Recently there has been some discussion around trans (or inter) racial adoption, with people having varying views around the subject. I thought I’d try to put across some of my thoughts around the subject, and the reasons why I have them….
So, I have quite strong views about inter-racial adoption as it is a subject that is very personal to me. This is because I myself am interracially adopted (30years ago), and last year I adopted my daughter who does not share either mine or my husband’s ethnicities. My parents are both White British, and I am ethnically Asian. I was adopted directly from my country of birth when my parents worked there in the late 80s. I identify myself as British as that’s what my family is, and since I was adopted in the UK I have held a British passport. I don’t call them my adoptive family or adoptive parents because ever since I can remember they’ve been my parents, the only ones I’ve ever known. I have 5 siblings, all of whom are adopted from different countries (including the UK). My parents also foster carers, and have fostered children of different ethnicities. As you can see, adoption, and particularly inter-racial adoption are a big part of our lives.
I feel (from experience) that when done right, inter-racial adoption can be very positive and beneficial. It has worked brilliantly in my family because for us it seems normal, and I’ sure this was a big big plus point in our match with our daughter. She’ll grow up not feeling out of place in a family where we all look different. She’ll grow up, hopefully like I have, feeling proud to be part of a family that has celebrated and embraced differences. My parents have worked hard to achieve this. We did live in most of the countries we are adopted from, so do have that knowledge and experience of culture etc, so that helps with that connection. We have lots of shared memories of these places, and talk about them regularly. My parents also helped us to complete a project about our birth countries, which included a visit back when we were older. I think that my parent’s open-ness and effort to talk about adoption from the beginning has massively helped. I was talking to our social worker about how to help our daughter know she’s adopted, and I told her I can’t remember a time I didn’t know. She advised I ask my parents how they achieved that, so I did. They said they talked about adoption from day 1, and always presented all the facts, even if it was before we would fully understand, this way nothing was a surprise when we got to the stage when could comprehend our stories.
Adoption has always been celebrated in our family, with a ‘homecoming day’ each to celebrate the day we came home. I still mark that day now, 30years on, and can’t wait to do that for my little girl. Like any parent, they unconditionally loved (still do) us, and so we were very clear in the knowledge that we were very much loved, desired and cherished children. I think this has helped me shape my identity in our family, and I don’t think I’ve ever really questioned my place in my family. We did attract some attention, but I don’t remember this to be negative, just people being curious. In the UK we lived in a predominately white area, but again I don’t remember it bothering me, again I think this was due to the strong family identity we had, we knew we belonged together so not much else mattered.
When I was adopted 30years ago inter-racial adoption was unusual, my parents actually had to move to an area of the UK that supported it. I get the feel that even in today’s climate it is not as common as maybe it should be 30years on. During our assessment we had a social worker who seemed quite anti inter-racial adoption. I think she thought that any match should be an exact match. She left the agency half way through our stage one, we were actually quite pleased as we don’t think we would have worked very well together given our different views on the subject. I totally understand that inter-racial adoption should be done sensitively and always with the child’s best interest at heart. Adoptive parents should make sure that the child has opportunities to explore their ethnicity and origins, including culture, history etc. Families should be able to demonstrate how they might meet specific needs, or promote certain attributes, and how their support network can support them. For example, my daughter’s hair takes some looking after, no one in my family has hair like it. I was able to tell the social workers that I have friends’ children have similar hair, so I’d take tips from them. I have, and they’ve been a great help.
I know that in adoption love can’t fix it all, but all children need love, and if there are parents who don’t look like the child, but they are willing to love, nuture, and help the child discover their unique identity, then they shouldn’t be over-looked in a match. I am very grateful to the social workers (both ours and our daughter’s) as they were all able to see us for who we are, not just for what we look like. It didn’t matter that we didn’t exactly match as we were able to demonstrate how we will work hard to make sure our daughter has opportunities to learn about her background and personal story. I hope that as she grows my daughter can take some comfort from knowing that like her I don’t look like my parents. I hope that I can help her be proud to inter-racially adopted, and have a strong self identity just like I do.