In 6th grade I had a very close friend named Parminder, I think we both got along because we were quiet and kept to ourselves. The one thing that always intrigued me about Parminder, was the contrast between her skin tone and hair. She had the blackest hair I had ever seen, and her skin was the color of copper. It was rare occurrence for Parminder and I to see each other outside of school, but one day she invited me over to her house. When I walked into her house, I expected to see parents that looked just like her, but I saw two very blond hair and blue-eyed people and that’s when it dawned on me that Parminder was adopted. Being the nosey kid I was, when I asked her about it, she told me she was from India and was adopted when she was 2 yrs old. I didn’t think anything about it until I was listening to the news these past couple of days.

In recent news, The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) has been questioned in regards to transracial adoption practices and procedures. Basically the MEPA prohibits race from being considered a factor in most decisions about adoption from foster care. Whether you’re black or white, you’ll go through the same adoption training as someone who wants to adopt a child from their own race. Statistics show that there is a larger number of minority children in the foster care system compared to white children.

Personally, I believe that it shouldn’t matter who adopts these children, as long as they’re given a chance to get out of the ‘system’, but I do feel that if a couple does venture out to adopt a child or another ethnicity, there should be some type of ‘ethnic’ & cultural sensitivity training involved. I think these children should be able to live in an environment that provides the child an opportunity to participate in positive experiences with their culture, religion, and language. A child should be able to interact with parents who have an understanding what it feels like for the child to look different from their parent and also to have a parent that has knowledge of special dietary, skin, hair, and health care needs. Although there are private organizations who take part in similar trainings, I think this should be mandatory and State funded initiatives.

One incident in particular that I remember was how Parminder would always lotion herself up throughout the day at school and she would never want to play outside when it was really sunny. When I asked her why, she always said she didn’t want to become darker and since the lotion was white, she would hope that it would change her to a lighter color, so that she could match her family.

When I look back at the years of friendship I had with Parminder, I can see where her parents failed her. She wasn’t taught anything about her Indian culture, she thought because her skin was darker than her parents and siblings that something was wrong. It wasn’t until we attended college at Rutgers University, which has a large Indian population, that she was able to learn and appreciate her culture and embrace it. I would hope that children that are involved in transracial adoptions are taught their history, culture & the ability to embrace their differences and to be proud of who they are.

  • C

    I think all parents should be required to take classes before having children.

  • African Mami

    I was about to say no, until I reached the part about your friend and the lotion issue!! Yes!! Great idea!

  • Yb

    Yes. I would definitely liked it if the test would emphasize parents having knowledge of the child’s culture and teaching them about their culture.

    I feel too many parents of transracial adopted children ignore their child’s culture and culture history and ignore the child’s race and attempt to raise the as colorblind, which never works.

  • trisha

    Its nice to have a cultural family but love knows no color and if i had the choice to grow up in poverty without water or food and go live with the white family thats where im going. Classes are nice but health and love are more important. If it helps the parent learn better the child great but if you are complaining about white people and do not have desire or resources to better the life of the child you speak of i say mind your business

  • trisha

    I think if the child has a choice of poverty or a better life snd they just know whiteness id choose the latter. Culture cannot feed your belly. So if ppl have a issue they should adopt the children themselves. Whats more important..children are starving in sudan right now bc the two tribes cannot come to terms. Its a tragedy.

  • Yb

    @trisha

    I’m not understanding what your saying. I didn’t say that transracial adoption shouldnt occur. What I’m saying is the parents of transracial adopted kids must be understanding in racial matters and teach their children their culture.

    Whats the point of having a fed belly monetarily, when the child’s mind and soul will be malnourished from now on?

  • Apple

    If you ever seen the documentary called Shadeism , your Indian friend probably would still have the same problem with skin tone as white skin is prized in Indian culture .

  • Chika

    But why does it have to be a choice? Why can’t a child have a loving family that provides monetarily, emotionally, and culturally? The article doesn’t argue against transracial adoption or for some false choice between poverty and security. It simply advocates for a bit of sensitivity training for parents looking to adopt outside their race. I see nothing wrong with that.

