In a previous post about the effect of race on adoption costs we touched on some of the challenges of transracial (interracial) adoptions.
We think these challenges warrant a bit more attention and wanted to give some tips to parents considering transracial adoption. The main difficulties faced by families revolve around the inculturation of the children and the reaction/reception of the community.
(Note: this post ended up being a bit long, so we’ve broken it up into two parts to make it easier to read. You can read Part II here.)
You aren’t going to be able to hide the fact that your child has a different appearance than you, nor should you try to. Rather, embrace your child for who they are, which includes where they come from. This will be challenging, of course, but there are a few things you can do to make it go a bit smoother.
Even before the adoption is finalized, it’s important to start studying your child’s race and heritage. Try to cover the whole gamut: from cultural icons and history to trendy hair styles and popular music. It’s also important to reflect on your own cultural upbringing and influences. These will be as much a part of your child’s experience as their biological background. Do what any parent does: try to pass on what’s good and leave out what’s bad. You want your child to have the best of both worlds.
Over the years, you’ll likely have a few questions that you are hesitant to ask. This may be because you feel that you will appear ignorant or because you are afraid that it might come across as offensive. It’s helpful to seek out trusted friends who share a similar background with your child and are familiar with your family who can help you with the hard questions. They will also be a valuable resource for general insights and providing quick answers when problems come up. You can also look in your area for special support groups for transracial adoptive families.
Remember that it’s not a matter of your culture vs. your child’s culture. Your family needs experience culture together. Your child shouldn’t have to look outside of your family to find their cultural identity. Bring these new traditions, expressions, and perspectives into your family’s everyday life. Don’t isolate your child. Avoid saying that you have to explore this new culture because of who your child is. It’s because of who “we are;” this is now part of the identity of your whole family.