When people first start looking into adoption, they are usually much more focused on how to adopt a child than on how to parent one. They read everything they can find about successfully adopting but few focus on what happens after they adopt figuring they will figure it out as they go along. This doesn’t always work, particularly when adopting trans-racially.
Adopting a child of color into a white family takes deliberate parenting. As much as we would like to believe that the world is color blind it isn’t. Trans-racially adopted children do not have the advantage of learning about their birth culture through everyday cues and bits of knowledge, assimilated almost unconsciously over years, as in single-race families. So the responsibility that parents have to their different-race children can seem overwhelming.
To fulfill that responsibility experts recommend:
o interacting with people of your child’s race
o living in multicultural neighborhoods
o finding same race mentors and role models for your child
o advocating for unbiased learning materials
o confronting racism openly
o providing special maintenance to hair and skin
o celebrating all cultures
o taking part in homeland tours and culture camps
o creating a positive cultural environment at home
No blueprint or formula, however, can assure that a child will grow up feeling proud of his or her ethnic heritage but it is important to try. There are many wonderful resources available for trans-racial families today that did not exist years ago but ultimately no matter how many things on the list you can check off and no matter how much love you provide you can not be your child’s color or part of their cultural heritage. And while diversity is good its not enough, if it does not include someone a child can identify with directly. Being with non-whites is not enough; trans-racially adopted kids need people like themselves in their lives. Economic circumstances, perhaps as much as race, create different experiences and therefore different perspectives, even values. So don’t be afraid to seek out more than just race as a common ground with strangers whom you hope to have as friends. Choosing a certain barber, babysitter, Church group, or school can influence a child’s sense of himself.
Trans-racial parenting requires more deliberate efforts than same race parenting. What’s hard about trans-racial parenting is building a feeling of ordinariness into experiences. Parents are sometimes more gung-ho to learn about their children’s culture than their children are. Trans-racial kids aren’t necessarily motivated to learn all they can about their birth cultures, any more than same race children are, but that doesn’t negate the importance of the family becoming educated. The challenge of raising a child with a strong and uplifting sense of self can be frustrating and demanding, as well as illuminating and enriching. Trans-racial adoption is not for the faint of heart or those who aren’t willing to accept a challenge, the rewards however are priceless.