From Foster Care to Transracial Adoption

Every child deserves love and a safe space to call home. As a woman who suffered through infertility, I’ve met tons of women looking for a child to call their own (regardless of race). Every adoptive parent I know faced some sort of adversity to get to the point of legally calling a child their own. With so many adults wanting to adopt, some have their options more limited because of factors like race. 

A few relevant terms:

– POC: Person of color

– BIPOC: Black and indigenous people of color

– WOC: Women of color

– African American (AA): A Black person with partial or total ancestry from an African country

– Caucasian: a white person with European origins

– Transracial adoption: adopting someone of a different race

A little more than a quarter of the children that are adopted from foster care in this country are transracial adoption placements. In the US, over 70% of non-white children are adopted from foster care by white parents

The Context

According to The Children’s Bureau at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) AFCARS data, in 2019, there were approximately 424,000 children in foster care in the United States. Adoptions as a result of foster care hit 66,000 in 2019. While many children in foster care are reunified with their birth parents, many—about 122,000, remain in the system waiting to be adopted. Think about that, over 100,000 children remain in foster care waiting to be adopted. That is staggering.

Many children remain in foster care and age out of the system. Opposition to transracial adoption remains, yet I have to wonder if the facts might sway this thinking. The plight of children continues to become more dire and the alternative—staying in foster care if not adopted or reunified with birth parents—can be worse for children. 

How would one start preparing for a transracial adoption?

– Learn about your child’s culture and race

– Get prepared to support the child’s cultural upbringing

– Establish a support system that is willing to learn about race and provide support to you and your child

– Understand that you will have uncomfortable conversations with your child about racial identity

– Be prepared to stand up for your child against the naysayers

– Get ready to grow and laugh and love with a child that doesn’t look like you

Tales of Two Journeys & Transracial Adoption

Two women from different circumstances and backgrounds found their way to transracial adoption.

Mik Taylor is a wife and mother with one child by birth. She is African American.

Susan Carroll is a wife who married later in life. She does not have children by birth. She is Caucasian.

Join me as we explore their unique stories that, interestingly enough, have significant parallels. Our differences make us unique, while our similarities help us find common ground. One thing Mik and Susan both assert is the importance of loving children.

Mik’s Love Story

Meet Mik, an adoptive mom who, along with her husband, adopted two sons – one black and one white. Like many, the Harrises faced infertility after their daughter. That’s when they decided to foster to adopt. What started as their personal journey to parenthood grew into a mission, Mik and her husband purposed themselves to foster to adopt children in need of love – regardless of the child’s skin color – and share their love story with the world to encourage others to consider the same.

Carla: What does your family look like today? 

Mik: We have a 22-year-old daughter. We have two adoptive sons (one African American and one Caucasian son) and we are fostering a 2-year-old, Caucasian boy. 

What makes adoption unique as an AA woman? 

I’m thankful for the opportunity to share our story because people think people of color don’t adopt, but they do. Harriet Tubman adopted her daughter. Josephine Baker adopted 12 children. 

There’s an extra layer of complexity being a POC because racism exists and we face many stereotypes. WOC have been told they weren’t qualified or educated enough to adopt or follow through with the process.

Was transracial adoption intentional on your part?

The race of the child didn’t matter to us. In our state (Tennessee), 60% of the children in foster care are Caucasian. We wanted a child that needed us.

What was a major challenge you faced?

Adopting our black son was [a fast] experience. There were no major obstacles. For our Caucasian son, there were extra background checks, extra hurdles, and many more questions. Our black son came to us six months after our white son, but his adoption was finalized six months sooner than our white son. Both cases were similar in nature. 

How did you cope with the extended process of adopting your white son?

Our (white) son, David, came to us when he was eight months old. He had been in our home for two years. The case was dragging. During the birth parents’ appeals, I became Momma Bear. I coped by being his advocate. I emailed everyone – attorneys, case workers, and anyone involved. I let them know that I saw way too many hurdles considering the circumstances. This is not right. If you pull him from the home he knows, he will experience trauma on top of trauma. 

I don’t know if I took care of myself. I even had heart palpitations. I was worried that a relative would show up and he would be gone. I prayed and asked my village for intercessory prayer. It was difficult.

Did you celebrate once the adoption was finalized?

We celebrated! But I looked over my shoulder and I worried. I kept wondering if they could come back to get him even though I knew they couldn’t. It took time for that feeling to go away. I talked myself through that fear. I gave myself the space to say okay Mik, it is over. I don’t have to carry his papers with me anymore.

Did you have time for you and your husband after that?

We’ve been married 22 years. We definitely make time for each other.

What’s most important in your family?

Christ is the foundation of our family. My husband is a pastor. Faith is our foundation.

Your children came to you at a young age, is faith a part of their foundation?

Yes, definitely. One of the boys is our junior pastor in training. 

What is your hope for your children?

