Obama and Transracial Adoption
Is President Obama’s election having a effect on the increasing number of families looking to adopt a child of a different race or through foster care? Are there other factors at play?

I received an interesting question via my contact page this week. I thought you would all be interested in my response, plus, it was too long to use on my Frequently Unasked Questions page. Here’s the question:

After seeing all the stories in the news about multi-racial kids finding pride in the election of our new president, I was curious whether this positive media coverage has increased the number of foster/adopting parents willing to consider a mixed race child. I suspect that many prospective parents held back from considering it because they feared the stigma society would subject the child to. I love your show and feel it is helping me find my way to discern what would be best for our hopeful yet cautious attempt to become parents. Thanks you for providing such a caring and informative source with a wide range of discussions. I recommend this blog & podcast to everyone.

That’s an interesting thought, and truthfully I don’t know the answer. I think it is too early to tell whether Obama’s election will increase acceptance of transracial or multiracial adoption. I think (and pray) that it is a major step to further reducing racial prejudice, be it overt, subtle, or institutional, and it makes sense that it might increase adoption of mixed race or full black kids. But I think we were well on our way to this goal even before Obama’s election.

From the families I consult with and others that I talk to when I speak at conferences, I have seen much more interest in domestic adoption of all types since international adoptions from Guatemala and Vietnam have closed, and the waiting times to adopt from China have increase so significantly. When I talk with them about options in domestic adoption many are totally open to adopting an African American child and are willing, and even eager, to do the work of preparing to become a mixed race family. In international adoptions, the majority of children adopted have skin in varying shades of brown. In fact, Ethiopia has been one of the fastest growing countries for international adoptions to the United States for several years.

Unfortunately, as you point out, public perception of transracial adoption lags behind the reality. The truth is that transracial adoptions work for kids and for families. I see this success every day, but much more important, the research confirms it. This is not to say that children of color being raised in a white family will not have issues to overcome. They likely will. It is also not to say that it isn’t better for black and brown kids to be raised by black and brown parents. It probably is. But if that is not possible, then all efforts should be made to find parents of any color because kids need parents more than they need matching parents. I hope Obama’s life story will help dispel the myth that transracial families are inherently fraught with all sorts of insurmountable problems.

Obama, as the world now knows, was the child of a black African father and white American mother. His father left when he was two and was never again involved in his life. He did live with his Indonesian stepfather for five years, but for most of his life he was raised by his Caucasian grandparents and mother.

His memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, is an honest portrayal of the successes and struggles of being raised as a black child in a white family. He points out that although he was mixed race, the world perceived him as black, and he had to learn to live in American society as a black man. His journey was not always smooth and his struggles were not those of an average American adolescent, but he survived and obviously has flourished. The love and support of his mother and grandparents supported and grounded him. I reviewed this book under transracial adoption books because I think it is a great resource to help white parents understand from a black child’s perspective what it is like to be raised in a white family and society. It was written shortly after he left law school, and is not a political book.

I have noticed lately with the families I consult with a greater willingness to consider adopting from foster care. I don’t think this has anything to do with Obama or even the greater acceptance of transracial adoption since the majority of children available for adoption from foster care are Caucasian. I think it is the result of Guatemala and Vietnam closing to international adoptions, and other countries, such as China and now possibly Ethiopia, increasing restrictions on adoptive parents and waiting times. I guess it’s true that every cloud has a silver lining. I just wish we could avoid the cloud, but keep the silver.


Image credit: Wondermonkey2k