When my husband and I were completing our homestudy, I remember our worker asking if we were open to an intercultural adoption. We said “sure”. She then cautioned us that it takes more than love to make the placement work. We again expressed that we were confident that we could put the required work in. Then we didn’t think about it again. Until we showed up at the ARE and saw our perfect match, at the table of our own CAS, with our own worker standing there! We asked her why we had not been matched with this boy yet, to which she replied that they were looking for a family that could support his aboriginal heritage. It was then that we realized that information we never considered important, ended up being the deciding factor. We grabbed an expression of interest sheet and wrote down the following:
Our local school offers Native as a Second Language, meaning starting in grade 4 you can learn Mohawk instead of French
We are 5 minutes from the Aboriginal Health Centre, where we would take our son as a patient
I had work connections with the regional Indian Centre, which is about 10 mintues away
Two months later our son was home with us, and we were now an intercultural family! We followed through with becoming patients at the Aboriginal Health Centre (actually, our whole family was invited to become patients!), attending socials at the Indian Centre, and attending our first Pow Wow. When my parental leave ended, we sent our 3 year old to an Aboriginal Head Start Preschool, where he would spend time on the land and receive cultural teachings. One of the mandates of the preschool is parent education, so my husband and I started drumming, smudging, sewing moccasins, and learning. It was at this point that my everything clicked in and my brain said “oh, he’s from another culture”.
We started playing catch up on re-learning Canadian history, trying to educate ourselves on residential schools and oppressive government policies. We heard stories of racism through our connections at the preschool. We started to notice racism where we had not seen it before. Although I had learned in PRIDE training about the importance of providing cultural food, music, experiences, and role models, I had never heard anyone talk about how you have to learn about racism to parent a child of another race. The learning curve is steep, and it is definitely a case of “the more I learn the less I know”, but I feel that I have to make the attempt to be a good parent to my child. I think the best advice I have read so far is to make sure that your family spends time with people of the same culture as your child. Don’t let your child grow up always being the minority, never knowing adults of the same culture. So we are planning to attend socials monthly, set up play-dates from preschool, attend the annual Pow Wow, and do day trips to the nearby reserve.
We have also struggled with how to present ourselves as a family, since my husband, myself and our two bio children are not aboriginal. In some situations everyone is assuming our son is white, and in other situations everyone is assuming the rest of us are Aboriginal! To provide clarity when needed, without getting into unnecessary detail, we have decided to label ourselves an “Aboriginal Canadian family”. Everyone is included, and we are all working this out together.