A Transracial Adoptee Writes:
I’m a 20 year old female and a child of transracial fostering. I was placed with a white family permanently from the age of 1-1/2 after previously staying with them while my birth mother returned to Africa. Although the foster placement was by private arrangement and at the time temporary, I have remained with them as if it was in fact an adoption. I consider them my parents.
The problem I am having is the coping mechanisms I use to deal with my situation are not working, and I am increasingly finding it harder to deal with my situation. Blocking my feelings of isolation out and hoping that they will go away is no longer working, and I find my lack of knowledge and experience of my culture very isolating and very damaging to my confidence and self esteem. What’s worse is I find it very difficult to broach the subject with my family or white friends as they see me as white and think that by wanting to look at my culture I am trying to be something I am not or in some way dismissing or saying there is something wrong with white culture. Black friends/ acquaintances dismiss my curiosity, seeing me as being white or a coconut and find it very awkward or an intrusion if I ask them questions about things regarding race or culture. They see these things as something I should just know, or ask my “family” or “close family acquaintances” to help me, in a way assuming I have close black friends or relatives to teach me.
I have sought counseling in order to try and put my experiences into perspective and move on from my experiences, but I have found the experiences to be unhelpful as counselors have not been able to help me resolve issues or provide necessary support.
I suppose my question is to ask if there is anything you suggest I can do or any organizations that can help me. I have spent many years trying to teach myself on the internet and have experimented with food, etc., but am finding the emotional burden of carrying my experience alone a burden and very damaging to my self. I’m based in the UK and have found that most of the literature on transracial adoption caters toward theoretical discussion or to preparing or informing parents considering taking the transracial step, as opposed to providing resources to those who need help with adjusting to having gone through the process. I just feel as if this is a huge black cloud over my head and that I need some help to sort my life about before it affects me anymore.
John Raible Answers:
Your comments and questions strike a chord with me. I know how lonely and misunderstood we adoptees can feel sometimes, given our seemingly unique family situations, and the complex issues we grapple with. People who have not lived through a transracial adoption cannot truly empathize with our situations. However, I feel like I know exactly what you are talking about! Trying to make sense of our experiences is made even harder since both race and adoption are two volatile, controversial issues in our society. People from different backgrounds have strong feelings about both topics, yet few of us have the chance to talk openly and honestly about our perspectives.
What has helped me the most has been finding other transracially adopted people to talk to. You might start by looking for adoption conferences in your region, or traveling to attend one as necessary, if you can afford it. Sometimes groups for adoptive parents put on events where they invite adoptees to come and talk about their experiences. Try contacting a local or national adoptive parent group or a reputable adoption agency nearby. Ask if they can put you in touch with other adult transracial adoptees like yourself.
Another option is looking for groups for adults who grew up in foster care. In the USA, there is a pretty strong movement of foster care survivors (sometimes called foster care alumni/alumnae). Even if there are no such groups in your area, you can connect with different groups via the Internet. Google and other search engines can provide you with links to various web sites.
In closing, I would be happy to correspond with you privately though email. Let the administrator of this board know that you want to email me, and she can forward that email to me directly.
I wish you the best of luck in finding the support you deserve. Do write back and we can go from there.