Transracial Adoption – Not Just a Black and White Issue

is-it-always-so-black-and-white

Interracial adoption (also referred to as transracial adoption) refers to the act of placing a child of one racial or ethnic group with adoptive parents of another racial or ethnic group (Wikipedia).

Based on the 2007 national survey of adoptive parents, conducted by the US Dept. of Health & Human Services (the latest statistics I could find), four out of ten children have parents who report that they and their spouse or partner (if they have one) are of a different race, ethnicity, or culture than their child. Children adopted internationally are most likely to be in transracial placements (84 percent), compared with 28 percent of children adopted from foster care and 21 percent of those adopted privately from within the United States.

I’m white, my son is Mexican. My family is a (domestic) transracial adoptive family, and yet almost every time I read an article about the subject, it’s a black and white issue.

What about the other races and ethnicities? Are they somehow inferior or “not that big a deal” to talk about? Are other races looked at as somehow not as “controversial?” Or is it simply that there are a lot fewer of “us” than white and black transracial families?

I’m not sure of the answer, and frankly, I don’t know where to go for information.

Aha…

Someone asked a question about books for their adoptive Hispanic daughter on one of my online transracial adoption groups.

But alas, NO responses. None, zippo!

Because from what I’ve researched, there might be like two books out there.

I also find that this is more so the case with domestic transracial adoption vs. international. At least with international, there are “culture camps,” but mostly for adoptees from certain countries.

I started a conversation on a Facebook group to see if others felt the same way I do. Thankfully, they do! Someone even suggested that it’s up to us to set our own standard and create our own information. I guess she has a point, but I’m certainly no expert…making it up as I go and piecing things together with whatever information I do stumble upon.

If you are going to adopt transracially, expect a certain amount of effort to be put in – effort to learn something about the expectations, stereotypes, cultural and ethnic traditions, etc. Because at the very least, at some point it will be assumed that your child knows these things.

It’s certainly easier when there are groups and books at your fingertips, but for me, a white mother who adopted a Mexican child, I will clearly need to look beyond the adoption community to be educated. Sounds easy enough, but without the resources at your fingertips, it takes a certain effort, commitment, and a willingness to maybe even step out of your comfort zone.


If you are thinking about an interracial adoption (or have adopted transracially already), no matter what race or ethnic background, I highly encourage you to take a class on this subject matter. Because trust me, it IS an issue.

Have you had any experiences you are willing to share? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below! And let me know if you are looking for a class…I just might be able to suggest one.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • LaDonna Wattley April 12, 2015,

    This is an excellent post, and you have made an excellent point. As a counselor and trainer who focuses on trans-racial adoption, your post has encouraged me to broaden the scope of my work. However, I will encourage you to take into serious consideration the information you have come across. Most of this information completely fits your situation. You are a white family raising a brown son in America. The stereotypes, assumptions, difficulty locating culturally relevant toys, books, etc; the discussions you must have with him that you would not have to have with your white male child. . . All of those things are exactly the same. Don’t discount those articles and that information, because being brown in America (whether you are Latino, African, or African – American), and being adopted by people who are not, is the bigger issue. I also agree that it is necessary to create your own resources and supports regarding your specific brand of trans-racial adoption. Kudos to you, and good luck. Your son is one lucky little boy!

    • Rebecca Gruenspan April 12, 2015,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and if I have inspired you to broaden your practice, I’m humbled and thrilled. And yes, I totally agree with you that much of the information about the larger picture of transracial adoption, is fitting for most. Culturally is where I get stuck the most and don’t always know where to turn. Thank you again.

  • Marcy April 22, 2015,

    My husband and I are the white parents of three brown kids, ages 10-13. In the dozen years we have parented, we have found many, varied resources to support us. Does it matter so much if the (transracial) adopted kids were adopted domestically or internationally? I think it’s the kids’ experiences of being different that matters. Last summer my kids went to an adoption camp where most of the kids were Asian. I wished I had found a better match for the kids, but they loved it and asked to return the next year! They all felt part of the group because they had the shared experience of having been adopted and all (but one!) of the attendees were “of color.” Being adopted and being part of the sea of black hair that was the camp was powerful for them. From whence they came really didn’t matter. Here’s a great resource for books on culture: :https://www.pinterest.com/CCBCDiversity/

    • Rebecca Gruenspan April 22, 2015,

      Great resource, thanks! Being around other adoptees, some with similar family make-ups, some not, is a great comfort to me and my child…and an important part of the adoption journey. Thanks for the reminder that it’s not always the details that matter.

  • Kevin Hofmann May 7, 2015,

    I am a transracial adoptee and adoption trainer. I am from the Black/White group but I do feel and teach that the same struggles and challenges faced by Black/White Transracial familes are also the struggles and challenges that any transracial family will experience generally speaking. So there are lessons to be learned fro the dominating Black/White transracial experience that WILL transfer to other types of transracial familes.
    My frustrations center around the fact that there are very few of us TRAs(transracial adoptees) who speak and train and yet the opportunities to share our knowledge and experience just aren’t there in the adoption community. I hear parents begging to access to our knowledge yet the opportunities to train and keynote some of the larger conferences just are there. There is a glass ceiling in the adoption community!

    • Rebecca Gruenspan May 7, 2015,

      Wow, great point and thank you for your willingness to share your experience and knowledge. And yes, I agree, there are many similar issues and lessons to learn from across all transracial family lines. Thank you for taking the time to comment and here’s hoping you book a large conference soon!!!

  • Elizabeth July 22, 2015,

    You might want to check out the resources section at pact adopt.org. They deal exclusively in placing non-white children, and have a variety of resources for a variety of ethnicities. It probably won’t give you everything you might need, but it is at least a place to start.

    • Rebecca Gruenspan July 23, 2015,

      Awesome, yes! Was that your webinar I listened to yesterday? It was great. I will absolutely check them out. I hopped on their site and started browsing. Thanks for that.

  • Sarah October 27, 2015,

    You have just shared a very informative post. Interracial adoption is not a problem, as long as the parents-to-be assure they will take very good care of the child.

    • Rebecca Gruenspan October 27, 2015,

      Thank you, Sarah. While love is certainly the most important, when you are adopting transracially, there ARE things you will want to understand about your child’s race and issues that will likely arise as the child begins to understand that they look different than the rest of their family (or whatever the case may be). It’s just something to be prepared for in whatever way you can be.

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