Helpful Information for Parents Considering Transracial Adoption

Mother and child of different races

There are many ways to build a family, and adoption can be one of the most beautiful, bringing together a child who needs a parent with a parent or parents who desperately long to share their love with a child. There are many types of adoption as well, and hopeful parents may choose one or the other based on their circumstances and needs.

What Is Transracial Adoption?

Transracial adoptions, in which parents of one race adopt a child of another race, are on the rise. Between 1999 and 2011, according to the Institute for Family Studies, transracial adoptions in the United States increased by 50%. Celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock and prominent people in government, like the newest Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, have adopted children of another race. Transracial adoption (also called interracial adoption) has also been a major theme on popular TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and This is Us.

Though it’s not universally so, adoptive parents in a transracial adoption are often white, and have not had to deal with issues that members of other races in this country do. Violence against Black people and Asian-Americans has been in the news lately, but hostility to non-whites is nothing new in this country. Adoptive parents may love their child regardless of the child’s race, but that doesn’t mean that they should disregard their child’s race. Race and ethnicity are an important part of a child’s identity and, importantly, how the world sees and treats them.

Talking about race can be uncomfortable if you are not used to it, as many white people are not. But treating race as if it is an unimportant or shameful topic will not help any child you hope to welcome into your home. Here are some things to think about if you are considering transracial adoption.

Unpack Your Motivations for Transracial Adoption

Before you begin the adoption process, it is critically important that you understand your motivations for pursuing a transracial adoption. Like adoption itself, transracial adoption is not right for everyone, and there is no shame in admitting that if it turns out not to be right for your family.

So, why consider interracial adoption? You may have always dreamed of a diverse family. You may have fallen in love with a specific child who needs a family. You may have been fostering a child, and want to make them a permanent part of your family. You may want to give a child who lives in an impoverished country a chance at a better life. You may want a child as soon as possible, and would prefer to adopt a child of another race over waiting for a child of the same race as you.

There are good reasons and bad reasons to choose transracial adoption. Make sure that you are honest with yourself about your motivations, and that those motivations are in the best interests of your future child. You want to be able to make your child feel that she completely belongs to your family, without feeling that she has to sacrifice part of her identity to fit in.

Ask Yourself the Hard Questions About Interracial Adoption

As a prospective parent, you would do anything for your child’s well-being. With a transracial adoption, you will need to take additional measures above and beyond what you might need to do with a child of your own race. Ask yourself:

  • Do you have friends and neighbors of the same race as your child? How will your child see herself mirrored in the community? What will you do to ensure that she has role models of the same race?
  • Will you be willing to make sure your child sees herself reflected in the books you read to her and the dolls she plays with?
  • Will your child be the only person of her race, or one of a few, at her school? If so, would you be willing to enroll her in a more diverse school, or even move to a more diverse neighborhood?
  • If your child is from another country, how will you expose your child and yourself to the culture of the country in which she was born?
  • Like any parent, your job is to protect and defend your child. How comfortable are you confronting others who make inappropriate or racist remarks, whether or not in your child’s hearing?
  • If your larger family is not fully supportive of interracial adoption, or has exhibited racist attitudes in the past, how do you plan to shield your child from those attitudes? Are you willing to stand up for your child against your family, even if it means becoming estranged from them?
  • Have you educated yourself, or would you be willing to educate yourself, on anti-racism?

If you have the opportunity without being intrusive, it may also be helpful to speak with an adult transracial adoptee to understand their experience and the challenges they faced. If this is not possible, consider reading some books by transracial adoptees.

Are There Different Procedural Requirements for Interracial Adoptions?

As a general rule, the fact that an adoption is bringing together a child and parent(s) of different races does not affect the procedural requirements, though the overall process varies based on whether it is a private adoption or an adoption from foster care, or a domestic adoption or an international one.

There is one circumstance in which there will be special procedural requirements: when a white parent or parent wants to adopt a Native American child. A federal law called the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was enacted in 1978 in response to children from Native American tribes being removed from their homes and placed with non-Native families. If a child who is eligible for membership in a Native American tribe is to be placed for adoption with a family of a different ethnicity or race, the tribe must first consent to the adoption.

If You Are Considering Transracial Adoption

If you are considering transracial adoption, a good place to start is by talking to an adoption attorney with experience in transracial adoption. We invite you to contact Brinkley Law Firm to schedule a consultation.

Our Attorneys

Stephanie M. Brinkley's Profile Image
Since founding Brinkley Law Firm in 2011, attorney Stephanie Brinkley has helped families grow and expand by navigating them through the legal challenges surrounding Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) and Adoption. As an attorney who focuses on f… Read More
Christopher D. Kays's Profile Image
Originally from Los Angeles, Christopher Kays moved to Charleston in 2007 when he reported to The Citadel for his knob year to study psychology. As a cadet, Christopher volunteered at the VA hospital and helped establish Leadership Day, The Citadel… Read More

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