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So, you wanna adopt a Black kid?: Black Folk 201

I think it’s absolutely wonderful when people tell me they want to adopt, but from time to time I’ll hear people say things that make me go “hmmm.”

My favorite line is “Ooh, I want one.” Referring to a black child. Kids aren’t puppies. You don’t buy one from a breeder, or pick one out at a shelter. It’s a human being, and you get what you get.

I don’t know if it’s because Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock made it cool, but for a while I was beginning to wonder if it was some kind of strange fad.

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When I lived in Utah I saw this all over the place. I’m going to be honest, at first I was a little concerned. I met mothers frustrated with their daughter’s kinky black hair who didn’t have a clue how to manage it, and black children who had never seen people who look like them. And worse… reading stories of parents who abused these children. Thankfully the latter was not as common.

When I attended Black Student Union at BYU, there were events for these families to come and socialize with one another and, I guess, let their kids see other children who look like them. I asked the parents how they came about adopting transracially and heard a variety of responses.

One mother told me she wanted a biracial child because she thinks they’re adorable, another told me the waiting list was so long for white children so they broadened their search. Another told me it was more affordable.

A baby on sale? That broke my heart, but I’m giving them all the benefit of the doubt. While their initial intentions may have been questionable to me, I pray they’re loving parents.

These days my feelings aren’t so harsh toward families who want to adopt transracially. In fact, I think it’s great that people can open their hearts to children who don’t even look like them, and take them in as their own forever. It’s a sad fact, but according to some studies, black children are 7 times less desirable than other children. This is why there are programs that offer subsidies to help families adopting a black child. And let’s face it… There aren’t enough black families adopting either.

I think (hope) counselors do this anyway but I’ve thought of some advice for parents choosing to adopt a black child.

1. Learn how to manage black hair: Take a class, ask for help, do what you’ve gotta do so your daughter doesn’t have a matted mess that can’t be tamed and has to be cut.
2. Study black-culture and history to share with your child.
3. Have a variety of books, dolls, and toys that show people who look like them too.
4. Get involved in diverse play groups, so your child can see others who also look like them.

I also found a helpful article with more information on transracial adoption.

Actually, I think the list above is great for anyone. Being in an interracial marriage myself I am trying to be more aware of my daughter’s growing variety of books, dolls and immersion.

When people say “Black babies are so cute!” Not that I don’t agree, but is that specifically why you’d want to adopt a child? Ultimately a family is a family. Love is most important, and you don’t have to look like your children to love them.

Someday I’d like to adopt, possibly after I have one more biological child. But I’d like to think that race wouldn’t be a deciding factor in my decision.

I’m interested in hearing from others who have considered or who have adopted transracially. What has your experience been? Would you adopt outside of your race?


We adopted transracially for none of the above stated reasons (we are now a tricultural family). Our son’s birthparents thought we would be the best parents for their baby and we wanted to be parents. We live in a multicultural neighbourhood, know lots of other black kids and families. AND, I might add where I am from, adoption expenses relating to adopting a child locally of any race are the same. It disgusts me that there would be a difference. I’ve written extensively about adoption on my blog. There are many wonderful adoptive parents who care about their child’s roots, who make connections, and love their children for who they are. Adoption is not a fad. It’s a way to create a family.

And … we are head over heels in love with our son. He’s just the most crazy, awesome, hilarious kid. He made our lives complete.

Harriet, you rock! And you said it best… it’s not a fad, a way to create a family. I hope we can add to ours that way someday too.

Maya says:

I get frustrated by the parents I hear saying “well, we don’t see race. It won’t be an issue in our household.” Coming from a biracial household, race comes up. I think transracial adoption can be great, but I wish parents would understand that there really isn’t such thing as race blindness. Sooner or later, your kids are going to realize they don’t look like you and at some point, learning about their ethnic culture – whatever that is – might be important to them. So, I really agree with you that parents should study some culture and history to share with their child.

We plan to start the adoption process in about a year. We’d love to adopt a child of latino descent, since I am latina, but that’s not a requirement for us.

Genuine question: When you adopt a child of a different ethnicity, are there classes that are mandatory to take? Like, ones that cover cultural issues?

Maya, where I live course in transracial adoption and racism are mandatory. I live in BC Canada.