  • Kacey

    Its funny that this article appeared today and the picture you used is of the Jolie-Pitts, because I was thinking about Zahara Jolie-Pitt the other day. I was thinking that they should have adopted another black child, because I wonder if Zahara will feel a bit isolated as she grows up being the only black one in the family. In our society race-related are inevitable. It probably doesn’t matter to her now as a little kid, but as she grows into adolescence and womanhood and begins to experience things differently than her siblings, will she be resentful that there is no one else in the family who can relate to her?

  • http://gravatar.com/oneoutofbillionz oneoutofbillionz

    I don’t believe that people who are adopting children from different countries or of different races and ethnicities should have to take any sort of “culture training” class. If they want to adopt a child LET them adopt a child if their background check checks out as safe.

    Parent’s should to teach them about successful people who look like them and that’s it.

    The same people who write articles like this will be frowning their noses over a parent who treats their adopted Indian child too much “like an Indian”. It’s called MICROAGGRESSIONS.

    Despite this author believing that it was her friend being adopted by white parents who made her want to be light skin, the truth is colorism is EVERYWHERE. If you go to India they have bleaching creams EVERYWHERE, actual commercials about bleaching airing on TV!

    The whole “stay out of the sun warning” is issued in plenty of communities of color!

    So parents should teach their children SELF CONFIDENCE. And I have seen plenty of people of color saying things to their colored children that causes self-hate and colorism!

  • Kacey

    *race-related issues

  • Nicole

    EVERYONE should have to take a classes before having children.

    I worked at a child center and parents there who adopted (whether their child was the same race or different) were amazing parents because they struggled to have child for whatever reason.

    Then I saw a lot of parents who didn’t adopt they took their children for granted, and were just not good parents in general.

  • Kacey

    I read a great book over the summer called ‘Color Blind’ by Precious Williams. It is an autobiography of a black woman of Nigerian descent who was raised by a white foster family in the UK. Despite the love and nurturing she received from her foster family, as she grew up she dealt with issues of racism and a racial identity that her family members just couldn’t relate to and understand. Even within they family, there was subtle racial insensitivity and ignorance. It’s a good read, especially for those who think that race doesn’t matter when it comes to transracial parenting.

  • African Mami

    I’d be DAMNED to be adopted by white folks and NOT know of my cultural heritage!! Seriously!! Love knows no color, but I do want color in my life! Eiiiiii

  • MomOf2GreatKids

    I’m the white, Jewish adoptive parent of two kids from China – and I do agree that kids need to see families (adoptive and otherwise) that resemble their own. I consider our whole family to be Chinese-American, and we try to be part of the local Asian community as much as possible. My two go to Chinese culture classes (and did language for a few years, but Mandarin without a Mandarin speaker in the house to help with homework is VERY hard!), and we celebrate their birth heritage. Do they always participate willingly? Not necessarily – but in the long run, I (and most adoptive parents I know) feel this is very important and will benefit the kids as they grow up. (Think Greek school, in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” – she hates it, hates being different than her “regular” classmates, and then sends her own child to Greek school at the end of them movie…. not far from real life.) We owe our children so much – we have brought them here to loving homes, but also to a society that still has quite a way to go in dealing with racism. In that respect we “made” them minorities, as they would not have been in their birth countries. We need to give them the tools to deal with racism themselves as they go out into the world. I have an older teen, and when she’s with us, she is perceived as white… because her parents are. However, when she goes away to college, that perception will change. People meeting her for the first time without the ‘buffer’ of her family WILL notice her race and make assumptions about her – personality, family, abilities, etc. I try to discuss this with her as much as she lets me… being a teen, she doesn’t really want to hear it. My whole extended family is very diverse: we have black, Latino and Asian family members. My kids see this as normal, but they still need to be prepared for a world that, unfortunately, doesn’t.

