Transracial Adoption

November is National Adoption Month, and to celebrate all the beautiful adoptive families out there, BTSF will be featuring several posts discussing race, faith, and adoption. Today, we will get an overview of some of the considerations for transracial adoption, and later in the month hear form some families with first-hand   experience. We welcome other thoughts, knowing that there is much to learn. 

Adoption is a beautiful manifestation of God’s love for us. In the same way that God welcomes us into His family, we have the opportunity to reflect His love in a powerful way by bringing a child in need into our home. God “predestined us to be adopted as His children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” and He has a similar plan to bring families together here on earth.

Transracial adoption further reflects the beauty of God’s Kingdom by joining in unity the diversity of God’s creation. It is a unique opportunity to become intimately bound with one another, and to bear with each others’ burdens. Joining together across race to form a family offers white folks in particular a plethora of insights that they might not otherwise have. It is an opportunity for education that is wholly transformative, molding colorblind ‘not racists’ into active allies for justice.

That being said, the very need for education among white folks can make transracial adoption problematic. There are some well-intentioned adoptive parents that really have no idea about race in modern America (“isn’t that what the agency’s ‘diversity training day’ is for?”). Some may believe that love is all their child of color will need, and that it will be basically the same as raising a white child.
But these are often the same folks that think racism is only about hate crimes, that ‘reverse racism’ is alarmingly out of control, and that talking about race just perpetuates the problem. A lot white folk hold to these beliefs dearly, so it stands to reason that such thoughts persist after adoption day.

It is important for all children to have a solid foundational understanding of the contributions of POCs to our modern society, yet this education is severely lacking in schools. Parents that are under-prepared in their own education are ill-equipped to provide such a grounding for their children. White parents adopting transracially must be vigilant in their own education for the sake of their children. They must be sure to instill in their children a self confidence, knowledge of their history, and love of their race that will serve as a foundation against the constant barrage of marginalization that comes in life. 

Without careful preparation, children of color may end up in white ‘colorblind’ homes with parents inadvertently perpetrating daily microaggressions (“we don’t have a lot of POCs in our neighborhood, but everyone is really nice and accepting, so our kids will be fine!”). Otherwise, kids are raised to believe that racism is a thing of the past and that it will have no bearing on their lives. They may be raised to believe that the white history taught in their schools is the only history out there, and that the beauty standards on the TV are the only features a spouse will ever want.

Understandably, white parents often want to live into our hopes for the world. But without an understanding of the realities around us, this practice sets children up for a rude awakening when they inevitably encounter the racialized world. Then, when that reality hits, children are unprepared, and isolated from the support to process through it. Parents who think that racism largely consists of overt acts of hate, will be unprepared to advise/relate to (or even believe!) the daily smog of microaggressions that their child faces.

Finally, there is a historic baggage of white folk’s systematically removing Black, Asian, and Native American children from their ‘savage’ parents to raise them as ‘civilized’ white people. It is even still happening today (See: South Dakota Foster Care and Deportation Adoption). We must understand that these events effect how we approach transracial adoption (with respect and sensitivity).

Unequivocally, I support transracial adoption. There is far too much need on both sides of the parent/child equation to believe otherwise. There is tremendous opportunity to receive God’s grace through the gift of both cis- and transracial adoption. Furthermore, white folks that encourage within-race adoption sound dangerously like the anti-intermixing, racial-superiority arguments of old, which opens the door for those that feel we aught to ‘stick to our own.’  
There are many great parents out there that have navigated transracial adoption elegantly. At the end of the day, transracial adoption issues aren’t that much different than the general racial education issues we have elsewhere. White folks need to immerse themselves in situations where they are the minority, and bury themselves in literature written by POCs (not just others talking about POCs–stay tuned for the ‘Friday Round Up’ for some good recs!). White folks need to talk about race-A LOT. To each other, to POCs, and ESPECIALLY to their children. Early and often, identifying race as the blessing from God that it is, and understanding that it is subject to the same consequence of a broken world as other blessings. 

I’d love to hear from our readers on this topic. There’s is a lot to delve into!

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Katelin Hansen is the editor of By Their Strange Fruit (BTSF), an online forum to facilitate justice and understanding across racial divides. BTSF explores how Christianity's often-bungled relationship with race and racism affects modern ministry and justice. Recognizing that racial brokenness hinders our witness to the world, BTSF strives to increase the visibly of healthy and holy racial discussion by approaching justice and reconciliation from a Christ-minded perspective Follow more conversations at