Adopting While Black

“Black folks – Is it insulting to think about raising a white child?”

Great question posed by Angela Tucker in a recent blogpost entitled, “Why didn’t any Black parents want to adopt me.

So, hmmm, what’s the answer? Well, I, at times, hate to speak on behalf of Black folks, so my responses are my own.

Nope, it’s not insulting to think about raising a White child. I just chose not to. I’ll admit that when I filled out my matching tool, I grappled with the decision to limit my match to children of color. I wondered what that said about me, not wanting to parent a White child.

Did it say I was bigoted? Did I think I could do it? Did I wonder what my friends and family would think if I was matched with and eventually adopted a White child? How did I really feel about it? On the edges, it was a messy thought process, to be honest. Especially since I am diversity professional and prattle on about inclusiveness day in and day out.

Honestly though, the emphasis of my thought process rested in the fact that I really wanted to parent a Black child. I wanted to enjoy the inherent privilege associated with same race adoption. I wanted to enjoy my daughter and not having prying eyes wonder what was up with our family construction. In short, I didn’t want to deal. I wanted my family to pass. If there’s an easy adoption path, I thought same race adoption would at least be on that path. Some days, I’m not sure if it is easier.

So, in answer to the main title question, I did want to adopt a child like Angela, and my beautiful daughter Hope was a perfect match. I’m not sure how many of us, parents of color, are in the hopper to formally adopt, though.  Sure there’s a high percentage of kinship adoption. For those of us who adopt through other channels, I would imagine that more of us are probably like me and just want to enjoy racial privilege in this area. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like there are lots of opportunities to enjoy racial privilege around these parts, goals of a post-racial society notwithstanding.

The numbers of kids also seems to work in our favor as well, as another blogger I recently engaged wrote—kids of color are available. White, non-Hispanic children make up 49% of adopted children in the US, according to the Census Bureau, and White households make up 78% of adoptive families. Transracial adoptions make up 40% of adoptions, and international adoptions make up 37% of transracial adoptions.

And still, Black children remain overrepresented in the foster care system.

So we see families of color adopting at a rate of just over 20%, and the availability and opportunity to adopt same race children is likely occurring at an even greater percentage than that of their White parental counterparts.

The math suggests that unless there is a deliberate desire to parent across race by people of color, it’s probably unlikely to happen in large numbers. I’m not sure what it will take for that deliberate desire to develop.

And we can all feel some kind of way about that…or not. I guess. I wasn’t willing to help out on getting past our racial issues in my own choice to parent. I am ok with that choice; building my family wasn’t about social commentary or saving the world, it was about me wanting to be a mom. It was kind of selfish to be honest.

I respect those who embrace transracial adoption because they too, just want to be moms and dads; like me, they simply wanted to be parents. The decision making process around being a parent, how to become a parent and how to then parent is so personalized. As I often say, it’s messy.

I’ve never thought that the concept of ‘transracial adoption’ was limited to White parents with children of color; I didn’t think that it excluded Black parents with White children. I disagree with the Black Social Workers Association’s language about genocide and transracial adoption, but I do agree with the group in that it feels like the system is quick to remove brown and black children from their homes permanently, thus contributing to their overrepresentation in the foster care system and setting up the numbers game that exists.

Sadly, in addition to the math, I do think that there remains a certain taboo of sorts around adoption in the Black community; it’s unfortunate. I think that the taboos are tied up in lots of things like, “don’t get in my business” (there’s a LOT of that in adoption process), “don’t judge me” (in a community that often feels judged), “it’s God’s will that I not be a parent” (religion can be spun so discouragingly sometimes).

I believe that Black parents can raise White children, and they may even be willing to do so at the same percentage rate as their White counterparts. I don’t know. But I think there are bridges to cross, and I think that the “step up” that Angela refers to in her essay is often seen through the lens of “stepping up” within group rather than across groups.

I strive to teach Hope about inclusivity. At her age, she dreams of having biological children with a husband; she eschews the idea of adopting herself one day. Who knows what will happen in her future with respect to parenting. Hope struggles with lots of racial identity issues, more along the lines of a concept that the world is a narrow one for Black folks—we don’t do this, we aren’t allowed to do that. They are probably similar to and different from struggles experienced in transracial adoptive families. It’s all hard sometimes whether you’re same race or transracial, I’m guessing.

If I choose to add to my family, I admit I probably would make the same decision again. I just would. I certainly could choose to expand my matching search but I don’t think I want to. I’m not trying to make a statement about anything. I just want to be a mom. I admit that the pull of color is a strong one. There’s also the pull of the numbers and availability. None of these choice limiting influences makes me a bad person, and I certainly am not suggesting that Angela’s essay claims that. But I do believe that I’m not an outlier, Black, wanting to parent and choosing to parent a Black child.

