When I think about our family’s adoption journey, I think about 10 things you should know before your transracial adoption. After my husband and I decided that we were going to adopt, we chose the agency we were going to use. After all of the preliminary paperwork, the agency sent us home with an entire stake of questionnaires about things we needed to consider. There were a lot of decisions we were going to have to make. Everything from pre-existing conditions, to family health history, drug or alcohol use, to gender and age was included. The bigger decisions that we would have to make was if we were willing to adopt a child of a different race. We had to ask ourselves if we could step outside of our own comfort zones and ask hard questions to ourselves, to our friends and to our families.

This may sound outrageous to some, but there are hard questions you have to ask yourself when adopting outside of your race that you typically wouldn’t think about if you were to adopt a child of your own race. You may have to ask yourself questions you’ve never before considered. Can you open your eyes to political and social issues that you are uncomfortable talking about or don’t even know about? Are you willing to learn over and over again about things you don’t have the first clue about? Are you okay with distancing yourself from people who aren’t open to learning and growing with you and your child?

It really was all very overwhelming when I started thinking and talking about it. I wished over and over again that there was someone I could have gone to and said, “What do you think are the important things to know before I transracially adopt?”

Maybe that is you, and why you are reading this article. Luckily, I’m here to help you with that, if you’re in the same situation. I’ve listed below what I personally think are the major things you should know before you start your transracial adoption.

  1. You need to have a supportive community. This really applies to any adoption. You should have a strong support network around you when you start to adopt because it can be long and exhausting. Have people around you that are going to encourage you, lift you up, support you emotionally and spiritually. These will be your people you go to when you need to ask questions or vent frustrations. These will be the people you bounce fundraiser ideas off of and the people who will take care of the house and pets when you get the call in the middle of the night and have to hop the first flight you can get out of town. These will be the people who will help you learn what true support really is, and how to use your voice for change because of what you have. Have a community. It’s so important.
  2. Make sure you have friends who look like your child. Before you adopt, ask yourself, “Who do I know that has the first-hand experience with (fill in the blank).” If you can’t name someone, then it’s time to make new friends. Your child is going to need someone to have as a mentor, and you are going to need someone who can mentor you as well. We were fortunate enough to have friends who came around us and helped broaden our knowledge on so many things. There wasn’t any shame in it either. Our friends didn’t make us feel bad for not knowing something; quite honestly, friends were happy we asked and didn’t stay ignorant of what we didn’t know. These friends are people we truly enjoy doing life with, and the added bonus is these individuals look like our daughter and are amazing confidants for her as she grows older. It sounds cliche, but it does take a village to raise a child. Don’t be scared to ask questions. This will help everyone involved grow as people.

  3. Fill your home with books, baby dolls, action figures, movies, and music that reflect your child and his or her culture. When you go into a transracial adoption, you’re not only adopting a child, you are adopting a culture as well. Your child’s culture becomes a part of you and your home. Embrace it. A friend of mine adopted a beautiful little girl from China, and she shared that every year, the family hosts a party for the Chinese New Year. The family members dress in cheongsam, cook amazing food, and celebrate this beautiful little girl’s culture because it’s a part of her and the parents love every part of her. This may mean you have research to do. This may mean you have to ask questions to people with the same culture, and that’s okay. But filling your home with reflections of your child is important. And it can be such fun.

  4. Social and political issues matter now more than ever. Tearing down racism and colorism matters. There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. It really is about reading up on and knowing the actual reasons behind things, not just what your neighbor or the media says those reasons are. This means knowing that #BlackLivesMatter isn’t anti-police and it isn’t anti-white people. Black Lives Matter is about advocating for Black people to have the same rights and respect as everyone else, especially White people and police officers. It’s about bringing attention to the unnecessary murders of Black people around the United States. It’s about silencing the hate on Asian American’s as the Coronavirus becomes widespread, and calling it what it actually is, Coronavirus, not The Chinese Virus. It’s so sad we live in a world that still discriminates and judges a person based on race. It’s important for you to know these issues and be well versed in as much as you can and how these situations pertain to your life and your child’s life. It’s imperative you ask people of color what issues and challenges are faced and what problems people deal with right now. It’s equally as important you follow it up by asking how you can help and what you need to be aware of. This will be uncomfortable but that’s how progress is made. Your child needs you to be the voice until he can understand and use his own voice for himself. Push yourself to learn and step outside your box.