That they grow up to be humanitarians, focus on important causes like justice and foster care. We are raising them to love others.

During these times of racial unrest, do you share race and those conversations with your children?

We started early when David was 2. We started talking about racial identity and injustice. We play multicultural games. They have multicultural action figures. Children are observant. We don’t shy away from it. I tell other adoptive parents with transracial children to immerse their children in culture – not just their own. Grow your village beyond those who look like you. 

What is your thought about a parent being ready to foster/adopt a child of a different race?

It’s not just about love. Educate yourself about cultures. Do some self-examination about cultures and understand the privilege that some ethnicities have. Ask if your family is prepared. Not just you, but your extended family. 

What would you share with other women?

Adoption is possible. If you find obstacles, don’t let them deter you. Keep pressing.

There is a general belief that there are more black children in foster care. How do you respond to the comment that there are more black children in need?

We adopted a black child. My loyalty is with Christ. No one has to like it, but that is what we follow. We found and fell in love with a child in need. 

Was there ever doubt about the adoption?

There were times I doubted our capabilities. The child has already been traumatized. The trauma comes into your home. There were times I wanted to give up, but then I had to be selfless, this isn’t just about me, but about the child. Undoing foster care, undoing trauma doesn’t happen in a year, or years, it takes a lot of time.

Have the two completed adoptions helped you prepare for the adoption of your foster child? 

Yes, now I know and understand the process. I know who to call. I’m seasoned now with the third adoption.

Are you considering adopting another child?

We are done after the final adoption, but I said that after our first adoption! We will continue to advocate for adoption and fostering. And may provide respite for other parents.

How much has your life changed through adoption?

Going through adoption and/or foster care will change you. A friend told me that I became mean. I have become feisty and tenacious. When you are fighting for children, you become that way. I’ve become a voice for the voiceless. I’ve become a voice for that eight-month-old who couldn’t speak up for himself. As I’ve learned, I do better.

We met through social media and I find you such a staunch advocate for fostering, adoption and children. How do you handle the naysayers?

Our oldest daughter has Down syndrome. I was always told what she could not do. That’s when I started finding my voice. I ask myself if they are worth my time and whether I have enough bail money. Seriously though, some people are just curious. Some want to know if a white child is safe and okay with POC. I try to handle the questions with grace.

Looking back on the long adoption journey (two boys and a foster child), what are your lessons learned?

They don’t teach you everything in the classes. If only I had known more about transracial adoption. If only I had known the patience I would need. If only I had known how much I needed to fortify myself and my village. You will lose people in your life.

Any takeaways?

There are over 400,000 in the foster care system – they are waiting. For every child, there is an opportunity for us to step up – the church, a single mom or dad, just step up! There’s an opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child. Don’t wait for the next person. Life is not just about us. Every two minutes a child goes into the foster care system. Over 100,000 are waiting to be adopted. Come on people, step up!

Do your research. Know what you’re getting yourself into. Have a foundation. If you believe, stay prayed up. Prepare yourself.

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Susan’s Love Story

Meet Susan Carroll, an educator who is married to an African American man. Both sets of their parents were supportive of their marriage, which occurred later in life. Susan thought they’d have the same support when adoption came up. Her parents felt Susan was too old, and her husband’s mom agreed. Susan and her husband decided to proceed anyway. Susan was an assistant principal at a school in Chicago. Her plate was full, so she asked her husband to take the lead on the adoption. Her husband had friends who were social workers and he found Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in Chicago. 

The foster to adoption process is so bureaucratic that one has to have great conviction to go through the foster care system, rather than a private adoption. Her friend did a private adoption with no problems and no real delays. The Carrolls talked about fostering and adopting older siblings. And they had a discussion about race. Her husband wanted biracial children. Susan didn’t care about the race of the children.

Susan’s Interview

Carla: How did your process begin?

Susan: The agency worker came over and told us about 8-year-old twins: a boy and a girl. This was in August. Our social worker friends said to get ready because this may happen quickly. We hadn’t even started the classes! 

We had just moved into a new house. We learned quickly that, because the twins are male/female, they had to have their own room. Thank goodness we had it covered. 

When did you feel like this was a good match?

I saw pictures of the children and I just knew they were our children. I could just feel it.

We had our first visit in August. The kids were at this compound 45 minutes away. The compound had houses for large sibling groups on a big piece of land. 

I learned that their foster mom in the house was white, which may have helped the twins warm up to me. They were adorable!

After the visit, the twins were asked if they wanted to continue and all parties did! The next visit they went to eat burgers. It was hard because I was ready to take them home right away. But I also saw signs that the children may need some extra care (from being in foster care).

There were a few more visits. 

What happened next?

