Parents mean this in the best possible way. They mean that they could love a child unconditionally, regardless of whether they look like them or share their cultural heritage and traditions. But race and culture do matter—especially to children who have already lost so much. Losing connections to their culture and racial heritage—or being raised in households where their importance is not acknowledged—can affect children throughout their lives. Adoptive families and child welfare professionals provide the following advice on transracial adoption.
Talk with your family and friends When you are deciding whether transracial adoption is right for you, talk with your family about what becoming a multiracial family will mean. How will they respond to the changes it brings? Are your extended family members enthusiastic about your decision and ready to support you and your child? Do you live in a community that values racial and cultural diversity and is likely to be accepting of the child you bring into your family?
In the spirit of searching for better instructions, I interviewed adoptees ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s. From my many conversations, it became clear that we adoptive parents too often choose to delude ourselves with four comforting but dangerous myths. Love was not enough for them. Abigail Scott, 21, is a Chinese adoptee who grew up with her single mother in what she calls the bubble of Berkeley, California.
She was active in the organization Families of Children from China. She and her daughter returned to China for a two-week trip when Scott was She encouraged her daughter to apply for Chinese mentorship programs at UCal, though Scott resisted because growing up she found herself increasingly disinterested in exploring her Chinese culture.
Scott says she never told herself that she wanted to be white, but always felt atypically Chinese. She was a muscular lacrosse player who loved being tan. She told her mother never to buy her anything Hello Kitty. When she and her mother went to large family functions, Scott remembers noticing that everyone else in the room was white except her.
She accepts for now that she is confusingly adrift between her American and Chinese identities. So if you prepare them for that you are helping them. Part of your role as a parent is teaching your child how to safely cross the street. He was four years old, an African-American boy scuffling with a white boy on a Denver playground. But I just knew that my skin was different and I had no control over that.
You need to leave! Meanwhile Landau spent much of his adolescence gelling his hair straight and wearing long sleeves and pants in the summer to cover up his dark skin. When he left home for college, his dad, who comes from a long line of Denver policemen, never gave him the talk—a tradition in many African-American homes—about how to have self preserving interactions with police and other authority figures. In Landau, then 19, was driving in Denver with a white friend in the passenger seat.
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: 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! 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.
Seven suggestions for a successful transracial adoption
Nicky Campbell: Interracial adoption creates 'extra layer of identity problems' for children
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