Tuesday’s Answers: Adopting in a "White" Community


Thank you to everyone who responded to this week’s Tuesday Topic. Renae asked:

We would love to adopt from Ethiopia one day, but we do not have a lot of other African(American) friends with children, and there are only a couple of African(American) children at our church at all! We homeschool our kids as well…so, what would your advice be about bringing an Ethiopian child into a very ”white” community? I don’t want her to feel isolated..

This is what you all had to say:

Kelli said..

I think it is important to remember first that God made us all these wonderful colors so the answer to the question should first be given to God. God can do such amazing things even if you do not live in a community with a large African American population.

I think the next thing to tackle is whether or not you will be willing as a parent to be sensitive to their racial needs. For example reading about problems that can occur like racism.

My husband and I are considering going to another church where they can experience more ethnicity. I don’t think churches get much whiter than ours! We love it but we also want our munchkins to see more “color” around them.

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Blogger neely said…

LOVE Melissa Fay Greene’s response to this question. (after you…she’s my favorite!)
http://thereisnomewithoutyou.com/blog?op=view&id=45

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Blogger Charlie said…

Our daughter adopted two deaf Ethiopian children and lives in the heart of the Ozarks.
The greatest “challenge” I have when they are with me is when people try to talk to them and don’t realize they are deaf.
In other words, they are well accepted.
Mostly people just comment on how beautiful they are.
They are right. Ethiopia makes beautiful babies.
CharlieDelete

Blogger Mamita J said…

Our daughter is Hispanic and our community is mostly light-skinned. I don’t have a lot of wisdom about this yet, because she is only 6 and has been home 18 months.

One thing we do is always use descriptive words when talking about people instead of “race” words. We’ll say things like, “the girl with very light skin and blond, blond hair” or “the boy with dark brown skin and short curly hair” or “the boy with light brown skin and glasses” or “the girl with long, curly, red hair and freckles”. I want my daughter to see the individual beauty in each person. There is a lot of diversity, even among people groups.

Right now, our daughter does not want to identify with other Hispanics. She does not want to hear Spanish. She’s proud to speak English and she doesn’t want to go back to Guatemala. I expect that will change as she gets older. Our goal is to make her secure in who she is and Whose she is. Then, as things come up, we’ll do our best to walk with her through them.

Blessings to you,
JulieDelete

Blogger Chere said…
When we adopted our son, Matt, from the Philippines, there were no dark-skinned people in our small community either. We live about 20 miles from a fairly large city, but our son went to school in a white community and didn’t suffer from discrimination. Now there are Korean, Indian, Native American, and African American students in our local school!Delete

Blogger J-momma said…

I think the first step is to examine your own upbringing and experiences in relation to other races, ethnicities, and cultures. It is probable that in your journey to creating a transracial family, you will realize you have prejudices and stereotypes of your own, even if unknowingly. That’s the first change. Then look at your house, your community, your family and friends. Are you surrounding yourself with welcoming images and people of other cultures? If not, maybe you could find a health care provider of a different race. You can find some community activities to join in a diverse area. Start collecting books, toys, dolls, and decorations from other cultures and races. Think about what movies you watch and what books are on your bookshelf. Also, start becoming comfortable talking about race. It shouldn’t be hidden or kept quiet. That only makes it seem more shameful. There is no secrecy in being black, having dark skin, or having light skin. Get used to talking in a matter of fact way, without judgment, about different cultures and about adoption. Maybe read up on what it’s like to be black, african, hispanic, asian, any minority in this country and in your community. Then get ready to talk about some tougher topics with your kids (at an age appropriate level). You will have to explain racism. You will have to explain slavery, segregation, prejudice, and even modern day racism (it still exists!). You will have to prepare your children to encounter that one day, and how to handle it. Find people of your child’s race in your community who could potentially be mentors to your child. Or at least start thinking about it. It’s a lot of work, and a lot to think about. At first it will seem unnatural but after a while, it will start getting easier. Then it will get hard again when your kids start asking questions šŸ™‚ It’s not for everyone. I think living in a diverse area is very important, unfortunately not a lot of people can do that. You can compensate but you have to really try. Anyway, that’s all I got!Delete
OpenID lorismusings said…
I must admit I didn’t realize the importance of this topic before we adopted so good for you that you are thinking about this now!

We live in a suburb of a large metropolitan area so there is access to lots of activities and cultural diversity that we can take part in.

