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    Transracial Adoption Twist – Black Parents Adopting White Kids

    Dawn Davenport

    53

    DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboy Linebacker adopted a white baby girl.What picture comes to mind when you hear transracial adoption or interracial adoption? Chances are good that it is not the picture to the right. A white couple with a black child draws attention; a black couple with a white child draws lots of attention! As one black dad of a white daughter says, “I’ve never felt more self-consciously black than while holding our little white girl’s hand in public.”

    According to the National Survey of Adoptive Parents, 40% of all adoptions in the US are transracial. The percentage has increased significantly since 1994 with the Multiethnic Placement Act prohibited discrimination in adoption based on race. This survey doesn’t break down the race of the parents, but the vast majority in my experience are Caucasian parents adopting Latino, African American, and Asian children. I don’t predict a trend of black couples and singles standing in line for white kids since there remains a disproportionate number (not to be confused with majority) of children of color in need of families in the US. Nonetheless, I think our surprise (and often discomfort) when seeing such families is worth examining.

    Black families adopting white children from foster care.Most of the cases that I’ve heard of where a white child is adopted by African American parents have come from foster care adoptions where the black family was fostering the child first. They are similar to the case of Mary Riley, a 68 year old African American Georgia widow, who is the mom to three active white boys she adopted from foster care after fostering them for two years. They were 5, 7 and 9 when they came to live with her.

    “I didn’t always think about adopting, but when I got these boys I fell in love with them and got attached to them, I couldn’t let them go, and I was afraid they were going to get separated from each other.

    Sometimes people stare at us and ask questions, but I accept these boys and they accept us, so I ain’t worried about anybody else. I would adopt two more white boys if they needed me, I’m not looking at the color. They are all God’s children to me.”

    African American couples adopting white babies and children.Not all black families who adopt outside their race adopt from foster care. Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware and his wife, Taniqua, struggled with infertility and adopted their daughter Marley, a Hispanic newborn, in a private domestic adoption. They were later able to give birth their son DeMarcus, Jr. The Ware’s adoption received mixed reviews from blacks and whites alike. “Do you mean to tell me that the Wares couldn’t have found a little black baby to adopt?” posted one blogger on the Daily Voice, an online African-American newspaper.

    Not surprisingly, black parents adopting white children face similar issues as white parents adopting black children—how to handle race. Mark Riding, a black dad adopting a white daughter, explains.

    When the little white girl came to live with us — three years old, doughy face, Irish freckles, and deep red hair — we faced immediate, unanticipated obstacles, many of which were internal. For example, I hadn’t considered how often we talked about white people at home. I hadn’t realized that dinnertime stories were rarely told without referencing the race of the players. I was also oblivious how frequently I used racial stereotypes. We began diligently censoring ourselves. Of course we’ve routinely adjusted our language and behavior for the sake of our white peers, neighbors, bosses and friends, but this little girl lives with us, which requires code switching and code creating at home. …It has required more vigilance than I ever suspected; and I had long considered myself a fairly enlightened person.

    Even though transracial adoptions are en vogue, many people (especially white people) are troubled when they see us out together. At the park in our historic Baltimore neighborhood where adopted Asian kids play with their white siblings without a blink, we are greeted with uneasy curiosity. We don’t receive the knowing smile and assumption of family that those other adoptive families enjoy. White park-goers often assume (out loud) that my graying mother-in-law is the girl’s nanny. Given close enough proximity, white people are almost always compelled to question our relationship with her. “So who do we have here” they ask, hardly veiling their anxiety. Even white friends and colleagues from the progressive private school in which I work are clearly disquieted, despite the fact that middle-class white parents with adopted Romanian, Asian or black children are in growing number there. “Oh this must be your little foster child.” A colleague announced loudly outside a kiddie concert held on campus. Our little girl was troubled; her family secret had been publically revealed and she didn’t understand how or why. I was doubly upset because I couldn’t even carp freely about the indirect racial prejudice and insensitivity of this white person when I returned home.

    The Ridings also worry about providing their daughter with a strong racial identity. Most of her friends are black, although her school is primarily white. Her mother is concerned that she is uncomfortable identifying people by their race. Her family does what it can by celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and buying Irish chotskies, like a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” T shirt and a mug with her Irish family crest on it. And like most transracial adoptive parents, they wonder if it will be enough.

    Is there any reason why black parents shouldn’t adopt white children or babies given that there are more black children in need of homes?

