Adopting a Child of a Different Race

Things to consider before beginning your interracial family.

People choose to adopt transracially or transculturally for a variety of reasons. Fewer young Caucasian children are available for adoption in the United States than in years past, and some adoption agencies that place Caucasian children do not accept singles or applicants older than 40. Some prospective adoptive parents feel connected to a particular race or culture because of their ancestry or through personal experiences such as travel or military service. Others simply like the idea of reaching out to children in need, no matter where they come from.

Adoption experts have different opinions about this kind of adoption. Some say that children available for adoption should always be placed with a family with at least one parent of the same race or culture as the child. This is so the child can develop a strong racial or cultural identity. These people say that adoption agencies that have a strong commitment to working with families of color, and that are flexible in their procedures, are very successful in recruiting same-race families. Other experts say that race should not be considered at all when selecting a family for a child. To them, a loving family that can meet the needs of a particular child is all that matters. Still others suggest that after an agency works very hard to recruit a same-race family for a certain period of time but does not find one, the child should be placed with a loving family of any race or culture who can meet the child's needs.

Examine your beliefs and attitudes

While you may think you know yourself and your family members very well, it's important to examine your beliefs and attitudes about race and ethnicity before adopting a child of another race or culture. Try to think whether you have made any assumptions about people because of their race or ethnic group. There are two reasons for this exercise: to check yourself -- to be sure this type of adoption will be right for you, and to prepare to be considered "different."

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, and are scared by it. Thus, some friends, family members, acquaintances, and even strangers will rush to your side to support you, while others may make negative comments and stare. During the pre-adoption phase, you should think about how you will respond to the second group in a way that will help your child feel good about himself or herself.

When your child is young, an extra hug and a heart-to-heart talk might be all it takes to help him or her through a difficult situation. While the hugs and the heart-to-heart talks never stop, as your child gets older, you and your child will need more specific coping skills to deal with the racial bias you might face together as a family. Are you ready to fully understand these issues and help your family deal with whatever happens?

Think about your lifestyle

Before considering a transracial or transcultural adoption, take a look at your current lifestyle. Do you already live in an integrated neighborhood, so that your child will be able to attend an integrated school? If not, would you consider moving to a new neighborhood? Do you already have friends of different races and ethnic groups? Do you visit one another's homes regularly? Do you attend multicultural festivals? Do you enjoy different kinds of ethnic foods? How much of a leap would it be to start doing some of these things?

It is important for children of color growing up with Caucasian parents to be around adults and children of many ethnic groups, and particularly, 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. Can you make these types of relationships available for your child?

Consider adopting siblings

It's always good for siblings to be adopted together, and it's no different in the case of transracial or transcultural adoption. Siblings who are adopted together have the security of seeing another person in the family who looks like them. They are able to bring a part of their early history and birth family with them to their adoptive family, which may help them adjust better. And with internationally adopted children, being together might mean they would be able to keep up their native language.

Source: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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