Thoughts on Adoption and Race
Recently my husband and I have had a few pretty interesting conversations about interracial/transracial adoption. We are still working to decide if adoption is for us or not (see my most recent article on our adoption decisions here), but we are also thinking about decisions we will have to make if we choose to adopt. So, today, I’ve decided to share our thoughts and questions on adopting a child of a different race.
So, while we’ve had a few interesting conversations on the topic in the last week or two, when I read a post the other day by a fellow blogger on transracial adoption, it got me thinking that maybe I should put our thoughts down on paper. I’m pretty sure we are not the only potential adoptive parents asking questions and thinking about the potential race of an adoptive child. (Please note that this post may not be perfectly politically correct, but it comes from a place of honesty and is an attempt to articulate our decision making as it pertains to our road into adoption. And, while I know I’m probably verbalizing things that are not meant to be verbalized, I’m okay with doing so because it is an important decision we will have to make if we choose adoption).
Regardless of the type of adoption (domestic or international), a decision we will have to make is about the race of the child we are willing to adopt. As two Caucasian individuals, who are really as white as they come, we never gave it much thought as we naturally always assumed our children would share our race as our genetic make-up would result in a white child. Yet we both believe in equal rights in every way – gender, sexual orientation, race, etc. We really don’t see any distinction between people, yet through adoption we have to make a conscious decision. So, this whole adoption thing, is really pushing us to consider all potential races. Specifically, if we chose domestic open adoption, we will be forced to fill out a check-list of races we are willing to accept. I find this odd, but I guess it’s a choice we will have to make. Are we okay with adopting a child that is Native/Metis, Caucasian, African American, Asian, etc? And if we chose international adoption we will quite literally be choosing what ethnicity and race to adopt when we select the country. Since we started discussing adoption nearly a year ago, we’ve always assumed if we choose international adoption we would choose to adopt from Southeast Asia. There are a number of reasons why we would see adopting from Southeast Asia – we absolute love that part of the world; we would love to have our child be familiar with their heritage by being able to visit; we love spending time in this part of the world; and, there are lower alcohol and drug heath issues with adoptive children from this part of the world, etc.
So, when we started this conversation, my initial reaction is that I don’t care about race in the least. When my husband started to point out that maybe we need to be a bit more selective on race, I was actually taken aback. What did he mean, I thought he was just as open about race as I am, did I miss something in our 13 years together? Nope, I really didn’t miss anything, he is all about equal rights, but he started posing a few really interesting points. Truth be told, as politically incorrect as it may seem, we really do need to consider these things.
So, here’s the list of things we’ve started questioning when it comes to the race aspect of the adoption decision:
- What are we willing to take on from a stereotyping and prejudice perspective? We, as the parents, and our child, may face racism. This is something, as two white people, in a very white culture, have never experienced. Are we okay with this experience for us, and are we prepared to deal with this and help a child deal with this? How, will we handle racist comments and people staring at us because we don’t look right?
- We learned from another couple who chose to adopt a child of a different race that the mother constantly faces questions about the child’s race, but the father doesn’t. If the mom is out in public with their child, perfect strangers will stop her and ask weird and often rude questions. Strangers have even asked their older child (about 6 years old) about it, which is just so inappropriate. If the dad is out in public with their child, no-one says a word. If they are out together, no-one says a word. This doesn’t really concern me, but it is really good information to have.
- I’ve noticed when a lot of people consider adoption, they are often looking at what is the best fit for them, the adoptive parents. But, we are wondering what the best fit is also for the adoptive child(ren), as we have no desire to provide a child with a harder life. For example:
- Adopted children are likely to have a lot of identity questions regardless of their race and the race of their parents. Will the experience of a being a child of different race then the parents cause additional problems for the child? What are the long term reproductions on the child of being in an inter-racial family?
- What is the experience of a child in a school which there skin color is in the significant minority? For example, what is the experience of child who may be the only African American child? We live in a predominantly white community, will this make the experience of adolescences significantly harder on a child?
- Are certain races viewed as better than other in our Canadian culture? If so, which are they, and should we be choosing to adoption from a more preferable race?
- Will our child be okay with being raised in a white family and culture? Obviously, if we adopt a child of a different race, they will be brought up in white culture, because that’s all we know. We recognize that our parenting will play a significant part in their acceptance of this, but how do we learn to make this easier for them?
- Do we want people to know that we adopted without even knowing us? If we adopt a child of a different race, both we and the child will clearly be identified as atypical. Everyone will know instantly that something is different about us. People will start guessing – are we a blended family? did we adopt? did the mom sleep around? Are we okay with this type of conjecture silent or not?
