Adoption Advocate No. 146

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Chuck Johnson, editor Ryan Hanlon, editor Melinda Clemmons, editor

August 2020





Proactive Engagement The Adoptive Parent’s Responsibility When Parenting a Child of a Different Race BY EBONY MACK, MSW AND KRISTEN HAMILTON, MA


A Call to Adoptive Parents


Core Terms & Concepts


A Foundational Framework


Infants & Toddlers


Elementary & Middle School


High School & Beyond


Frequently Asked Questions




Recommended Books


Suggested Resources

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About the Authors Ebony Mack, MSW is a NYC native currently living in Richmond, VA. She obtained a BA in psychology from CUNY and an MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her experiences as an adoptee, adoptive parent, and social worker all shape her understanding about adoption. She is the proud mother of a 23 year-old son who joined her family at age 17 years, as well as her daughter born in 2018. Her near two decades of professional experience includes seven years helping families and children navigate the journey of adoption. Kristen Hamilton, MA joined the NCFA staff in 2019, and serves as the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communication. Prior to NCFA, Kristen was a communications consultant for a private adoption agency, and an active volunteer advocate engaged with intercountry adoption policy matters. Kristen and her husband are parents to four children including two who joined their family through transracial adoption.

A Call to Adoptive Parents The decision to become a parent often brings with it one of life’s greatest joys and carries with it a whole host of commitments and responsibilities to provide for the many needs children have: from food, shelter, and clothing to healthcare, education, and much more. In choosing to pursue the privilege of growing one’s family through adoption, adoptive parents are committing themselves to the responsibility of understanding and addressing the issues and needs specific to adoption, which can include loss, grief, identity formation, maintaining birth family connections, accessing health history information, and more. There is even more added responsibility in addressing the issues, privileges, and challenges that arise when adopting a child of a different race. In these situations, adoptive parents have the obligation to develop and build a family and wider community that promotes a strong and enriched racial identity, that understands and responds to racism, and that proactively and age-appropriately prepares, educates, and protects their child from racial inequality, racial discrimination, and all other forms of racism. Additionally, these parents must not only work through the challenge of raising a child in a society where racism exists – they also have the privilege and responsibility of learning, promoting, and participating in the child’s racial heritage, and grafting that heritage into the family. NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR ADOPTION |


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According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “A positive racial identity mediates experiences of discrimination and generates optimal youth development outcomes.”1 On the other hand, failing to parent through a racially conscious lens can lead to poorer overall outcomes for adopted individuals2 and weaker parent-child relationships.

“I couldn’t go to my parents and share my distress because they didn’t understand. They looked at life through the lens of their white experience. They were unintentionally color blind. I desperately needed them to be color-conscious, to listen, and bear witness to my struggle…One of the most powerful things we can do as adoptive parents is to resist indifference. To not be color blind, but to be color-conscious—to awaken to what our children-of-color are going through.” –– Michelle Madrid-Branch, transracial adoptee and adoptive parent3 Recognizing that a permanent, nurturing, prepared family is in the best interest of children, and that many times such a family of the same race is not available in a timely manner, transracial adoption has been and will continue to be a vitally important option on the child welfare continuum for children to achieve permanency. Therefore, this article seeks to provide prospective and current transracial adoptive parents with a starting place for this work by defining and explaining concepts about race and racism, and hearing from those with personal experience. Age-specific guidance and suggested resources are provided for adoptive parents seeking to better understand, affirm, and honor their child’s racial identity. “Transracial adoptees will face unique challenges when it comes to identity formation. Not only must they learn to process their adoption in healthy ways, but they also have the added nuance of being the racial minority in their own families. Ultimately, you want your child to have a full, cohesive sense of self. As they grow and develop, it is healthy for them to grapple with their racial-ethnic identity and their adoptive identity.”4

“A positive racial identity mediates experiences of discrimination and generates optimal youth development outcomes.” American Academy of Pediatrics CLICK TO TWEET

“We owe it to our adopted children of color and need to do the work to understand how unique their struggle will be in being a person of color in an often whitewashed world.” – A. Miller – adoptive parent

Maria Trent, Danielle G. Dooley, Jacqueline Dougé, Section on Adolescent Health, Council on Community Pediatrics and Committee on Adolescence. Pediatrics August 2019, 144 (2) e20191765; DOI: 1


Lee, Richard M. (2003). The Transracial Adoption Paradox. The Counseling Psychologist, 31(6), 711-744.