  • http://mommaused2say.wordpress.com mommaused2say

    I’ve always thought so. I once met a white family who had adopted 3 black children from the same family and I couldn’t help myself, I had to give her information on how to comb the little girls hair. She was very grateful and that was when I knew that education is needed and there is nothing wrong with that!

  • Izal

    There was a documentary on Netflix, I forget the name of it at the moment, but it was similiar to this experience. It was about a black girl in NYC that was adopted by a Jewish family. She had the same experiences and needed to find herself and her own identity as a young black girl.

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  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    I think it would be a good idea. Granted a class will not tell you everything about your kid’s culture or how to deal with the problems they may face but I think it will be great for background knowledge and an eye opener. I do agree that a lot of parents of these types of adoption try to take the color blind approach which is good in theory but do more harm than good. Also I would add knowing someone personally from your child’s culture is a plus to use as reference for you and your kid(s) to talk too! I often wondered if Brad and Angelina have black women/men around Zaharra and the same for Pax and Maddox (sp?) I can’t tell you how many couples I see with transracial adoptive kids (heck, even single parents with interracial kids) who have no friends or relationships with individuals from their child’s culture, I’ am not saying you should purposely go out and befriend so and so just because of their culture/race, but I think it would be good to at least know someone from that community to give you insight on unique problems and discussions that you may never have faced personally.

  • http://deereeder.wordpress.com deereeder

    While I agree that it is valuable for transracially adopting parents to inform themselves as part of good parenting- trying hard to meet your child’s general as well as idiosyncratic needs- ethically, it can’t be required. We don’t require 14 year old mothers to take a class in order to have the legal right to parent their child, even though such a mother would clearly benefit from a class. And, even same-race adoptions call up special parenting needs- how and when to tell your child about their adoption, handle questions and concerns they have about not being bio-related. What I’m getting at is, it would be ethically wrong to treat adoptive parenting differently than bio parenting. Advocates of adoption can do well to raise awareness on issues in raising a child in a transracial family, but certainly not use this as a screener for adoption.

  • http://deereeder.wordpress.com deereeder

    I meant to add in my last comment, that think about, for example, a white mother who gives birth to a mixed race child, who looks more like their African American father. They have the skin color that will trigger the typical societal challenges. No one says the white mother, even if the father isn’t present, is to be required to take a class. This is why it would be wrong to do so in adoption cases- adoption shouldn’t be treated like it’s not “real” parenting with all the rights and assumptions of “real” parents.

  • LaNubiana

    I think the most important thing for me is that the adoptive parents give these kids a safe home and loving home. All that other stuff is secondary.

  • Moni

    I completely disagree with this post because adoptive parents can and are treated completely differently from biological parents. Adoptive parents go through a thorough screening process which potentially screens everything from their finances to their medical history. The article also mentions the adoption training that they have to complete. Obviously biological parents don’t have to go through any screening or training, unless they get caught up in the child protection system. I wholeheartedly agree that transracial adoptive parents should be required to have some type of education about transracial adoption issues in general and their child’s race/ethnicity in particular. At the end of the day, the child’s mental health and well-being is far more important than the parents’ having their feelings hurt about not being considered a “real parent” by people whose opinions shouldn’t matter anyway.

  • Moni

    And there are plenty of adoptive parents who are bad parents and plenty of biological parents who are not good parents. Your second two sentences (implying that adoptive parents are “better”) contradict your first statement (that everyone can do better). It doesn’t help anyone to imply that there is a hierarchy of parenting.

  • ChillyRoad

    Is that really the only thing black women know how to teach white women…how to comb hair? She can learn that on the internet.

  • ChillyRoad

    I guess this may be why black children are so difficult to place. They are just soooo different. I hate the self righteousness of these comments. The adopted children of Jolie-Pitt are ethnically South Asian and Ethiopian but they are culturally America. They should be raised as American children. They should be educated and knowledgeable of as many cultures as their little minds can soak in.

