An adoptive parent writes:
My husband and I have adopted four fantastic kids out of foster care. Our oldest is Caucasian/Hispanic/Native American and is 15, one daughter is a very dark skinned African American 5 year old, a biracial 4 year old daughter, and a biracial 2 year old son. This question may appear to be snobbish or self centered, but I’m going to ask it anyway.
My husband and I are both well educated and from middle/upper class Caucasian families. While we don’t cram it down their throats, we do try to embrace each child’s race(s) as much as possible. I am homeschooling our younger children because our five year old has cognitive as well as physical delays. She attended public preschool and had a wonderful teacher. He recommened homeschooling because he thought she was capable of so much more than the test scores showed. We agreed, and we do not think she deserves the label “special ed.”
We really enjoy having school everyday and are quite involved at the Y with dance and our homeschool group. However, the Y has a very small number of African American familes who attend, and our homeschool group has none.
Finally, my question: How do you recommend we meet families of African American descent that will be at the same socio-economic level as our own? We live in SW Florida, which has a large Haitian community, however our kids are not Haitian. Also, because we would like our children to achieve as much as possible in life, we would like them exposed to others who also hold education in high esteem. I fully expect at least three of my children to hold college degrees or at least choose a serious profession.
We want the best for our children regardless of their race. Is it right to expose them to people we can’t relate to on any level other than race? Thanks for your opinion!
John Raible Answers:
You asked: Is it right to expose them to people we can’t relate to on any level other than race? I think a wide- ranging exposure to all types of people is good for all children. The more familiarity with diversity the better. As parents, of course, the more familiar and comfortable we ourselves are with people from all walks of life, the better prepared we will be to provide opportunities for our children to get to know diverse others.
From your earlier comments, I think what you are really asking is this: How do we find role models who look like our kids, and who share our values, socioeconomic backgrounds, and education levels? You might want to read previous posts on this website, where I have discussed my ideas on this question at length. Basically, it boils down to making a conscious effort to become multicultural people.
Consider this: Is where you now live and socialize diverse enough to provide the kinds of opportunities we are talking about? Or do you need to consider relocating or joining a house of worship or school community that is truly multicultural? I’m sure that in Florida there are communities made up of well- educated, employed, academically oriented families of all colors and nationalities, maybe even closer than you think. Allowing your kids to have full access to such a community is a wonderful gift you can give to your children. I hope this response helps you think about your next steps.
Michelle Johnson Answers:
As I do not know what community you live in near southwest Florida, I can not say whether there is a large African American population nearby. Yet it is certain that within an hour of your house there are enough resources. As educated people, I would suggest contacting your local colleges and see if they have African American Studies programs. This will give you access to both professors and students. Many Black student organizations would be interested in assisting your children as well. Looking for book clubs or library organizations with African American themes is another idea.
I would caution you from assuming that the only thing your children will have in common with less educated members of their birth communities is race. They may have many talents or interests with people of their same ethnic background. While it is good that you also have high ambitions for your children in terms of college, they in the end will determine if this is right for them. Be prepared for the possibility that they choose a different path, or delay college entry, as this can happen. The main point in all of this is for your children to feel unconditionally supported. This is critically important for all adopted children regardless of race; to feel loved and accepted by you. How you react to their decisions will affect both your short term relationships, as well as your relations with them as adults. Best of luck.