Branch, Michelle-Madrid. (2020). Color Blind or Color Conscious?


Be the Bridge (2020) Transracial Adoption Guide 2020.


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Accepting and understanding the parent’s responsibility in their child’s racial identity formation is the first step. But the real work begins as parents intentionally take action to become more informed, aware, and engaged on racial, cultural, and identity issues – a process that requires a willingness to be uncomfortable at times, and to recognize what within the parent needs to change.5 This is similar to the work that all adoptive parents should do in regard to their own history with attachment, trauma, and familial relationships in order to cultivate healthy, connected relationships with their children. In the words of Dr. Karyn Purvis, “You can only lead a child to a place of healing if you know the way yourself.” In the same way, transracial adoptive parents in particular cannot effectively cultivate and support their child’s racial and cultural identity if they have not at least begun the internal work themselves to understand and engage with their own thinking, attitudes, and experiences around race, culture, and ethnicity.

“Before we began the process to adopt, my husband and I didn’t think it would be a big deal to have a Black son or daughter. We thought that because we knew we could love any child no matter their race that somehow qualified us as ready. We didn’t realize how ‘white’ our world was and thought a few Black friends and a diverse church was good enough. The beginning of change for me was when my son turned 3 and I realized I never gave him the words to know that he was Black. When he said he wanted to be white like the rest of his family I struggled to find words to express why it was wonderful to be Black. I began to realize I didn’t really have enough of an understanding of Black culture; what I had were biases about Black culture. That led to me leaning in more to the Black community around me. I began reading books by Black authors, following Black community leaders or pastors on Facebook, and really listening to the experiences of People of Color.”

“You can only lead a child to a place of healing if you know the way yourself.” – Dr. Karyn Purvis –


For a list of helpful books by Black authors and other suggested resources, see page 17.

–– A. Mancusi, adoptive parent

5 Roorda, Rhonda. (2019). Reframing Transracial Adoption. ReFramed Podcast. Season 1, Ep. 3. reframing-transracial-adoption



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Core Terms and Concepts By no means an exhaustive list nor comprehensive in description, the following is a set of core terms and concepts that parents should understand and seek to explore further. It is important that adoptive parents, particularly white adoptive parents, be willing to give space for different and new definitions and understandings of terms they may have assumed to already understand or believed to no longer be relevant.

Race It was not until the 17th century, when the African slave trade began, that “Race” as a social construct, was broadly established and utilized. This construct classified human beings by arbitrary characteristics such as stature, skin color, facial features, hair texture, and even food habits, and served to assign power and value to these racial constructs based on unfounded and harmful stereotypes, ultimately positioning white people at the top of the social hierarchy.6

Racism Racism can be individual, systemic, and internalized. However it manifests, it remains a salient construct of modern society that should be recognized, understood, and dismantled. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary recently updated its definition of racism as follows:

1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race 2 a: a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles 3 : racial prejudice or discrimination7

6 National Museum of African American History and Culture, Historical Foundations of Race, Retrieved July 16, 2020, https://nmaahc. historical-foundations-race 7 dictionary/racism


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Individual Racism, when individuals hold the beliefs or racial prejudices described above, consciously or subconsciously, manifests in all kinds of ways. Collectively it can lead to systemic racism. Systemic Racism, reflected in the second definition above, comes about when unjust practices that favor white people and exclude, discriminate, and even oppress people of color are institutionalized by structures that perpetuate the practices indefinitely. This can occur in virtually any system of society – educational systems, housing systems, legal and criminal justice systems, labor and employment practices, politics and government, religious organizations, athletic leagues, community organizations, and more. Particularly important for this discussion of identity development in transracial adoptees is the concept of internalized racism. Internalized Racism can be defined as the lessons people of color learn from being raised in a society that devalues them and their culture.8 When racism has been internalized, the person of color has actually accepted and bought into the dehumanizing or negative messages about their ethnicity or color.

