Transracial adoption is not for every family, just as adoption is not for every family. Some very nice people are not necessarily good parents at all. Many good parents cannot really accept someone else’s child and love him as their own. Many adoptive parents are excellent parents to a child of their own race, but are not cut out to be good parents to a child of another race or background. It takes parents with certain sensitivity and understanding to parent a child of a different race in our race-conscious society.
ADOPTING A CHILD OF A DIFFERENT RACE
Questions for Parents Considering Transracial Adoption
From the Parents’ Point of View
Your family will now be interracial for generations. It is not just a question of an appealing little baby. How do you think and feel about interracial marriage? How does your family think and feel when people assume that you are married to an Asian, Hispanic, or Black? How do you think and feel about getting some public attention – positive and negative stares/comments? A possible problem could be that the adopted child gets too much attention and others in the family tend to get “left out.”
What are your thoughts about race? What characteristics do you think people of other races have? Do you expect your child to have them? How do you raise a child of a different race in an American, Caucasian, or Black family? Do you raise him to have the same identity as you or your biological children? Do you help him develop his own identity? Should he have a foreign name? What relationship will his name have to his sense of, “Who am I?” Imagine a child you know and love being sent to a foreign country to be adopted. How would you want him to be raised? As an American in a foreign country, or as a native in that country? You don’t know this from your experience, so you’ll have to find out how to teach yourself to become sensitive to your child’s world. Discrimination against Asians, Indians, and Latin-Americans is subtler than against Blacks; therefore it is less obvious to a Caucasian or Black, and will require more sensitivity. Non-infant children (including Caucasian children) are treated differently simply because they are adopted and are therefore expected to have problems.
From the Child's Point of View
The people he loves best look different from him. It will be natural for him to want to resemble those he loves, or else understand why he looks different, and learn that difference is not a bad thing.
The child will need help in understanding his heritage and background so he can explain and feel comfortable about his status with his friends. He needs to be able to answer the question from other children: “What are you?” “Why do you look different from your parents?” “Where do you come from?”
This is the time he tries to figure out “Who am I?” Curiosity about his biological parents or background may become stronger. Questions about dating arise, and you should look to your community. Try to guess how many of your friends and neighbors would wholeheartedly accept their child dating yours? How would you feel if your child developed a special interest in his native country, and identified himself as a foreigner, involved himself with a group of Asian, Indian, or Latin America teens, wanted to visit his native land? Hopefully, you would have kept alive his interests in and knowledge of his original country’s culture and progress and feel not in the least threatened by his wanting to identify himself with such others.
Moving into Adulthood
“Who will I marry?” is rather a different question from “Who will I date?” Do you think that your child will marry a Caucasian, an Asian, a Latin American, Indian, or a Black? Would you recommend for or against an interracial marriage for your child?
In addition to your qualities, abilities, thoughts, and feelings as parents, it is important for you to understand your motivation for this kind of adoption. Do you feel you are doing a good deed for a poor, homeless child? Do you feel a baby (child) will save your marriage? Are you adopting because your spouse wants to? Are you “settling” for a foreign born child because you can’t get a domestic baby? Do you feel that you’d be acquiring a status symbol, a conversation piece? In her book, Adoption Advisor, (Information House, Hawthorn Books, 1975), Joan McNamara, on page 41, bluntly and accurately remarks, “You are adopting a child, not a tropical house-plant to put in the living room.” It is important that you have an attitude of respect for the child’s country and culture. If you feel your own values and culture are superior to that of your child, or if you feel that your primary orientation is to help this child become absorbed into your culture at the expense of his own, you might find transracial and transcultural adoption difficult for both you and your child. It is important to keep in mind that the children are removed from their own country ONLY because they essentially have no future in that country, and no possibility of being cared for by permanent, nurturing parents, either by adoption within that country, or by strong long-term foster care. Their only alternative to intercountry adoption would be institutionalization until they reach their majority.