Thursday, July 29, 2010

book: inside transracial adoption

I am reading a new book titled Inside Transracial Adoption by Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall. I'm only part way through but I am quite impressed with the content. This is from the inside cover:

Inside Transracial Adoption provides creative, confident, pro-active, and provocative guidance for parents who are experienced veterans or who are considering transracial adoption for the first time. Whether through domestic or international adoption the authors offer direction for building close, loving, and very real families consisting of individuals who are proud and culturally competent members of differing races.

In the first chapter The Challenges of Transracial Adoption the authors cite what they believe to be indisputable principles of transracial adoption:

  • transracial adoption is more complex than same-race adoption
  • visible differences between parents and children increase challenges to their acceptance as a family unit
  • there are predictable developmental stages for transracial adoptive families which are different from those of same-race families
  • issues regarding racial or ethnic awareness and development of positive racial identity must be addressed
In a larger context, what makes these core principles indisputable are these broader truths...
  • adoption is a response to a life crisis
  • race matters
  • transracial adoption issues are not easy or comfortable subjects to discus
  • adoptive families need to develop the desire and capacity to help themselves
  • families built by transracial adoption can let challenges beat them down or they can embrace their issues - a process which only builds strength


If we are successful at giving transracially adopted children all that they need, we will raise adults with a unique ability to understand and interact with white-dominated society, while retaining proud membership in their own racial community.

I like this book.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

is there trauma post-adoption?

I recently stumbled across this blog post The sole trauma is the loss that occurs BEFORE adoption, but the practice of adoption itself causes no pain? by Melissa (adult adoptee) at Yoon's Blur. Melissa so articulately responds to the common belief held by many adoptive parents that loss and trauma occurs only before the adoption rather than also post-adoption. I think this is especially true in transracial adoptions where white privileged parents adopt a child of color. As a white woman I can never, in no possible way, understand the alienation, racism, and isolation that my son will face. If T was being raised by a black family he would learn and master strategies to face a white-dominated society by observing and modeling behaviours exhibited by his family. I once heard an adoptive parent comment on how they have not yet discussed racism with their school aged child as they would rather be reactive versus proactive in addressing any issues. They felt this would protect their child from the reality of how society views skin color...his skin color. However, I believe that as a result of T being adopted by white parents we must acknowledge the reality of post-adoption trauma and surround ourselves with people who can adequately prepare him, be proactive by educating ourselves, and listen to the experience of adult transracial adoptee's.

Here is an excerpt from her post:
These are stresses, traumas, losses--whatever you choose to label them--that occur as a direct result of being adopted, or as I often refer to as direct result of being transplanted or displaced. According to my experience, these words more accurately identify and characterize what practically and realistically happens to a person who is adopted internationally.*

As the couple featured in "Adopted" demonstrated, it's very easy to grow complacent and comfortable. It's easy to look at one's adopted daughter or son smiling and laughing, and think that they're done grieving. It's more comforting to believe that now that they're in your home, a part of your family, they're safe now. They're protected. The loss and trauma are in the past, and now they're on their way to a "new, better life."

But the truth is that I wasn't safe once I arrived in America. I wasn't protected once I arrived in America. And I certainly was not done grieving once I arrived with my new family. And although I fully acknowledge that I have lived an incredible life full of love and hope, I am still dealing with the loss and trauma that I endured not only before I was adopted but that which I endured and continue to endure after I was adopted.

I don't point a bitter finger at any single individual. It's more complicated than that, and that's also not the point of this blog--to place blame.

When I say I wasn't safe or protected once I arrived in America, it's not to say that I did not have a loving family that wanted to provide a safe, protective environment for me (unfortunately, there are adoptees who cannot say the same). It means that even though I had a loving family, even though I had a family that wanted to protect me, that love could not fully protect me or keep me safe from the racism and bigotry or the sense of isolation and alienation I would soon begin to face.

As a little girl, I was affectionate, happy, and compliant (generally-speaking, of course...*smilewink*). But once I had to venture beyond the walls of home and family to school and the often cruel, unfiltered world, there were realities I had to face for which my parents and family had not prepared me, because they had no awareness of the consequences that would ensue as a result of being adopted.

Parents must be willing to acknowledge and accept that there are traumas and losses that occur post-adoption. They have to be willing to anticipate that such things are going to happen--and that when they do happen, they are traumatic to the adopted person's sense of family, sense of community, and sense of self.

Monday, July 12, 2010

why are you brown?

D and I recently visited the zoo with baby T (his first time). D was holding T near a play area and was approached by a child.
Child: Why did you get a brown one and not a white one?

D: (not sure what to say)

Child: Why is he brown?

D (smiling pleasantly): Why are you white?

Child: I was made that way.

D: Yeah. You're white because you were made that way. And he is brown because he was made that way.
Child's parent joins the conversation.
Parent: You were made white and you are perfect just like he was made brown and he is perfect too.
Child goes back to playing.

The questions have begun...