    Image credit: DeMarcus Ware & daughter, Mary Riley & sons, DeMarcus Ware & daughter and son

    18/06/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 53 Comments


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    53 Responses to Transracial Adoption Twist – Black Parents Adopting White Kids

    1. Abigail says:

      I’m a white adult female with an extremely racist father and a non racist mother. They divorced when I was 6 and I lived with my mother and occasionally visited my father and half siblings.

      Perhaps this has nothing to do with the article but … Going from one parent’s house to the other was like traveling to parrallel universes. My father’s house: He’d want to know if I had any black friends. He’d use the N word so freely .. it was like going back 150 years in time. Then once I was back to my mother’s house it was back to the current year … (anywhere from 1997-2009) and she’d pity my father’s mentality and reinstill that hate isn’t a value and that people should be judged based on character personality loyalty etc. Generalizing based on race or looks is not okay ever.

      The point is my mother was very honest with me. The fact that my father was and still is so racists is tragic. Fortunately for my mother there was no avoiding the subject. Although I have nothing to do with my father as an adult, I’m thankful for that to have been apart of my childhood because I live and celebrate the diversity of humans everyday. I don’t tolerate hateful judgemental people at all. And that is thanks to my honest mother.

      REALITY for any child can’t be avoided. You tell your child what is right and tell them what is wrong. Don’t bring color into it. If AA parents feel like a white person said something racists towards them about their child etc. they should be 100% forthcoming with their reactions about it. They should stand up for their interracial family to the person. They shouldn’t say hateful things about white people – even if they didn’t have an adopted white child. Saying hateful things about any race in any type of family is wrong. PERIOD. Hate and the practice of stereotyping/generalizing shouldn’t be apart of family practice, let alone the word.

      As an adult, I have only one white friend. My best friends are from every race I can imagine and to tell you the truth sometimes I forget my own race. Because it doesn’t matter to me, I was taught otherwise. Racial identiy is silly, in my opinion. It’s your personal identity that matters. It’s about the love you allow into your life blindly, not about the people or things you purposefully bring closer to yourself because of the color you may see your skin to be.

      This was a very interesting article and I support any adoption as long as the child is 100% loved.

    2. Joe & Ruth says:

      We have a Caucasian 3 yr old granddaughter and 1 yr old grandson in DSS custody in Mecklenburg County NC., and we appeared before the judge in Sept. 2014 requesting custody. The foster parent is a single black woman who works 5 days a week and both children are in day care. The Judge granted us guardianship at that hearing and ordered an expedited Interstate Compact with Florida where we are retired. The 66 page approved ICPC was delivered to NC on Mar. 24, 2015. At an April 2, 2015 and an April 14 hearing the Judge never followed up placing the children with us because DSS wants to allow the children to be adopted by the black foster mother, claiming it is in “the children’s best interest” since they have bonded with her and even call her mommy. Instead of preserving the family as required by Federal law, this court wants to destroy our family. We have another extended hearing scheduled for May 12. We find this posting and comments very interesting since it addresses this issue. We fear that our white grandchildren will never be accepted by their peers and be subject to future bullying as they grow up because of decisions made by adults who do not have a vision of how these children may be treated in life.

    3. Tara James says:

      One thing I thought about a lot is identity. I think it would depend on the birthparents. If they have a strong cultural identity I would follow their lead. Having role models the same race would not be a problem at all (it’s more of a problem for my son).

      I worried about one of the things Mark (?) mentioned, that is how you speak about race at home among family. African American history is celebrated on both sides of my family. They were all involved in the civil rights movement and these are stories handed down. How do we talk about the fact that grandpa got his head cracked open by whites trying to maintain segregation without causing a crisis for the child? I don’t think this would be a huge problem for family to curb any unkind words around a child of mine, but I’m sure there would be some underlying resentment that would need to be dealt with. I’m sure I would get questioned about the availability of Black children.

    4. Lisa Notes-Colburn says:

      Such an interesting story. Thanks for posting.

    5. Steve says:

      Of course, it goes without saying that the only important thing is that the child is happy and loved. I hope she has a wonderful life and has a feeling of security and joy everyday.

    6. Steve says:

      I don’t know if its really necessary to celebrate st Partricks Day with her or give her emblems of her Irish heritage. My gut feeling is just raise her as your own like you would a black kid and don’t worry about it. You can tell her about her Irishness, maybe when she’s a bit older, and if she wants to do something about it or connect with it in some way then she can. If I was that kid, I don’t know if i’d want a personal identity as a child that separates me form my parents. Why does she even need a strong racial identity? What good is it? I’m sure she will know what she is genetically from looking in the mirror and I’m sure she’ll pick up a white identity from school and society. How could she not when people are so race conscious? I don’t think its something you have to work for.