So, I would’ve wanted to adopt you, Angela.  I think you’re pretty darn awesome and that your family did an amazing job raising you.  Love your blog, by the way.

 

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About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted tween a few years ago, and this blog chronicles our journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2017. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

24 responses to “Adopting While Black

  • polwygle

    I read Angela’s post earlier, and I love your follow up. We thought long and hard before adopting outside of our race. We examined our extended family, our church, our neighborhood, and our work places. We knew that we would have a lot of support from our friends, and in a way, we also got their blessing.

    There are days that I feel like I’m not enough for her. Then I see a neighbor share ice cream with her, I see her cuddle in my pastor’s wife’s arms, and I see her as one of the most confident two year olds there ever was. I love this girl with my whole being, and I’m thankful for my black friends who are beside my family on this journey.

    I’m so glad that you have Hope for a daughter, too. From what I’ve read on your blog, she’s got a great role model. (You’re not the only one who doesn’t share treats.)

    PS I too think people should adopt because they want to parent and not because they want to save anyone. There is nothing wrong or selfish about that.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Ha! Yes, still hiding my goodies! 🙂

      Thanks for your comments. I imagine it does take a lot of thought on the front end; at least it should, IMHO. Sounds like you’re doing your thing and have a wonderful, supportive community around you! That’s so awesome! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I think transracial adoption can be done well but it takes a lot of work and not everybody has the awareness and cultural connections to do a god job. If I adopt, I will most definitely adopt within the Asian community because I think the odds of an Asian child finding a white family who is really on top of cultural sensitivity is slim. There aren’t enough parents of color adopting relative to children of color in the foster care system (one of the reasons I do support transracial adoption) so it feels like a waste of one to adopt white kids. I could also see adopting Latino/a kids because of the immigrant background connection, but I wouldn’t adopt a black child without a lot more black friends than I currently have. Going to medical school and the lack of diversity in the profession has really narrowed the diversity of my friend pool. You just don’t have time to do much that’s not medically related and there are like 10 black students at this school. It’s changed my perspective on my ability to parent a black child because I really believe it’s necessary to have role models and mentors and to see your parent has valued friends of your ethnicity. I also think the less you interact, the less cultural competence you have, the more things like hair become a big deal because you don’t have anyone close to you to ask for advice… I come from a multiracial family and I don’t think my white parent always did a good job on this.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Appreciate and respect your honesty. These are tough choices and we make them based on our experiences and our beliefs about what we think we can do and what we think we want to do/deal with.

      I also work in a health profession with a dearth of racial diversity; so I understand your concerns. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to the larger question about willingness to parent across race. It’s a personal decision rooted in a lot of stuff. Good luck to you!

  • AdoptiveNYMomma

    I completely respect your choice and admire your honesty. I am saddened by the disproportionate number of children of color in the system and while I am open to transracial adoption, I worry that I will not do an adequate job of teaching them what it means to be their specific race/ethnicity.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Thanks ANYM. Raising kids is hard work, no matter how you get them. I think there are special challenges that we all face. Those challenges present themselves in different ways and at different times. Racial identity is important and we do the best we can. I’m not sure I would know how to support racial identity for a White child–in my work I find that such an identity is often underdeveloped and there are lots of reasons for that. I would hope that I would raise a socially conscious kid who is sensitive and embraces diversity. I hope for that for Hope; I would hope for that with any kid.

      I think you’d move heaven and earth if need be–I see you doing that already. I admire you so. 🙂

  • momto3sugars

    I am a “peach” mama and am raising two precious brown babies and that is because they were the ones that DHR brought to our house 11 months ago… It has nothing to do with race why we want to adopt them if reunification does not work out… It has everything to do with attachment and love. We’re family now… Always and forever! I love reading your blog! As always, thanks for sharing!!!

  • Caitlin

    I love this post. I hope to see this topic being discussed more frequently and in broader circles. I completely understand your decisions, though I think you would be a great mother to a child of any color.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Thanks for the read. I do hope we can keep the conversation going. It really shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. Folks want to be parents–sometimes the path is complicated by lots of factors. Thanks a bunch for the kind words.