Intent vs. Impact A common response to these ideas is that people don’t mean to be racist or prejudiced in their words and actions and that they never intended to cause harm. Intention is important, but is not a justification for harmful impact or the only means of inflicting harm through words and actions. It is critical for adoptive parents to understand the impact of racist and prejudiced messages on their children of color. They should consider what is implied, but perhaps not overtly stated, in these types of messages. Listening to those who must experience firsthand the emotional, mental, and societal consequences of these messages is vital. Discerning impact over intention is key to developing the kind of perspective that will equip adoptive parents for the empathy, nurture, and empowerment that their children of color need.

Terms to Know and Study Further9 Culture – a set of shared beliefs, attitudes, values, or patterns of behavior among particular groups. Ethnicity – primarily refers to the social or cultural aspect of someone’s identity. Microaggressions10 – words or behaviors which intentionally or unintentionally, subtly convey a prejudiced, derogatory belief towards a racial-ethnic minority. For example, •• Asking “Where are you from?” – often directed towards persons of Asian and Latinx descent — assuming that they must not have been born or raised in the U.S. •• Speaking in an excessively slow and over-articulated manner to a person of color, assuming they do not speak English. •• Comments such as “You don’t look very Chinese” or “Your accent isn’t bad at all!” or “I was surprised by how articulate you are.”


Mack, Ebony. The Talk: How to Speak with Children About Race and Adoption. National Adoption Conference, June 23, 2020.


Be the Bridge (2020) Transracial Adoption Guide 2020.

Garber, Karin J., “”You were Adopted?!”: An Exploratory Analysis of Microaggressions Experienced by Adolescent Adopted Individuals” (2014). Masters Theses 1911 - February 2014. 1180. Retrieved from 10



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“Find people of color who can tell you of their realities and experiences. Read books that educate you about white privilege, white supremacy, and books about Black experiences and struggles. Find social media groups and people who advocate for people of color so you can learn how to come alongside them. And above all, listen and know you won’t ever know or truly understand their struggle. Ask your Black children what it’s like to be Black. Engage them in what it’s like for them to have white parents. Allow them the space to feel uncomfortable and voice that to you. We have so much to learn from them and it’s our job to be educated and aware.” –– A. Miller, adoptive parent

A Foundational Framework There is no shortage of educational resources available to adoptive parents who want to learn more about race and adoption. We have included many in this article that we urge readers to explore. But with so many resources, and the realities of a busy parent’s limited time, it can be overwhelming to determine where to begin, what to prioritize, and how to start implementing what is being learned while still in the process of becoming more educated about cultivating their child’s racial identity. We suggest a basic framework for parents to follow, adapting it for their child’s particular age and developmental stage.

Part One – Protect and Prepare

For adoptive parents who want to learn more about race, it can be overwhelming. @AdoptionCouncil has prepared a helpful guide to educate yourself and cultivate your child’s racial identity.


Every parent is responsible to protect their child from harm whenever possible, and to prepare them for situations in which there is risk of harm.11 We can think of this in regard to the issue of child safety. When the child is in the infancy and toddler years, the parent keeps the child close, keeping their eyes on them at all times, mitigating risks and protecting the child from situations in which they would be vulnerable. As the child gets older, the parent begins to have conversations about unsafe adults and how to respond if approached by a stranger. Going into adolescence those conversations shift again as the child begins to navigate more experiences independently, making more of their own decisions


Hall, Beth. (2009). Prepare in Order to Protect. Pact’s Point of View.


