Adopting a Child of a Different Race

Archived Q&A and Reviews

White parents of a mixed-race girl looking for family camp

Feb 2015

As white adoptive parents of a six-year-old mixed-race girl we adopted domestically at birth, we have been considering attending Pact Family Camp this summer, but are having a hard time making up our minds. Our daughter is fully informed about her adoption story, and we enrich it as needed. In our social circles as well as at school, she has become acquainted with a couple of other adopted children (both international), and with biological transracial families, and with some LGBT families whose children came through a variety of means. We are also very close with one adult adoptee. So, while she is part of a varied community of families, we don't know anyone whose family make-up and history look exactly like ours. She seems comfortable enough for the time being, but we are, of course, looking ahead, hoping to give her the tools she needs as she grows up, and the questions she asks become more searching and complex.

Our experience with PACT workshops has been mostly positive, although sometimes we feel that there can be too much emphasis on the us-against-the-world perspective, a perspective that so far our daughter has not been compelled to assume.

Our question, then, is this: what are the pros and (if any) cons of attending this camp, at this age, and making a point of becoming part of this specific community? We would especially like to hear from families who have attended the camp, and from adoption professionals.

On the Fence

This isn't exactly the answer that you are requesting, but we are in a similar situation and I thought it may be helpful to hear about our experiences.

My husband and I are white foster parents and have an adopted black daughter who just turned 4 years old. We have attended PACT events with her and other children over the years and have also participated in workshops.

We have also debated about attending PACT camp and our friends that are also trans-racial family members have expressed similar concerns that you have. So far, it has been an easy answer of no for us, party because our daughter was only 3 last summer and partly because it is really expensive and we just have too many competing expenses. I also have concerns about spending camp doing intensive emotional work, when the life of a foster parent tends to be doing intensive emotional work. I am sure if we did go, we would have no regrets and it would seem worth every penny and every moment, but it has been great for us to just have time to relax as a family in a beautiful and less expensive place and enjoy simple pleasures of being away from it all.

In general, our strategy to meeting our daughter's needs around race and similar families, it has been to focus on our relationships with other trans-racial and black families, even if it means sacrificing our relationships with others and even if it means that the people that are closest to us may not be the most compatible politically or personality-wise...we just have made that our priority in families that we get close to. The result is that we have a nice mom's group (whose partners also get along), playdates with the kids, and our own camping trips.

Finally, I wanted to mention that last year, we made plans to meet up with 2 other trans-racial families at Berkeley Family Camp. It may have just been a stroke of luck, but we met many other trans-racial families that just happened to be there at the same time, including two moms that had their adult chidren with them that had been adopted from South America and a family that we have become good friends with. Although there were a lot of trans-racial families, there was an obvious lack of adults of color. Because of this, some of our friends are trying Oakland Family Camp this year.

Good Luck! Trans-racial mom

Our family has been to PACT family camp eight times and is returning again this summer; we skipped one year. We have two daughters who came to us through adoption and are now 10 and 13 years old. I was hoping someone else would write who had been because it takes me a long time to write well in response to a question like this. If you (or others who are considering going) want to, though, I'd be happy to meet for coffee or talk on the phone.

a fan of PACT camp

Considering a mixed race child; we are caucasian

Jan 2004

My husband and I are trying to adopt an infant as we can not create children on our own ( Although we orginially thought we would adopt a full caucasian child (as we are both caucasian), we are now strongly considering a mixed race child (african american/caucasian). We are pursuing an open adoption where we retain contact with the birthparents. I would love to hear from parents that have adopted mixed race children about their experience. I'm interested in the success stories as well as the challenges. Thanks. Rachel

This does not exactly address your posting, but I thought I would offer our experience. We have a mixed race family - our adopted son is a full hispanic, and we are both caucasian. We adopted him at birth from Santa Maria, CA. We were very open to meeting birth moms (and adopting kids) of all races when we were trying to adopt and thus our adoption was relatively fast. I love having some diversity in our household. For the most part I assume that people see our son and realize he is adopted although every once in awhile someone will comment that our son does not look like either parent. Adoption is outside the realm of experience for many, and others are curious about it and will ask. I am still so thrilled with our experience that I do not mind talking to people about it. My son (! age 3) seems pretty comfortable with it as well. He has other transracially adopted friends so for him families come in all color combinations and he sees nothing unusual with that. Berkeley is a very easy place to raise a child that does not look like you. There are some wonderful post-adoption play groups with every color, gender, age, etc combination you can imagine. One thing to note: many mixed race children are often strikingly good looking and will draw attention. Be prepared for questions, and realize that most people are well meaning and only curious. I always hope that some of the people I talk to will realize how great adoption is and make that choice for themselves someday. Good luck! Happy Mama

I grew up in a mixed race household. Both of my parents are white however my mother married an African-American man when I was 5. My stepfather was the only dad I knew and he raised me from the age of 5. My half-siblings are all mixed race and we lived in primarily black neighborhoods growing up. So tho I am not mixed race myself, I had a lot of exposure to the racial issues growing up. I am now 44 years old and things have definitely changed since I was a kid socially for children of mixed race heritage. But there is still a need to sort out ''who I am.'' I have had a lot of feelings around race, and as I like to read, I have read to help myself cope with figuring out how race has affected me. Books that addressed african american kids with white heritage: The Color of Water, Pearl's Secret were helpful to me. As I am raising my kids, I found it helpful to read I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla by a psychologist local to the Bay Area who explores how children at different ages process race issues. My other thought about this is that Americans tend to have a lot of deeply ingrained stereotypes about African-Americans. And it may be beneficial to really look at these for yourself and your spouse and face any feelings you have. What do you feel if there is an african american young man walking behind you? What are your thoughts about the economic and educational levels of african americans in this country? What feelings come up for you if you are the only caucasians in a certain setting, like a school or a shopping area? Do you know of any middle class african american communities? How will you expose and acculturate your child to his/her mixed heritage? I wish you all the best in your adoption journey. jc

It took me a while before answering this advice request because adoption is such a personal decision. One thing kept coming to my mind though. You should maybe discuss with your partner and find out the reason why you originally wanted to adopt a Caucasian infant and now are open to mixed-race infant. Also think about why you are not considering adopting an African- American infant. You can also consult Pact, they will be able to help you understand how transracial adoption will change your life forever... for the better. transracial adoptive mom

Contact PACT phone: 510-243-9460. They are an educational & membership organization in the East Bay and they offer a lot of resources & workshops ! for adoptive transracial familes. They have a very good self-assessment guide called ''Below the Surface'' for anyone considering adoption across racial or cultural lines. Suzanne