MinneMom says:

My husband and I have talked about adopting sometime down the line. As for race, like you said, whatever we get, we get. My goal in adopting is to give a child a home they wouldn’t have otherwise. If that child is black, white, Indian, Asian, so be it. <3 I do appreciate your list of things to do before adopting a baby of a different race. Not something you would normally think to do!

Jasmine says:

I don’t know from experience, but my husband is biracial and we have talked a lot about what it was like growing up for him. Kids are mean, and any parent who will build a supportive and loving foundation for their child has my vote.

I also think that it is amazing when parents willingly embrace a child regardless of color. It’s about love and that is the love God instructs us to have. I stumbled upon an awesome blog (www.whitesugarbrownsugar.com) of a transracial-adoption family and the mom’s “hair journey” with her girls…

In all honesty, I am so happy I started with a boy, because even as a Black woman, I just figured out how to do my own hair right…So that whole argument about Black parents doing Black kids’ hair better is null and void when applied to me…haha

Iiona says:

Another site to check out is: http://www.keepmecurly.com/

this is a transracial adoption and seriously I am a brown mommy of a brown child and I got to her site to get ideas and tutorials… She is good!!!!

The site is about how to do her brown babies hair, she adopted 3 I think and has one biological. She also has a friend that has a site about doing hair and seriously I stay checking out both sites 🙂

Traci says:

I guess I thought people adopted interracially because that’s where they felt the need was. I know a few couples adopting from Ethiopia right now. I don’t think they are doing it just because they want a black baby.

I didn’t know people adopted children just because they think they are cute. that’s really really sad if that’s the only reason why they’re adopting a specific child.

I have a friend who is half black and half white, she married a white man. She does not have kinky hair but her 1/4 black and 3/4 white daughter does so she has to buy special hair products her. I know that’s totally random but I though that was kind of funny.

Traci says:

Oh and aren’t ALL babies cute? I mean really..black, white, Asian, Indian heck even animal babies. People need better reasons to adopt than just because they are cute.

jennie w. says:

Did you ever hear the episode of This American Life about the babydoll named Nubbins? It’s pretty interesting and pertinent to this discussion (listen to the whole story. You’ll like it). Hopefully this is the right link:
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/play_full.php?play=347&act=3

toi says:

Race shouldn’t matter when you want to give parental love to a child. Learning about your adopted child’s background is very good for both parent and child.

Jennie that’s way sad! Holy cow! But what an interesting story to share and remember. I think I’d rather people adopt black kids cause “they’re cute” than hear of stories like that all over the world. … If it’s one or the other. Yikes!

Great post! I’m not at all offended my the person who wanted to adopt a black child because he/she is cute. I actually appreciate that this person appreciates the beauty. Growing up black I didn’t feel as much love as my lighter skinned siblings. That’s a whole other post I’ll get into another time. The other reasons you mentioned are totally insane. The nerve of some people!

Love the tips you give! It’s so funny because I just went shopping and saw one of those tabloid magazines while I was standing in line. Zahara’s hair was a mess! I said “Look at what Angelina’s doing to this poor little girls hair.” I heard a giggle coming from the black lady in front of me. I didn’t realize I said it out loud. I think the lady agreed with me though.

I agree with all 4 tips on your list. I went to college with a BLack friend who grew up as an adopted child of White parents, she also had siblings of various ethnicities and backgrounds. Although, I think these parents motives for adopting and creating a multiracial family were genuine and sincere, and I thank God that she grew up loved and taken care of. However, she went through a supreme identity crisis and depression in college. She had never really been around Black people before, she had not reall been exposed to positive images of Blacks, she had little exposure to Black history – like many of us. But, We were at a 95% white school, and b/c of that there were a lot of racism both personal and institutional and she had never had to deal with her Blackness in that way before.She had been oblivious to discrimination and cultural insensitivities she had experienced as a child b/c she was always the only one around. Once she got to college and there were only 45 Black people out of 3000 there, she became interested in the issues we were speaking out on and acting on. It was a huge culture shock to her, but there were times that she really couldn’t relate or didn’t feel comfortable with us. However, she also didn’t feel comfortable around her White peers either. It was a very difficult terrain for her, and her parents though well intentioned couldn’t offer her the understanding that she needed to navigate that system.