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to mitigate risk and respond to potential harm. Similarly, adoptive parents must both protect their children from racism whenever possible while simultaneously preparing them for the racism they will inevitably experience. Protect your child from people, organizations, and media content that are known to express racist attitudes and beliefs. For some adoptive parents, this has even meant refusing to attend family gatherings at which their child would be exposed to microaggressions or racially or culturally insensitive jokes from extended family members who refuse to see the harmful impact of their words and consider changing their attitudes. “When I met an older teen of color who hit it off with my kids, I asked her if she’d like to be our babysitter and hired her to help watch them while we moved. If I needed help with something, I’d always check in with her first. When I needed a tutor, I hired a transracial adoptee because I knew my kids would have that connection to her. On the opposite side of things, I’ve dropped friendships and cut off relationships with people that may have seemed nice but had clearly racist content on their social media or in their homes. As my kids get older, I’ve explained more to them why we are no longer around some people. With one of my younger children, I simplified it down to ‘yes people’ (those who are speaking up for racial justice and being supportive), ‘no people’ (those posting or saying racist things and those that are choosing not to support our family), and ‘maybe people’ (those who seem to have the right intent but are missing the mark with their words). Being in my children’s life is a privilege, and if you are going to harm our family with microaggressions or lack of support, we are not interested.” – R. Cross., adoptive mom Clearly adoptive parents cannot protect their child from all potentially harmful situations, but they can and should be mindful, intentional, and proactive in protecting their young children from racist experiences. This can be a significant challenge for white parents who do not have the benefit of their own lived experiences from which to draw. It will require pulling in outside resources, appropriately scaffolding the preparation by age and stage, and whenever possible, connecting with trusted adults within the child’s racial community who can teach, model, and encourage both parent and child.


Adoptive parents should be mindful, intentional, and proactive in protecting their young children from racist experiences. Learn more with this comprehensive resource from @AdoptionCouncil.



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“I also have been intentional in developing friendships. When I met a Black mom who had her kids in the same musical as mine, I spent time talking to her and getting to know her while we were waiting for our kids. A few weeks later, I got tickets to an event and messaged her to see if she’d like to go with me. I told her I wasn’t sure if the symphony were her thing and that I wasn’t even sure if it were my thing, but if she wanted to try it together with me, to let me know. We ended up having a great time together. We have developed a true friendship, and my kids are now spending time with non-adopted children who look like them.” – R. Cross, adoptive parent It can be painful for parents when they realize their lack of experience means they will not fully understand what their children will experience in terms of discrimination and racism. Seeking to ensure there are other people involved in their lives who can help by offering their perspective, experience, and support is one way parents can help provide for their children. “This journey is hard for a number of reasons. First, it is challenging to admit that you have biases and to be willing to acknowledge them and work to actively change them, but this is just the beginning. Once you begin to work on yourself, you start to see friends and family that have biases and views that are unhealthy for your child to be around. It’s also very difficult to watch your children experience racism and be treated differently and to help them navigate those situations. The hope that I have through all of this is my faith that God sees my son and has a plan for his life. I don’t need to be a perfect parent, but I must do the work.”

“It can be painful for parents when they realize their lack of experience means they will not fully understand what their children will experience in terms of discrimination and racism.”

–A. Mancusi, adoptive parent Part of protecting and preparing the child involves providing them with the supports necessary to work towards a holistically healthy identity. Just as a parent would seek help when a child’s medical need requires a professional, so too should parents readily offer professional resources to support their child’s emotional and mental well-being. One adopted person shared with us how critical professional counseling and therapy were in her journey to a stronger identity:


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“Your child will most likely struggle with belonging and connection to some degree no matter how great you are as a parent. This circles back to why counseling and understanding trauma is so crucial for your adopted child. Putting them in counseling in elementary school will allow them to start to articulate and process their story. Do not inhibit that process. I greatly struggled with this growing up. My parents did an amazing job but being the only person of color in a Caucasian family was so hard. I really cannot begin to describe how lonely and isolating it was for me as a child at times. Counseling and EMDR therapy were incredibly beneficial for me as I was able to put words to feelings and learn to navigate the trauma connected with my story. Please acknowledge this challenge for your child— it is not a reflection on your parenting or who you are. Give your child a safe platform on which to express and wrestle with what it is like being different and having a different story.” –R. Gruneisen12 The concept of preparation is expanded upon in more detail later in this article. Here, we turn to the second part of this framework.

