Adoption is an admirable undertaking, but it’s not just Barry Farmer’s decision to become a foster parent at 21 that’s garnering the attention of media in Virginia. It’s the fact that the black Richmond resident is the adoptive father to three white boys.
“Family is deeper than skin color,” Farmer told local ABC news affiliate WRIC. Eight years ago, acting under the belief that everyone deserves a family, Farmer looked into the adoption process in his state. “I went through the training, the director who was there told me I was perfect for the program,” Farmer explained. Now at 29 he’s the father to 14-year-old Darrell, 12-year-old Xavier, and 6-year-old Jeremiah.
“I didn’t expect one kid, let alone three,” Farmer said. “When someone calls you dad, you’re like, ‘who me?’ I just like taking care of children.”
Obviously, the racial difference between Farmer and his sons has drawn more than a fair share of stares, although the young dad insists, “It’s a typical family. We may not look alike, but it’s a typical family.” And while ABC didn’t delve into how Farmer came to be Darrell, Xavier, and Jeremiah’s father, Farmer did partially hint that his choice to adopt children of a different race was somewhat intentional.
“In this day in time when it comes to family, and seeing color or seeing unity and belonging, that’s what I was hoping to accomplish with my family anyway. When I have them now I can’t imagine them anywhere else…I just want them to be someone that I can be proud of and they can be proud of and that’s all it takes.”
Farmer’s story is one that makes you go “awwww” with just a hint of “hmmm.” While the adoption of black children by Caucasian parents has been well documented — and the psychology behind that choice explored — it’s not often you see a person of color adopt white children. Newsweek‘s Tony Dokoupoil would say that has to do with the fact that, “Economic hardship and centuries of poisonous belief in the so-called civilizing effects of white culture upon other races have familiarized Americans with the concept of white stewardship of other ethnicities, rather than the reverse. The result is not only discomfort among whites at the thought of nonwhites raising their offspring; African-Americans can also be wary when one of their own is a parent to a child outside their race.”
But there’s also something undeniably curious about this version of transracial adoption when you consider the disproportionate number of Black kids in the foster care system. The North American Council on Adoptable Children found, as in many states in the United States, “African-American children are overrepresented in foster care in Virginia.” Data for 2012 showed that while Black kids make up 20.7% of the child population in the state, they account for 31.3% of foster children. “Agencies must address the unique racial and cultural needs of children of color in care, including seeking families who reflect the children’s race and ethnicity, as required by law,” the report stated. Likewise, I’m equally curious what Farmer will teach his sons about race and, particularly, what understanding of white privilege they’ll come to have being raised in this unique setting.
As for now, the boys are just happy to call Farmer dad. The oldest son, Darrell, told WRIC, “Dad was like, ‘can I be your dad forever?’ And I was like, ‘you already are.’ And that is how I came to stay here. I was in this dark spot at first and then he just comes in the picture. And everything’s all right.”