Adoptions With Love Blog

Transracial Adoption: What Hopeful Adoptive Parents Should Know

Adoption is a big decision. Whether you have faced years of infertility or have simply always dreamed of growing your family through adoption, you are embarking on one of life’s greatest adventures: Parenthood. The choice to adopt a child is one that requires some patience and, certainly, a whole lot of love. Perhaps you are still awaiting your future child. Perhaps you have already adopted and are just starting to get to know your little one. Either way, you have a lot to learn in this new chapter. And if you are one of the growing number of adoptive families to have a transracial adoption, you may have a lot of questions, including, “What can I expect when raising a child of a different race than me?”

Here, Adoptions With Love will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about transracial adoption, as you navigate the waters of adopting a baby.

What Does Transracial Adoption Mean?

Transracial adoption – also known as interracial adoption – is the adoption of a child that is of a different race than his or her adoptive parents. Transracial adoption is very common in the adoption world today. In fact, more than 40 percent of adoptions today are transracial. This number is up from 28 percent in 2004, just fifteen years ago.

What Should I Know About the Adoption Process?

There is a great need for families to adopt African American children in the United States. Therefore, the wait time for adoptions of African American children tend to be shorter. As for international adoptions,  over a quarter of a million children from China have been placed for adoption with non-Chinese parents in the past decade. As a result of these statistics, it is more common today to see Caucasian families adopting children of color.

If you are looking to adopt a child of a different race, you should prepare yourself for a unique parenting experience, in that it may require a learning curve. You may think back to the “This is Us” episode when, at the pool, Mrs. Pearson wonders if her son Randall needs sunscreen because of his dark skin. In this same scene, she also admits she’s unsure how (or where to go) to cut his hair. These are examples of the little things you may have to learn, but there will be bigger agenda items, too.

For example, you must prepare to discuss race, racism, and racial profiling with your child at various stages of development. There will be some hard conversations ahead, but it is important to address these topics at an age-appropriate pace. This open communication will help build trust with your child, and they will also help prepare him or her for outsider questions or potentially difficult circumstances.

Here are some other tips that will help foster a positive experience in your transracial adoption:

  • Educate yourself on transracial adoption
  • Provide your child with role models of the same race
  • Ensure that your child grows up in an ethnically-diverse community
  • Equip your child with tools needed to handle racism and racial profiling

What Are Some Considerations for Raising a Child of a Different Race?

A common myth that adoptive parents will hear as they embark on the adoption journey, is that their love will be enough for their child. This “color-blind” mentality, while good-intentioned, can be harmful for the ethnically-different child in your life. Your adopted child needs to feel loved for all that they are, including their skin tone. This is an innate piece of your child’s identity, and ignoring it will only cause challenges in the future. As an adoptive parent, you must embrace your child’s differences.  It would be wise to discuss the idea of adopting transracially with your extended family members.  Knowing that grandma and grandpa are onboard with this type of adoption will help your child in the long run of life.

As difficult as it may be to think about, chances are, your child will likely be called an ethnic slur at one point or another. He or she may even be targeted in a racial profiling situation. Because of these harsh realities, you will want to be sure that your child is prepared for a multitude of circumstances. There are books and professionals who can assist in these difficult conversations, and offer expert advice for both you and your child. Better to be prepared and safe than sorry.

As the aforementioned tip suggests, it is important for your child to be surrounded by loving family as well as positive role models who share the same race as your child. If you live in a predominately “white” town, where it may be rare to find Hispanic, black, or Asian neighbors, consider moving to a more diverse area. Just as you would consider moving for a “good school” or better paying job, it is important for your child to have a real sense of belonging. If you live in a town with a “good school system,” but your child is one of two black kids in the whole school – is it really all that “good” for your child?

How Can I Embrace and Celebrate My Child’s Ethnicity?

Another important step in raising your child is to make sure she feels connected to her ethnic roots. This means you must actively educate yourself on her cultural background and celebrate this facet of her identity. Some simple ways to embrace the culture of your child include:

  • Read up on the history of the country of origin or ethnicity
  • Learn the best products for skin and hair care
  • Cook (or order) authentic ethnic foods
  • Listen to the ethnic music
  • Incorporate other cultural elements in your home, such as dance or art
  • Learn the language (and have your child learn, too!)
  • Honor cultural heroes and leaders of your child’s ethnicity
  • Maintain a connection to your child’s biological parents, through open adoption
  • Join groups with multi-racial families

What Are Some Potential Effects of Transracial Adoption?

Adopting a child of a different race can be complicated at times, but is always well worth it. As long as you are open, realistic, make a real effort to embrace your child’s culture, and provide him with a diverse upbringing, you will set your child up for a successful future.

Another important lesson your child will learn, through your example, is that people are people, no matter their skin color or the ignorant prejudices of others. We all come from different walks of life, but everyone – no matter their race – is worthy of a happy and loving home. Your child may grow up feeling that she has two ethnic backgrounds, as a result of her unique upbringing. She may find that she is connected to both your ethnic background as well as her own.

If you have even more questions about transracial adoption, please do not hesitate to reach out to Adoptions With Love. For more than 33 years, we have been helping hopeful families of all backgrounds, adopt children of all backgrounds. If you are looking to adopt a baby in Massachusetts, please call 617-964-4357 for more answers.