Today, more than 40 percent of adoptions are transracial adoptions – up from 28 percent in 2004, according to a survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. Transracial adoptions are a beautiful way to start or grow a family, but they also bring about additional hurdles, particularly when it comes to talking about race.
“Thankfully, more and more white adoptive parents are taking an active interest in what it means to be Black in America,” writes Chad Goller-Sojourner, Adoptive Families.
Transracial Adoptions – Advice for White Parents Raising Black Children
It is “critical that white parents raising Black children acknowledge that their children are becoming less and less protectable as they grow older and consciously and purposefully prepare them for life outside the walls of their home,” says Goller-Sojourner.
Having “The Talk”
I am frequently asked when and how should white adoptive parents have “The Talk,” says Goller-Sojourner. “For starters, it’s not really a talk. It is more of a continuous and ongoing conversation” often influenced by several factors, including geography, environment, and experiences.
“Part of loving your child is seeing and loving the color of her skin—and accepting the reality that she will likely be painfully pigeonholed sometime in her life because of it,” writes Karen Valby, Time.
Ask for Help
It is important to understand that you cannot answer every question yourself. You don’t always have the experiences or first-hand knowledge to properly address a situation. And by not exposing black children to uniquely black experiences, you’re actually doing your child a disservice.
“The cover of whiteness is a phenomenon that occurs when Black children move in predominantly, if not exclusively, white circles,” explains Goller-Sojourner. Yes, this provides black children many of the privileges afforded their white contemporaries, but it also insulates them from “many of the hard truths surrounding what it is to be Black in America.”
This is why Dean Kirschner, PhD LCSW-C, Executive Director of Adoption Makes Family, Inc. recommends that “any parent of a child of another race have friends with experiences of that child’s race.” He adds, “Isolating a child from people that look like them often has lifelong negative repercussions.”
Goller-Sojourner illustrates this using the example of a child observing their parents driving.
“Children learn from observing parents in all situations, and a Black child observing his or her Black parent navigate an interaction with a police officer—after being pulled over for speeding, for example—will see something very different than a Black child observing their white parent in the same situation,” explains Goller-Sojourner.
“Parents who believe they can raise their child color-blind are making a terrible mistake,” says Mark Hagland, journalist and adoption literacy advocate. It is important to celebrate your child’s heritage and teach them about their roots. Our race and our culture are important parts of our identity as both individuals and as a community. Transracial adoptees can sometimes struggle with this sense of identity when they don’t look like the rest of their family. This is why it is important to embrace your child’s race and cultural identity and celebrate it.
Responding to Rude Questions
As a white parent of a black child, you will undoubtedly have to deal with nosy and even downright rude questions about your transracial adoption. “These negative messages are usually, but not always, unintentional,” says Julie Higginbotham, Adoptive Families. “People have an instinct for categorization; when they see situations that don’t fit the norm, they comment.” With transracial adoption, these questions can become even more uncomfortable. So, it is important to develop a plan of action to deal with these questions in a calm and respectful manner.
- Address the Child: First, respond to your child. “Despite our best efforts, the incessant questions from strangers chip away at our foundations,” says Higginbotham. Reassure your child that nothing about them or your family is weird or out of the ordinary.
- Address the Question: “I like to use a three choice process when asked about my own adoption story. It is called the TIP process: Tell, Ignore, say it is Private,” explains Dr. Kirschner. “I can choose to tell the story of my child’s adoption. I can ignore the person, or I can say it is private.” Just remember to stay calm and be respectful. “Trust me, the kid is listening for your response,” says Sharon Van Epps, ESME.
Transracial Adoption Questions?
If you are struggling with any aspect of transracial adoption, is here to help. Our adoption counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your convenience. If you would like our advice or just need to talk, please give us a call at any time.
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- Goller-Sojourner, Chad. “’The Talk’: Discussing Race and the Police with Black Children.” Adoptive Families, 12 June 2020, www.adoptivefamilies.com/transracial-adoption/talking-with-black-children-about-police-racism-safety/.
- “Transracial Adoptees – Common Challenges & How to Cope.” Considering Adoption, https://consideringadoption.com/adopted/impact-of-adoption/transracial-adoptees.
- Valby, Karen. “The Realities of Raising a Kid of a Different Race.” Time, https://time.com/the-realities-of-raising-a-kid-of-a-different-race/.