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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Transracial Adoption

November is National Adoption Month, and to celebrate all the beautiful adoptive families out there, BTSF will be featuring several posts discussing race, faith, and adoption. Here, we get an overview of some of the considerations for transracial adoption, and later in the month hear form some families with first-hand experience. We welcome other thoughts, knowing that there is much to learn. 

Adoption is a beautiful manifestation of God's love for us. In the same way that God welcomes us into His family, we have the opportunity to reflect His love in a powerful way by bringing a child in need into our home. God "predestined us to be adopted as His children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will" and He has a similar plan to bring families together here on earth.

Transracial adoption further reflects the beauty of God's Kingdom by joining in unity the diversity of God's creation. It is a unique opportunity to become intimately bound with one another, and to bear with each others' burdens. Joining together across race to form a family helps us understand one another more deeply in a way that is otherwise impossible.

That being said, the very need for better racial awareness can make transracial adoption a problematic endeavor when the parents are white. There are some well-intentioned adoptive parents that really have no idea about race in the United States ("isn't that what the agency's 'diversity training day' is for?"). Some may believe that love is all their child of color will need, and that it will be basically the same as raising a white child.

But these are often the same folks that think racism is only about hate crimes, that 'reverse racism' is alarmingly out of control, and that talking about race just perpetuates the problem. A lot white folk hold to these beliefs dearly, so it stands to reason that such thoughts persist after adoption day. Furthermore, White parents sometimes see their children as exceptions to racial stereotypes, rather than evidence that such stereotypes aren't valid (“my child isn’t like those kids…we raised her better than their parents do”).

It is important for all children to have a solid foundational understanding of racial history, but this education is severely lacking in schools. Parents that are under-prepared in their own education are ill-equipped to provide such a grounding for their children. White parents adopting transracially must be vigilant in their own education for the sake of their children. They must be sure to instill in their children a self confidence, knowledge of their history, and love of their race that will serve as a foundation against the constant barrage of marginalization that comes in life. 

Without careful preparation, children of color may end up in white 'colorblind' homes with parents inadvertently perpetrating daily microaggressions ("we don't have a lot of people of color in our neighborhood, but everyone is really nice and accepting, so our kids will be fine!"). White parents often raise their children to believe that racism is a thing of the past and that it will have no bearing on their lives. Children may be raised to believe that the white history taught in their schools is the only history out there, and to believe that the beauty standards on TV are the only features a spouse will ever want.

Understandably, white parents often want to live into our hopes for the world. But without an understanding of the realities around us, this practice sets children up for a rude awakening when they inevitably encounter the racialized world. Then, when that reality hits, children are unprepared, and isolated from the support to process through it. Parents who think that racism largely consists of overt acts of hate, will be unprepared to advise/relate to (or even believe!) the daily smog of microaggressions that their child faces.

Finally, there is a historic baggage of white folk's systematically removing Black, Asian, and Native American children from their 'savage' parents to raise them as 'civilized' white people. It is even still happening today (See: South Dakota Foster Care and Deportation Adoption). We must understand that these events effect how we approach transracial adoption (with respect and sensitivity).

Unequivocally, I support adoption. There is far too much need on both sides of the parent/child equation to believe otherwise. There is tremendous opportunity to receive God's grace through the gift of both cis- and transracial adoption. Furthermore, white folks that encourage within-race adoption sound dangerously like the anti-intermixing, racial-superiority arguments of old, which opens the door for those that feel we aught to 'stick to our own.'  

There are many great parents out there that have navigated transracial adoption elegantly. At the end of the day, transracial adoption issues aren't that much different than the general racial education issues we have elsewhere. White folks need to immerse themselves in situations where they are the minority, and bury themselves in literature written by POCs (not just others talking about POCs--see this week's 'Friday Round Up' for some good recs!). White folks need to talk about race-A LOT. To each other, to POCs, and ESPECIALLY to their children. Early and often, identifying race as the blessing from God that it is, and understanding that it is subject to the same consequence of a broken world as other blessings. 

I'd love to hear from our readers on this topic. There's is a lot to delve into!


  1. Far too many children, particularly older ones, are stuck in system and in need of homes. This situation gets further complicated by the large number of foster kids that are actually unavailable for adoption because a relative is still pseudo in the picture. Living into God's Kingdom through adoption is about cashing in on God's promise for the abundant life. 

  2. yeah that symbol of the heart and triangle, well there hass to be somekind of copy right infringement agains that. Since that symbol has already been used by a rock band from Finland. off subject from the page, yes, but still.


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