No adoption is easy, but transracial adoptions pose unique issues. Along with the normal joys and heartaches of adopting a child, you’ll also encounter challenges stemming from race, culture, religion, tradition, and more. That said, a transracial adoption can also be rewarding and beautiful. Keep reading to learn what to expect and how to succeed in a transracial adoption.
What Is a Transracial Adoption?
Transracial adoptions, also called interracial or mixed-race adoptions, are simply adoptions where the adopted child is of a different race than one or both parents. Many transracial adoptions occur with children who are Black, Asian, Indian, or Hispanic.
In many ways, a transracial adoption is just like any other. However, in some cases this type of adoption poses special challenges and difficulties that other adoptions often do not.
The Challenges of Transracial Adoptions
You may be confident that you and your spouse could love any child, no matter his or her race. While that may be true, transracial adoptions may pose special issues. Learning how to handle these challenges is vital for your family.
Challenges Inside Your Family
- Mixed Reactions from Extended Family Members – We rely on our families for support and guidance. This is even more true in tough or confusing situations. Having a family member who offers criticism or negativity instead of guidance can make the adoption process more difficult.
- Disagreements Between Spouses – It’s common for all parents to have disagreements about raising their child. Adding race into the equation can make it even more complicated. You and your spouse might disagree about many things. Learning to solve these issues is vital for your family.
- Confusion from your Child – Children are remarkably perceptive. Questions about race and appearance will come at a young age. You’ll need to know how to answer them without alienating your child. Otherwise you could risk complex psychological issues.
- Health Problems – Children of different races might have unexpected health problems that you may not be equipped to handle. Some races are predisposed toward certain conditions. These can range from the simple, lactose intolerance, to the dangerous, such as sickle-cell anemia. You’ll need to talk to a doctor to know what health issues to watch for and how to treat or handle them.
Challenges from Outside Your Family
- Curiosity from Strangers – Interracial families often experience confusion from others. Some people may be insensitive about their curiosity, while others can be rude or even racist toward you and your child. You’ll need to mentally prepare for this and make sure you can handle it gracefully.
- Challenges with Heritage – Many adoptive parents want to help their child experience his or her own culture and history. Forming a strong personal identity is an important part of growing up, and race is a big factor in that identity. Becoming an expert on your child’s heritage or culture is important.
- Problems at School – One of the biggest sources of tension in interracial adoptions is school. If you live in a predominantly single-race area, adopting a child of another race can put them in a difficult position. They may well be the only child of their race in their class or at their school. This can be stressful and difficult even with lots of support from a parent.
How to Handle the Challenges of Transracial Adoption
There is no one solution to making a transracial adoption work. Instead, there are many steps and small solutions you can undertake to help make your family stronger.
Be Open – One key to handling issues of race in an adoption is to be open about the process from the start. Share with your spouse, with your child, and with your family and friends. Don’t engage in denial or pretend that things are okay when you’re really having troubles. It won’t spare anyone’s feelings or help you in the long run.
Be Honest – Honesty is the best policy. If your child has questions about his or her race, heritage, origin, or anything else, always do your best to answer them. If you don’t know an answer, make it a learning process for both of you.
Engage with Their Culture – It’s natural for children to want to connect to the heritage and culture of their birth, even if it’s not your own or your spouse’s culture. Make an effort to seek out heritage events, cultural fairs, festivals, or groups related to your child’s race and culture. This can help them find and connect to their own heritage and their place within it. You should also make an honest effort to engage with that culture yourself and make it part of your family.
Live Somewhere Multicultural – It can be easier for a child to grow up somewhere they feel they fit in. If they attend a school where they are one of many races of children, they may feel more comfortable than if they’re the only representative of their race and culture. It may also give your child a chance to engage with other children of his or her race.
Be Patient with Others – As a parent of a child of a different race, you’re guaranteed to get stares, questions, and comments when you go out together. Anticipate this and teach yourself to be patient and kind. If your child sees you respond negatively, they may associate their own race with your negative attitude.
Stand Up for your Family – Along stares and innocent (or ignorant) questions, you may also get rude or insensitive remarks and questions. It’s important that you stand up for yourself and your child in a gentle but firm manner. Let the other person know that they’re in the wrong and that your family is based on love, kindness, and respect.
Seek Out Other Families Like Yours – Sometimes it helps to get an outside perspective on your situation. Other multiracial families can provide guidance and help for you and your family. You can connect to other families online on a website like Adoptive Families Circle. You can also seek out other families in person through friends, family, church, or community events.
Get Professional Guidance – Many adoption agencies have connections to family counselors or child counselors. These counselors can help your family and your child deal with the realities of adoption across race. Counseling obviously isn’t necessary for all families, but if you think your child is having problems it’s an option you should consider.
Ready to take the next step in growing your family? Contact us today at Deaconess Pregnancy and Adoption Services. As Oklahoma’s oldest adoption agency, we have more than 100 years of experience in helping to create and grow loving families. Call us today at (405) 949-4200 for more information, or follow us on Facebook for updates and adoption success stories.