Natalie says:

I tease my husband telling him his family looks like the United Nations. His parents adopted 7 children (+had 6 biological) and it didn’t matter race or age (7 total!). My FIL and MIL are saints. Now that we struggle with infertility, we talk about adoption as it becomes a real option. Would I adopt? Yes! Would it be across races? Honestly, I don’t know. I would like to think I would but then again, due to cultural awareness it would be so much easier if baby were Latino, Black or mixed (as my husband and I are). But I won’t write if off because really, u don’t know what u will do until u get to that bridge.

Emilie says:

While it may have been tacky for that mother to say her child was “more affordable,” that’s probably not how she meant it. When you’re infertile and adoption is your only way to create a family, it’s impossible to ignore the cost involved. I may eventually adopt, and at that point, I would accept and unconditionally love any baby available to me. But I won’t have unlimited fund, which could affect any “selection” process I may have. I’m probably not explaining myself very well, but I don’t think it’s really fair to judge people when you don’t know the whole story.

Emilie, I’m not judging her for trying to find an affordable way to have a family, what concerned me was the fact that when asked “why a black child?” out of curiosity, that was the first thing to come up. Personally, I don’t think you can put a price on a child, and the fact that in some instances black children are “discounted”, just doesn’t feel right to me. Maybe it’s not the mom who said that who’s bothering me, but rather the system.

Joya says:

Awesome post! I really loved the four tips in your article. Cheers!

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Erin Marie says:

I love Lindsey at http://www.therhouse.com/

She talks about open adoption as well as transracial adoption. If I remember correctly (and am not mixing her up with other blogs I’ve read), she participates in a group/community so that her two boys will have access to that part of themselves and their culture. She can’t teach them what it’s like to be part-black or part-latino, but they spend time with these people so that they WILL have those role models in their life.

She loves any books, dolls, toys, etc that have children that look like her boys. And I believe she gives some of their favorite books to their teachers as gifts so their classroom also books with children who look like them.

She also talks about how parents need to be fully aware of what transracial adoption is like BEFORE they adopt. And she states that it’s NOT for everyone.

I just love her blog and her, and her two boys are SO adorable.

Luciana says:

Ha! I never thought I’d be writing about adoption on your blog. My blogroll consists mostly of adoption blogs. But since you mention it… We’re an American family living in the Middle East for about 2 and half years now. My dream has always been to adopt. We have a bio daughter and hubby is finally on board to adopt. We’re looking into Ethiopia and look forward to having our son in our home in about a year or so. We always agreed that we’d adopt trans-racially (China/Ethiopia). We’re a very traveled, culturally diverse family and don’t see anything wrong or “weird” about having a child that looks a little different than our bio daughter. As a matter of fact, we have family members of the same blood who look completely different from each other, so really…
To answer your questions, YES, we will be required to take courses on ethnicity among other things as bonding and attachment, behavior, etc… Most of us AP’s (adoptive parents) do “extra homework”. We research, read blogs, others’ experiences, etc…
If you’re inclined to read a few blogs (Ethiopia-related) you will find many wonderful ones here:
http://ethiopianadoptionblogs.blogspot.com/

Best regards and warm wishes,

Luciana

P.S. if your heart is tugging and you’re inclined to adopt, I suggest you start researching now. You’ll be so happy you did 😉

When we eventually get out of Graduate School (7 more months!!) and finally pay off all the dept from it (hopefully only about 4-5 yrs) THEN we can finally adopt. I’ve always wanted to adopt a child from China and one from Africa. Yes, the kids are adorable, but I think most babies are adorable, and when they are yours (either through blood or adoption) they are even more adorable to you. The main reason I’ve wanted to adopt like this was the stories I was told. As a teen I worked in a retail store and there was a customer who was into international adoption. She told me of the atrocities these children faced and it broke my heart, and I told myself I was going to try to save some of them, even if I could only save one of them. I know there are lots of children in this country that need to be adopted (we also plan on being foster parents and we’ll probably end up adopting that way too) but I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, and I feel that’s what’s right for our family. I had even talked about this with my husband LONG before it became “cool”.
Good information though. I’m one of those crazy freaks who when I start to look into the adoptions I’ll probably be going crazy over preparing and reading and researching every thing I can, gosh, I’ve even done that with the children I’ve given birth to, so why would adoption be different, right?

I love that you decided to blog about this. I love your perspective.

It saddens me that black children are least likely to be adopted. It’s a big reason why I’m seriously considering adopting when I start a family. I want to have my own children, but I also agree that there are not enough people of color considering adoption. And less face it, there just lower levels of infertility in our community.