    Sometimes I think these comments come from a place of insecurity that black people about white people. We don’t want them to be better at it than us so we enforce all these requirements.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    Who said they shouldn’t soak in other cultures/heritages as well as THEIR own. I’ am not getting your argue here Chillyroad. I don’t think the people commenting here are coming from a bad place, sure maybe requirement is too harsh, is “recommended” better? And like it or not we ARE different in many ways even between other fellow black people, white people with other white people, etc., so to dismiss it or put it on the back burner isn’t going to make that tidbit go away. And there are different dimensions of “American” culture and being raise as an “American” child, it isn’t the same for everyone. These kids have a right to learn about their heritage and embrace their new found culture; these two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

  • Nicole

    I guess I should rephrase my statement since Im implying theres a “hierarchy or parenting”

    Because a lot of the adoptive parents experienced a lot of heartbreak trying to conceive or adopt and since they experienced that heartbreak they treated their children like glass figurines which caused behavior problems. Ive also seen this behavior with couples who had trouble conceiving and finally did

    Then there were a good number of “natural” parents who took their children for granted. They snapped at them, were always late picking them up and walked too fast for them to keep up. Which also can cause behavior problems.

  • http://www.transracialparenting.blogspot.com annmarie gignac

    OK I am a mother to a transracially adopted child as well as a mother to a biological child. Our daughter is African American. Our Son is Caucasian, We are Caucasian. yes, we went through our training to be foster parents, race issues were not mentioned. They are not allowed to be, in part. When we decided to be foster parents we decided to let the need show us the way. And when the phone call came, it was for a little African American girl who was in need and there were no African American Foster parents or adoptive parents who were willing to take her in. We were there. We did not care. I agree we were naive. But we learn. We read, we take seminars, we live in the city of Chicago I have African American friends (though I admit few) and mixed friends. Our family is unique. I am working through it , for the love of a child. Families are all sorts of people. Our daughter has changed us, for the better, challenged our friends and family to put their money where their mouths are and we are always learning. My blog which because I am crazy busy is not often updated is http://www.transracialparentingchicagostyle.blogspot.com. I welcome any advice,comment. I share what I know in a foster parent support group, try to live by example. It is absolutely not just about the hair, but you cannot ignore. :)

  • Elaine

    I’m a white adoptive mother of a black child.

    I wasn’t required to take a class in transracial adoption but I did. And you know what? It was terrible. It was the most superficial, ridiculous class of all the foster parent training classes I was offered. The car seat safety training, the CPR and first aid class, the gentle discipline class, the baby care class… they were all ten times better than the “transracial adoption” class.

    You know why?

    Because I’d been spoiled by a class I took in college called Race, Class, and Gender. And also because I’d already read two books on transracial adoption. And because I followed many blogs dedicated to the topic.

    And also because the studies on transracial adoption (as well as other ways families become “transracial”) do not supoort the notion that these children suffer from poor self esteem or identity crisis. They actually do pretty well, on average.

    The fact is, “a class on transracial adoption” is only going to scratch the surface of any of the real issues. It’s not going to fix whatever you feel is wrong with transracial adoptions. I’ll let you in on a secret: the minority of people in transracial families that were created through adoption are not the real problem when it comes to the lack of cultural sensitivity your friend (and others like her) experienced.

    The real problem is that you’re ONLY suggesting mandatory cultural sensitivity classes for adoptive parents, when really EVERYONE ought to be taking them.

  • Mrs. Valdez

    No, I am adopted and both my parents are white. I have a brother and sister from south Korea, a brother from Mexico and another brother who is Puerto Rico and Nigerian. I am mixed with black and white and was born here in the states. It doesn’t matter what race you are. You should ask yourself if you will love the children that you adopt or foster. We have a huge family and we have a lot of love. Why take a class? You already have to jump through every damn hoop possible to adopt a child. Why make it that much harder for children to be adopted. If the education is on hair care or culture than you can always get in touch with someone that is from that culture. Or simply watch a YouTube video.

  • Mrs. Valdez

    Thank you! Exactly my point.