Part Two - Promote and Participate Supporting a child’s racial identity is a critical aspect of healthy, integrated identity formation, but one which is uniquely challenging in transracial adoption. Therefore, it is incumbent upon adoptive parents to reject older, conventional ways of thinking that emphasized racial assimilation and homogenous family identity, and instead take steps to create rhythms within the family and their child’s life to teach, honor, and celebrate the child’s racial, cultural, and ethnic heritage as part of the family’s now multicultural identity.13 Adoptive parents with children of any race different from their own will need to be intentional to prioritize their family’s time and resources to fulfill their responsibility to promote and participate in their child’s racial and cultural community. Principles and guidelines with broad application will be discussed in greater

“Supporting a child’s racial identity is a critical aspect of healthy, integrated identity formation, but one which is uniquely challenging in transracial adoption.”

12 Gruneisen, R., Lindenwood University. Why Adoption May Not Be for You. Thoughts, Ideas and Questions You Should Wrestle with Before You Consider Adoption. Personal Communication, June 24, 2020. 13

Keleher, T. (2011) “Racially Conscientious” Parenting in a “Colorblind” Society. Pact’s Point of View.



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detail later in this article. Often the best examples of effectively promoting and participating in transracially adopted children’s racial and cultural community come from the experiences of those who have learned lessons from their journey. Parent R. Cross, quoted earlier, expands on her journey as a white adoptive parent, sharing pivotal moments and practices that have been effective in her family’s efforts towards this work:

There are two moments that I specifically remember realizing I needed to make these efforts, and both happened while we were in our van. The first time, I was a passenger in the front seat and had my leg up on the dashboard. My two-year-old Black toddler noticed from the backseat and asked me what was wrong with my leg. After a few seconds of us talking back and forth, I realized he meant the color of my leg. I saw him looking at his own dark skin and then looking back at my very pale skin. I knew then that I needed to do better fast because he noticed a difference way earlier than I ever anticipated. The second time was about six years later, and this time, it was my young white biological daughter who said something that made me stop. The kids had been talking about some of their friends, and she said, as if it were a fact, “White kids have one family, but Black kids have two families.” I was shocked, and then I realized that all our Black friends were also transracial adoptees. I knew then that we needed to expand our circle way beyond other adoptees. Some of the steps we have taken over the years include: •• We look up groups for Black families in our area and go to the events that are open to the public. •• We visit a marketplace for Black owned businesses in our area monthly and give the kids a budget and the chance to shop without us hovering close by. •• We listen to Black artists in our home on a regular basis. For example, we studied

Motown in our homeschool and listened to Motown hits and the Black Music Month playlist on Alexa many times. We’ve gone to concerts by Hypnotic Brass and Black Violin and play their music at home and in the car as well. •• We have Black artwork hanging in our house and our front door has a Black afro wreath with kente cloth that my daughter and I made together by following a tutorial by a Black artist. •• We watch TV shows and movies with Black characters. We watch movies that include civil rights events (such as Hidden Figures and Remember the Titans), but we are careful to not focus on just that. There is so much more to Black history than slavery and civil rights. •• We buy books written by Black authors. Scholastic has a full catalog of diverse books. We look for curriculum written by Black educators. We have Black history flashcards, including the ones from Urban Intellectuals. •• We buy Black baby dolls and related toys, and not just for our Black children. •• We chose to have a Black dentist and our pediatrician is a person of color.

“There is so much more to Black history than slavery and civil rights.” – R. Cross – adoptive parent CLICK TO TWEET


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Working with Children at Different Ages and Stages It is never too early or too late to begin talking about race with your children. Whether your child is an infant or an adult, do not feel deterred from speaking with them about this important subject. Let’s discuss the different ways this conversation can take shape over time.

Infants and Toddlers The key word for discussing race with infants and toddlers is exposure. Our current media landscape is lacking in positive representations of Black and Brown people. Because of this, you should take any opportunity you get to show and exalt positive images and achievements of people who share your child’s race. Put art in your home that is reflective of your child’s heritage. In your home, play music originated by people of your child’s race. Make and prioritize connections with people who look like your child. These simple acts can have such a large, impactful effect on your child and your relationship with them. You will be giving them a foundation that states that they are seen and valued. The messages you want to send to your child are: “You come from a rich history.” “People who look like you are smart, innovative, and beautiful.” “We are different races and that is okay. That difference is not to be ignored. It is to be honored.”

Books Shades of Black by Sandra and Myles Pinkney is a picture book that celebrates the diversity of the African American community. Using rich photos of Black children across many different skin tones, eye colors, and hair textures it displays the rich tapestry of African American heritage.


