Thursday, October 13, 2011

Preparing for transracial adoption

At Moms, an advice columnist answers a soon-to-be aunt's letter about becoming a transracial adoptive family, and here's part of it:
* People can be nosy. When a child doesn't look like parents (or aunts!), people people sometimes stare or ask questions. Have a simple answer ready, one that you would be happy to speak in front of your child even if he weren't a baby. Here's an excerpt from my book on this subject (p. 321):

"Louise Derman-Sparks, who is white, remembers when her son, who is black, was [a preschooler]. As she picked him up from preschool one day, a classmate stopped tham. "Is that really your mom?" he asked. Derman-Sparks, an early childhood educator who specializes in anti-bias education, was ready with an answer.

"I bet you're wondering if I'm Doug's mom because his skin is brown and mine is white," she said. The little boy nodded. "I am his mommy. What makes me his mommy is that I love him and take care of him." Children can also be coaxed to answer for themselves: "She's my mom even though h er skin is white and mine isn't. I'm adopted."

* Develop thick skin. Children in transracial families fare best when adults model a range of reactions, depending on the circumstances. If someone asks, ''Is she adopted?" it may be a genuine, although stupid, question. What is the tone? What is the body language? I once interviewed Susan Caughman, then editor of Adoptive Families Magazine. She told me that part of a parent's job is to "teach a life skill: How to evaluate people's motives
I didn't include the part of her answer where she suggests a no-secrets policy from the beginning of the adoption -- I agree, but it seems pretty silly advice for transracial adoption, since the fact of the adoption is pretty IMPOSSIBLE to keep a secret!  But then, I do know of one family where the mom is white, the child is Indian, and they haven't told her she's adopted because the adoptive father is also Indian (BTW, update since I wrote about this family 2 years ago -- child is now 7 and they STILL haven't told her. . .  .).

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