Transracial Foster Care & Adoption
When families open their hearts and homes to a child in need, they often do not know exactly what to expect. And as conversations about racial prejudice and discrimination become more common, it’s important for families who are considering foster care and/or adoption to be prepared to support their child in the unique challenges they will face. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a parent who is adopting transracially, but there is a large community of families navigating the same process. An estimated 44% of US adoptions are now transracial, and this prominent community of families going through the same process has brought about plenty of public discussion, research and communities to guide transracial families.
What Challenges to Expect
As with any family, foster and adoptive parents are sure to face challenges, and it’s helpful to be familiar with the possible common difficulties that arise for transracial families. Whether it be a lack of racial diversity among friends or a well-intended but ignorant question, many transracial families must confront the reality that many communities are not ready to confront the racism that is prevalent in many aspects of our society. However, parents who have adopted transracially and encourage their kids to celebrate their culture, understand racial identity development, and discuss racial injustices can prepare them for what they will be exposed to as adults.
When parents are educated, equipped, and willing to do their own work around racism, they can demonstrate to their children that multiculturalism is an asset to society. These conversations are not easy; in fact, parents can expect them to feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, but children who don’t have these conversations often struggle more in adulthood with how to respond to discrimination, racial microaggressions, and interactions with law enforcement. Furthermore, children who have been adopted transracially may encounter much more difficulty grappling with racial inequality themselves because their parents cannot fully relate to their experiences around race and racial identity development. Nevertheless, parents can rest assured that there are plenty of people and resources to support their family.
How to Prepare as Parents
Individuals who are preparing to adopt a child of a different race may unaware of the specific challenges that people of color face. Therefore, it’s essential that parents educate themselves about these challenges before adopting a child. There are videos, podcasts, books, films, blogs, and even Facebook groups that prospective parents can utilize to both learn about the history of racism and to apply to their role as parents to children of color.
Aside from parents, the surrounding network of family and friends also have large influence on children, as they contribute to the culture of the household. Parents can prepare for adoption/foster care by evaluating their loved ones’ readiness to nurture their family and child. In addition, the neighborhood in which a family lives should be racially diverse. There is no such thing as a perfect neighborhood, but parents should evaluate the racial makeup of their community and their willingness to relocate neighborhoods or schools for their child, should it be necessary. Lastly, parents should consider talking to people who have adopted a child of a different race and cultivated a racially diverse life for themselves and their family. These parents can give optimal insight on experiences, both positive and negative, which can help prospective parents envision their future more realistically.
How Parents Can Support Their Adopted Child
Raising an adopted child is not a matter of completing a “checklist”; it’s an ever-evolving process. The child will likely have experiences that the parents cannot relate to and the child may need to build a support system separate from the parents. In conversations with their child, parents can look into programs like China Care Bruins and MENTOR that encourage adoptees to celebrate their racial identity and connect with mentors and peers of the same race. Just as important are communities with folks who are parenting transracially and can connect with each other. Various support groups, counseling, and classes all exist to serve families post adoption.
As previously stated, a willingness to openly communicate with family, friends, and/or counselors is vital when addressing problems, and creating safe spaces for communication will ensure that the child can voice needs that may initially go unseen. Consider the race of any professional you are engaging in services with and whenever possible and make an effort to identify and work with folks who reflect the racial background of your child. This includes your child’s dentist, doctor, spiritual leaders, coaches, tutors, etc.
There’s a common worry about transracial adoption that a parent’s love is not enough for a child to be protected from prejudices. While it might be true that one parent cannot protect their child from the rest of the world, a parent’s job remains no less important. As a transracial family, your experience is unique. And though parenthood may be unpredictable at times, transracial adoption is a worthwhile and meaningful journey. If you are considering starting your foster or adoptive parent journey, visit our Foster Care and Adoption page to learn how you can be a resource to a child in need.
Written by: Rachel Miller
Rachel is a Social Media & Marketing Intern at Children’s Bureau, pursuing a Bachelor’s in psychology at UC Berkeley. She joined Children’s Bureau in May 2020 and plans to pursue a career in educational psychology.
Cindy Stogel, Children’s Bureau Foster Care & Adoptions Coordinator
Sean Sparks, Children’s Bureau Program Coordinator