      As a white guy (from an Irish background) if I brought up a black girl, my attitude would be she’s one of us with different colour skin, just like you can have a kid with different colour hair. If she grows up and wants to connect with her roots then I’d support it but I would neither encourage or discourage that.

      That’s my feeling about the matter.

    7. Claire LP says:

      I pray one day we can see a family as love and not color. My children are bi-racial and being African-American I was often considered to be their nanny in public because they have lighter skin tone. If you have it in your heart to love a child, are capable to raise a child, and are colorblind you should be able to adopt any race child who needs a home regardless of your own race. Hopefully family, friends and the public can just see a loving family and not see color. So many children desperately need loving homesand colorblind parents. Open your hearts.

    8. WillowRose says:

      I think people should adopt whatever babies and children that their heart tells them to adopt. Of course it’s not just that simple. But when the universe gives you a child that you can choose to adopt, color, race and ethnicity really shouldn’t be the first things on peoples minds. It’s super easy to over think things. The worse that can happen is weird stares and remarks. And there’s going to probably be something in life that exhibits weird stares and remarks anyway.

    9. Carin says:

      I am white. I strictly want to adopt a white child. Guess I am on the wrong website
      Hope it is not an impossible feat though.

    10. Dave says:

      Of course african-american families should adopt white children in the US. It would do this country so much good!

    11. moleboheng says:

      a human baby needs a home,a human loves that baby and take him/her in,really does it matter what any of their skin colour is… Colour…who cares!!?!?!? Just be glad a baby won’t have to have a hard life…a baby…not a colour!!!!

    12. Lizzy says:

      That’s the strangest story I’ve read. Makes no sense and I’m the grandmother of two white children(step, but they’re mine just the same).

    13. Jo says:

      ?”I was doubly upset because I couldn’t even carp freely”, what does this mean?

    14. Nadine says:

      Thank you for your post. My husband and I are AA and our son is white (Cuban/Italian) heritage. He is an embryo donation baby. I occasionally look for sites that have information on AA parent with white children. Looking for those who have gone before us. This article provides some insight into the road ahead…thank you!

    15. dee says:

      so they finally watched the tracy allman show on adoption. WOW! the trouble with adoption is the babies are coerced away from their parents who deeply want them.

    16. Lauri Lee says:

      “Is there any reason why black parents shouldn’t adopt white children or babies given that there are more black children in need of homes?”

      Well, if you really believe the BS about living in a post racial society, then obviously there is no reason to be concerned about race and who adopts whom.

      But if you are a realist, then you’ll realize that black transracial adopters face all the challenges that white transracial adopters face with the twist of going against the grain from the perceived notions of race and privilege enough to adopt (a racial minority who faces prejudice adopting from the racial majority which is converse to the norm). I’m sure black adopters of white children gives fears to some white folk (but of course not all you progressive open minded people).

      So in this bizarre question that ends “… given that there are more black children in need of homes?” did the questioner think that perhaps black people should look after their own first and foremost whilst it’s still perceived as okay for white folk to ignore the many children in their own country (white, and non-white both) and go gallivanting across the globe buying ethnically other children to take home?

      I say this as a transracial intercountry adoptee who thinks that there are more problematic attitudes with western intercountry adopters than anyone who steps up to care for children in their own country. I also think any adopter (or foster carer) who ignores race in transracial situations, does so at the child’s peril and risks the integrity of that relationship.

      • I would think that all the people I quoted in the blog would agree with your statement that “black transracial adopters face all the challenges that white transracial adopters face with the twist of going against the grain.” Thanks for sharing your experience as a transracial adoptee.

      • Matias says:

        Some 8% of adopted white children where adopted to black family or IR-family in 2004 (in USA). So it’s not at all so rare phenomenon
        people are claiming.

        • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

          Matias, can you share the source for your statistic of how many white kids are adopted by black families. I haven’t been able to find any stats.

          • Matias says:

            Sorry i took such long time to reply. Here’s my source:

            http://www.seattletimes.com/life/lifestyle/new-face-of-adoption-black-parents-white-children/

            ” Nationwide, 8 percent of white children in public custody were adopted by black or interracial couples in 2004, the latest year available. About 26 percent of black children were adopted by white parents, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ”

            I don’t know is that 8% exactly the right rate of white adoption/foster children. It really surprised me little bit but could be because there are lots of African American females social workers and they seems to have adopted white children especially hard to find adoption family.

            • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

              Thank you so much for this article Matias. I may well write another blog on this topic.

    17. Lori says:

      Really interesting article! Thank you for sharing! Happy ICLW.

    18. cindy says:

      Such an interesting article!!!

    19. Suzanne says:

      But I will say there are more resources out there for white families adopting out of race than vice versa. So if you aren’t in a community that has the diversity needed, then you most absolutely need to supplement your child’s life with opportunities to develop that racial identity. This is what isn’t readily available to families of color adopting out of race.

    20. Suzanne says:

      Exactly!!!

    21. Dawn Davenport says:

      Suzanne, similar then to what we suggest for white families adopting children of color.

    22. Lisa, the example of the DeWare’s is not an adoption by circumstance since it was a private domestic newborn adoption, although I agree that most often when I’ve seen it happen, it’s black foster parents adopting their white foster kids.

    23. Tara, I thought that was such a good point made by Mark, in my blog, about not realizing how much race factored into the talk around his family dinner table until they had a white child.

    24. The people who have criticized this practice, often say that their is a “need” for black families to adopt black children and their is not a need for families to adopt white kids. Do you think this argument holds weight?

    25. Tara and Suzanne, other than the relative rarity of the situation of a black family adopting a white child, what are the other issues they might face and how would they be different from a white family adopting a black child? I would imagine that one would be the lack of resources to help support and educate them. I’m also interested in the idea of how they might help a child develop his/her racial identity. Would it be “necessary”? Would you focus on a specific culture, such as Irish as did one of the families I wrote about, or just general Caucasian?

    26. Martha Vickery says:

      “We don’t receive the knowing smile and assumption of family that those other adoptive families enjoy.”

      Well, that’s quite an assumption! I wonder where that comes from? As a parent of non-white adopted children, I’ve been treated with everything from kindness and delight to anger and hostility. Being a white parent doesn’t absolve you from judgement by other parents — far from it. Very far from it.

    27. Tammy says:

      I hope this happens more often. It is a wonderful example to my children of color.

    28. Sara says:

      This pic is beautiful!

    29. Dina says:

      I worked with a woman who is white and her husband is AA. She was constantly asked if her daughter was adopted when it was just the two of them in public. Questions such as how long have you had her?, Is she from here? Are you fostering? etc. in front of her daughter but never when her husband was with them. I just wish race wasn’t such an issue in society. **sigh**

    30. Leia says:

      As a birth Mom, who was able to build the most amazing adoption experience- white parents, black kid……who really cares, LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, COMMITMENT TO LEARNING ABOUT CULTURE is the key!!!!

    31. Suzanne says:

      Dawn I think it depends on the community that the child is raised in. If for example, a black family adopted a white child and they lived in a predominantly white community, the resources for questions are more or less built in and the racial identity is more in tact due to day to day contact with others in the community. If the family lives in an area with few opportunities for interaction with the race of the child, then the availability of resources becomes a much bigger issue.

    32. Stephanie says:

      Our bio daughter is 8 and has Lilly-white skin with freckles. Riverside County California has a large Hispanic (or Latino…. I don’t know what the correct phrase is) population, so I’m pretty sure that our next child will be Hispanic. I think it’s wonderful, but like the article said – I am becoming more aware of race -which I never really noticed or paid attention to. I wonder what it will be like, having a family that doesn’t look alike. Both of my sisters have bi-racial children, but they don’t ‘look’ bi-racial.

    33. Marcia says:

      We have 2 biological children and 1 adopted child. We are White and our youngest daughter is bi-racial. When we are out as a family, we often get those glances of curiosity, ignorance and rudeness. I take it as an opportunity to educate :)

    34. Rayne says:

      My husband and I adopted a biracial child. He has a black bio dad and a white bio mom. If she wouldn’t have picked us, she would have raised him alone. So either way our son was going to be in a white home. I have other family members who are also mixed races and see no issue with this. I think that we look at this situation differently because it is rare. But in the reality of it all, they are loving people taking care of a child. Regardless of color, that is what the situation is. I commend all people who choose to adopt, whether it be because of circumstance, choice or a dream of theirs. The road to adoption is not easy no matter what brings you to it. Seems we always need to make things about color and that saddens me. I see a loving family and that’s all. I am not blind to the color difference but it doesn’t make their family any less or more strong than any other family.

