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Mixed-race adoption

(18 Posts)
theonehandman Wed 21-Aug-13 16:51:10

There has been quite a bit of talk about mixed race adoption recently, and a little bit in the news that I decided to write a post about it click here to read.

Did anyone else see the news on it, what are your thoughts?

Italiangreyhound Wed 21-Aug-13 20:36:19

If children of mixed or different heritage are not adopted by white families who will care for them? Adopted families of their own heritage, or another mixed ethnicity, or white foster families. I think it is what is best for each individual child that matters not some policy. But generally the policy should be what is best for the child in question. IMHO.

Devora Wed 21-Aug-13 23:00:24

Hmm. I'm the white adoptive mother of a mixed race child. I don't think transracial adoption should be prohibited. But I don't actually agree with much that you have written.

I think identity issues are often very fraught and important for adopted children, and racial identity is one of the most important identity issues. So an important part of any matching should be assessing how the prospective adopters can help the child develop a positive racial identity. Parents of a different racial identity can do this (and some of the best parents I know are in this position) but it shouldn't be assumed. Love is not always enough.

My child is still young, but I see already how she struggles with not looking like me (and I'm sorry, but it's simply not true that children of 5 don't notice skin colour - there is loads of evidence that this starts at 2, and that young children commonly attribute negative characteristics to black skin). Ours doesn't count as a transracial adoption, because my dp is black, and I am also from a racially mixed family. Nevertheless I often feel out of depth with these issues and wish the adoption system offered greater support with them.

In an ideal world, social workers would be skilled, sensitive and resourced enough to be able to make really deep and nuanced judgements about the families and children they work with. They would make careful assessments about each child's needs and what each adopter can offer. In practice, they are often overworked, underpaid, undersupported, ticking boxes and covering their backs. So it's not surprising that their decision-making can sometimes seem crudely formulaic.

theonehandman Thu 22-Aug-13 16:00:12

Thanks for being so honest. Do you think that racial identity is important to the point where it might be better for a mixed race child to stay in the care system rather than be adopted by a white family?

Also, I am not saying that ALL 5 yo kids don't recognise the difference between a black person and a white person, I am saying my friend's child did, and it was refreshing to hear the story.

I agree with you on the last point, I too wish social workers had the proper training, enought time, and were very skilled at judging these situations, but as you said that is an ideal world, and right now we have to make do with what we have got.

Given all the pressure that we pile up on them, I am grateful we have any social workers at all!

Thanks for replying, it is great to get another perspective on the issue.

Lilka Thu 22-Aug-13 16:52:39

We had a really interesting thread on transracial adoption a while back with lots of views I'll try and find/bump it for you.

My view could generally be summed as 'not all children would cope well with having adoptive parents of a different ethnicity, and equally not all adoptive parents are suited to raising a child of a different ethnicity to themselves'

Therefore careful assessment is needed of each potential parent to see whether they are aware of issues which may come up and how they might handle them. The world is not colourblind and it won't help to pretend that it is and just accept any parents who say they would adopt a child of a different ethnicity. Similar to a potential parent who says they would adopt a child with say, moderate attachment issues - that parent might be very well suited indeed to such a child but it's imperative to discuss the issue thoroughly with them, to make sure they have their eyes wide open and they are prepared and that this is really what they want and could cope with. Because there will be extra issues in their lives if they go that route.

On the child's end, we also need to remember that they will lose certain things if they are adopted by parents who look very different to them. Privacy for example. The whole world would be thinking 'adoption' as soon as they saw child with parents, and suddenly this child doesn't have the luxury other adoptees have, of being able to choose who to tell about their adoption. They will get constant questions and comments they can't avoid in all likelihood.

I'm not against transracial adoption, but I'm cautious, and think that ethnicity does matter. I find it disappointing that the debate in this issue is dominated by two loud and opposing voices, one saying transracial adoption is wrong and cruel, and the other saying that colour doesn't matter at all in the 21st century and all the kids will be fine whatever race their parents are. Because IMHO neither of those are true, and its more complex than that.

As to whether it would ever be so important that a child should stay in care, I think in a certain situation with a certain child it could be that important yes. For other children it wouldn't be. Consider a child who specifically says they only want to live with parents who look like them for instance. Or a black child with low self esteem who thinks being black is bad and they wish they would be white instead. That's a real example by the way, from an (white) American adoptive mother who adopted a black daughter. She posted online after her daughter (aged somewhere between 5 and 8 iirc), who was very upset, told her she wished she was white. Because this little girl had been abused/neglected by her black birth parents and subsequently fostered and adopted by several white couples in pretty white neighbourhoods. You can see why the poor girl came to think that black people (like herself) aren't nice people and why she hated her own skin colour.

Anyway I've rambled enough now, I'm going to try and find that thread.

Lilka Thu 22-Aug-13 17:24:47

Found the thread, some great research pointed to on there

Italiangreyhound Thu 22-Aug-13 20:53:37

What do you think would make a 'good' transracial adopter - anyone?

Devora Thu 22-Aug-13 23:19:47

Agh, just lost a lovely long painstakingly-crafted response, so this one will have to do instead:

I absolutely don't think most mixed race children are better off in care than with white adoptive parents (though this may be the case with some older children). Like Lilka says, this is a falsely polarised debate between fetishistic ethnic matching and colour-blind idealism. I think a good transracial adopter is thoughtful, empathic, resourceful, probably has some personal experience of negotiating these kind of differences within intimate relationships, and is ready to embrace a new journey as a multicultural family (rather than expecting the child to do all the accommodating).

