Transracial Adoption from Foster Care: Why Parents Should Not Be ‘Color-Blind’

by Laura Christianson

Transracial Family
Some statistics:

  • African American children represent 15 percent of the U.S. child population, but 32 percent of the 510,000 children in foster care (FY 2006). They also remain in foster care an average of nine months longer than white children who are adopted.
  • About 20 percent of the black children adopted out of foster care are adopted by white parents.

Research on transracial adoption supports three main conclusions:

  1. Transracial adoption in itself does not produce psychological or social maladjustment problems in children.
  2. Transracially adopted children and their families face a range of challenges, and the manner in which parents handle them facilitates or hinders children’s development.
  3. Children in foster care come to adoption with many risk factors that pose challenges for healthy development. For these children, research points to the importance of adoptive placements with families who can address their individual issues and maximize their opportunity to develop to their fullest potential.

In other words, parents of children adopted from foster care need to abandon the “colorblind” approach – the assumption that “all kids are the same, and I’m going to ignore the fact that I’m a white parent of a black child.”

Instead, parents need to take a “color conscious” approach. They need to receive pre-adoption training that prepares them for the challenges transracial families are likely to face, and they need to intentionally help their child develop a positive sense of ethnic identity.

As you might have guessed, there’s a new research study on this topic: “Finding Families for African American Children: The Role of Race & Law in Adoption From Foster Care.” You can read the entire report at the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

If you prefer a more conversational approach on the topic of transracial adoption and developing a healthy ethnic identity, you’ll find it in my book, The Adoption Decision: 15 Things You Want to Know Before Adopting.

Phyllis July 7, 2008 at 2:48 PM

My nephew’s father was a transratial adoption in the 50s. It was a traditional closed adoption where his white adopted mother felt it necessary to erase his ethnicity from his birth certificate as well as keep him totally in the dark regarding his race.
Now as an adult he has HUGE idenity and self esteme problems. He has struggled with drug and alcohol abuse his whole life, has a criminal record, and is afraid to contact the state where he was born in order to find out any information regarding his race. He still refuses to do it, knowing it would benefit his son to have this information.
As a result my nephew will never have any concrete information on where he comes from. It’s really a sad situation all around.

Robyn May 24, 2010 at 8:04 PM

As the mother in a transracial adoptive family (white parents, Asian child), I totally agree. You can’t deny your child’s heritage—nor the fact that other people see him/her as belonging to a different race, and stereotype accordingly.
.-= Robyn´s last blog ..National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week 2010 =-.

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