Transracial Adoption: What Birth and Adoptive Parents Need to Know First
Adoption is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly -- even more so if you’re a birth parent or an adoptive parent who’s considering transracial adoption. Transracial adoption is just like how it sounds: when a person, couple or family from one race or ethnicity adopts a child from another one and makes that child a part of their family. Transracial adoption is a wonderful way to expand a family and, just like with other types of adoption, it’s extremely important to do your research to make sure it's the right type of adoption for you!
With transracial adoption, it’s common for children, birth parents and adoptive families to be confronted with judgement, specifically racism and stereotyping, from others. These things can turn birth parents and potential adoptive parents away from transracial adoption, which is why it’s important if you’re considering it to do lots of research. Not just on transracial adoption itself, but on race and ethnicity as well. If you become the adoptive parent of a child who’s a different race than you, it’s your responsibility to stand up for your child, your family and to call out racism! Likewise, the birth parent(s) should fight negativity and racism by standing up for both their child and their child’s adoptive family, whether they’re involved in the child’s life or not!
Tips for a Successful Transracial Adoption
Birth and adoptive parents alike need to do their research when it comes to transracial adoption -- on race, ethnicity, culture and even on history! People come in all different colors from all different backgrounds. If you’re considering transracial adoption, you probably respect, understand and embrace that. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who don’t and who will express their negativity. Defending your family or your child’s family against racism and educating others about the dangerous effects of racism can be difficult if you don’t understand the issue. When judgement and racism inevitably rear their ugly heads, you, whether you’re the birth parent or the adoptive parent, need to be prepared to combat those things, which is why it’s crucial to do research and educate yourself if you’re considering transracial adoption!
For adoptive parents especially, it’s important for you to find ways to celebrate your child’s birth culture! Adoptees often struggle with their identity and sense of self, especially those who have been adopted transracially. Celebrating your child’s birth culture gives you and your child the opportunity to bond with each other and also gives your child the chance to discover a piece of their identity!
Also, if your child’s birth parent or birth family is involved in your lives, you might be able to find out from them a bit more about your child’s birth culture and how best to celebrate those important parts of their background. That said, even if your child’s birth parent(s) are more than willing to provide you with information about your child’s birth culture, don’t rely on them to do all the work for you! The more you know, the better prepared you will be when your child comes to you with questions about culture, ethnicity and race.
If you’re considering transracial adoption, it’s important to think about accurate representation and what is referred to “racial mirrors,” a term that is used within the adoption community that is specifically related to transracial adoptions. If you become the parent of a child whose race is different than yours, it’s your job as a parent to seek out these racial mirrors, or people who racially represent your child, and ensure that your child feels accurately represented, not just in the way they look, but also in terms of ethnicity, culture and history. Finding these racially-representative role models can be difficult, especially if you live in an area that lacks diversity, which is why it’s vital to evaluate where you live and the surrounding community before committing to a transracial adoption!
For birth parents, depending on where you’re from, you may be aware of resources for your child the adoptive parents don’t know about. If you have information that could be beneficial to them and/or to your child, speak up! Your child should always, always feel safe and welcomed, and it’s important for children to have access to resources that help connect them to their racial and ethnic community!
If you choose transracial adoption, your research doesn’t end once the adoption is finalized! As the parent of a child who’s a different race than you, you should constantly be educating yourself as you’re going to face judgement, stereotyping and racism on a daily basis. As you’re educating yourself, try to find an age-appropriate and easy-to-understand way to talk about these things with your child. Talking about race might feel awkward at first, but it’s necessary and will get easier the more you do it. You need to have these difficult conversations, so both you and your child know how to respond to discrimination from others. At times, you might feel that these discussions are frustrating and redundant, but, again, they’re necessary. Remember, too, that much of today’s racism is institutionalized, from our schools to our workplaces and everything in between. It takes time and patience to unlearn the subtle racism that these institutions have ingrained in us!
For anyone considering transracial adoption, this cannot be emphasized enough: You must be prepared to encounter and respond to the negativity of others. People are going to judge your child and your family. Make sure both you and your child know how to defend yourselves and your family, and use what you’ve learned and what you know to call out discrimination and try to educate others! Equally as important, you must teach yourself, your child and your family that love, kindness and compassion transcend everything. Keep in mind that when you’re educating others, teaching with these things is often the most effective way to break through to someone. When you do so, you might be surprised by how receptive people are! On the other hand, people might still leave you feeling exasperated, which can be extremely disappointing. Don’t let go of love, kindness and compassion, especially in these moments. Love will always win and the narrow mindedness of a person is their loss, not yours!
Transracial Adoption is for Everyone
When you hear the phrase “transracial adoption,” what image comes to mind? For most people, they imagine a Caucasian couple with an African-American, Hispanic or Asian child. There isn’t anything wrong with this image, of course, but it’s important to remember that transracial adoption is for everyone!
If you’re considering transracial adoption, but are still a little hesitant, the best thing you can do is research, research, research! Learn as much as you can about all races and ethnicities! Remember -- the more you know, the easier it’ll be for you to educate your child, as well as others. Also, the better you understand, respect and appreciate the culture that makes your child unique, the better you will love and raise your child!