Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cultural Competence of Transracial Adoptive Parents

Have you noticed the plethora of "studies" I've posted lately? I just discovered that the law school's subscription to Adoption Quarterly gives me electronic access to all issues past and present! So I've been enjoying an orgy of reading medical/sociological/psychological studies of adoption. Yes, I'm geeky enough to love this stuff!

Here's another, Factors Related to Transracial Adoptive Parents' Levels of Cultural Competence:

The first component of cultural competence is racial awareness. As defined in the model, racial awareness for TRA parents involves attitudes related to helping children develop positive racial and ethnic identity. These include understanding personal racial and ethnic identity, the role of race and ethnicity in their children's lives, and the potential effects of racism or discrimination on the lives of their children and family. With racial awareness as a foundation, the model describes the second and third aspects of cultural competence for TRA parents.

Multicultural planning involves the creation of bridges over which children may learn about and participate in the culture of their race or ethnicity. In TRA families, this requires specific efforts on the part of parents who are not themselves personally identified with their child's race and ethnicity. Socialization in the child's racial and ethnic culture may take many forms, but the model suggests that more integrative, experiential participation with people who are part of the child's birth culture are preferred over more static activities such as reading culturally relevant books.

The last component of the model, survival skills refers to the ability of parents to help their children learn skills necessary to cope with discrimination or racism. As with multicultural planning, this may require TRA parents to stretch, seeking help from others who have experienced discrimination in order to learn active coping skills that go beyond “just ignore it.”

Evidence is accumulating to support a direct relationship between aspects of ITRA parents' cultural competence and their children's development of racial and ethnic identity. In three studies on racial identity among Korean adoptees, a positive relationship was found between parents' racial and/or ethnic socialization practices and their children's racial identity and well-being. That is, Korean children of ITRA parents who provided greater cultural exposure and involvement were more likely to have positive racial identity, greater psychological adjustment, and greater understanding of the implications of their Korean status as related to their own identity and relationship with peers.

Similar results were found in a study of Asian adoptees in which parents' support of cultural socialization was associated with children's sense of belongingness and self-esteem. Further, a positive relationship was found between both parents' networking with Chinese adults and the racial composition of their residence with Chinese adoptees' competence in Chinese culture.

In each of these studies, aspects of the multicultural planning component of the model were associated with positive results among the children. Moreover, Thomas and Tessler's 2007 study provides evidence of a positive relationship between the racial awareness component of cultural competence and children's well-being. Their study reports that ITRA parents' attitude toward cultural socialization was directly related to their Chinese children's competence in Chinese culture.

The study identified a number of factors that seemed to determine the level of cultural competence of adoptive parents, including families' participation in postadoption support groups; parent's sex, that is, female; traveling to the child's country of origin for adoption; postadoption contact with adoption professionals; absence of biological children in the family; and families' annual income over $75,000.

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