Next was the first overnight. It was memorable. It was December 5th and it was freezing. My husband, Floyd, was with the coast guard and they brought in trees for families in need. It was freezing and we were at the Navy Pier! The foster mom said the twins were concerned about Santa finding them. They were directed to Winter Wonderland. The twins showed signs of anxiety as they did not have the social skills to handle the overwhelming feelings of being in the long line to see Santa. They wanted to skip seeing Santa and decided to meet up with Floyd. And then we happened upon an ice rink. Floyd asked if this was a good idea. He was kind and just asked the question instead of telling me that it was a bad idea. We did it anyway! Floyd was filming. So I skated toward my little girl and realized I was going too fast. So I slowed down, fell back, and shattered my wrist. I looked down and my wrist was hanging the wrong way. The little girl wanted to skate more, she didn’t realize what was going on. The little boy was over skating and ready to go. I, on the other hand, needed the emergency room. So I called her friend Joanie who picked me up while Floyd took the kids home. I ended up at home at almost midnight with three rods in my wrist.

Oh my goodness! What happened next?

The twins came to live with us in December. II was a new mom, it was Christmas and I just had surgery on top of that. Thankfully my husband handled Christmas. 

How did you get through the holidays and your first few months with the twins?

It was the village! Floyd‘s mom is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Her sorority sisters (called Sorors) were all around to support the children while I was down from surgery.

The kids had a great time! They met new kids, received tons of gifts, and got lots of attention for the holidays.

Once things settled down, how did things go?

Trauma. While in foster care, the twins had a therapist on site. I could call her anytime I had questions or concerns. We learned that the children have neglect in their background. They had been in foster care from ages 6-8. We learned how to live as a family unit. We moved to Charlotte after the twins came to live with us. Mind you, we had lots to learn.

What did you learn and how did you handle tough topics like race?

People will say anything. I once took the children to the library and someone said “thank you for mentoring our youth”. I let her know that these are my children. I took my kids to a barbeque near a Catholic School and someone called me “sister”. Most people don’t see me as a part of my family based on looks (race). 

I wanted my children to have a sense of pride in their identity. I have been intentional about having black female friends. It isn’t hard because I have more in common with black women because of my children. My old friends from Chicago are white. No one understands it. It just happened. I love it. I have no regrets. I’ve been adopted and embraced by another culture. 

I learned about my daughter’s hair through trial and error. We went to a stylist for a while who flat ironed her hair weekly. Eventually, my daughter’s hair was brittle and damaged. Lesson learned.. I started looking for people with her hair texture. When we moved to Charlotte, I kept looking. Not everyone wants to braid a 9-year-old’s hair. I asked for help and guidance. Now I know what not to do and my daughter has embraced her natural hair. 

What’s going on with the twins now?

The twins are now 14 years old. They are active in school and extracurricular activities. 

What advice would you give someone fostering who wanted to adopt if it works out that way?

To foster to adopt, you need to be “all in” on the adoption. Fostering was our path to adoption. We met our children in August 2015 and they were ours in December 2015. It became official in December 2018. We loved them and felt they were ours in 2015. 

Be in a solid place emotionally because whatever triggers you have will happen. 

Having someone in the system to talk to helps tremendously. 

It takes time to help children understand that they have parents now. In our case, our daughter was like a mother to her twin brother. It was a big change for her to be a child who was no longer responsible for her brother. 

Seek help from a therapist. We learned what worked and what didn’t for our children and we are still learning. 

You cannot truly prepare yourself for everything, but with what shows up, learn about it and figure it out. Love can conquer all as long as you work at it.

What are some examples of situations you’ve faced since the adoption was finalized?

Our son was bullied by a child about being adopted. We supported him through it, but we had to learn what that looked like for him.

Once we were legal guardians, we had to work with the children on what they would call us in public. Our children didn’t call us “mom” and “dad” until the adoption was final. We all settled on Madre and Papi. Then we became mom and dad overnight.

Make sure you have a support network. People who understand your history and triggers. Also, those who know what you’re going through first hand.

What about you? How did you care for yourself during the process?

I used my support system. I learned how to parent children who were 8 years old without being a parent during their first seven years. I gave myself grace.

What do you want for your children?

We want our childrens’ experiences to make them good leaders one day. 

Any parting thoughts?

Be a loving advocate for children.

One Goal

Mik and Susan. Two women from different circumstances and backgrounds found their way to transracial adoption. 

Mik Taylor is a wife and mother with one child by birth. She is African American.

Susan Carroll is a wife who married later in life. She does not have children by birth. She is Caucasian.

Each had her own journey to transracial adoption. Both wanted to mother children who needed love. Both fostered to adopt. And both have a transracial family. 

In my humble opinion, they both found their way to love a child who could have been a statistic. Two little boys now have a mom and dad in Mik and her husband. A boy and a girl have a mom and dad in Susan and Floyd. Four fewer children in the system. Four more children whose parents are building a strong foundation of love and understanding. I call that progress. 
For more information about transracial adoption, contact Mik Harris on Instagram @fosterwhileblackfam or TikTok @fosterwhileblk.

From Foster Care to Transracial Adoption