- How are we going to deal with family members who will likely struggle to accept an adopted child, let alone an adopted child of a different race? We suspect problems with my husband’s family accepting an adopted child in the first place (see my post on that here), but we anticipate a lot more problems if we adopt a non-white child as they are often racist. And, although I think my parents will be more accepting of adoption, yet we have also heard them make racist comments in the past. (It’s probably a post for another day, but neither of us remember our parents being racist as children, but now we hear things coming out of their mouths that just cause us shock and sometimes outrage). So, are we prepared to put our parents in their place and force them to change their attitudes if they want to be part of our lives? The one things we know is that if we adopt, we simply will not tolerate family members making any sort of unacceptable comments about adoption or racist comment around us and our child(ren).
Truthfully, my personality says adopt a child of a different race. If we are going to adopt, why not help a child who will likely will face more problems with adoption because they have a different skin color. In this part of the world, most adoptive parents want white children who look more similar to them, so a child of a different race could really benefit from us checking off more race boxes. We have the financial means and the emotional capacity to support the child better than most, so why not take this on? We should be able to handle it. Oh, and screw family members who don’t understand, that’s their problem and if they see our child’s skin color as an issue, then they don’t have to be part of our lives.
My husband’s a bit more practical and says, we really do need to consider all these implications. What are we really willing to take on for the rest of our lives? Do we really want people staring at us? Do we really want to alienate our parents even more?
As always, when it comes to adoption, we don’t have any answers. Just questions and thoughts running around on the seemingly never ending hamster wheel, also known as our brains.
Does anyone have any thoughts? Or does anyone have any experience with interracial/transracial adopted families that they would like to share?
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Thank you for your honesty in this post–it takes a lot of courage to be honest about these issues. I also applaud both you and your husband for being so thoughtful and introspective about identifying what the issues are. You are very insightful. I agree there are no right or wrong answers. Just questions you need to sit with long enough for the answers to resonate with you. In the end, your love for your child will be what matters. There will be no wrong answers because both you as a couple and the child will come out winners, no matter what boxes you check. Best to you in your considerations!
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Thank you so very much for such a supportive comment! I do hope you are right, and that we and the child will all come out as winners. 🙂
Even though we’re not really talking adoption at this stage, these are all things I think about whenever it does pop into my head. Particularly with regard to family. My wife’s parents are so racist I can barely stand it, and it’s compounded by the fact that they don’t think before they speak. Ever. It’s really hard sometimes not to care about what other people think. I often wonder if I could spend my entire life doing just that.
Your wife’s parents sound just like my husband’s parents! It is so unbelievably frustrating! And so awkward too because I/we just don’t know how to respond when they make such horrible comments – usually we try to correct them, but that never really works well.
There’s no correcting my narrow minded in-laws, either. Last weekend my FIL insisted that when a man cheats on his wife, it’s the other woman’s fault and that the man is blameless. I almost choked on my water. Sometimes I am amazed that my wife is so freaking normal.
Weird. I randomly posted about international adoption today: http://pinkcanuck.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/international-adoption-options-for-canadians-in-2014/
I’m going to read through your post and I’m sure that I will comment again 🙂
I totally get this. My husband and I are an interracial couple. I’m White and my husband is East Indian (who is often mistaken for African American). All the people in our lives have always been supportive of our relationship, including his family which isn’t always the case with Indian culture, especially older parents who are fairly traditional. However, my husband’s family is quite the opposite. They have always been so loving and welcoming to me. I suppose it helps that several of my husband’s cousins and his sister are also “mixed” couples as are their children. I have often wondered how it will be once we had children, knowing our children will look more like my husband than me. Sure they’ll have some of my features, but they will most definitely have darker skin than I do. I’m also very white. I live in Southern California and I’m still pretty white 😊 I don’t like to go out in the sun because I burn. My husband and I get a lot is stares now, so I can only imagine what it would be like with children. Anyway, after my husband and I began trying and lost so many babies, I too wondered if we’d have biological children, and for a time we considered adoption too and I remember thinking we would adopt from India because it would be easier on the adoptive child because he or she would at least kind of look like one of us. So don’t feel bad for thinking about this. It’s a very valid concern. Though I have to admit, my first reaction is to say screw what your family will think, but it will be hard for a child if your joint family isn’t accepting of him or her.
I’m still very hopeful you will have a biological child, but it is good to figure this out before you proceed any further in the adoption process. And getting prepared now will only help you make your decision and figure out how to deal with any racial issues that do come up. Hugs girl. Isn’t it crazy the things we have to think about because of IF/RPL?
