How to Have a Successful Transracial Adoption
Transracial families are beautiful. Adopting outside of one’s race should not be taboo. But, as a birth mother (especially a non-white birth mother), it’s important to consider how an adoptive family outside of your race plans to mindfully raise your child. Some families might believe having a successful transracial adoption is as simple as adopting the child, but it’s much more nuanced than that. There are opportunities to raise a child outside of your own race while optimizing the child’s experience for healthy development. Because differences exist. They should be recognized, celebrated and empathized with.
We at Adoption Choices of New York are happy to share with you how to have a successful transracial adoption. As the birth mother, it can be helpful to know how your potential adoptive family might prepare for raising a child outside their race.
The Colorblindness Mentality
You might have heard it hundreds of times: “I don’t see skin color.” It sounds nice to hear this. To know that an adoptive family plans to raise your child as their own and that differing skin color isn’t a factor for them. However, the colorblindness mentality isn’t helpful to your child and should be addressed. If somebody doesn’t see skin color, they aren’t seeing everything that makes up your child. It’s a disservice to the adoptee to pretend like race is nonexistent.
In order to have a successful transracial adoption, race must be accepted and recognized. Because even if the adoptive family is truly colorblind, the rest of the world isn’t. People will ask questions, make assumptions and acknowledge race in more aggressive ways even if the adoptive family won’t.
So it’s better for the adoptive family to see skin color, to recognize race and prepare as a family for transracial adoption.
Communication with the Adoptee
Healthy communication can go a very long way in raising a child. This means having an open discussion with the adoptee when they can understand. Acknowledge racism exists in the world, acknowledge culture and acknowledge differences.
An informed adoptive family encourages honest and thoughtful conversation. For example, they can prepare their child for questions they may get when they go to school. Another child may be confused why your child looks different from their parents. But, If the child is aware of this, these questions may come as less of a surprise — the adoptee can feel more comfortable expressing that they are adopted. The adoptee’s family may not look alike, but they are family who love each other.
It’s important not to wait for the adoptee to start the conversation. The weight of race shouldn’t be on your child alone. It’s up to the adoptive family to open the door to this conversation. It may be heavier for a child than it is for an adult. Let the child know this topic is not off limits, nor is it overly uncomfortable for the adoptive parent or parents.
Allow conversation to flow. Let the adoptee talk and ask questions as they need.
Communication with the Adoptive Family
If you, the birth mother, get the opportunity, it may be beneficial for you to speak with prospective adoptive families about race, too. You may want to ask important questions. Find out how the adoptive family will educate themselves as your child grows up.
You may want to look for a family who has already thought deeply about these questions before adopting a child from another race. For example, how will the adoptive family teach your child about their birth culture? Or his or her history? How will they confront any and all discrimination your child may face? Does the adoptive family already know how to have a successful transracial adoption?
Many presumptive transracial adoptive parents have great intentions, but haven’t yet considered the nuances of transracial adoption or what the adoptee will grapple with growing up. Thus, it’s important that the adoptive family doesn’t choose to merely ignore the adoptee’s race.
Sooner or later, most adoptees of a separate race will become curious about their identity or face discrimination. With open communication, your child won’t have to go through it alone.
Connect Your Child to their Community and Culture
It’s important for a child to feel as if they belong with their adoptive family and have a place in the world. Any child will go through some search for identity — clothing style phases, hobbies and so on. But, for a child in a transracial family, establishing identity can have a layered meaning. The adoptive family should help the adoptee by getting involved. Teach them about their birth culture and history. Show them important people — in history and today — who represent their racial group proudly.
Connecting to Culture
Plan to embrace new traditions. Cultural celebrations can be a fun and educational way for the whole family to get involved in the adoptee’s culture. Sharing celebratory holiday food together from the adoptee’s culture, for example, is a wonderful way to embrace differences together. There may be celebrations within the community that the adoptive family can join, as well.
The adoptive family should share with your child picture books with protagonists and heroes who look like them, or with a child in a transracial adoptive family. Show them TV shows where someone like them gets to save the day. There’s something validating about seeing somebody like you represented in stories, even if it’s somebody fictional to look up to. Stories can be a great way to open up conversation with the adoptee.
Connecting to Community
Outside of fiction, it’s possible to find mentors and role models for your child. Adoption support groups can help too, so the adoptive family can navigate this as a family unit.
Fiction, history, role models and support groups all can teach your child about their culture. By having a connection to their culture from an early age, it avoids any cultural identity crisis that might snowball later on.
The adoptive parent can get involved and invested, too. They might join a community group dedicated to racial or social justice to remain an active proponent for your child. It’s important your child knows that their adoptive parents care about them and their identity.
Location is a factor as well. The adoptive family might choose to live in a diverse community. This way, your child can go to a diverse school where they are equally represented. The adoptive family as a whole can live in a community where they are not different from everybody else, and your child can have ample opportunity to make friends in many different racial groups.
In transracial adoption, the most important thing is the first step: recognize race. By recognizing race, the adoptive family is setting themselves up for success. As the birth mother, you may have the chance to speak with prospective adoptive families.
You may have the power to highlight important questions about how to have a successful transracial adoption. Open communication, preparedness, and connection to culture can make a huge difference in the adoptee’s life. At Adoption Choices of New York, we are committed to preparing you for any choices you make in your adoption plan.
Meet the Author: Tara Giuffre has always loved reading and writing and grew up in the worlds of Narnia, Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Taking this passion for stories, she received a degree from Rutgers University in Journalism & Media. Besides writing, she likes long walks on the beach, spending time with her family (and her cat, Sansa), and baking the perfect loaf of bread.
She enjoys sharing vital information about adoption and birth mothers choosing adoption to families making important choices for their future family!