Thursday, July 22, 2010

Transracial, Transcultural....

It's a fact.  An  unfortunate, sad fact, but a fact: It is more difficult to find families for non white children.

Yet white families adopting biracial or African American children has been a long, intense debate.  In 1994 & 1996, the fereal government passed laws forbidding racial consideration as a sole reason to deny a couple a fair chance to adopt a child of another race.  Still, there seems to be some bureaucratic resistance to transracial adoption through some state social services department.  Most transracial families are created with the assistance of private agencies, such as Heart to Heart.  Generally speaking, most white families who desire to adopt children of another race have success in a relatively short time through private agencies like us.

Regardless of your race or the child's race, if you decide to adopt transracially, there are challenges, many of which we address on this blog regularly.  And again, some of the unfortunate facts are...
  • some people will be positive towards you, others will be negative. (this probably has less to do with your adoption circumstance and more to do with them personally) Still, some are positive and some are not!
  • people are going to ask intrusive questions
  • your child - and even other family members - may face racial slurs.
There are those who feel children do better in families of the same race. They believe children would be racially and culturally deprived if they are not in a family with all the same race.  They don't believe parents can understand racial slurs and/or  insults that could happen in a child that is adopted transracially as well as a child with parents of the same race.  Supporters of transracial adoption often feel that children need a loving, stable home and far too many children of minority races are stuck in the foster care system while minority families are sought for them. And unfortunately, many of these children are moved to a semi permanent situation of the same race, purely for racial reasons. Some who oppose transracial adoption feel that children adopted into families of another race are unable to develop a strong ethnic identity nor sense of racial heritage when raised by white parents.

Studies show this may not be the case!   Surprised? Me neither!

Since 1971, Howard Altstein and Rita Simon have studied a group of black children adopted into white families. Their studies have indicated that the majority of these children have a strong self esteem and a positive sense of identity. (see their book "Adoption Across Borders: Serving the Children in Transracial and Intercountry Adoptions)  Although Altstein and Simon found that most children have done well, they do not deny there are challenges.   I don't think any of us who have adopted transracially, especially as children get older, would deny there are  challenges specific to transracial adoption.  Sadly, racial slurs and social inequality still exist at all levels of society.  Sometimes the children don't feel like they fit in.  It's also likely that the parents who participated in Altstein & Simon's study were very sensitive to racial issues and took care to deal with them as soon as possible and as effectively as possible.  

That being said...shouldn't all parents who adopt across racial lines should do the same? YES.  Educate yourself to potential issues & challenges & deal with them proactively!  Be sensitive to your child's feelings and offer the security that they need to have the strength to deal with these challenges as they arise.  And as always, as you educate yourselves, educate others -- positively.  Don't be defensive, don't look to be offended, but be positive and ready to honestly share the information you feel is appropriate.

Bottom line is, I do not feel race should prevent any child from having a forever family.  It's sick and wrong to think that skin color may affect a child's potential to be adopted into a loving home.  But we are making a difference and changing society one family at a time by placing these sweet children into loving homes and giving them what every child should have as a right, not a privilege....a family.

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