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Thanks so much for sharing your experience with your husband. Thanks for sharing your fears about possibly adopting and validating our fears at the same time.
As for the future of biological and/or adoption, you have said exactly what we are doing right now – thinking through the adoption decisions that we will have to make so that if we choose the adoption route we will be more prepared. Yes, it is totally crazy/crappy that we are forced to think through all these things. But, such is life, eh?
I’ve read a lot re: transracial adoption. Many social workers will try and have a prospective adoptive couple look at their lives and their community from the child’s point of view. Will there be anyone at school who looks like them? What about someone in the community…a dentist, family doctor, teacher? Anyone at all? What about the couples social circle? Any family members or friends of a different race? How often would the child be able to be around a family friend who shares the same cultural identity? Any friends who have adopted/will be adopting from the same country and can get together for play dates? The popular thought re: ideal is: 1) child is able to stay with bio family 2) child is adopted in-country 3) child is adopted internationally by a couple who shares their cultural heritage 4) child is adopted into a home with a family who do not share the same race, yet, they live in a culturally diverse community.
I’ve read stories of couples who completed a transracial adoption and then sold their house and moved to a community where their child would have classmates/people at the grocery store that look like them.
They say that when you adopt internationally, you not only adopt a child – but you also adopt a country, a culture, a race. One woman described it as they didn’t just adopt transracially, they became a transracial family. Unfortunately, even in this day and age, when you adopt transracially as a caucasian couple, you are awakened to the reality of racisim in a whole new way. You not only have to do the “regular” parenting things, but you also have to help your child understand the discrimination that exists, and help them develop pride in their cultural identity. Not easy.
Sigh. I haven’t even touched on family members in this comment! There’s so much that can be said. For us, if we were to adopt internationally, we’d want to pick a country where the child would have classmates/friends/people at church/grocery store that look like them. They may not have a lot of people who share their cultural identity, but we’d want them to have at least some. For example, we wouldn’t want them to be the only Asian person in our town. This is for their sake, not ours. If our hearts were drawn to a certain country, and we were able to swing it job-wise, we would consider moving to a more diverse community for our child’s sake. The more I read and hear from adoptees, the more I think this is of utmost importance when adopting transracially.
I think it’s good that you are asking these questions. Keep thinking and fleshing things out…it will help!
Thank you so much for such a wonderful and informative comment. I definitely agree with the comment that by adopting a transracial child, you become a transracial family. The entire family will grow together and work together to overcome discrimination when/if it occurs.
Thank you again!
My hubby and I went through all of this prior to adopting. We are both white and we adopted a black child. It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have, that’s for sure. At the end of the day it all comes down to love. I know this seems simplistic, but it is not. The fact is that when you get a child, it is no longer going to matter what the color and flavor of that child is. You will be consumed with the real life day to day issues of being a parent. When an issue of race comes up…and it will even if your child is biological…you will handle it with grace. I can tell because of the gentle and considerate way this post was written. You guys are lovely, considerate, kind, and thoughtful people. To be 100% honest, when I am reminded of the fact that my child is black, I go “o yeah, I forgot!” LITERALLY. I know I see him every day, but I am not seeing his skin color, I’m seeing … him. This is true of his grandparents too. They were a big concern because they have said and done racist things in the past, before he came along. They are a product of their upbringing. I made it super clear to them that if they couldn’t let all that go, they’d no longer be welcome in our lives, so they did. It was easy. Love makes it easy. It really does. Rely on that. Keep questioning. You are doing all the right things.
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Thank you so much for sharing your experience and for validating our thought process. It’s nice to know that we are not the only ones who have had this awkward conversation as part of the adoption process. And its also nice to hear that we are not the only ones concerned about the grandparents reaction, and that at least in your circumstances it never proved to be a problem.
I love your perspective that it all comes down to love. It not only sounds beautiful, but it also sounds true. As I don’t have children, I can only assume that this is how it goes the second any one has a child – adopted or biological. Once it is your child, it is your child and love will trump everything. 🙂
After our first child (born to us in 1988), we adopted five girls from China (2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007). We never discussed the racial issues to any extent and it was just as well. Living just outside Indianapolis, Indiana, the number of racially-tinged incidents we have run into can be counted on one hand with fingers left over.
For the most part you will be embarrassed by people calling you heroes, wonderful and such, for opening your home to an abandoned child. We tell them that we are the ones receiving the blessing. And that is the truth. Besides that, Charlotte has a cousin who, with his wife, adopted two black children. Their experience has been the same as ours.
Today, my wife and her two sisters combined have a total of 21 children: 18 adopted and all but one from China. Thanksgiving dinner at our house is an interesting experience!
