Trans-racial adoption (also referred to as Interracial adoption) refers to the act of placing a child of one racial or ethnic group with adoptive parents of another racial or ethnic group.
When adopting a child of a race other than your own you must consider many things. Are you willing and able to connect them to the culture that they have the right to maintain a connection too? Where can you turn to for resources, support and guidance? Are you ready to advocate for your child when someone notices that they “look different” from you and other family members? Unfortunately racism still exists and at some point our children will become the target. As their parents we need to put them before ourselves and sometimes that means putting ourselves in uncomfortable and inconvenient situations. We also need to be able to convey the message to our children that they are perfect just the way they are. They need to know that your love for them is unconditional, they are not a nuisance nor are they inconveniencing you in any way. They need to know they are worth it.
When we first started our journey we thought the issues we would be dealing with were just our children being referred to as the “the brown kid” or maybe using more derogatory language for them. What we have come to realize is they may not be chosen first for partners in class or sports teams. A simple game of “house “ may be challenging because they may not “match “ the other children involved in the pretend play. When playing an innocent game with their brothers they may always be typecast as Mace Windu when playing Star Wars despite wanting to be another character. The last one is a true story and happened just the other day!
Being a trans-racial family was OUR CHOICE not theirs. We have to remember that we need to accommodate and adapt to their needs not the other way around. Things that we may do in our day to day routines such as hair and skincare may need to be changed, modified or even eliminated. One thing that we found was that we had to learn how to swallow our pride and ask for help. Thankfully in this day and age we have the technology to keep our children connected. Being able to follow blogs, watch Youtube “how to” videos and connect with other adoptive families has been crucial in making our adoption a success.
Educate, Educate, Educate! This works in two ways, First of all learn about your child’s culture. Incorporate those things in your day to day lives. Books, music, movies, mealtimes and events. Then don’t be afraid to educate others. We like to turn some of the weird questions into humour. If someone asks us where they came from we like to respond with “A really exotic country called Brampton, Ontario”. If someone asks us if our boys are real brothers “Well judging by the way they play around with each other around - yes they are.”
On one last note I would like to say that regardless of your child’s skin colour you will love them more then you can ever imagine. You will celebrate proud moments as they reach their milestones, cheer them on when they get their first goal and cry like crazy when they leave for collage. Every difficult moment will be worth every second.
A MOTHER FOR CHOCO by Keiko Kasza: A book for the very young set about a little bird who is ultimately adopted by a bear
IN OUR MOTHERS’ HOUSE by Patricia Polacco: Marmee and Meema live with their children in a house full of love, but some other families think they are “different.
BROWN LIKE ME by Noelle Lamperti (New Victoria Publishers, 1999). A simple, charming text, illustrated in photographs guides young readers through this concept book reflecting an African-American child adopted by a white family. Child's point of view with forward by Dr. Jacqueline Wallen, Associate Professor, Department of Family Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, whose own children are brown and adopted. Ages 2-up.
JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu (HarperCollins, 2000) Jenna, a contemporary Muscogee (Creek) girl in Oklahoma, wants to honor a family tradition by jingle dancing at the next powwow. But where will she find enough jingles for her dress? An unusual, warm family story, beautifully evoked in Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu's watercolor art.
I DON’T HAVE YOUR EYES by Carrie A. Kitze is one of my all-time favourites. It is heartwarming and an easy introduction to talk to your kids about some of the differences they may have noticed especially in trans-racial adoption while concentrating even more on the similarities that we all have.
WE BELONG TOGETHER: A Book About Adoption and Families by Todd Parr is a great book for younger children. It is simple and yet profound.
THE SKIN YOU LIVE IN by Michael Tyler. With the ease and simplicity of a nursery rhyme, this lively story delivers an important message of social acceptance to young readers.