    35. Renee says:

      When you fall in love with a child the color of their face is never a factor. I have friends that have adopted and never once did they ever ask what race. They instantly fell in love with their children before even meeting them. They are as white as you can get and are raising boys that are not the same color. You can’t find better parents in the world. I can’t speak for black families raising white children, but I can’t imagine it being much different.

    36. Tara says:

      So glad you are discussing this! When I told my agency that I was open to any race I was handed all the literature on transracial adoption and none of it came close to addressing the issues that I would be facing if I adopted a white child. There are no resources, support groups, books on how to care for white hair, that a black person raising a white child might turn to. I figured I wouldn’t turn that many heads though. When I am with kids who are like my god sons (white) people just assume I am the nanny and don’t give it a second thought, which is infuriating, but off the topic.

    37. Lisa says:

      There is a large number of black children, too large, needing families. That is unfortunately true and needs to be addressed. But these examples are not proof that black families are denying black children [not saying you are saying it but others are]. The people in these situations openly admit to their own racial bias and soul searching. They had to face their own internal chatter on the topic. And in the end they chose to love the child regardless of whether others agree with it. That is love. Not whether a child looks like you. Not whether segments of society would bash it. Yes it does make you more sensitive to your own internal dialogue but maybe we could all use a good soul searching on that one regardless of whether “our child” might hear. That internal dialogue affects us, other people, other children, our communities. More families are needed for black children but telling people to reject a child based on skin color is not the solution. God bless these people for accepting and loving their children.

    38. Cindy says:

      i have a friend who is very white. she was adopted by white parents, but by age 12, she was living with her black neighbor because she felt more loved and comfortable with them. when she talks about going home, it is to her “aunt’s” house. her children are also biracial. people need to leave families alone. bmom’s have the right to chose the parents for their children, regardless of race. period.

    39. Suzanne says:

      i don’t understand, aren’t most private adoptions handled where the birth mother and father choose the adoptive parents? If a black couple said that they were open to all races and a BM chose them, what’s the problem? I realize that a black family with a white child presents more challenges than other transracial families, but probably only because it’s been so rare in the past that it is outside the norm. I hope 10 years from now it’s as commonplace as other types of transracial adoptions.

    40. Gwen says:

      I think it’s absolutely WONDERFUL that families are adopting – regardless of race or nationality. I wish my family were in a position to do more than pray for children who need a home and for the moms & dads in the process of adopting. I say kudos and God bless you to all of the men & women who choose to adopt and do so based on their love of the child, not the color of his/her skin. Thank you!

      • DAWN says:

        We have families, including our Pastor, that have adopted all ethenticities within their family unit in our church. I do believe that white families tend to do the majority of adopting in and out of the US. I think it’s about time that the black community is doing their part and not adopting just within their own ethnic group. I think it’s great that their are doing this.

    41. Kristina says:

      there is a couple in town who is AA and adopted a white child. one is a doctor and the other, a lawyer, and they had a v hard time getting an AA birth mother to choose them. I don’t know the full story, though I was told some of it had to do with a concern for how busy they were, though there may have been more to it than that. in the end, they have a beautiful child and all is terrific.

    42. Lisa says:

      The examples given are adoption through circumstance. Adoption through circumstance is something I don’t see often covered anywhere. I was fairly critical of some adoptive parents who didn’t know any of the commonly accepted knowledge in adoption circles. You ask yourself why don’t they know this or that and don’t they care and essentially you judge them. It wasn’t until I became friends with someone who adopted through circumstance that my blindfold was removed. You have real adults and real children thrust into a situation and its time for a choice to be made. The people in these examples did the right thing. My friend did the right thing and she took a much bigger leap of faith than I did by making that leap without any of the knowledge or aids or support groups that I leaned upon. She just had to trust that she would find that somewhere. She hit the floor running. These people hit the floor running. When it was time to make a lifechanging call for a child, knowing there would be difficult times, they did it. I will never judge anyone of any color adopting a child unless the reason is because of color regardless of what type.

    43. Stephanie says:

      I see no difference in an African American couple choosing to adopt a white kid than a White couple adopting an African American child. If its a loving family I see no problem. I will admit, that now that I’m in the process of adopting – and in knowing the demographics of the county I’m adopting within I really notice bi-racial families more than I ever did. We’re white, and will most likely have a Hispanic child. In the past when I would see white adults with Hispanic children I would assume they were friends and/or babysitting….. Now I look at them and wonder if they are adopted. I think we are naturally curious when we see mixed race groups of people who appear to be families. And now that we will probably be one of those families I’m curious about what looks or assumptions we will receive.

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