How Race Can Change The Experience of Everything From Adoptive Training to Adoptive Parenthood.
A quick image search of adoptive families still pops up the popular picture of white parents hugging smiling children of a variety of racial backgrounds. A minority of those photos show something else. Black families also adopt children. As with so many aspects of the racial experience, the difference between being a Black or White adoptive parent is far more than skin-deep.
Adoptive Training: A “White Space”
This difference can be seen as early as the training adoptive and foster parents go through. I recently talked to The Author of the Adoptive Black Mom blog about how training felt to her and she described it as a “White Space”. In her words:
“I mean, it’s funny because the irony was that the social workers who were running our course were African American and you know they kind of apologized for the content and I’m an educator. I don’t apologize for content. I fix it. I don’t understand why this dumpster fire of a chapter in this narrative has not been changed to be more inclusive. It’s more than ‘Where do you go get your hair braided,’ and ‘Can I use V05 on this black child’s hair?’ and buying the book ‘Crowns’. This is really superficial junk and I think that there is a real need, particularly for parents that are interested in transracial adoptions wherein the child is the person of color, they need some more intensive reality checks on the front end so they understand how white supremacy moves and works in the world.” (1)
Adoptive Training: Lacking the Black Experience
There is so much more to the black experience than appearances. Adoptive and foster parents are often trained in detail about how to care for black hair and appreciate black culture. What isn’t often covered is how to navigate as a black person in a world where being black can mean the difference between getting a job and being passed over, or even between getting hurt or killed and being left alone. (2) If parents aren’t able to impart this part of the black experience to their children they won’t be able to send their black child into the world with all the tools they need to succeed.
Adoptive Parenting: Being Profiled Out of Parenthood.
Black adoptive parents face other obstacles, besides the absence of their lived experience in trainings. Over and over the black adoptive parents who are willing to tell some of the things they face when caring for children who aren’t black can tell stories of people that can’t believe a black parent would be the guardian of a white child. Some Black adoptive parents talk about strangers eyeing them across a parking lot, or even coming up to them to accuse them of having a child that isn’t theirs. Sometimes this ends in the stranger calling the police on them for having the non-black child with them and requiring them to produce paperwork to prove their connection to the child. (3) As a white parent of children of other races the most I have gotten from a stranger is a banal comment about all the children I was babysitting. I have never had to produce paperwork to prove I have a right to care for any of my children.
Adoptive Support: Speaking out and Finding Community
Statistically white parents are still the biggest representative group among adopters. (4) Some would argue the reason for that is for years hurdles have been put in the way of black families that wanted to adopt because of racial biases within the system. (5) There is also the issue that as a country we know that poor families are more likely to be non-white, so there can be financial hurdles some black families might face. (6) These days though, bit by bit, there are black parents reaching out about what they face and showing us that they are there and ready to let us know the truth about black adoptive parents.(give examples of bloggers, and others) There are also organizations out there who are trying to help black adoptive families come together and even find financial support for adoptions like the Adoptive Parents of Color Collective, which is a project striving to tell the stories of adoptive parents of Color and connect them to each other to form community. (7)
There is still a gap between the experience of white and black adoptive parents. Maybe now in this new age of information we can take advantage of the black adoptive parents who are willing to help understand how to level the playing field in adoption, and take action.
Listen to the Podcast
The Black Adoptive Parent Experience with Adoptive Black Mom
Mom, Adoptive Black. Interview by Charlyn Spiering. “The Black Adoptive Experience with Adopt.” Adoption Uncovered, 30 Aug. 2022. , http://www.adoptionuncovered.com/episodes/the-black-adoptive-parent-with-adoptive-black-mom.
Anderer, John. “There’s a ‘hidden cost’ of being Black in America, study says.” Study Finds, 1 Oct. 2021, http://www.studyfinds.org/hidden-cost-being-black/.
Garlinghouse, Rachel. “Black Parents Who Adopt White Kids Face Unique Challenges.” Scary Mommy, 13 May 2020, http://www.scarymommy.com/five-black-parents-adopted-white-children .
Zill, Nicholas. “The Changing Face of Adoption in the United States.” IFS, 8 Aug. 2017, ifstudies.org/blog/the-changing-face-of-adoption-in-the-united-states#:~:text=Multiracial%20Adoptive%20Families%20Have%20Become%20Common&text=The%20specific%20proportions%20were%2090,and%2055%.
Duston, Leonard, et al. “Start Fining States That Discriminate Against African American Foster and Adoptive Families.” The Imprint, 26 Jan. 2021, imprintnews.org/opinion/start-fining-states-discriminate-african-american-foster-adoptive-families/50887.
Woodson, Joy. “As a Single Black Woman I Was Discouraged From Adopting—Here’s How I Made Space for My Family.” Parents, 28 June 2022, http://www.parents.com/kindred/as-a-single-black-woman-i-was-deterred-from-adopting-heres-how-i-made-space-for-my-family/ .