When it comes to transracial adoption, diversity and inclusion are pivotal topics. Every individual comes from a different background, and when it comes to adoption, culture and diversity are often at the centerpiece of considerations for adoptive families and birthmothers. As an adoption professional who intrinsically values diversity and inclusion as a part of our mission, this discussion is important to us.
What are the Significant Roles of Culture in Adoption?
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 40% of adoptions in the United States are transracial, making the role of culture in adoption more important than ever. Most human beings want to feel connected to their heritage, and it is even more critical for transracial adoptees to feel this connection, particularly when they may not have the opportunity to directly interact with their cultural environment every day like in the case of an international adoption.
The best and most ethical approach to transracial adoption is to take the culture of the adoptee into consideration when raising them so they develop a healthy identity and do not lose out on the opportunity to connect with their culture. Adoptive parents must be intentional in helping their child form their identity by educating themselves on their child’s cultural background. It is also important to make connections within the child’s cultural community so they can be a resource for their child as they form their identity and navigate the world.
Things to Consider About Transracial Adoption
If you are a prospective adoptive family open to a transracial adoption, there are certain things you need to take into consideration. The first thing you need to know is that you must be approved as part of your home study to adopt a child of a different race. It is recognized that transracial adoption is a delicate matter that can affect the child’s identity into adulthood, which is why families must be specifically approved to adopt a child of a different race. The home study also presents an opportunity for you to ask your social worker any questions or discuss any concerns you may have about transracial adoption.
Something you also need to evaluate is if your family is comfortable with your adoption preferences. It is important that the environment your child grows in to be loving, accepting, and nurturing no matter the color of their skin or their cultural background. Under no circumstance do you want to raise your child in a family environment where they will not be accepted and loved for who they are. This is a difficult but critical conversation you need to have with your immediate and extended family for the benefit of everyone involved.
A sad truth of modern life is that systemic racism is still a pervasive and malevolent force that affects all facets of society. As you consider transracial adoption, it is critical to educate yourself on issues surrounding racism, xenophobia, and what it means to be the adoptive parent of a child from a different race. This will allow you to be as prepared as possible to raise your child to face all of the good and bad things they will encounter in this world.
How to Support Transracial Adoptees?
One of the best ways to support a transracial adoptee is to keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to help the child build and maintain a healthy sense of racial identity. Because of this, it is paramount that they do not lose their cultural ties. It is the responsibility of the adoptive parents to allow adoptees to connect with their culture.
First and foremost, adoptive parents should educate themselves on the culture of their child and also issues of race, diversity, and inclusion. Additionally, the adoptee can be tangibly connected to their culture by learning cuisines of the adoptee’s culture, attending cultural festivals, going to a language school, and being surrounded by a community of supportive people from their cultural background for example. As they grow and experience new challenges that you may not be able to relate to, it will be important for them to have a positive role model in their life who can relate and give advice to any struggles they may be facing that are specific to their culture or race.
Is Transracial Adoption Harmful?
While there are many differing opinions out there, it is a myth that transracial adoption is harmful. When the adoptive family goes in with an intentional emphasis on raising the child with ties to their cultural background, transracial adoption can be positive for all involved. In fact, there have been various studies conducted that seek to illuminate this very question, and the general scholarly consensus is that transracial adoption is not harmful. A study out of Wisconsin surveyed 600 children (both white and of different races) adopted by white families and came to the conclusion that both groups did not differ in their feelings about adoption and have a generally healthy identity development. As we continue to become more accepting as a society, and also have more conversations about the impact of race and adoption, the perception that transracial adoption is harmful will hopefully change.
What are the Benefits of Transracial Adoption?
While transracial adoption can present demanding challenges, it can also be rewarding and present benefits to the adoptive family and adoptee. One of the most significant benefits is that it fosters a spirit of diversity and inclusion in your household, which leads to broader acceptance of different identities for every family member. It can also shatter stigmas surrounding race, adoption, and what makes a family. As we are all well aware in the adoption community, family is not always composed of people who share the same DNA. Adoption, and particularly, transracial adoption proves that family is an unconditional commitment to loving, respecting, and caring for the people you love regardless of their racial or cultural background.