While all transracially adopted children deserve adoptive parents who are culturally sensitive and willing to expose not only their child, but themselves and their entire family to the child’s ethnic and/or cultural heritage, good intentions on the part of the parents do not take the place of parents who already have a personal interested in the same culture by virtue of having also been raised in it.
Over the years, informal adoption has been the preferred option among many non-Caucasian families for a variety of reasons. In many communities, relatives simply take in children whose parents are unable to care for them, either on a temporary basis or until the children are grown and on their own.
However, informal adoption leaves the child (and guardians) in a constant state of uncertainty. The child doesn’t have rights to the adoptive parents’ inheritance or health benefits, and the parents risk having the child taken back by the biological parents without any warning or legal recourse. Frequently, when it comes to kinship adoption, many families simply don’t see the need to go through a formal adoption process because they are already a family.
Because this has been the trend in many minority communities, formal adoption simply doesn’t get the attention it needs in order to be on the radar of would-be adoptive parents. Many also fear that adoption is too expensive or that they may not be eligible to adopt, and they never confirm if their suspicions are true or not.
In recent years, with the help of outreach activities aimed at educating minority communities about the process and benefits of formal adoption, more and more children are finding adoptive homes with people who share their ethnic and/or cultural background.
All minority children removed from their birth families face the risk of an identity crisis. There may be skincare or hair care needs unique to their phenotype that they now have no one to teach them about. They may miss the food or music of their birth families if they were removed from their homes at a later age. They may feel inadequate when the only role models they have to look up to do not share their physical features or culture.
When it comes to Latino children, an added concern is that of language maintenance. When Hispanic children are placed in non-Spanish speaking homes (either for foster care or adoption), especially when this is done at an early age, the children are likely to lose much of their Spanish language competence. Many Hispanics fall into the “visible minority” category (a sociology term that refers to a minority member whose physical features distinguish her or him from the features of those who are considered part of the majority).
Therefore, as the children grow up, they may be assumed to speak Spanish based solely on their physical features (or names, if these weren’t changed upon adoption), which may create added stress to these children, reminding them of the loss of their cultural identity in addition to their birth family.
Formal adoption of a minority child by parents of that same minority group minimizes the challenges that come naturally with any adoption. While the adoption of a child by any family is noteworthy and ought to be encouraged, minority families should also–if not especially–be motivated to consider if adopting a child may not be something their family is called to do.