What do you think of when you hear the word "family?" For many, the image of a child comes to mind almost instantly. For couples and adults who can't have children of their own, adoption is sometimes the only chance of having a family. Today, many parents are taking on more than the usual responsibilities that come with parenting and children.
Race & Ethnicity Aren't Barriers
More and more US parents are adopting children of different races or ethnicities, and not just the celebrity-parents we hear and read about frequently. Regular, everyday people are adopting children from different races and ethnic backgrounds. These children are born in the US and in foreign countries, too.
There are a number of reasons why interracial or transethnic adoptions are on the rise, but two major reasons are:
- There are waiting lists for children of some races, while children of other races spend years in foster care
- Would-be parents want to help children victimized by natural disasters, like the earthquake in Haiti, or children suffering from the poor economic conditions of their homelands
In the end, the reason doesn't really matter. Parents and couples often are doing whatever they can, wherever they can, to build their families.
Adopting a child of a difference race or ethnic background means you may have to deal with some issues that other parents - adoptive parents or not - simply don't have to deal with.
Favoring Would-Be Parents
US federal law makes it illegal for adoption and foster agencies that receive federal funding to deny an adoption or child placement based solely on the child's or would-parent's race, ethnicity or national origin. Many states have similar laws.
Still, there are potential problems. For instance, agencies don't have to ignore or be "color-blind" to the racial or cultural differences. So, assuming all other things are equal, an agency can choose to place a child with a would-be parent of the same race or ethnicity over another would-be parent of a different race or ethnicity.
Dealing with Cultural Differences
Once you've adopted a child of different race or ethnicity, you have other concerns and issues many other parents don't have to worry about. For example:
- One major task is to respect your child's cultural background and expose your child to it. You'll probably have to learn about the traditions and customs of the child's culture, and then teach your child about them
- Be prepared for prejudice and bias. You and your child are different, so don't be surprised if you're treated differently at work or if your child is treated differently at school
It's not easy being a parent to any child, but it's a job worth having. Learn everything you can about the child's culture and personal history. That, coupled with the unconditional love you're already willing to give, will help you build the family you've been dreaming of.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Do I need an attorney if I'm working with an adoption agency?
- What should I do if I think my child isn't being treated at fairly at school because of my or my child's race?
- Is it possible to "reverse" an adoption?