Hair care.  I swear before adopting a Black child the focus on how to parent a Black child was all about the hair.  Don’t get me wrong, knowing how to properly care for Black hair as a White parent is extremely important, but its far from where the focus should be.

Future transracial adoptive families need to step into what it means to be a bridge building transracial adoptive family.  What does that mean?  To start with, it mean acknowledging your child’s race and all that comes with it.  Avoiding the idea of being colorblind or that love is enough, but rather seeing your child’s race as a vital part of who they are and what their life experiences will look like.

Getting to that place is not simple or easy, but it starts by moving the focus away from surface issues and onto harder questions of self-examination.  For these questions I focused on White families adopting Black children, but the terms are interchangeable for whatever race of child you are and the child you will be adopting is.

  1. Will your Black child be the first Black person to spend considerable amounts of time in your home?

If you don’t have any Black friends that you are close enough to you that they are regularly in your home to play with your kids or eat dinner around your table, it may not be the right time to add a Black child to your family.

This is because understanding racial issues starts in relationship.  While it can be an academic exercise of watching films or reading books, the real work of racial reconciliation and bridge building happens in the context of community.  If you are not part of that effort yet, then I would put off adopting transracially until you are better prepared to walk that road with your child.

2. Will my child be the only Black child in their neighborhood and/or school?

This is key for so many reasons.  First off, its important for you child as they grow up to be around people that look like them and share their experiences.  Being the only Black child in their neighborhood or school when they are already one of (or the only) Black person in their family is isolating to your prospective child.  If your child doesn’t see you valuing living around people that look different than you, what does that say to them about your choice to adopt a child that looks different?

Adopting transracially can mean making bold choices for the sake of your whole family.  Those choices may include moving to a different neighborhood, switching schools, or maybe even making a larger change if you realize no where in your near vicinity has many people of color.  This isn’t only valuable to your child, but to your whole family.  It allows you all to involve yourselves in the work of bridge building and expanding your understanding of others.

3.      Am I willing to be brave for the sake of my child?

The immediate answer may feel like it should be an automatic yes, but the reality can be much harder.  What will your response be when a close family member or friend makes a racist joke?  What about when you start being aware of micro-aggressions against your child; do you feel prepared to speak out against them?  It can be hard, and it almost always means loss of relationships with people in your life.  If that’s not something you as of yet feel ready to take on, then taking on transracial adoption probably isn’t the right choice for your family.

Transracial adoption can be beautiful, but as with any form of adoption, there is loss as well.  With transracial adoption though there is not only the loss of birth family, there is a loss of growing up in your culture.  As parents, its our job to minimize the effects of this loss of culture as much as possible.  Showing your child that you value people of color by having them in your life as friends, neighbors, role models, and leaders is an incredibly valuable place to start.

Hair care is much easier to google.  Or better yet, you will be able to ask one of the many people in your life who have similar hair.


Books I recommend:

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria? 

In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption


behrens-81Elizabeth is a mom of four children, two biologically and two through the gift of adoption.  She keeps herself busy leading Bridge Building groups, listening to audio books, and volunteering as a child advocate through CASA. You can follow her family’s story at



One Comment

  1. MARCUSM September 12, 2016 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    I feel that a person before having any kids should make peace with God, whoever one says He is! What I know is that God is good(everything about us, the universe, and the things around us are too complex to be explained away–even scientists are admitting it now–without a higher power at its source. He’s good, because what did He ever need from us: His creations–if He is powerful enough to create and sustain the universe? Instead He creates it for us). He is a He, too, because men are the leaders everywhere and from the very beginning. Why not make women the leaders on the earth that He created–if He is omnific and omniscient?! Those places should be where you start in your God search. Why is that important?! Well, if you’re about to partake in the toughest job there is, then at least you have a God and Friend who has all the answers and solutions. I thought that you gave some great answers otherwise, but I do find it have to avoid the “Losing Isaiah” syndrome. Remember how Isaiah’s family loved white people more than blacks simply because his family was white. His relationships would probably be white, without quarter given to blacks at all(and he was dark-skinned). He’d probably think like a white man, because that’s all he’s ever known. At some point, he’s going to get a racist BA–if not a master’s or Phd–education for being a white world more so than he would just living a black life. He’ll just get more attention by cops, spotlighters(people watching and gosipping), racist family/friends(who you did not know were racist), etc. You’ll have to be more bold than any other child you could possibly raise, because blacks are enemy number 1 for racist whites in America. Also, racist whites are more progressive with racism than any other group; the white person is never in any real danger, but the child always is. There racism is a I’ma put something disgusting in your food, I’ma profile you, I’ma grade your test/papers harder than anybody else in a way that is subtle, I’ma beat you eat bad so that you get the message, I’ma not give you the loan or job that I know you qualify for(if the child starts dating).

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