Even though we finalized our last adoption 11 years ago, it still feels like it all went down just yesterday. And even though our then toddlers are now tween and teenagers, I can still remember and love the excitement of becoming a family of three and then four. At the same time, it sometimes all feels like a strange dream—the fact that my husband and I somehow forged our way along the complex and uncertain path leading to adoption. The fact that somehow our path veered way south leading us to another country and another culture but directly to where our family was waiting for us—just as much as we’d been waiting for them. Just thinking about it feels surreal. Especially given what has happened this past year with a global pandemic that has all but brought so many others’ adoption paths to a screeching halt.
As time has gone by and new faces have come into our lives on personal and professional levels, I find myself retelling the story of our international adoption journey. I realize now so many things that I most definitely didn’t realize back when we were deep in the thick of it and perhaps not even when we were back home deep in the thick of caring for babies, sleep deprivation, and learning the ropes as we went.
And now, as we awake in this new place in history—after nearly a year of not only a national pause due to COVID-19 but also a renewed commitment and recognition of working to improve racial and social justice—most of us have become a little more tapped into not just what’s been going on in our backyards, but around the world. The importance of family, neighbors, and community has become more of a focus and priority than it probably has been in quite some time.
In her Adoption.com article Adoption in the time of Coronavirus, writer Julia Porter talks about the struggles of building families during a global crisis. Everything from how families are preparing for adoption to completing home studies to attending hearings is evidence that even in these hard times, where there is a will, there is a way, albeit not an easy one to traverse. International adoption came to a halt at the beginning of the pandemic and worldwide lockdowns, but there were signs of hope and progress around December as many countries began to loosen their restrictions of visitations and travel.
The truth is, international adoption was dipping well before the pandemic had set in across most countries with international adoption statistics “down 81% and projected to completely end by 2022,” according to a 2018 Adoption.com article How to Solve the US International Adoption Crisis.
But that doesn’t reflect the wishes of many hopeful adoptive families to pursue international adoption despite the growing obstacles—then or now. It also doesn’t change the fact that those entering into international or transracial adoption have always and will always need to know a few key things before adopting internationally or transracially.
What is international and transracial adoption?
According to Travel.state.gov, intercountry adoption is the process by which you adopt a child from a country other than your own through permanent legal means and then bring that child to your country of residence to live with you permanently. Transracial adoption, however, is defined by The US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health as the joining of racially different parents and children together in adoptive families. It is possible, therefore, to have a domestic transracial adoption.
“28% of the children that are adopted from foster care in the United States are transracial adoption placements. 21% of the privately initiated adoptions within the United States are estimated to be a transracial adoption placement,” as reported by Brandongaille.com.
No matter how you define them, international and transracial adoption is about the love of a child. Be it same state adoption or several borders over, I’ve never once heard from the mouth of an adoptive parent that having adopted internationally or transracially made them in any way love their child less—in fact, the growth opportunities are immense and endless if you are the kind of person who doesn’t label other humans based on zip code or race.
Research is everything
International and transracial adoption often go hand in hand and anyone considering international adoption should research far beyond such simple definitions to fully understand the impact of this type of adoption on your family. But even if you choose domestic transracial adoption, it is just as important to understand what the word means for your child and what it will mean for your life as a transracial family in America.
When considering the transracial family, Childwelfare.gov defines transracial or transcultural adoption as “Placing a child who is of one race or ethnic group with adoptive parents of another race or ethnic group. In the United States, these terms usually refer to the placement of children of color or children from another country with Caucasian adoptive parents.”
Although geared for international adoption, the Adoption.org article 11 Things You Need to Know About International Adoption brings up important things to think about not just for those considering international adoption, but for transracial adoption and really any form of adoption and advises you to do the following:
- Examine your reasons for choosing this type of adoption to make sure it is in your best interest as well as that of your adopted child.
- Learn what countries are open to international adoption because not all of them are.
- Understand the importance of choosing a good adoption agency because it “is one of the biggest steps you’ll take in ensuring that your international adoption is ethical, so don’t rush the selection process.”
- Do some soul-searching to know what you are open to as a prospective adoptive parent so far as age, gender, and special needs.
- Prepare for more paperwork than perhaps a traditional domestic adoption might entail.
- Know that adopting internationally is not inexpensive or easier than domestic adoption.
- Acknowledge that trauma associated with adoption is real and be ready to support your child whether they spent time in an orphanage, foster care, or even with a well-meaning and loving caregiver before coming into your life.
- Learn what a multicultural family means and what it will mean for your family.
- Be ready to let go of being in control because flexibility is a must, especially in the international adoption process, but also in transracial adoption.
- Prepare for your life to change because international and transracial adoption is all about challenging everything you ever thought you knew about life, love, and family.