I know a number of white parents who I think would be (or are) wonderful transracial adopters, and also biological parents (both white and black) who have made a bit of a pig's ear of supporting their mixed race children in this regard.

theonehandman Sat 24-Aug-13 21:30:29

I think you have made some good points here, and perhaps my view is a little idealistic. I think you are probably right in saying that some mixed race children, if evidence was strong enough, would be better in the care system, however, one point of my post remains...
... where do you draw the line?
I am sure you will all agree, that in one part of the country a mixed race child will not be placed with a white family, whereas in a different part, they would be, so how do we fairly decide upon this consistently?
Yes, each case is different, but it only takes one person, couple or whatever to complain that a mixed race child has not been placed with them and a whole new world of debate begins!!!! And once the papers get hold of it.... wow I can see the headlines now - "Council deny mixed race child a family because of his colour."
Anyway, I think I am getting too political even for my own tastes...
I posted this to learn more from other peoples views, and I have, so thank you.

Kewcumber Sat 31-Aug-13 22:48:27

I am a transracial adopter and I doubt my views are much different to Devora's.

I think race and identity are a very important part of a successful matching and that (all other things being equal) preference should be given to parents of same heritage as the child. Of course all other things are never equal and its never as simple as a straight forward comparison and tick list. I think the current push to ignore race is as misguided as as the previous attempts to promote it above all else. The truth is that for pre-school children, its unlikely we'll know to what degree racial identity will be important to that individual child or how well those particular parents will be able to deal effectively with any issues that come up.

There has been research in Canada with seems to show that transracial adoption has a similar outcome to same race adoptions provided certain things happen. I can't remember them all but it revolved around adoptive parents making a positive effort to celebrate and incorporate diversity into family life and to tackle race/difference discussions not just waiting for problems to arise and then dealing with them.

I'll see if I can find the paper because its quite interesting.

I often feel woefully inadequate in dealing with race issues/bullying when it comes to DS - some more support from SS would be nice (though unlikely!)

Kewcumber Sat 31-Aug-13 22:51:09

One of the biggest surprises to me after adopted DS was that I thought I'd adopted a child of a different race but in fact I discovered I had become a multiracial family. I'm not sure if I'm eleoquent enough to articulate the difference between these two things but as a white middle aged female joining a minority group so late in life was a peculiar experience and is still a work in progress!

2468Motorway Sat 31-Aug-13 23:17:43

I have no direct experience of adoption but I don't believe children are 'colour blind'. It would make no biological sense for them to be so. Race and small children is discussed in 'Nurtureshock' and by Rodolfo Mendoza Denton a Prof of psychology st Berkley. Some of the things he writes about are mentioned here:

Sorry can't do links on phone . I do think it's a very sensitive area and as with many areas of adoption love may not be enough. I don't think interracial adoption shouldn't happen but I do think it can complicate a match and more things have to be considered than will these parents love and care for the child. I'm not explaining myself well sorry.

Devora Sun 01-Sep-13 00:38:20

Yes, Kew! I always feel slightly strange when I tick the ethnic identity question in forms and surveys. Of course, I am still white and will always be, but my experience of racial identity has changed since I acquired a black partner and black child.

2468Motorway, you've explained yourself perfectly smile. Good name - I was watching TRB since Glad To Be Gay the other day and feeling all nostalgic for me youth...

Devora Sun 01-Sep-13 00:38:35

'sing' not 'since'


Tokoloshe Sun 08-Sep-13 08:49:59

It is a tricky area - as a white parent with 2 black daughters, I think it can work well (of course I would say that!) but ethnicity is definitely important. Some is simply the external environment (as Lilka points out, the children lose their privacy). However, in our case the schools the girls go to are very diverse with a range of family situations, as is the area we live. This is a great resource for us, as a multi-cultural family. They both visit friends and previous carers from their community of origin, which again is a big positive.

YD is upset that she doesn't look like me, ED is very confident and secure about it. YD has 2 others in her class in the same situation, neither of whom seemed bothered.

My girls made a positive choice that they wanted to live with me (older child adoption, and I had been their respite carer for 3 years), which was opposed by the SWs but supported by the judge. For them, race and culture were far less important than having the mother who loved and cared for them - including making sure they retained contact with the people and places that were important to them.

Bumpstarter Sun 08-Sep-13 09:09:09

I think there are barriers to people from different communities becoming adopters, and that adoption policy would be stronger for exploring and researching what these barriers are.

We know that there are not enough ethnic minority foster carers adopters to adopt all the ethnic minority children who need fostering or adopting.


I'm not saying I have all the answers, but stuff like you need a spare bedroom makes a difference. Many (not all I know, this is where research is needed) ethnic minority parents may not have a spare room. Who does? Really, middle class people with plenty of resources have a spare bedroom.

I'm sure there are loads of other barriers which are less practical and more cultural, but any
Policy maker wanting to overcome this problem needs address these barriers instead of saying skin colour doesn't matter.

Blu Sun 08-Sep-13 09:36:20

Of course young children observe skin colour and notice difference . Why wouldn't they? Why would not noticing the colour of someone's entire body be a good thing? Not noticing is only good if you automatically assume that difference can only be perceived as negative.

I am the white parent of a 'brown' (primary school observation) and I think race is undoubtedly an important factor in identity, and DS loved the fact that he could strongly anchor himself to both Dp and I in terms of all sorts of social factors, race included. But all this can be dealt with in many sensitive and perceptive ways, and as Kew says, it affects the parent's identity as we as the child's .

OP, your premise is too simplistic, your tone a bit 'PC gorn mad' and your link to your blog rather unsubtle wink

Bumpstarter Sun 08-Sep-13 19:22:35

OP, your premise is too simplistic, your tone a bit 'PC gorn mad' and your link to your blog rather unsubtle

Thank you for saying that.

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