Adopting outside your own race is a big decision. It's also controversial. Questions remain as to whether a white family can properly prepare a black child for dealing with racism. Thanks to the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act of 1994 and the revisions made to it in 1996, it is against the law to prohibit an adoption or to delay an adoption based solely on the race of the adoptive parents or child.
Now the decision rests mainly with the families, social workers, and agencies involved.
What issues should you consider before making the final decision to adopt transracially? Here are some questions to ask yourself.
How Will You Handle the Racism of Others?
Despite the huge changes in our world, racism is still out there. Are you prepared to handle questions from people, sometimes total strangers, about your child's heritage or parentage? What about the opinions of your extended family? Unlike strangers where comments will be new, one usually knows what to expect from family. Will it bother you that an uncle uses racial slurs? How often do you see this person? Once a year? Is that often enough to sway your decision one way or another? Be aware of the fact that you may have to decide to limit contact with some members of your family to protect your child.
Questions About Your Community
It's important that your child is able to connect with others of the same race, so you might consider the following:
- What is the racial breakdown of your community?
- Are the schools diverse?
- Do you have friends of different races?
- Is there racial diversity in your church?
- Do you know people who have adopted or married outside of their race?
The Child's Culture
Some have said that when you adopt internationally you're adopting both the child and his culture.
You don't have to change your entire life to accommodate this. Small changes can make a big impact. Can you help instill in the child a sense of pride in his culture and heritage?
Health, Skin and Hair Care
I have a friend who has fostered several African American children. She has been stopped in stores by African American families who have commented on the obvious good care she's given the children. She has heard this comment more than once: "It's so nice to see a white foster family that takes the time to learn how to take care of the kids' hair."
Each race has its own susceptibility to different medical problems. Have you educated yourself on the different medical and skin conditions that children of color may develop? Do you understand the different skin and hair care needs of people with darker skin tones and textures of hair?
Celebrating the Differences and the Similarities
Children begin to see that each person has different physical characteristics around the age of 3 or 4. One of the first things they notice is the color of skin. It's important for children to see people around them who look similar to themselves.
My cousin adopted two children from Guatemala. Her daughter was about 5 when they adopted her brother.
Her daughter's first comment regarding her new baby brother was, "He's the same color I am!"
My cousin's family point out the differences in their children as well as the similarities. They may tell their daughter that she is a perfectionist like her brother, but she also understands that she was born to another mother in another country.