Saturday, July 31, 2010

Transracial adoption -- for or against?

A thoughtful post about transracial adoption at Irene's Daughters:

I am still quite torn over the issue [of transracial adoption]. Even more so since so many of the children needing homes in this country are dark skinned. Sometimes I think, “Why am I making this such a big deal? Doesn’t this really come down to making sure my child knows their self worth regardless of skin color? Surely I could teach them the proper ways of responding to racism.” Then I read a blog like yours….

To be very honest, I felt after talking to you about it that I should never consider adopting a child of color. They really would be better off in foster care or in an orphanage.

Above are a couple of comments I’ve received after posting about transracial adoption. For those who didn’t grow up with me or don’t know much about my childhood or my adoption history — which would be almost all of you, I guess — I used to feel a great deal of personal responsibility to present adoption in a positive light. I was this little self-appointed poster child for adoption, particularly transracial adoption. I always spoke of it in the most glowing terms, and minimized any possible issues arising from it (in my own life and in the lives of others). I learned this from my own parents (who always insisted they were “colorblind,” and told me that was how I should be, too), but it was as much for their benefit as for my own — I thought that people might misunderstand or, worse, pity me if they thought for a second that adoption wasn’t all sunshine and roses for all concerned.

There was a time when I would have been racked with guilt if anyone told me I had dissuaded them from considering adoption, or thinking well of it. Truthfully, it still brings me up short, because I still feel that sense of responsibility, though now it’s more from the time I’ve spent working in adoption advocacy and education. I don’t walk around with my parents on a daily basis any longer; no one knows I’m part of a transracial adoption unless I volunteer it, and so I feel less pressure to present myself as evidence in its favor. I think that’s a good thing, and much healthier for me.

* * *

Despite its flaws, and the times when it doesn’t work out “perfectly,” I am still about as pro-adoption as you can get without turning a blind eye to potential problems and abuses.


SustainableFamilies said...

This is SUCH a tricky subject. Growing up with a loving low income or even very poor mother is a different comparison to growing up in foster care or growing up in an orphanage.

And the desires of the children involved vary by each individual. I know many kids who grew up in foster care and still wish they had been adopted, would have given anything to be adopted. I have known many kids who grew up in foster care that are thankful they weren't adopted. I know many kids who grew in foster care and were adopted and are so happy they were adopted. I have known many kids who grew up in foster care and were adopted and wish they hadn't been adopted.

This makes it a tough call for anyone to decide what is really best. I think overall the majority of kids who were in foster and were adopted in loving, consistent, dedicated homes tend to be happy they were adopted. However this is NOT always the case. And I have no knowledge of what the percentages are.

Is it 20 percent of kids adopted from foster that wish they hadn't been? Is it 70 percent? Those numbers would probably be helpful in helping us determine what is truly in the best interest of the child. Unfortunately public policy is focused on getting more adoptions to happen and doesn't often put much money into research like this.

It is economically more beneficial for society to get kids adopted out rather than pay orphanage staff or foster parents to raise the children.

Therefore the interest in is generating more adoptions whether or not the actual interests of the children are better served. If more money were put into foster care, education of foster parents, services for foster parents, long term guardianship options for foster parents in order to insure a consistent home for children, or even more money put into group home living; the experiences of the children in care might be very different.

However that is just the point. There is no more money that the government is willing to spend. And truly, I do believe it is in the better interest of children to have a parent in there life who is there to love them, WITHOUT HAVING TO BE PAID TO DO IT.

SustainableFamilies said...

BUT: One thing that every foster child would want to know is that every effort was made to help their parent recover and be able to be the parents they need.

Sometimes that DOES happen. Sometimes it doesn't. Anyone interested in participating in any kind of adoption should become an active participant in reform for whatever caused their child to lose their first parents.

Prevention of losing first parents in the kinds of situations that happened for your adopted child, is a part of honoring your childs heritage, honoring who they are and where they came from, and honoring the family who went through some sort of tragedy that pulled them apart from their child.

If it's abuse that caused the loss for your child, get involved in community programs that serve at risk parents, encouraging breastfeeding (which has the beneficial affect of fostering bonding and reducing abuse rates), encouraging parent trainings and education, encouraging services for families in need of therapeutic intervention BEFORE CPS has to get involved.

These are true for international adoption as well. We probably have very limited power to affect any change at all on other countries and yet at the same time we do have SOME power. Awareness is huge. Know the issues inside and out.

What is causing women to abandon, lose, or otherwise go without custody of their children? What is happening there? Is there any way that we can be involved in supporting such countries in making changes? In becoming aware that there may be a problem?

Is there any way that we can support organizations who are in those countries attempting to address those exact problems?

Participating in adoption prevention is not an act of saying you wish your child hadn't come into your life. It's an act of affirming that you lament the causes that caused your child to lose their first family. It's an act of love that goes beyond the selfish desire of being the only parent, and in much the same as a first parent is willing to give up motherhood itself for the sake of her child, so to the adoptive mother should be prepared to go to whatever place her child needs her to be in.

Von said...

You probably already know my views.My only question therefore is "Can a white adopter teach an adoptee of another ethnicity how to deal with racism?"

travelmom and more said...

The idea of colorblindness is interesting to me. My husband who is bi-racial and grew up in a very conspicuous family in a time and place that being bi-racial was very unusual, uses the world colorblindness a lot. He is politically correct to the point of being almost absurd when discussing race and is very sensitive to being inclusive. He doesn't see the world in terms of race at all, he sees people for their interests and humanity. The only time there is any hint that he is of a different ethnicity than me is when it comes to cultural humor, he laughs at humor associated with his race that I don't. I on the other hand have worked and lived in very diverse communities I see race as an important defining factor. Even though I am white I was raised in a community where I was not part of the dominate culture, which was had a big impact on my childhood, and I have lived abroad in countries where I was very much the minority. Usually when thinking about race and culture I use the term color-enhanced. I think our races and our cultures make us interesting. After living in Japan which is a very homogenous society, I missed diversity and people with different history and stories, it made me appreciate what it means to live in a diverse society. My point in discussing this is that regardless of our race or our background we have different perspectives on the world. For some of us our race and culture define us and for others it does not, we can not assume that others even though they look like us or have a similar history see the world through the same lens that we do. My children may see their race as defining but they may see their city, hobbies, athletic, or academic ability as more defining. I have no idea how they will identify themselves, they attend a school that is full immersion Chinese so they may identify with being and speaking Chinese, our family is African American, Mexican, Italian and WASP they may associate with any or all of these race/cultural identities.

As for supporting projects that help prevent the problems that lead to abandonment and abuse I couldn't agree more. I just spent two days in a UNICEF class, I realize that UNICEF is sometimes controversial in the international adoption world, but they are amazing in their health and education programs. One of their goals is to encourage breast feeding and to give women the support they need to raise healthy children. There are numerous organizations devoted to such work but I am feeling fairly inspired by the extent of UNICEF programs.