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Should I Consider Transracial Adoption?

Being honest with yourself is the first step in deciding if transracial adoption is a good fit for you and your family.

Examine Your Beliefs and Attitudes About Race and Ethnicity

Try to think if you have made any assumptions about people because of their race or ethnic group. There are two reasons for this exercise:

(1) to check yourself -- to be sure this type of adoption will be right for you;

(2) prepare for your family to be considered a little "different" from others in your community.

Think About Your Lifestyle

  • Do you already live in an integrated neighborhood, so that your child will be able to attend an integrated school?

  • Do you already have friends of different races and ethnic groups?

  • Do you enjoy different kinds of ethnic foods or attend multicultural festivals?

How much of a leap would it be to start doing some of these things?

It is important for multiethnic families to be around adults and children of many ethnic groups, and particularly, for children to see adult role models who are of the same race or ethnic group. These people can be their friends, teach them about their ethnic heritage, and as they mature, tell them what to expect when they are an adult in your community. Will you be able to make these types of relationships available for your child?

Keys to a cohesive, positive identity and self-esteem involves commitment to open communication, often initiated by parents, around their child’s adoption story, the reactions of others to their visibly "different" family, and of course, the racism that exists in our society.

Talk about racial issues, even if your child does not bring up the subject. Use natural opportunities, such as a television program or newspaper article that talks about race in some way. Let your child know that you feel comfortable discussing race-the positive aspects as well as the difficult ones.

When you adopt a child of another race or culture, it is not only the child who is different. Your family becomes a "different" family. Some people are comfortable with difference. To them, difference is interesting, wonderful, and special. Other people are not so comfortable with difference. Thus, some friends, family members, acquaintances, and even strangers will rush to your side to support you, while others may make negative comments.

Think about how you will respond to the second group in a way that will help your child feel good about himself or herself.

While it is important to teach your child that differences among people are enriching, it is also important to point out similarities. In an adoptive family, the ratio should be two similarities for each difference. For instance, to a young child you might say, “Your skin is a different color than Daddy's, but you both like to play music and you both love strawberry ice cream." As much as you want to celebrate your child's distinctive features, he or she also needs to feel a sense of belonging in the family.

Recommended Reading:

Secret Thoughts of An Adoptive Mother, By Jana Wolff. The author and her husband, both Jewish, adopted an African-American/Hispanic baby and a few years later, she decided to share her story in this honest and candid memoir. The author relates her story with humor and sensitivity, depicting the challenging emotions that transracial adoption entails.

Inside Transracial Adoption, by Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall. A resource guide for prospective adoptive parents considering transracial adoption. Focuses on issues surrounding racial identity and the challenges of being a multi-ethnic family.

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