We have also met several families (within a fairly close proximity) with kids from the same country our kids are from and I know how important it has been for them to have these connections. However, my girls have also really cherished relationships with other adopted children – no matter where they are from. In fact, home schooling can be a great way to expose children to other cultures and you are in control of how it is done! We are in a homeschool group that meets once a month and it has several families who have adopted from several different cultures. It is a wonderful learning tool and my girls love it! The group leader has even decided to take a culture each time we meet and use it for inspiration for our craft and teaching time.

Perhaps you could talk with a local adoption agency and see if they will give names of families in the area who have adopted from Ethiopia. They may not be in your church, but are close enough to get together on a semi-regular basis.

I think there are other ways to expose your adopted children to their culture as well – if you are purposed to do it.

I can’t say our family would move just to give my child the opportunity to live in an area where there are others from their culture, but if we were thinking of moving, I would certainly give that consideration in choosing a location to move to.Delete

Anonymous Anonymous said…
Love Isn’t Enough (formerly known as Anti-Racist Parent) has some good articles on this subject.

http://loveisntenough.com/Delete

Blogger shell said…
I did not think that was super important when we first were adopting. When we brought B and J home, we did our best to be around all different types of people, but it wasnt enough. J, at 3, starting asking me questions “why does no one look like me?, Why am I the only one who looks like this?, etc”. Tons of questions. On an almost daily basis. Last may, we made a move from the suburbs to the city. They went from a school 98% white to 20% white, 30% hispanic and 50% AA. i am not exaggerating when I say, since the day we moved in and started seeing African American people on a daily basis, he has not asked ONE TIME. It has been the best thing for all of us. Also, in talking with other friends who grew up w/white parents, they said the same thing. The hardest time in their lives was when they were put in situations where they were surrounded by mostly white people (one friend had only 5 black kids in is HS, was just relaying to me what a hard time it was). All that to say, we have to be SUPER sensitive to this. I am not saying don’t adopt because you live in a white community, but we need to open our eyes for our children’s sake. i am also reading a book right now called whitopia, about a black man who travels to the whitest cities in America. VERY interesting. Just my 2 cents being 3.5years into this journey.

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Blogger Laurel said…

When we started the adoption process 2.5 years ago, we lived in a VERY white community (of about 10,000 people) … with 1 black family in town, and a couple of older adopted children from Haiti. In the past 2.5 years, an unimaginable amount of families have begun the adoption journey. There are now 7 other children from Ghana … 4 new children from Ethiopia … 2 more from Haiti … and another 7 children in process from Ghana and Ethiopia. My point … you never know what the Lord can do. You may be the initiator of an amazing work of God.

Now … we moved to another (much smaller … only 2,000 population) community, and I think our children may be the only black children on the island. Oh well. Who knows what the Lord has in store for this community.

Our children have adjusted very well to being in the minority. And … they have been treated very well by both small communities that we have lived in.

Laurel
mama of 13

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Blogger Staci said…

I wrote Lisa about this last week but for some reason I don’t think it sent, so I will add my two cents here:
We are adopting two Ethiopian children into a predominantly white immediate family/community and we think about this all the time. Our family has a splash of Columbian- Uncle and cousins live in the same town which
we love- and we live in the greater Boston area which is very diverse, which means we have the opportunity to actively seek chances for our kids to have diverse friends. We go to parks closer to Boston where the families come from different countries, Haiti, India, Puerto Rico etc. We encourage friendships with children of different backgrounds, our house has a good number of dolls with darker skin and every trip we take to the library we get at least 4 books depicting characters with a different heritage. It doesn’t always have to be about African decent, books about families for Korea or Russia. We just are very thoughtful about making the “out of the norm” the norm. Our kids from Ethiopia will stand out in the current neighborhood where we live. And as we get closer to bringing them home, we have considered the possibility of moving a little bit closer to Boston for the sole purpose of bringing more “color” into our lives both at stores, at school, at church. We mentally are open to changing where we live and our normal patterns to accomodate the fact that through this adoption, we become a family of color and do not want to isolate our kids.

I know not everyone lives in a suburb of a diverse metropolis, and has the possibilty of moving a miniscule 15 miles to a better location. Not everyone wants to. I remember when we first started researching adoption I saw on message boards this discussion chain about whether or not adoptive families should be willing to change their lives like this. To me if felt extreme and judgemental to tell someone they had to change churches for their kids. Now, I understand why we would seriously consider doing this. (again, I feel lucky that my church has the same denomonation just a few miles away that is simply a more diverse congregation. I feel like we have options.)

