I am adopted, I am a person of color in a Caucasian home. My hope when writing this is that I could provide insight and understanding through my firsthand experience as a transracial adoptee. I hope my story sheds light on many of the harder realities of adoption, often not talked about.
I ache for the parents who longed for this information but did not have the opportunity to receive it.
- Adoption is not charity work. Please do not adopt because you “feel bad” for all the children in orphanages and in the foster care system. There is plenty in this world to feel bad about.
- Do not adopt because you want to be a “good” person or look like a “good” person. I do not think I need to say more here. Adoption is not about you or a reflection of your character.
- You need to understand trauma. Where there is adoption, there is trauma. This includes any type of adoption (infant/non infant, open/closed). There is significant research that supports this. Will this manifest itself differently in every case? Yes. But you need to understand the trauma your adoptive infant/child/teenager/adult has experienced. My suggestion: do your research on trauma and adoption, educate yourself. Trauma is something an adoptee will navigate their entire life. Are you prepared to navigate that with them?
- You need to see the benefit of mentorship and counseling and implement that in your home. One of the greatest resources parents have is other families that have navigated adoption. Use them. You are not an expert because you’ve read a book. Put aside your pride and ask for help. Everyone in the family should be in counseling. This includes you as a parent and your biological children, if any. Your best asset is your ability to empathize and create a safe environment where your adoptive child feels the freedom to process and express their story.Even if you are very well read on the topic, you will always have much to learn.If you do not see a benefit in mentorship or counseling, you are doing the biggest disservice to yourself and your family and I strongly urge you not to adopt.
- Adoption is not a secret. Not telling a child they are adopted is quite possibly the worst thing a parent could do to an adopted child. Conversations about adoption should happen from the start. Please do not wait until your child is old enough to learn they are adopted. Honesty and affirmation are key. Be honest with your adoptive child about their story. Adding more details as they get older is developmentally appropriate, especially if there are traumatic events that surround their story that they may not be able to understand until they are older. Affirm your child that they are part of the family, seen and valued, celebrating their differences.
- You need to understand the role of race and ethnicity. If you adopt a child that is a different ethnicity than your family, you need to understand this greatly impacts your child in negative ways. 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 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.
My sister who is a Caucasian adoptee did not face the same challenges as me when it came to race.
In my opinion, the best way to adopt a child of color is to adopt two children of color. Having a sibling that is walking a similar story allows for a deeper sense of connection, more secure feelings of belonging and empathy.
- Be willing to acknowledge the birth mom. You discredit her courage and sacrifice when you keep her a secret or purposely avoid talking about her because it is hard. There will be times your adopted child needs to talk about her, be receptive of this. Will this be uncomfortable? Yes, it might be. Especially when your adoptive child starts asking questions you do not want to answer or are not prepared to answer. Are you willing to walk into that messiness with empathy, grace, vulnerability and love?Adoptive mothers, please always remember, speaking about her does not diminish your role as a mother.
- Understand empathy and its role in your relationship with your adopted child. Empathy fuels connection. Empathy changes everything. If you are unsure what empathy embodied in a healthy relationship looks like, google search: Brene Brown and empathy.
Ramya Gruneisen | Saint Louis, MO
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I would love to hear your story or answer any questions you may have. You may reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A special thanks to:
Mom and dad who saw the benefit of mentorship, counseling, and prayer. You did an amazing job and I love you both more than anything in the world.
Christi Brandenstein at CrossRoads Counseling for helping me process all the hard things.