The Rewards and Responsibilities of Transracial Adoption

by Kelly A. Biernat At the park the other day, a young woman commented on how beautiful my brown-skinned, curly-haired daughter is. Proud mom that I am, I thanked her graciously and was open to her inquiries about how my precious child came into my life. My husband and I adopted Eliana at birth, and it is apparent to even the casual observer that she is the sparkle in our lives. This woman then disclosed to me that she and her husband were having difficulty conceiving. At the end of our conversation, she remarked that perhaps she’d consider transracial adoption. “Look, at what cute kids they are,” she exclaimed. My stomach tightened a bit. While I am the first in line to applaud the choice to adopt transracially and highlight its rewards, I believe this type of adoption also carries with it certain responsibilities that may not initially be obvious to couples considering it when planning to build a family. Transracially adopted children, not unlike all children, have much more complexity to them than the beautifully diverse faces they show the world. They are entitled to parents who embrace the responsibilities raising them. An open and eager-to-learn attitude is a prerequisite. Here are some other issues to think about if you are considering transracial adoption. Do you live in a racially diverse area or have racial diversity within your daily circle of family, friends and community members? While this may not be absolutely necessary for raising a happy and healthy transracially adopted child, it surely helps. These children need to see and interact with positive role models who look like them. Parents are certainly the foremost role models to a young child, but if the child is of a different race than the parents, seeking out other racially similar role models is pivotal to the child’s racial identity formation. At the least, you need to recognize the importance of same-race role models to your child and do your best to provide a “home culture” where he or she will grow up knowing the beauty, gifts, diversity and talents of his or her race. If you live in a racially homogenous area not consistent with the race of your child, you may need to be particularly proactive in your community to help your child feel connected. This may entail seeking out other minority families to interact with, volunteering and assisting schools in promoting tolerance and educating children about racial diversity. Also recognize the opportunities you have to project tolerance and a love of diversity. I have found people are generally eager to embrace diversity, especially when we as parents and adults exude an attitude of openness. Finally and most importantly, before adopting a child of a different race, couples need to do an autopsy on their own racial attitudes and beliefs. They need to examine any faulty biases or stereotypes they may have and become educated and connected to the child’s racial community, if they’re not already. The goal is to raise a happy, healthy child with a strong sense of who she is physically, mentally and spiritually in connection to her community at large. Striving to achieve this should be every parent’s aim. The decision to adopt my daughter is surely the best one I ever made. She has brought to my life indescribable richness and joy. Knowing her unique beauty and helping her navigate through life is a rewarding experience I’m sure every parent knows. And my greatest reward is to witness her blossoming into the happy, energetic, self-assured young lady she is with gifts and talents all her own. I believe gifts and talents bloom the brightest when roots are firmly grounded in a rich sense of self-knowledge and belonging. Kelly A. Biernat is a stay-at-home mom in Minnesota. After struggling with infertility, Biernat and her husband Brian adopted their daughter Eliana in 2000 and later adopted Zachary in 2003. Eliana is now 4 and Zachary is 1.

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