Helping Internationally Adopted Children Develop a Healthy Cultural and Racial Identity

Are you raising an internationally adopted child or a child of another race? Join our fascinating discussion on cultural and racial identity with Dr. Hollee McGinnis, an Assistant Professor in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work. She focuses on mental health and identity for internationally adopted people. She is also an intercountry adoptee from South Korea.

In this episode, we cover:

  • How are racial, ethnic, and cultural identities different for international adoptees?
  • Why is racial, ethnic, or cultural identification important for the emotional development of a child adopted internationally?
  • At what age does cultural and racial identity develop?
  • For children adopted internationally, what are some of the acculturation and assimilation issues that these children face? Including those issues arising from factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, and culture.
  • Does this differ by race?
  • Does international adoption itself potentially create acculturation or assimilation issues?
  • How can parents walk the balance between wanting the child to fully assimilate and acculturate to their new life while also identifying with their culture of birth?
  • Does this change depend on the age of the child at adoption?
  • What is the experience like for a child whose name doesn’t fit their ethnicity? Do you recommend that parents think about this when naming their child?
  • How to handle if a child is born into a family of one religion but adopted by a family of a different religion?
  • What are the long-term implications for a family that has become multi-cultural through international adoption? How does this impact each family member: adopted person, siblings, parent, or grandparents?
  • Tips for how adoptive parents can help their children develop a healthy cultural and racial identity
    • Read books about the history of your child’s culture and country, starting at a young age.
    • Read books to provide the language and tools to help your child deal with racism. Again, start young.
    • Talk about racism with your child.
    • See resources below.
    • Create connections for your child to people who look like them, as well as other adoptees.
    • Incorporate people of your child’s race or culture into your friend group.
    • Consider a homeland tour.


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Music Credit: Michael Ashworth

Podcast Producer: Megown SoundWorks

Image Credit: Angela Roma