  • Toni

    Great post, as usual. I’m a black woman with a white husband who has adopted a black infant girl and about to adopt a white toddler boy both through foster care. If I were single or married to a black man, I honestly don’t know if I would have left my racial preference blank. As an interracial couple,we chose to not indicate a preferred race, mostly because we didn’t want to limit any opportunity to become a parent as quick as possible. Before we got our girl, we were called about white children much more often than black children. Don’t exactly know why, but we eventually had to nicely say we want to diversify our house. When I had initial doubts about me raising a white child, I quickly realized and remembered how black women have been raising white children in the country for a few centuries now.

  • Moore Than Fashion

    Great post. When my husband and I first started thinking about adoption I must admit that I only wanted to consider African American children, my husband was always open to options. After much soul searching I determined that I just did not want to feel uncomfortable, I didn’t want the stares or the questions about having a child that was white when I’m African American. I’d totally lost sight of the fact that the goal here was to be a mom and to provide love and a nurturing home to a child that needs one. After much discussion we decided to leave our preference blank. I think we are well rounded enough and that we have the means and the knowledge to offer different cultural experiences for our children regardless of race. This is a tough decision at times and I can see it from all sides.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      I do wonder if I had a hubby/;partner when I started the process would I have been more open to a transracial adoption? Somehow I think things might’ve still ended the same, but I do wonder. There’s no right or wrong answer, though.

      I’m rooting for you!

  • Shan

    Hello, I have been waiting to find a topic of Black parents and transracial adoption. My husband and I are Black/African American and we have four adopted children, three who are not Black/African American. I come from a multicultural family (but both parents are B/AA) my husband’s family dynamics were not as culturally diverse and so our plan was to adopt only B/AA. Fortunately God had a different plan and our love, heart, lives were match with a rainbow. I debated how do I relate to my children when it comes to privilege, being Black vs. White vs. Hispanic vs. Asian. The flower child in me says “oh love concurs all” “my children will just be loved and that is al that matters” but I secretly question if the love we have for each other will concur this world. I have so much to share and compare but I have yet to find another family like mine….while I have connected to many white families who have adopted transracially I would love to find a B/AA family who’ve taken the transracial adoption path….. It is beautifully unorthodox! If you are out there email me at cocoapeanutbutter@gmail.com

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Hi Shan! Thanks for your comment. I think you’ve also articulated one of my concerns about possibly feeling isolated. I’m sure you’re doing great though! I do hope you find a family that mirrors yours; I know how important that presence, validation and support can be. All the best to you and your family.

  • Instant Mama

    I can totally relate to your reasons for wanting to adopt a child who looks like you – it’s just easier…or so the theory goes. God blessed us with our kiddos who are White/Hispanic just like me and my hubby. It eliminates a ton of curious stares, and perhaps even hostility. Of course, since they look like they are my bio kids, I do get stares when there are behavior issues. I feel judged. I wonder if I would feel more or less judged if we were obviously transracial? It’s fun stuff, but not simple by any means. So glad to hear you talking about it!

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Thanks Instant Mama! I thought it would just be one mountain I didn’t have to climb. It is tough. I mention in another comment I wonder if I wasn’t single would I have been open to transracial adoption–having a partner might have made me feel differently. I don’t know! I’m glad I weighed in on the topic!

  • canderson186

    Loved reading your blog. It was a well thought-through response that was very refreshing. However, I’m not sure I agree with the assessment that children of color are less likely to be reunified with their families (based on their color). “but I do agree with the group in that it feels like the system is quick to remove brown and black children from their homes permanently, thus contributing to their overrepresentation in the foster care system and setting up the numbers game that exists.”

    It may in fact be due to single parent homes, poverty and other contributing factors that often lead to children being put in care that are statistically at a higher percentage in families of color.

    My experience with foster care has proven that they favor reunification almost to a fault in all cases. I honestly do not believe it has anything to do with color.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      I respect that experience, any time a child is suffering is too long. But, I do think you might’ve read more into the statement than is there though–I didn’t say it was purely because of race. Certainly the higher risk for black and brown families to fall into the system is mufti-factoral.

      So, now for me to be more radical and tangle with the assessment further: I don’t deny that there is always a goal of reunification. But I simply do not believe that institutional systems are designed to promote racial equity and the elimination of bias, conscious and unconscious. There are countless studies on this topic; books, dissertations, etc about the unconscious race bias that is pervasive in institutional systems, which in this case would include the foster care system. It doesn’t mean that families of color can never get a fair break, but it does mean that the risks of removal and TPR are higher and it’s not *just* because of all the muck and mire of other contributing factors.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I really do appreciate it! 🙂

      So while I do not believe that the removal of kids is purely because of race, ignoring long term patterns of bias in our systems too neatly takes us all off the hook for thinking that race doesn’t have anything to do with it.

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