While supporting our program at the Utah Infertility Resource Center, I met Melissa Campbell from triumphsandtrials.com who had recently adopted transracially and asked me about transracial adoptions and she asked that I share-
First, do NOT say that you are colorblind. Many families who adopt transracially say that they do not see differences and are “colorblind” or you may have heard of people who “look at the world with rose-colored lenses.” Unfortunately this does not help transracial adoptees because society is not colorblind. The world sees people as who they are and they will not treat an adoptee otherwise. Allow yourself to see your adopted child fully, including their skin color and heritage and embrace both.
Second, set your transracially adopted child up for success by giving them one liners to use at the store, restaurants, or school when they get the looks or questions. They will get looks. They will get questions. So will you. If you discuss what to say when this happens they will know what to do, take these intrusive questions less personally, and feel more confident about their differences.
Third, talk to your child about race relations. Talk to them about the realities of being a certain race. Talk to them about safety. Talk to them about keeping their hands up when they get pulled over because in society today they could be killed if they react with attitude or even just unintended movement. Tell them the reality about being followed in the store. Teach them how to react to ignorant and covert racism. Discuss stereotypes with them. Tell them that they do not have to live up to these stereotypes.
Fourth, get your family involved in the cultural events and community of your child’s culture of origin. Set your child up with one or many positive adult role models of their same race. Someone they can look to as their “black dad” or “Mexican aunt.” While doing a training called “The Identity Project” on adoptionlearningpartners.org, I heard an adult adoptee share an experience. She said that when she was seven, her mother asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she was excited to tell her that she wanted to work at a fast food restaurant because, “That’s what someone who looks like me does!” She proceeded to tell that as soon as she said that, she started noticing that her mom had changed her dentist, doctor, and many other professionals that she came in contact with to look like her. She was able to see a Hispanic woman in a professional setting. She said that she was in awe to see that someone who looked like her could be a doctor. It is important for adoptive parents to actively seek out experiences for their transracially adopted children to be able to participate in activities with the people of their culture. I have heard adoptive parents say that doing this has turned into a full time job for them.
I encourage parents to do the same and to make the time for this. It will all be worth it when your transracially adopted child feels at peace with their identity.
Click here to read part one of this segment.
Written by Allison Sheffield, Adoption Specialist at Children’s Service Society
to learn more about Children’s Service Society, transracial adoption, or any adoption questions, contact Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-326-4371.