For me, the more diversity I expose my bio kids to in prep for the Ethiopian kids, and the more friends they have of color, the better. The more books, images, they see of different cultures the better. We will see what happens when the kids get home.

I hope this makes sense! -Staci

 

I’m glad you all have done such a great job on answering this question. I’ll add a few thoughts to the mix.

The topic of skin color comes up regularly in our family and we talk very frankly about it. We compliment our children on their beautiful skin and hair, and affectionately call Eby our “Beautiful Brown Boy”.

My friend Signe and I formed a local Ethiopian adoption group which has expanded to include children adopted from other countries.Although we live in a small town, we are fortunate to have two universities within ten miles of our home which brings many international students and faculty from all over the world. Russ has one graduate student from Ethiopia and another from Nigeria.We make significant efforts to keep in touch with the girls’ friends from Ethiopia.

Despite that, I feel that we could do much more for our children. For now, we are working on healing hearts, attachment, and becoming a close family. That is all my plate can hold…but I hope our future brings many more African American friends, rich cultural experiences, and deep connections with our children’s homeland of Ethiopia.

~Lisa

 

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRIĀ® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Robin
    January 12, 2010

    Lisa….I would love to see other adoptive parents response to this: what ethnic box do you check when filling out forms for your internationally adopted child.

    Loved this post…and all the responses!

    Reply
  2. Jennifer T.
    January 12, 2010

    I have loved looking through your blog! I appreciate families who honestly broach the difficult subjects and the challenges of adoption/special needs children. Most people think I have a romantic, fully rewarding life caring for abandoned/street children/HIV + children here, not realizing how many struggles and disappointments we experience EVERY day.

    Many blessings on your beautiful family and non-profit!
    Jennifer
    Casa de Amor Children's Homes
    Bolivia (South America)

    Reply
  3. Staci
    January 12, 2010

    I wrote Lisa about this last week but for some reason I don't think it sent, so I will add my two cents here:
    We are adopting two Ethiopian children into a predominantly white immediate family/community and we think about this all the time. Our family has a splash of Columbian- Uncle and cousins live in the same town which
    we love- and we live in the greater Boston area which is very diverse, which means we have the opportunity to actively seek chances for our kids to have diverse friends. We go to parks closer to Boston where the families come from different countries, Haiti, India, Puerto Rico etc. We encourage friendships with children of different backgrounds, our house has a good number of dolls with darker skin and every trip we take to the library we get at least 4 books depicting characters with a different heritage. It doesn't always have to be about African decent, books about families for Korea or Russia. We just are very thoughtful about making the "out of the norm" the norm. Our kids from Ethiopia will stand out in the current neighborhood where we live. And as we get closer to bringing them home, we have considered the possibility of moving a little bit closer to Boston for the sole purpose of bringing more "color" into our lives both at stores, at school, at church. We mentally are open to changing where we live and our normal patterns to accomodate the fact that through this adoption, we become a family of color and do not want to isolate our kids.

    I know not everyone lives in a suburb of a diverse metropolis, and has the possibilty of moving a miniscule 15 miles to a better location. Not everyone wants to. I remember when we first started researching adoption I saw on message boards this discussion chain about whether or not adoptive families should be willing to change their lives like this. To me if felt extreme and judgemental to tell someone they had to change churches for their kids. Now, I understand why we would seriously consider doing this. (again, I feel lucky that my church has the same denomonation just a few miles away that is simply a more diverse congregation. I feel like we have options.)

    For me, the more diversity I expose my bio kids to in prep for the Ethiopian kids, and the more friends they have of color, the better. The more books, images, they see of different cultures the better. We will see what happens when the kids get home.

    I hope this makes sense! -Staci

    Reply
  4. Renae
    January 12, 2010

    Thanks Ladies! I was the one who asked this question, and you all have contributed wonderful insight!

    Reply
  5. Wife to the Rockstar
    January 12, 2010

    I really enjoyed reading everyone's responses.

    Reply
  6. Laurel
    January 14, 2010

    I also wanted to say that your children may not want a lot of contact with other children from their orphanage or from their country. Whereas several families in our area adopted children from the same orphanage, this did NOT make them our children's best friends. We were judged harshly by these families, because we did not choose to spend a lot of time with these children. I believe it brought back a lot of very difficult memories for our children, of their time at the orphanage, and our children were very ready for new friends, new experiences, and new memories.

    Reply
  7. Sandee
    January 14, 2010

    I just had to add a link to this post….this is an interview with a mom and a son, transracial adoptive family. It is very positive and talks along this post line http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTZwUks_wFE&feature=player_embedded

    Reply

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