all.
“We won’t need to talk about adopting a child of another race because we will love her just the same.”
While your love is never in question, this is not the best approach to adopting a child of a different race. Your love will be the same, but the way they grow up will be different. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing — let’s celebrate diversity. What we can’t afford to do is pretend that diversity of experience due to race doesn’t exist.
As parents, it’s important to learn about how your child’s experience will differ from yours. Then, as is appropriate, do your best to communicate what you’ve learned and prepare them for the life ahead.
Finding Role Models and Celebrating Heritage
It’s best to be proactive when you are a parent. This is true regardless of your family’s unique makeup. If you are considering adopting a child of another race, one way to be pro-active is seeking out role models and history for your child that may not be as important to you personally.
If you are a white family adopting a black child, are there black role models in your community, like pastors, business leaders or coaches, who you can connect with? If you are an African-American family adopting a Hispanic baby, how can you help your child maintain an important connection with their heritage?
There are an infinite number of transracial family combinations that we could ask these questions about, but you get the idea. Adopting a different race means embracing two cultures with gusto. This can create a rich environment, and you may find yourself benefiting almost as much as your child.
How Adopting a Child of another Race Works
Can you adopt a child of another race? Yes, you absolutely can. In fact, transracial adoption is more common than ever before. While it used to be a rare occurrence, the Institute for Family Studies found that transracial adoption increased by 50 percent from 1999 to 2011.
At American Adoptions, we encourage families to be completely open and honest about what they are okay with in their adoption process. For some families, looking like their children may be important. Others may be open (and eager!) to adopting a child of another race. It’s totally up to you.
One of the first things you’ll do after contacting an adoption specialist to start the process is complete something called an Adoption Planning Questionnaire (APQ). Your APQ will set the boundaries on your adoption — what you are okay with, and what you are not okay with. This includes things like how open your adoption relationship is, the medical history of the prospective birth mother and race of the child.
As far as the rest of the process goes, adopting a child of a different race follows the same steps as any other adoption process.
Learning More about Adopting a Child of another Race
When it comes to the complex intersection of race, family and culture, you can never stop learning.
Families can educate themselves and their children by:
Reading books about diversity and race to their children
Going to social activities where the child can interact with other children of their own race
Contacting a mentor who is of the same ethnic background as the child
Talking about race openly and honestly
Implementing a no-tolerance policy regarding racial or ethnic biased remarks
Celebrating traditional holidays that are a part of the child’s ethnic culture by cooking traditional foods and playing games
Joining a church that has a diverse congregation
Becoming more aware of discrimination and addressing these issues openly with the child
Engaging in activities where individuality and uniqueness in children is encouraged and rewarded
Most importantly, adoptive parents who complete a transracial adoption must be dedicated to providing a home where the family regularly communicates about race and ethnicity and is open about cultural issues and identity.
Have more questions about adopting a child of a different race or the challenges of parenting in a transracial family? You can call 1-800-ADOPTION at any time to speak with an adoption specialist or request more free information about adoption online.
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