3. Transracial adoption involves more than just the adoptive parents and the children.
The media, it seems, never mentions “the other” in adoption. In the case of my family, we adopted domestically and our children came to us when they were just a few days old. Both of our girls’ birth families chose us, from many prospective adoptive parents, to be the mom and dad to their children. They could have chosen a black couple, or a biracial couple, or any other couple available, but they chose us.
It irks me to no end that when the public or even family members or friends question the decision of our children’s birth parents. We have been asked, “Why did they give the kids away?” “Why didn’t they love them?” “Do they have other children?” “How old are they?” All of these answers, if given, we recognize, would only be used to make further judgments about biological parents who choose adoption for their children. I have the utmost respect for my girls’ biological parents, and to speak maliciously or ask intrusive questions regarding their situation or their decision, is rude and disrespectful.
4. Transracial adoption is ultimately about the child.
An adopted child, also known as an adoptee, is the person who had no choice in the matter. He or she was in a situation where the biological family couldn’t parent. The child was placed for adoption. Therefore, when people question the validity of the child’s family (be it biological or adoptive), or the intent of the adoptive parents, it’s the child who pays the price. Already a minority in that he or she is adopted, the adoptee is also spotlighted by the fact that he or she is clearly a different race than his or her parents. It seems that people’s common sense disappears when my family walks into a room, and the insensitive and nosy questions are asked while I’m holding one child on my hip and the other by the hand. My girls are always listening and learning about the world and how they are perceived as transracial adoptees.
Adoptive parents are like every other parent. We wish to protect our children. My husband and I want our children to have racial pride and high self-esteem. Combating the assumptions we face is endless and challenging, but we strive to assure our daughters that they are loved by both sets of their parents and recall their adoption story in a positive and productive manner. We respond to nosy questions with grace and education, but we always protect the privacy of our children’s adoption stories.
5. Transracial parenting is not about the adoptive parents.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told, “Good for you for adopting. There are so many children who need good homes.” Or “God bless you for adopting those children.” Or, “Your kids are so lucky to have you as parents.” These are well-intended statements, no doubt, but they are harmful to the adoptees’ wellbeing. Statements like those mentioned are assuming—assuming that we are saviors or saints for adopting, that our children came from the worst of conditions, or that our children are the lucky ones when truly, I feel that we are the lucky ones to have our children.
Yes, we chose to adopt. Yes, we accepted two transracial adoption placements. Transracial adoption comes with unique challenges. Not only did we research BPA-free bottles and vaccines and organic baby food, but we also do whatever we can to ensure that our children have a positive racial identity, as black kids. Our efforts in raising transracial adoptees range from purchasing books and toys that feature black children, to taking our children to racially-relevant cultural and historical events and places, to celebrating Black History Month, to choosing a racially diverse church and school. Almost everything we do, just as any parent does, is to ensure that our children grow up as successful, confident, educated, and generous adults.
If I could leave you with one thought, it would be this: Before you choose to judge transracial adoptive families—through a look, a question, or a comment—please stop and consider that life as a transracial adoptive family isn’t about impressing others or jumping on a trendy bandwagon. My life is shockingly ordinary. I change diapers. I go to work. I bathe my children. We play at the park. I kiss boo-boos, offer hugs, administer discipline. I make dinner. I sink into bed each night, exhausted and content. Then I get up the next morning and repeat.
Yes, my kids are black, yes, they are adopted, and yes, they are mine.
Rachel Garlinghouse is a mother of two African American girls through transracial, domestic, open adoption. She lives in St. Louis with her family. You can read more about her family’s adoption journey at www.whitesugarbrownsugar.com.
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