The truth is, you will never be able to do enough research ahead of time for international or transracial adoption. As you come together as a family and begin to love your child even more than you thought possible, you’ll realize your research in learning about how you can best support your child will never end. And that’s a good thing.
Are international and transracial adoption good or bad?
Although many claim that international adoption and/or transracial adoption are not in the best interest of the child, many others have lived and breathed international and transracial adoption who would beg to differ. It would be somewhat pointless to waste time sharing links to the pros and cons of advocates for and against international and transracial adoption; however, anyone interested in these journeys should take the time to read articles, books, and papers as well as watch and listen to videos and podcasts to learn about and hear from both sides.
It’s important for parents who are open to raising a child born in another country or born into another culture to commit to learning all sides of the argument to best understand what you’re getting yourself and your adopted child into.
Adoption.com’s International Adoption page offers tons of guides, articles, videos, and podcasts to get you started. Similarly, the site offers several articles concerning transracial adoption, including 10 Things You Should Know Before Adopting Transracially that will help to educate and prepare you for what it will be like for you as an adoptive parent and what it will be like to be raised by parents who don’t look like you. The article’s author, Angela Tucker, shares, “Any time I have the privilege of writing about transracial adoption, I will always do my best to seek out and lift the voices of adult adoptees. Especially adoptees of color. Far too often we hear from white parents about how to raise their children of color; I cannot help but think this is entirely backward. We are the ones needing to listen, seek out, and hear the voices of adults who are and were in our children’s shoes: children of color being raised in white families,” She offers the following list of additional transracial adoptees to listen to, seek out, amplify, and lift: Rhonda Roorda, Rebecca Carroll, Jessenia Parmer, April Dinwoodie, Tony Hynes, JaeRan Kim, Susan Ito, Susan Harris O’Connor, Harlows Monkey.
Are international and transracial adoption for me?
Although I’d always known that I wanted to be an adoptive mom, I’d honestly never considered all of the options or possible outcomes of that decision. My husband and I weren’t well off with lots of wealth in the form of money so much as we were well off in the love we hoped to give to our children.
The details of where we would adopt from or how that choice might impact us or them because we were not going to look alike or share a similar history were not on the forefront of our minds at the beginning of our journey.
What’s most important, in my opinion, if you are considering growing your family via adoption is to be ready and prepared to become adoptive parents. First. Period. Because at the end of the day, being an adoptive parent, being an adoptive family, or being an adoptee is different than not being any of the above.
Being comfortable and confident in your decision to adopt should be a given before you consider additional options so to speak.
And becoming an international or transracial family on top of becoming an adoptive family can feel challenging if you don’t take the time to learn about it. But it doesn’t end with learning about it.
Love for Your International and Transracial Adoption
Understanding what international and transracial adoption are, learning about them, and preparing for them is just the beginning. It will be important for your family, especially for your child, to know that you not only embrace them as an adopted child but one who was born in another country or born another color or with another culture and customs.
No matter the age, you will want to make your child’s transition as seamless as possible and never let up letting them know that you honor and respect where they’ve come from just as much as you do where they are going.
Adoption.com offers a plethora of guides and articles with tips on how to best help your child to transition into your home to ease fears and begin to help you to bond as a multicultural family.
Additionally, along with all of the joy to come as you begin your lives as a forever family together comes the responsibility as a parent to acknowledge and learn about the trauma your child may deal with for the rest of their lives. No matter if this is noticeable to you or not, you can be sure that study after study shows that adoptees of all ages will have questions and concerns and sometimes feelings and emotions they don’t know how to process or express.
As adoptive parents, we are protective of our children and instinctively wish to protect them from feeling sad or scared. We must accept the fact that even though our adoption may be the happiest day of our lives, it was formed on one of the saddest days for another family. Although built on love, it was just as much built on loss.
This is not to say that adoption is bad in any way or that adoptive parents are not a good thing or a necessary thing for children who otherwise might never experience the love of a family. It is to say that adoption comes at a cost—for all of us—and as parents of adoptees, especially for those adopted internationally or transracially we need to be particularly open and aware of our role in helping our child to feel comfortable in their own skin.
International and Transracial Love and Adoption—2021 and Beyond
This past year has taught us so many things about who we are and what we’re made of. It also exposed areas that needed tending to and areas that will need much work for years to come.
I feel international and transracial adoption offers a beautiful opportunity for parents who are looking to love a child and children who are looking to be loved and need a family. I’m not blind to the challenges that come with this great responsibility nor the fact that as much as I thought I knew over a decade ago, I was just at the beginning of my adoption learning journey.
I will continue to learn, question, and do the hard work for my family, my children, and myself. I will do this not to make things easier on myself as a parent but to make things better for my children and for so many children around the world and here at home waiting for the chance to become part of a forever story. I will do so despite our obvious differences and more so because of the subtle similarities that lay just beneath the surface of wanting to give love and be loved.Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.