The worst part of the adoption process for me, besides waiting for “the call,” was the checklist our agency required us to fill out. Categories were to be marked with a yes, no, or would consider. Would we be open to a child with a heart condition? What about a mother who used heroin? What about an older child?
Then came the race questions.
My husband and I are both white, and like many new adoptive couples, we wanted a child who looked like us. We swiftly marked “Caucasian” and moved on to the other categories.
One year into our first wait, we felt that perhaps God had a child in mind for us who didn’t look like us. Perhaps our child would be Hispanic, or African American, or biracial. We took the responsibility of transracial adoption and parenting very seriously. To believe the world is colorblind is naïve and would do a child of transracial adoption no favors.
Four months after changing our adoption preferences, we got “the call.” Our daughter, a little African American girl, had been born that morning, and her biological mother had chosen us to parent her. We were overjoyed.
Two years later, we got a call for another African American baby girl. We laughed about how dramatic our family tree was changing. We adore the diversity and the joy that transracial adoption has brought to our lives.
My husband and I are fairly active in the adoption community. One of our favorite ways to assist waiting adoptive families is to speak at adoption meeting and conferences. We always take our girls with us so waiting couples can see what it means to be a transracial, adoptive family. We get to listen to the concerns of these families. They often state that they are not open to transracial adoption because:
1: African American (Asian, etc.) hair intimidates them.
2: A family member (or two, or three) wouldn’t approve of a transracial adoption.
3: The fact that the child is adopted is evident, meaning the adoptive family would be under a constant spotlight.
I understand these concerns, and I do not wish to deem them as frivolous or superficial. I believe adoptive families need to be able to voice their fears and feel safe doing so. Only then can they learn. So here is how we respond to these common fears:
1: African American hair is very different. It requires more time, effort, and care than many other hair types. But just like anything in adoption, a little education goes a long way. An adoptive family can seek advice from African Americans, can visit local beauty and barber shops, and can do online research into hair products and styling techniques. The appearance of one’s hair is very important in the African American community. However, is this concern a valid reason for not adopting transracially? I do my very best to make sure my daughters’ hair is well cared for so they are able to fit into their racial community.
2: This is a tough one. The feelings of family members (who will be your future child’s aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc.) do matter. But at the end of the day, the decision rests with the adoptive parents. Books like Brown Babies, Pink Parents, by Amy Ford, or Inside Transracial Adoption, by Beth Hall, can help educate not only yourselves but other family members. A fabulous new book called In On It, by Elisabeth O’Toole, is written specifically for family members who are awaiting a new member through adoption. I often tell adoptive couples who are considering transracial adoption that if they are ever forced to choose between extended family members or their child, they should choose their child.
3: Adoption is hardly the secretive society it once was. Do transracial adoptive families face more obstacles and attract more attention than same-race families? Yes. But with time, I have learned to respond to questions and comments with grace and confidence. Discussing and practicing responses with your family and other adoptive families can be helpful. Remember, your children are always watching and learning from you. How you respond will impact their minds and hearts.
If you are considering adopting transracially, my best advice is to educate yourself. Race does matter, but a child is a child, first and foremost. And with any child who would come into your family, adopted or biological, would you not go to the moon and back to make sure he or she is happy, healthy, and secure?