Guide to Transracial Adoption & Foster Care - Children's Bureau



Transracial Adoption & Foster Care

Families often don’t know what exactly to expect when they open their hearts and homes to a child in need. As conversations about racial prejudice and discrimination become more common, families who are considering foster care and/or adoption of a transracial child need to be prepared to support their child with 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. There are also numerous benefits of becoming a transrational family

The number of U.S. kindergarteners who were being raised by someone of a different race or ethnicity grew  50% between 1999 and 2011, according to a study from the Institute of Family Studies. 

This study also revealed the following breakdown of adopted children raised by a parent of a different race:

  • 90% of Asian adoptees
  • 64% of multiracial adoptees
  • 62% of Hispanic adoptees
  • 55% of black adoptees.   

The increase in transracial adoptions, in the midst of an increasingly diverse country, is leading to more public discussion, research, and community involvement to guide transracial families.

Challenges of Raising a Kid of a Different Race  

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 is a lack of racial diversity among friends or a well-intended but ignorant question, transracial families must confront the reality that many communities are not ready to confront the racism prevalent in our society. 

However, parents who have adopted children of other races and encourage their kids to celebrate their culture understand racial identity development Discussing racial injustices can prepare kids for what they will be exposed to as adults.  

When parents are equipped and willing to do their own work around educating about 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. 

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 be unaware of the specific challenges that people of color face. 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 help prospective parents learn about the history of racism so they may apply it to their role as parents to children of color.

 Aside from parents, the surrounding network of family and friends also has a large influence on children. Parents can prepare for adoption or foster care by evaluating their family’s readiness to nurture the child. In addition, the family’s neighborhood should be racially diverse. There is no such thing as a perfect neighborhood, but parents should evaluate the racial makeup of their community and discuss whether they are willing to relocate to different neighborhoods for their child, should it be necessary. 

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 families. These parents can give optimal insight into experiences, both positive and negative, giving a realistic perspective upon which to envision the future of their transracial family.

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. 

Here are a few tips:

  • Be willing to openly communicate with family, friends, and/or counselors. This is helpful when addressing problems.
  • Create safe spaces for communication, ensuring that the child can voice needs that may initially go unseen. 
  • Consider the race of any professional you are engaging with
  • 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, the transracial child adoption process 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 more about the benefits of foster care and 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. 

Reviewed by:  

Cindy Stogel, Children’s Bureau Foster Care & Adoptions Coordinator 

Sean Sparks, Children’s Bureau Program Coordinator 


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