Cultural identity

How can adoptive parents help their internationally adopted children develop a healthy cultural, racial, and ethnic identity? We talked with Dr. Hollee McGinnis, an assistant professor in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work who focuses on mental health and identity for international adopted people. She is also an intercountry adoptee from South Korea.

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Hit the Highlights
  • Why is cultural identification important for the emotional development of a child adopted internationally. (Countering the argument that “Aren’t they Americans and shouldn’t we treat them that way?”)
  • How are racial and cultural and ethnic identity different for international adoptees.
  • What age does cultural and racial identity develop?
  • What are some of the acculturation and assimilation issues that children adopted internationally face, including those arising from factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, and culture.
  • Does international adoption itself potentially create acculturation or assimilation issues?
  • How can parent walk the balance between wanting the child to fully assimilate and acculturate to their new life while also identifying with their culture of birth?
  • What is the experience like for a child whose name doesn’t fit their ethnicity?
  • How to handle if a child was 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, grandparents?
  • What does a healthy cultural identity for an internationally adopted child look like?
  • What does a healthy racial identity for an internationally adopted child look like?
  • How can adoptive parents help their children develop a healthy cultural and racial identity?
  • What age should parents consider a homeland tour?
  • Good resources: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh

Photo Credit:Vijay Hu

Music credit: Michael Ashworth