Baby Faces by DK is a book that displays different faces of babies from different races and ethnicities. This book can be used to create normalcy about differences for your child. It’s Ok to be Different by Todd Parr affirms exactly what the title says. Using colorful cartoons and inclusive language it expresses the message that difference is not just ok, but it should be celebrated. It goes beyond a language of tolerance to one of acceptance. Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi is a board book that gives a primer for understanding race and power dynamics. Your toddler may not understand these big concepts yet, but this provides clear, simple language that can be used as they grow.

Video Clips I Love My Hair – This is a Sesame Street song about loving your hair. A little Brown muppet with an adorable curly afro sings about how she loves her hair. Sesame Street clip – This 30-second clip shows two boys playing “Cowboys and Indians.” In that quick clip they learn that the ideas that they have about Indian people might be incorrect. Hair Love – This Oscar winning short animated film is about a Black father who is tasked with doing his daughter’s hair for the first time. He is initially nervous and avoidant about taking on the task. With some help he eventually learns the importance of hair for his daughter.

Podcast Talking Race With Young Children – An NPR 20-minute segment on talking about race with small children.


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Elementary and Middle School Aged Children Around the age of five or six, children are beginning to consume media more readily. This provides a great opportunity to challenge some of the messages your child is overtly and covertly receiving about who they are. It is important to scrutinize the TV shows, toys, books, etc. that your child consumes for how affirming they are to your child’s race or ethnicity. While it is laudable to try, it would be a Herculean feat to eliminate all potentially harmful imagery from your child. So it is important that you begin having conversations that encourage your child to develop their own scrutinizing eyes and ears. There is a delicate dance to be coordinated here. Being affirming and empowering requires threading a needle. Much of this work is bolstered by what was done with your child at the previous stage discussed in this article. Ideally, your child already has language that affirms their race. Therefore, your conversations here would be questioning if the media they consume aligns with what they know to be true about their heritage. However, if your child is this age and does not have an affirming foundation, you can and should begin building their racial identity and pride. You can always increase their media scrutiny at a later time. In order to instill in your child the confidence to examine media depictions, you should ask questions that require them to seek answers from within themselves. This does not have to happen in one pointed conversation. In fact, these conversations should be casual and spontaneous as you both encounter imagery that is worth looking at more closely. If you see examples of stereotypical imagery, tokenism, as well as positive images, you can seize those moments to begin conversations. Here are some examples of questions to help develop this skill in your child: “What did you think about that movie character? Did she seem realistic to you?”

“This book wrote the Latino/Latinx character with an interesting accent. Can you think of the different Latino/Latinx people we know and the different accents they have?” “I thought that TV show character was so smart and funny. But I really want to know what you thought!”

Books Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester states that everyone has a story where race is one part of that story. It explains that race is an important part, but not the sum total of any person’s story. Shades of People by Shelly Rotner is like the above referenced book titled Baby Faces. It has many realistic, well-photographed, clear photos of different children from varying races and ethnicities. It allows for further discussion about race, skin, and what makes us different. Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey is reminiscent of the Oscar winning movie titled “Green Book.” Real green books were created from the 1930’s to the 1960’s to help guide African American travelers about hotels, restaurants, and other establishments that were considered safe for engaging. This story details Ruth’s trip in the 1950s as she learns about Jim Crow laws and how to navigate a country with some spoken and unspoken rules.

Podcasts So Get Me is a podcast hosted by the Alphabet Rockers and features social justice commentary from their tween guest stars. KQED hosts a podcast episode titled “Teaching 6-yearolds about Privilege and Power.” This can be listened to with your child or by yourself. It discusses a teacher’s innovative approach to tackling these big subjects with kids.