Please see my blog “A Trivial Mind At Work”. I have a couple of adoption postings there. I just started the blog in May but adoption and raising teenage girls is one of my main topics.
Keep pressing on. Do not let yourself get bogged down with the potential negative aspects of interracial adoption. I think they are exaggerated by a hyper-active media. People really love good stories. Your adoption will always a good story to tell no matter who you adopt.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and for providing such a great perspective! I always love to hear positive adoption stories and it sounds like your family (and extended family too) are a great example of the positive side of transracial international adoption.
I will definitely check out your blog. Thanks for sharing.
First off – I love your questions and thought processing. Your adoption knowledge is evident in the questions you ask, especially concerning what will be best for your child.
Our oldest is mixed (white birth mom, and we presume a black birth dad) and our youngest two are black. When started down the transracial adoption road, I’ll freely admit to being concerned. How would I react with a black child? How would they be treated in Nebraska (where whites make up about 85% of the population)? When the child is out with just my wife, would people make assumptions? Was I willing to be a walking billboard for adoption when we’re out in public?
In my opinion, these are all perfectly natural questions. As much as folks want to convince themselves that we live in a “colorblind” society, race matters. But the nice thing is, you get some time to get comfortable being a transracial family before you have to face things. We haven’t seen/felt very much racism to this point. All three are under 5 years old, so society views them primarily as mega cute kids (which they are). We know that perception will change as our son becomes a (likely) large black man who may choose to dress like his peers and his sisters show off their beautiful hairdos that stand out from boring caucasian hair.
Do we get second looks in the stores? Probably, but I rarely notice. I’m too busy being in the moment, enjoying my kids (and keeping them from destroying Target). The only comments we get are people telling us how cute our kids are.
Personally, I think if you’re asking the types of questions that you are, you’ll do wonderfully with a child of a different race/ethnicity. I get that family concerns are real and valid, but the adoption cliche is “you’d be surprised”. We had worries about our parents bonding with black grandchildren, but I know they love our kids with all of their heart (even if we need to occasionally tell Grandpa that his “joke” is inappropriate).
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Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I always love your perspective, and comments as simple as “I’m too busy being in the moment, enjoying my kids” provides me with such great hope. Thank you!
When we took our foster care/adoption class we spent an entire class talking about adopting from a different race. It was great because the class itself was very diverse. It was interesting to hear that EVERYONE has the same thoughts. We actually sat there and talked about “but how will I know what to do with their hair!?” That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind despite what their race is lol. It came down to having a good support system. With us adopting through foster care we get a diverse support system of other foster/adopt parents built in. If you pursue adoption I hope you get to attend a class like this. It was very helpful!
Thanks so much for sharing your experience. If we choose to adopt we will be required to attend a weekend seminar – 16 hours total for domestic open adoption, 8 hours for international (not sure why there is difference). I am sure it will be an interesting experience to sit in a room with other potential adoptive parents to see just how similar our concerns all are!
I think I mentioned in the past that my sister has two adopted children… Their oldest is a boy with a white birth-mother and birth-father, and he surprisingly looks a lot like me, which obviously isn’t really possible, but we’ll take it! Their second, younger child is a girl whose birth-mother was white, but birth-father was not, in fact, the birth-mother doesn’t know who the father is, but my niece has obvious dark skin and curly-course black hair and brown eyes. We live in the mid-west, Iowa actually, and if you’ve ever been here you’d know that 99% of the population (I’m estimating of course) is white. That said, I fear for my niece growing up. I don’t ever want her to feel like she’s ‘different’ from her brother and parents, but already at 3 I fear she sees it, doesn’t really understand, but is starting to notice. For example, her hair takes a lot of special treatments and techniques, and she is beginning to see that her mom’s, my sister’s, doesn’t require the same care. We all love my niece, she is part of our family in every respect, but my largest fear is ignorance on my own family’s part, for not learning and embracing the true differences, like how to care properly for her hair, although that is only one small example. It’s difficult for me to truly express our experience here in a short comment, but I guess to summarize, my main point is, be prepared and open to learning. I don’t think my sister and her husband make as many efforts as they could to make sure my niece feels as though she is truly embraced for her differences, as we obviously can’t ignore them, and for that, I’m sad for her.
Thank you so much for sharing! This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about little girls with different hair, and it really makes me think about how even things like hair cuts will change, because obviously you will have to find someone who can cut and style the specific hair.
As you say, if we choose adoption, it will really be about being open to learning all the time, and in ways you may not have expected (like hair).
