Transracial adoption is not for every family, just as adoption is not for every family. Some very nice people are not necessarily good parents. Many good parents cannot really accept someone else’s child and love it as their own. Many adoptive parents are excellent parents to a child of their own race, but not to a child of another race or background. It takes parents with a certain sensitivity and understanding to parent a child of a different race in our race-conscious society.
Adopting a child of a different race: What is involved for the parent and the child?
From the parent’s point of view:
- Your family will now be interracial for generations. It is not just the question of an appealing little baby. How do you think and feel about interracial marriage? How does your family think and feel when people assume that you are married to someone of a different race? How do you feel about getting some public attention – positive or negative stares, comments?
- A possible problem could be that the child gets too much attention and others in the family tend to get “left out.” What are your thoughts about race? What characteristics do you think people of other races have? Do you expect your child to have them? The children get Americanized. Do you raise him to have the same identity as you or your other children? Do you help him to develop his own identity? Should he have a foreign name? What relationship will his name have to his sense of who he is?
- Imagine a child you know and love being sent to a foreign country to be adopted. How would you want him to be raised? As an American in a foreign country or as a native in that country? How can you learn what it is to be non-white or non-black, and growing up in a white or black society? You don’t know this from your own experience, so you’ll have to find out to teach yourself to become sensitive to your child’s world.
- Discrimination against Asians, Indians, Mestizos is more subtle than against blacks, so it is less obvious to a Caucasian or Black, and will require more sensitivity to subtleties.
From the child’s point of view:
- Preschool years- The people he loves best look different from him. It will be natural for him to want to resemble those he loves, or else understand why he looks different, and learn that difference is not a bad thing.
- Latency Stage- The child will need help in understanding his heritage and background so he can explain and feel comfortable about his status with his friends. He needs to be able to answer the question from other children, “What are you?”
- Teenage Years- This is the time where he tries to figure out, ” Who am I?” Curiosity about his birthparents or background may become stronger. Questions about dating arise, and you should look at your community. Try to guess how many of your friends and neighbors would wholeheartedly accept their child dating yours. How would you feel if your child developed a special interest in his native country, and identified himself as a foreigner, involved himself with a group of Oriental, Indian, or Latin American teens, wanted to visit his native land? Hopefully you would have kept alive his interest in , and knowledge of his original country’s culture and progress and not feel in the least threatened by his wanting to identify himself with such others.
- On to Adulthood- “Whom will I marry?” is a rather different question from “Whom will I date?” Do you have any idea now that your child might marry a Caucasian, an Oriental, a Mestizo, a Black? Would you recommend for or against interracial marriage for your child?
In addition to your qualities, thought, and feelings as parents, it is important to understand your motive for this kind of adoption:
Do you feel you are doing a good deed for a poor homeless child?
Do you feel that you’d be acquiring a status symbol, a conversation piece?
In her book “Adoptions Advisor,” Joan McNamara bluntly and accurately remarks, “You are adopting a child, not a tropical house plant to put in your living room.” It is important that you respect the child’s country and culture. If you feel that your own values and culture are superior to those of your child, or if you feel your primary orientation is to help this child become absorbed into your culture at the expense of his own, you might find transracial adoption is difficult for both you and your child. It is important to keep in mind that children are removed from their own country ONLY because they essentially have no future in that country, and no possibility of being cared for by permanent nurturing parents, either by adoption within that country, or strong long term foster care. Their only alternative to intercountry adoption would be institutionalization until they reach maturity. Reprinted with permission from the North American Council on Adoptable Children report on Intercountry Adoption: 1995.
We cannot overemphasize the importance of your being involved with a parent group before, during, and after your adoption. Parent groups provide education and support that will greatly benefit both you and your child.