  • http://chokkaretto.tumblr.com tee

    lighten up, dude! I would have been so grateful lol >.< i do find it kind of sad when i see adopted children, just the thought of them not being around their real parents. But as long they're living healthy in a safe home and they are loved :)

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  • Anthony

    Knowing how to care for a black girl’s hair is a very important thing! If a person is going to raise a black child, that person needs to take the time to know what might really impact the child in question. In a world where long and straight hair is valued, one of the worst thing a person could do for a little girl’s self esteem would be to not be able to properly care for the child’s hair so that it will grow. This is doubly an issue if that child is going to be raised in a house of white people with long and straight hair.

  • http://www.musingsofthelame.com fauxclaud

    This article is a very good example illustrating the need of genetic mirroring in human beings and how that lack of opportunity in adoption can negatively affect an adoptees self esteem. The simplified process goes like this: Child looks at mommy or daddy and because of their natural love for them, they think their parents are beautiful. They are reassured by their smile, their facial expressions, etc. Child grows up, sees similar expressions, face in their own reflection in the mirror and feels good about the way they look. They learn to accept how they look and love themselves.

    Often in international or inter race adoptions, the adoptee does NOT have faces that look like theirs to admire or even to get used to. So when they look int he mirror they look “wrong” and this can become internalized.

    Often when we think about adoption, we assume we are “saving” children, but “more” things often doesn’t compare with the less tangible that is lost by removing a child form their people and their culture.

  • http://gravatar.com/juneinapril juneinapril

    It is absolutely imperative that families adopting children of another race/ethnicity examine closely what this means for their family and ultimately the child/children they hope to adopt. I am brown, adopted by a white family. While my life was indeed good and still is there were very critical elements to my development that were difficult due to the lack of understanding of my family surrounding race/difference and what all of that meant to me and how it affected me. In particular, my hair was a HUGE issue. This is a big miss for families…there are plenty of resources to learn how to do your child’s hair or better yet, ask your friends of color to teach you. No friends of color? Well, um for starters you might want to find some and go to some places where you are the minority. There do not need to be cosmic shifts here but more attention does indeed need to be paid to the additional preparation of families that are considering adopting a child outside of their race. Thanks for the article.

  • angryasianadoptee

    I’m a transracial, transnational adoptee from Korea who grew up with white parents who divorced a few years after adopting me. (My comments below only refer to white prospective adoptive parents, but I do think we all need to have a race consciousness.) I think white parents should stop and think about who their friend circles are before they even think about adopting a child from another race. If white parents have no friends who are of that prospective adoptee’s race, what is their knowledge and connection with the culture and values of that group and how are they going to instill positive values into this child? How are they going to get input from their friends whether they are making the right choice? Why one race over the other? (Please, once you adopt, do not expect us to be your cultural bridge. That’s not going to happen.) And if positive values about their race/culture are not intentionally instilled into the kids, then how will kids combat the negative messages that they will inevitably pick up? And if you look at how these message are picked up and kids are socialized, particularly children of color, what are the sources? There are parents, school, teachers, fellow peers, television shows, and the media to name a few. If the parents do know have much knowledge of their child’s culture, if the school their kids go to is predominantly white with curriculum that brushes over/dismisses the child’s heritage, if TV shows – in my example – show very few positive, non-stereotypical images of Asians (the “model minority” is NOT positive. It is intensely damaging to the API collective and to us as individuals and messages we internalize about who we are supposed to be.), then how are we to gain a positive idea of ourselves? What if most of the media we consume shows us that being white is the standard? What if we complain to our parents that a kid said something “not nice” (ie racist) to us and our parents just dismiss them as being mean, but do not give us the words to combat racism and to view ourselves as normal? What is our white parents are blinded by their own white privilege that it disables them from truly understanding their child’s experience? Regardless of these things, I do love my parents, and, yes, they could have done better. But what I’m talking about right now is not my parents, but it is questioning the systemic, racial dynamic that affects all of us.

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