Thanks again – I always appreciate your perspective! 🙂
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This is such a great and honest post. Angela has done some great work around adoption and race based on her lived experience. These are important questions to wrestle with, and I can say that even though I adopted a same race child, I wrestled through this decision making process too. There are unique challenges associated with this journey; thanks for your honesty. All the best.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts.
This is probably our biggest outstanding decision that we need to make, and we are both struggling with it, so I am sure I will be posting on it again as we continue to work through the decision making process.
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Holy smokes I had major deja vu reading this post!
Glad you enjoyed it! It is such a hard topic and such a personal decision.
I am Canadian and my then husband and I adopted 2 black children (2 separate adoptions) in 1999 and 2001. We live in Vancouver which is multicultural for Asians and East Indians but less so for blacks. Yes, you will experience racist remarks that will break your heart. It gets worse as they get older, particularly with my son. Although everyone oohed and awed over him as the cutest baby and toddler alive, he is now a 6′ 225 lb 15 year old who others may see as threatening. We tried to incorporate the black experience in ways that could be helpful. There are lots of children’s books, toys, and videos out there that present black characters although you have to look for them.
I could write pages on this subject so I”ll stop here. I have never for one minute regretted the decision to adopt transracially. My adoption story after chemotherapy related infertility is supposed to show up tomorrow on Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer and will be reblogged on my website 4 Times and Counting. It does discuss my reasons for refusing to adopt white in the private adoption system. You will find lots of online Facebook support groups for all manner of transracial adoptions, not just black adoptions if you search groups. People had lived through all the concerns you have and can offer practical advice. Best of luck in whatever you decide.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences Sharon. I am always so excited to be able to learn from someone who is actually parenting today.
We have made our selections, and know that we are opening our heart and lives to transracial adoption (of course, that doesn’t mean our match will result in a transracial family, but there is the potential). We are excited about this, and I believe we are pretty aware of the implications in the long term. But, clearly we don’t know everything and so learning from others who have actually walked the path is so critical.
I am really looking forward to your post tomorrow, even more so now. 🙂
Thank you again!
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Very interesting. You are right to consider all of these aspects you mentioned before deciding to do the interracial adoption. I have heard that whenever you get the child, it is yours no matter the biology, race, gender, or the hoops you went through to get the child.
Hi there. I’m the product of a transracial adoption and I’m also familiar with domestic adoption… I posted about how it feels to be going through fertility treatments as someone who was adopted here: https://zerotozygote.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/the-countdown-to-wherever-were-going/
I would love to answer your questions as they’re very thought provoking and I think I could provide an insight based on my own experience – I won’t clog up your comments so I think I will answer the questions in a blog post, if that’s okay with you!
Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your post with me.
I am always looking to learn more from adopted adults. I know everyone will have a different experience, but I firmly believe we, as parents, can learn so much from those who were adopted.
I really look forward to your upcoming post!! Thanks again! 🙂
OMG I am so interested in this stuff! Without giving away too much identifying info (I’m weirdly funny about that as I don’t want to write too much about people who haven’t given their permission), we’re actually a double-adoptee household. Yeah, we have a lot in common! And I’m not the only adopted child in my family. I also have a number of friends who have recently adopted or are in the process of adopting. I’m always interested in different people’s experiences of adoption.
One of the things I and my friends who are adopted always comment on is the negative portrayal of adoption in the media. I think that’s because people only share the sob stories and you only hear about it when it goes wrong! I really have come across quite a lot of people who were adopted in my life, and pretty much all of them are functioning mentally healthy adults. For sure there’s the “primal wound” but that is made up for the fact that someone picked YOU and wanted you so badly that they were prepared to go through hell to get you! So in general all the folk I know who were adopted feel pretty special! 🙂
Oh, I am always amazed at the negative portrayal of adoption in the media! And the negative and sometimes downright mean comments I have received from the blogging world about our decision to adopt. (As a side note, non of the negative/mean comments have ever been posted because it’s my blog and I will not post hatred).
Anyways, as you say, people like to share negative stories and it seems people also like to remember the negative stories so the positive ones get lost in the dialogue. It’s just such a shame.
Hello again! I’ve done you a mammoth post in response… Hopefully you don’t find it too long and boring! 🙂 https://zerotozygote.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/adoptionqa/
I am so excited to read this!!! (we’ve been dealing with an unexpected flood in our basement otherwise I would have read and commented immediately). Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience and your thoughts I am beyond thankful!
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Ah thank you! Hope it wasn’t too much… I do have a habit of blethering on in an unstoppable way! And hope your basement flood is sorted – eek! 🙂
It was an awesome read!! I so appreciated each and every one of your thoughts. 🙂
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