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High School and Beyond If you haven’t already started to, this is a great time to begin speaking with your child about social justice, the history of inequality, and privilege. Kids this age are beginning to question and challenge the world around them—sometimes in ways that confound parents! Your child is ready to have these discussions as they are likely asking you about the rules of the family and why they have to do chores. These kinds of questions naturally lend themselves to discovery about equality. And perhaps that natural teenage rebellious energy can be channeled towards a greater cause. Parents can support their child in learning about how and why our world today was shaped by the past. If you are not well-versed in this information, it would be a wonderful opportunity to learn with your child. Take a deep dive into the past to learn the good and the bad. Your primary role here is to support the knowledge and development of your child. Some examples of statements and questions to encourage dialogue during this phase of education and discovery are: “I have some thoughts about why people protest, but I was wondering what you think.” “Do you know what civil disobedience is?” “There’s so much about this world I’d like to see changed for good. Let’s think of some ways we can get involved.”

Books The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a book about a young woman named Starr who is a witness to her friend’s murder at the hands of a policeman. Starr wrestles with the decision of whether to come forward as a witness to the murder. She learns who her true friends are, along with lessons about systematic oppression.


Dear Martin by Nic Stone uses the writing device of letters to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Through these letters the book’s main character grapples with his experiences as a young Black man. All American Boys by Brendan Kiely & Jason Reynolds. This contemporary young adult novel is told in alternating chapters featuring the voices of a white high school football player (Quinn) and a black ROTC student (Rashad). Kiely and Reynolds author the chapters alternatingly. Through this mechanism we see the way that race shapes their different perspectives. In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption by Rhonda Roorda is a book for parents, child-welfare providers, social workers, psychologists, educators, therapists, and adoptees from all backgrounds who seek clarity about strategies for navigating systemic racial inequalities while affirming the importance of Black communities in the lives of transracial adoptive families. All of the interviewees have been involved either personally or professionally in the lives of transracial adoptees.

Podcasts CodeSwitch – An NPR podcast about race, identity, culture, and community. The title refers to the linguistic feature where a person who speaks more than one language or language variation shifts between those two languages/variations based on whom they are speaking with or the setting. A Conversation about Race – This episode from includes an interview with Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” They speak about race and discussions of the topic with teens.


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Frequently Asked Questions “What if my child rejects my attempts to talk about race?”

Your child may have so many feelings and thoughts about race that talking about it seems daunting. It is still important to initiate the conversation in a calm and easygoing manner. Be especially mindful of your body language, as your child might respond to your nonverbal cues that signal this conversation makes you feel uncomfortable or that you are feeling fearful of their response. That said, if your child expresses that they do not want to speak about this, you should respect that. Just let them know that you respect their wishes and are open to talk whenever they are ready. You can also ask if it would be okay if you checked in with them at a later time to see if they feel more interested in talking.

“We live in an almost all white town. How do I help my child connect with other people of color or other transracial adoptees?”

Many people find ways to connect through social media, Zoom, Google Duo, and other platforms. You can try searching Facebook for groups geared towards transracial adoption, or reach out to your adoption agency to find out what online resources they offer or can point you towards to help your child connect. You can also search MeetUp for similar groups. There are also often sub-groups of people of color related to any particular interest. For example, instead of looking for people interested in Dungeons and Dragons, Legos, or Harry Potter books, you can try to find groups for those interests that are specific to the ethnicity of your child. So not only are you finding connections based on race and heritage, but also shared hobbies. Consider how you can plan trips outside your local area to utilize regional resources for cultural and racial connections. Perhaps your family can make regular practice of taking day trips to a nearby city to be part of a cultural event or to visit museums that honor and celebrate your child’s racial and ethnic history.

“My child is eight. The guidelines here do not recommend discussions about social justice, but she is asking about that. Should I wait?”

Do not wait. If your child is asking, that is your opening. When we do not seize these openings, we might inadvertently give our children the message that this subject is off limits. Furthermore, none of these recommendations are set in stone. There is a lot of space here for age-appropriate flexibility. If your child is younger and seems ready for talks about social justice, always listen to that. If your child is older, but could use more of the empowerment and affirmation suggested in the younger stages, please provide that. Let your child’s needs guide you.


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Press On for Progress, Not Perfection The unique responsibilities of transracial adoptive parents to their children must be met with persistence, humility, and oftentimes, courage. Transracial adoption requires a willingness to embark on a journey into unchartered territory, and to keep going even when mistakes are made and tough lessons are learned. Because this is a journey and not a destination, parents are best served by embracing a posture of progress and growth, letting go of unrealistic expectations and pressures. Along with this article an increasing number of resources are available to parents seeking to fulfill this vital responsibility to their children. Whether a prospective parent is preparing to adopt transracially for the first time, or they are several years into it, every parent can benefit from committing to this work that ultimately is in their child’s best interest.