  5. Be ready to be asked a lot of questions. When you are out in public, people will always stare, it’s just a matter of fact. We, as a human race, are curious and try to make sense of things that don’t fit in the box we have in our minds. People are going to look at you and are going to try to figure out what your story is. In turn, some will ask you questions. (And more times than not, it will be at the most inconvenient time–like while your toddler is screaming for the cash register candy you won’t let her have, for example.) Unfortunately, sometimes, people will be insensitive. You have two options–answer with humor or give a straight answer and address how the question is insensitive. Use positive adoption language when speaking of your child, the birth parents, and your adoption story. You didn’t have a foreign adoption, you had an international adoption. Your child wasn’t given up, your child was placed. You aren’t the adoptive parent, you are the parent. It’s no one’s business how much your adoption cost unless you decide otherwise. Your child isn’t lucky to have you, you are lucky to have her and she completed your family. Always stand up for your child and speak positively about her. She should never feel like she should be grateful to be in your family.

  6. There will come a time when you need to decide what voices you are going to allow in your life. Pursue discernment to know who should and shouldn’t be speaking into family life. This will be hard, no doubt, but it has to be done. Like it’s been mentioned in previous points above, you are your child’s most important advocate. You may have to distance yourself, or completely separate from friends, neighbors, and even family if individuals are racist, colorists, or sexist. There will be some voices who you should listen to and have an open mind. Be open to these people and learn from what is said.

  7. Consider adopting again. When my husband and I started talking to family and friends about adopting again, we would get really strange looks when we said we didn’t want to adopt a caucasian child. For us, especially after talking to adult adoptees of color, it was very important that our daughter has a sibling she could relate to, especially when it comes to adoption and race. We wanted her to have someone who completely understands. We want our children to have confidants and someone to confide in. I hope that my children are able to lean on each other while we all navigate adoption together.

  8. Be ready to learn new hygiene routines. I know it’s cliche to talk about how you now have to learn how to do hair. But it matters. This doesn’t mean you have to go and buy an online course on how to do hair. (I mean, if you want, that’s awesome, but that’s not what I’m saying.) You can walk into a salon and just ask. Ask your friends what products to use, how others are using it, how frequently to use products. Ask those with experience what lotions and soaps to use. This was so helpful when we adopted our daughter. I had no idea she was going to have sensitive skin, and that it was common. Thankfully, our friends suggested gentle, clean products for her. Friends also came over and showed us how to do her hair. We were able to build our friendship, while also learning. We learned that this was a part of our daughter’s culture, that bonds and friendships were built while doing her hair. It’s truly amazing. I highly suggest you start asking questions now so when the time comes, you are not scrambling.

  9. Get rid of colorblindness. Embrace your child and his or her uniqueness. People of color have had to endure, and unfortunately, still have to endure injustice. We should reflect upon this with tragic respect and remorse. So, praise the beauty, talent, character, and everything else that makes him or her unique. Learn personal history with your child. Whether that be Black history, Asian history, Indian history, whatever it is, take an interest in it. Learn and strive to find what makes your child unique, because differences make the world go round. If everyone was the same, we would never make progress or breakthrough.

  10. You should look at the area you live in. As a military family, my husband and I live far away from family and move around quite a bit. This is both good and bad for us. We had always planned on moving back to rural Oklahoma when my husband retired. After we adopted our daughter, we realized that might not be the best for our family. Why, you may ask? Because growing up, there weren’t any people of color in our schools. We had to ask ourselves, will this be a place rich in diversity for our daughter to grow up in? Will she feel isolated being the only Black girl in the neighborhood? Will she have any mentors around to answer questions or build bonds with? These are questions you will have to ask yourself also. What does your neighborhood look like? What does your community look like? If it’s less diverse, then you need to reconsider where you live and how that will affect your child.

As parents of a child of a different race, you are going to have to be okay with asking questions and being okay with the fact that you will always have more to learn. There won’t come a day where you don’t have to ask yourself, am I done learning? It’s our job as parents to try as hard as we can to create a safe world for them to live in and be a part of. We will always have to step out of our comfort box and learn and expand our knowledge.

Know that you will make mistakes, and that is okay, you are human. But that is also why it is so important to have a supportive community around you to gracefully let you know and help you. Don’t let all of this overwhelm you. It’s hard work, but so is parenting in general. It’s worth it. Just know that you are the best parent for your child. The entire universe is conspiring to bring you together. You can do this.

Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.