Adopting Across Racial and Cultural Lines

Posted on May 27th, 2015

Side view of a young woman and a girl sitting and smiling

Over the years families opened their hearts and homes to children of all races and cultures. Some decided to adopt from a particular country with which they had an affiliation or attraction. They had some awareness of the culture and felt they could easily welcome that culture into their lives. Some biracial or bicultural couples adopted from one of their own backgrounds, or even a child of a third background. Some families were formed through adoption of an infant or older child domestically whose racial or cultural background did not match that of their family. There were also individuals and couples who choose an adoption process or country because of its ease or swift turnaround time with the racial or cultural identity of the child being a byproduct of the adoption.

Creating or expanding a family can be complicated. When you add a multiracial or multicultural component you are increasing the complexity and forever changing the family—not just adopting a child of a different race or culture.

To outsiders you will be a visually conspicuous family and identified as different. People will ask questions and make comments. Your grandchildren will be of another race or culture. You need to be totally comfortable with these life changes. By default, you will be an ambassador for and educator on adoption. You will fashion your responses to reflect pride and inclusion for your child, family and community.

You also need to be prepared to openly and honestly discuss diversity and race; to defend your choice to adopt across racial and cultural lines; as well as to assist your child as he or she interacts with a world that is still full of prejudice and injustice. Your child will have to grapple with issues of being adopted and being viewed as a race or culture rather than as an individual.

This does not mean you should not adopt. It means you need to keep your eyes open and ears attuned for comments and misconceptions. It means you cannot just wait for situations for you to respond. You need to examine your beliefs and biases, extended family and community acceptance, the diversity of your social network, and learn what adoptees have experienced and how they have coped.

You need to be prepared to help your child, not only understand adoption, but how race and difference are viewed by society. This is not a one-time conversation, but a lifetime of open and honest dialogue.