About NCFA Founded in 1980, National Council For Adoption (NCFA) is a leading authoritative voice for adoption and is passionately committed to the belief that every child deserves to thrive in a nurturing, permanent family. NCFA’s nonprofit work promotes a culture of adoption through education, research, advocacy and collaboration that aims to serve children, expectant and birth parents, adopted individuals, adoptive families, and adoption professionals.



YEARS of family


© August 2020 Originally published in 2020 by National Council For Adoption. Reprinting or republishing without express written permission is prohibited.

National Council For Adoption 225 N. Washington Street Alexandria, VA 22314 703-299-6633


| NO. 146 | August 2020

Recommended Books for Learning About the History of Different Racial Groups in the U.S. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A People’s History of the United States is the only volume to tell America’s story from the point of view of—and in the words of—America’s women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. White Kids by Margate Hagerman This book discusses an ethnographic study about white middle class kids and how they form their ideas about race. Black Reconstruction by W.E.B DuBois A historical cover of Reconstruction, specifically the Black experience post-Civil War. Black people made amazing political and economic gains for a short period of time after the war. And those gains were all striped away through formal and informal methods to deny them full citizenship in the US. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson A historical look at the Great Migration, the period after Reconstruction when Black people collectively moved to Northern states in an attempt to escape the terror visited upon them in the South. Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America by Juan Gonzalez Latinos are now the largest minority group in the United States, and their impact on American popular culture-from food to entertainment to literature-is greater than ever. Featuring family portraits of reallife immigrant Latino pioneers, as well as accounts of the events and conditions that compelled them to leave their homelands, Harvest of Empire is required reading for anyone wishing to understand the history and legacy of this increasingly influential group.


An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanee Dunbar-Ortiz Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne DunbarOrtiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire. The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee An epic history of global journeys and new beginnings, this book shows how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have made and remade Asian American life in the United States. Spoken Soul by John Rickford & Russell Rickford This father and son team (dad, a linguist, son, a reporter) write about the history and culture of African American Vernacular English. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, TaNehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin Considered the philosophical predecessor to Coates’ work, and written as a series of letters from Baldwin to his nephew, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation, gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement—and still lights the way to understanding race in America today. NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR ADOPTION |

ADOPTION ADVOCATE NO. 146 | August 2020 | 18

More Suggested Resources In addition to the sources cited in this article, we’ve compiled a list of suggested articles, tip sheets, podcasts, books and other websites that can equip and educate adoptive parents who are parenting a child outside of their race. How to Talk with Your Transracially Adopted Child

“ReFraming Transracial Adoption” An Interview with Rhonda Roorda Transracial Adoption Resources talking-to-transracially-adopted-children-about-race/ doing-race-family-culture-through-transracialadoption#resources

Talking to Very Young Children About Race by National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations

Understanding Racial-Ethnic Identity Development

Raising A Multiracial Family: A Conversation With Keia Jones-Baldwin

In My Skin: Supporting Positive Racial Identity Development in Black Children

The Adoption Connection, Episode #61: A Transracial Adoptee’s Thoughts on Growing Up Black in a White Family with Derek Hamer

20 Picture Books for 2020: Readings to Embrace Race, Provide Solace & Do Good The Adoption Connection, Episode #79: Exploring the Complexities of Transracial Adoption with Tara VanderWoude TpZSWX9XNz07sMRynsvMXNOi6E Third Culture Kids: What is Your Child Experiencing?

The Adoption Connection, Episode #89: A Conversation About Race with Sue Badeau

Transracial & Transcultural Adoption: Preservation, Policy, and a Personal Perspective adoption-advocate-no-128

Five Tips for Adoptive Parents Addressing Racial Incidents with Children b9ce84bec486286818d42b53771b7/adoption-race-tipsfor-parents.jpg


Race and Identity in Transracial Adoption: Suggestions for Adoptive Parents adoption-advocate-no-38

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