Mary Riley knows what some people have to say when they see her and her boys. But, the 68-year-old Georgia resident says simply: "I pay no mind to that."In my travel group to China to adopt Maya, there was a hispanic couple. Someone in the group asked me, sotto voce, "Why don't they just adopt a hispanic child?" Hmmm, why is it strange that they are adopting outside their race and not so strange that the rest of us, the WHITE rest of us, were? The unspoken assumption was that there were plenty of hispanic children available for adoption, and that for most, including the speaker, transracial adoption is a second-best option, an option of last resort. From the child's perspective, that is often so. But coming from a transracially adopting parent?! Yikes!
The stares, the occasional negative comments and the questions are a fact of life, she acknowledges, for as long as she raises them.
Riley, 68, is black and her three sons -- Austin, Dustyn and Justyn -- are white.
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Most transracial adoptions involve white parents adopting black children and the controversy surrounding that isn't new. However, despite this influx of transracial adoptions, the number of black families adopting outside of their race is almost unheard of -- in some opinions, rightfully so.
The issue is thorny for different reasons. Chief among them is the argument that with a disproportionate number of black children available for adoption, there is no reason for a black person to adopt a child outside of his or her race.
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When Riley first got the boys they were 5-, 7- and 9-years-old. Two years into her new role as a foster parent, the courts terminated parental rights of the boys' biological mother and father.
Without a parent or guardian to claim them, the boys would be shuttled back into government care where they would join the more than 400,000 children in the foster system -- with 107,000 of them waiting for adoption.
"I didn't always think about adopting, but when I got these boys I fell in love with them and got attached to them," she says. "I couldn't let them go, and I was afraid they were going to get separated from each other."
Bethany Christian Services, one of the largest adoptions agencies in the country, arranged the adoption for Riley. It finalized in April 2010.
Snarky remarks and curious reactions were not enough of a deterrent for Riley who says she would do it again in a heartbeat.
"Sometimes people stare at us and ask questions," Riley says. "But, I accept these boys and they accept us, so I ain't worried about anybody else."
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