For many prospective adoptive parents, “the choice” of where and how to adopt is the most difficult part. Answers to three common questions when deciding if transracial adoption is right for your family.
Can I adopt a child of another race?
In the U.S., for many years social workers practiced “race-matching,” and denied adoptions of black children by white parents. A law passed in 1996 encourages the adoption of every color child by any color parent; agencies that receive federal funds—and almost all of them do—cannot deny or delay your adoption on the grounds of race. (The only exception: Native American children, whose adoptions must be approved by their own tribes.)
African-American and multiracial children are overrepresented in the U.S. adoption system. Many social workers and birth mothers faced with a choice of adoptive parents still prefer to “match,” so if you or your partner is black, or if you already have a black child, you can probably adopt very quickly.
How do I know if I can parent a child of another race?
While we would love to tell you that race doesn’t matter, after a combined half-century of raising children transracially ourselves, we can assure you that it does. Raising children of another race demands extra support for both parent and child.
- Test yourself: Of course you don’t think of yourself as racist, but almost all of us have been raised in a race-conscious society. Before you choose to adopt a child of another race, test yourself for what’s called “implicit bias”—unconscious racism.
- Test your family: Think carefully about the relatives who will be spending time with your child. If they have made racist remarks, can you protect your child, or are you prepared to cut off contact?
- Test your community: Will your child feel alone in the school system? Are there adult role models? Can you find hair salons and dermatologists who can care for your child?
Am I wrong to want a child who looks like me?
Transracial parenting means that you must not only face issues of race, but issues of privacy: When families don’t “match,” they draw more attention. Your only responsibility is to choose the child you can parent best. Make the choice that feels right to you.