So I say THANK YOU to the LDS white families who are adopting black children. The foster system is no way to grow up, contrast that with a hopefully wonderful LDS family? It’s a win-win.

I hate the “biracial children are so beautiful” objectification thing that happens. I grew up with it, and it’s just wrong. I can’t tell you how many times people I don’t know touch my hair or skin, it’s okay, and I’m not some crazy who flips out, but I would never go up to someone and touch them without asking. It happens ALL the time. We live in a culture where there are fewer boundaries for people of color, especially mixed people and truly, mixed women. Don’t even get me started on the oversexualization of black and mixed women in our culture.

I could go on and on and on. But I won’t, lol.

Q+U says:

Awesome post Jenn! When Oprah had Chris Rock on her show I think it would have benefited to have a more educational discussion like this vs. them snickering on about how Oprah looked like a slave in her childhood pic. SMH. Talk about self-hate (a whole other blog post . . .).

Anyway, amen to point #1 and just wanted to share a few links on that specific issue:

1) The blog Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care is so well done and is worth checking out; the mom’s open letter to ppl who feel the need to touch her adoptive daughter’s hair rocks: http://www.chocolatehairvanillacare.com/

2) an interview with a white dad of an Ethiopian daughter who learned to do her hair with the great pics in the article that’s linked within: http://www.rainbowkids.com/articledetails.aspx?id=514

3) Girls Love Curls has awesome kinky hair tutorials on You Tube which I intend to use when my daughter’s hair grows out: http://www.facebook.com/GirlsLoveYourCurls

If we saw mainstream images of multi-ethnic beauty it wouldn’t be so foreign to everyone! We’re constantly bombarded by white standards of beauty which becomes the norm when instead we should celebrating all hair and beauty types.

I have never adopted as I am only 21 but my boyfriends family has 2 adopted children and 4 foster children that they are beginning the processes of adoption my boyfriends family is all white..they adopted the two from China, they said God told them that was what they needed to do so they did so..their 4 foster children are 1/3 black and 2/3 hispanic (one is actually albino). In that house it doesn’t matter what color you are you get love regardless (and they give love like crazy back to you!) I think the family determined their adoptions on what God wanted them to do and what they prayed about NOT what color they are or where they are from. They do a GOTCHA day for both of the chinese sisters and they do a chinese theme, they both wanting to learning chinese and know a LOT about the culture. The 4 foster children have a mixed racial dolls and are VERY diverse. I think it’s all about your intensions in life and my boyfriends families intentions are to giving these children with TERRIBLE situations a better life. <3

Until I became best friends with Shayna (who is black), I wasn’t bothered by wild and untamed hair of biracial children. I wasn’t bothered about ashy knees or hair in dire need of a tape. But, in being friends with her, I now recognize how much those things can affect the treatment of your bi-racial or black child. Makes me want to teach a class (and I’m white) to the mothers who just don’t know any better. Kudos to you for spreading the word. 🙂

Awesome post!…

THIS is what really stuck out to me: “4. Get involved in diverse play groups, so your child can see others who also look like them.”

This is so important, in situations like transracial adoption. Heck, I think it’s important in any situation.

I’m biracial and remember many people thinking that I was adopted when I would be out & about with my white mother. I would hear so much about how cute I was, and my mom would always counter with something about my achievements in school or my personality. It used to annoy me, but now, with a daughter who is 1/4 white, 3/4 black, I know exactly what my mom was going through. It really gets under my skin when “cute” biracial kids are confined to being just that.

Someone above posted about her friend having an identity crisis as she became an adult, and I have seen the same thing happen with a couple of black girls growing up in a white family/school/community. Not knowing how exactly to fit in. They were confused and just lost, and the older I get, the more I wish I had done something for them.

I also agree that living in the “I don’t see color” frame of mind will do more harm than good when raising a child of another race.

Marie says:

My cousins wanted children and couldn’t have any of their own. Their daughter is black and was almost 2 when they got her, they fell in love with her and had to have her because of the bond they felt, not because she was black.

A couple of years later they purposely adopted a black baby son so they would have each other.

My cousin is GREAT in immersing them in their culture and the kids are my favorites, I love them both!!!! So glad to have them in our family.

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Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget

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I'm a former journalist, and lifelong creator striving to make the world a better place. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day by cherishing our individuality and celebrating our differences.



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