As a white mom with a brown son, I’m consistently on the hunt for equipping articles and studies that would better prepare me to parent a transracial family. At the beginning of our adoption process I struggled to see racial identity as a principal matter. In my heart, I wanted race to be a benign topic. I wanted the world to wear colorless goggles. Then, something clicked, and I realized seeing my son as colorless would in fact remove part of him. There is a pride that comes with his handsome latte colored skin, and I want him to find that pride. I went into this adoption hoping love would be enough to conquer our differences and instill self-regard. I really thought it might be; but with each passing day, I am far fearful it won’t be enough for the long haul. I am inclined, just maybe not fully qualified. So I read. And read. And read on and on. I ran across this article this past week on transracial families. It validated my concerns.
The Importance of Racial Socialization on Transracial Adoptees
The Evan B. Donaldson Institute just reported on a research study that found: racial socialization and NOT focus on culture or ethnic socialization decreased adoptees’ sense of marginalization (and by extension—low sense of self worth), and resulted in greater self esteem. The study sample included 100 adult and adolescent transracial adoptees. Further details of the abstract can be found on the Evan B. Donaldson Institute website.
I wanted to post information about this research finding because, as an adoption professional and veteran adoptive parent, I believe that this is ESSENTIAL information for adoptive parents to get and use in raising their children.
Racial identity is THE salient issue for our children and families. Facing up to what we need to do in order to nurture healthy racial identity in them is a major responsibility. We cannot excuse ourselves from fulfilling that responsibility simply because we adopted through agencies/social workers who had no idea how important racial immersion experiences are in the formation of racial identity and allowed us to adopt, despite lack of diversity resources in the communities in which we live. (when that is the case) We also have to face up to the fact that merely living in a racially diverse community is not enough. We must help our children connect with adults of color, and we must recognize that our children need to see us doing the same.
Over the last couple of decades, I have observed how adoptive parents—especially those who have adopted internationally—focus on engaging in cultural events and activities, instead of dealing with race-related issues. When they are confronted by adoptees and/or experts (social scientists, diversity educators, etc…) they make excuses for raising their kids in nearly-all-white environments and engaging in white social circles themselves on the basis of all they claim that they do to teach their child about his or her culture-of-origin. That is and has been very disturbing.
That is why this type of research is so very important to us, as members of the greater- transracial-adoptive family network, regardless of whether our children were adopted via domestic or international adoption, and which country they were born in/adopted from. It is up to us to broadcast this information—research findings like this—throughout our adoption communities. It is also important that we urge adoption agencies to educate themselves about HOW to assess prospective parents for transracial adoption and approve them only if and when they are able to provide the racial socialization that will be necessary for any child they adopt to grow up with healthy racial-ethnic identity. With more people than ever wanting to adopt, and fewer identified children (internationally, at least) waiting for adoptive placement, there is no reason for agencies to place children in communities where they cannot have regular, ongoing immersion, their parents cannot make and keep friends of color, and there are no adult role models of color to be found.
As adoptive parents, we have to make this a priority and stop fooling ourselves that as long as we try to expose our children to birth culture, that is “enough" and they will be “fine.” Evidence is now accumulating that demonstrates otherwise. Our conversations now need to be about HOW we find and incorporate those essential people and experiences into the lives of our children and families that will truly help them develop healthy racial identity.
Jane A. Brown, MSW
I get the article. It brought to light areas I’m failing as a white mamma of a brown boy…I harp on teaching Mez and our family about Ethiopian culture without focusing on race issues. I believe the points made are valid; but in a primarily white community (can I say pretty segregated community), it’s difficult to find opportunity to build these valuable relationships. What’s a girl to do? It seems rather pious to shop for friends “of color” simply to fill a need for my son. So, I’m asking what is the way we work to integrate our community and move into a blended community that offers cross-cultural interaction and positive peer relationships? I’m taking suggestions. Help.
|Meze and Mama|
*to view article in original publication click HERE