Tag Archives: mom

Transracial Adoption

There are two recent articles on transracial adoption. One is from NPR-Growing Up ‘White,’ Transracial Adoptee Learned To Be Black and the other is in the New York TimesIn Adoption, Does Race Matter?- Room for Debate. 

africa-6051bfb1d641921932b6ac2359837a7676d94d40-s40-c85The NPR piece is based on an interview with Chad Goller-Sojourner. He “is African-American. In 1972, when he was 13 months old, he was adopted by white parents in Tacoma, Wash. He and his siblings are all different races than their parents.”

Chad discussed what it was like growing up black in a home with white parents. He has two siblings, both of whom are also people of color. He grew up in a white community in Washington state and describes what it was like to feel different.

Chad’s parents did as much as they could to expose Chad (and his siblings) to more racially diverse people. They enrolled him in a school where the kids were from different backgrounds. They also read every book from the library that was written by black authors in order to try and understand what Chad and his siblings were experiencing. But that wasn’t enough.

Chad explains that before he even had words for racism, he knew it existed. me-mom_sq-6a65b11b11a463a9eaed82830674d25012a32ccb-s3-c85He noticed being watched when he went into stores with his mother. He would make sure that everyone knew that he was with “the white lady,” and therefore not a threat. He would yell to her from across the store, asking if she would buy something for him and having her respond loudly enough for people to notice that they were together.

“I would hold up some outfit and say, ‘Hey, Mom, could I get this?’ And she’d be like, ‘No!’ Which let everybody within earshot know that I was with a white lady, and then suddenly, that privilege came back over me.”

drawing of transracial familyWhat can white parents do to help their adopted children of color feel  as though they belong? Chad says, “parents today can do even better. I don’t have a checklist, but if I did, it would sound something like this: If you don’t have any close friends or people who look like your kid before you adopt a kid, then why are you adopting that kid? Your child should not be your first black friend.”

I would go a step further and suggest that before adopting a child from a different race, it’s helpful to have role models that look like your child. Find teachers, baby sitters and pediatricians who are from the same background as your child. Take a look at the people in your own life. Do you have friends from different  races? Does race ever come up in conversation? How does it make you feel? Probably uncomfortable at first but with practice, the more comfortable you will feel and that will allow your child to know that s/he can discuss race with you too. I would also suggest becoming a part of a transracial adoption community. There are so many that are out there, here are three resources: Families With Children from China, Guatemala Adoptive Families Network, African- American Heritage.

If you have any questions about transracial adoption, feel free to contact me. 

Adoption Language

questions about adoptionWords are powerful. Consider the following: Giving up a baby, put up for adoption, real family, natural children, own child, to keep, foreign adoption, natural parents or where is s/he from, how much did s/he cost?

20 Things...It is important to be aware of our language. It is particularly useful as a teaching tool for professionals in the field to be sensitive to the words that they choose. Prospective adoptive parents are looking to the professionals for guidance. A wonderful book that explores the power of language is called; 20 Things Adopted Kids Wished their Adoptive Parents Knew, by Sherrie Eldridge.

Years ago I ran a workshop for prospective adoptive parents. One day a mother and her daughter joined our group to talk about some of their challenges and what they learned being a visibly adoptive family. The mother and her then-21-year-old daughter, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, told a story about an incident that occurred at a supermarket when the daughter was three or four years old. Although the daughter did not understand what the stranger was really asking, she did not like the way it made her feel. The conversation went something like this:

“Is she yours? Where is she from?”  images-2

“Excuse me?”

“That girl, is she Chinese?”

The mom bent down and asked her daughter if she wanted to answer the man’s questions. The daughter thought about it and said, “No.”

The mother said to the stranger, “We don’t feel like answering your questions. Have a nice day.”

The prospective parents at the workshop were shocked. They wondered how strangers could think that they had the right to ask such invasive questions. The mother said that she and her family lived in area where adoption, especially international adoption, was very uncommon. She also said that most of the time she sensed that people were just curious and were not judging. She added that sometimes, as in the example above, it was hard to tell.

Eventually the mother decided that her daughter’s story was her own and therefore, when she was old enough to express herself, she could decide whether or not a stranger’s question would be answered. The mother also said that it took many tries before finding the response that felt right to them.

Sometimes they responded with, “mind your own business” or “none of your business.” Other times the mother sensed, because she had been a curious images-1prospective adoptive parents, that maybe the stranger was asking because he or she was interested in adopting and wanted to connect with an adoptive family. The mother told the workshop participants that they should be prepared that there would be questions. Some were judgmental but most were asked because the stranger was trying to decide if adoption was the best way for them to expand their family. In either case, the mother wanted the prospective adoptive parents to know how powerful words can be and that what people say can have an effect on their children. She said that it was not fair and it was exhausting but adoptive parents were bequeathed the role of educating the public. In her own situations and if she had the energy and felt like it, she did share the information with strangers that her daughter allowed. It wasn’t the daughter’s entire story, just a part of it.