In transracial adoption, you need to educate yourself on any differences between your own culture – and the culture of the child you’re adopting. You need to take care of your child in the same way that a person from their own race would. It’s not only a necessary part of who they are, but in some cases can also spare the child from ridicule.

My little sister is part Caucasian, part African American, and part Hispanic. When she was adopted into our white family she was treated exactly like the rest of us, to a fault. She had the most beautiful tight little curls in her hair which stuck straight up and out and all about. As she grew to be school-aged, I couldn’t understand why my mom wasn’t doing anything to tame it. She used the same hair products on my sister as she did on us, but they seemed to dry out her hair and cause frizz. Looking back as I write this, it occurs to me that she never once braided my sister’s hair, although I remember her frequently French braiding mine.

At the time my parents were unaware of her Hispanic heritage and they had no close African American friends. There was no internet back then for them to research with. So year after year they treated her the same as they treated us. Kids at school started to make fun of her and tease her about her appearance. In addition to her wild hair, her skin was often ashy. Once in a while someone would reach out to my mother with tips or suggestions. She would use the advice for a few days and get good results, but she would quickly slip back into old habits. My guess is that it just wasn’t that important to her; otherwise, she would have made it a priority.

I haven’t always lived near them, but from what I can tell that never changed. It wasn’t until my sister became an adult and started taking charge of her own appearance that things became different. Now she uses thick moisturizer on her skin and straightens her well-conditioned hair. She shouldn’t have had to wait and figure those things out on her own.

For reasons like these, racial mirrors are extremely important. You need to find community mentors that are the same race as your child. Often, adopted transracial children are the minority at home and school. It is important for them to have people of their race to communicate with. They need to see people who look like them and can share cultural views and beliefs with them. Mirrors can provide valuable resources and information for your child. Providing mirrors will also give your child someone who they can relate to that they may open up to about certain issues. It will also show your child that their heritage and culture is important to you.