A Pre-Adoptive Family reviews required reading:  “In Their Own Voices, Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories” by Rita J. Simon and Rhonda M. Roorda.

Written by C. B., hopeful adoptive mother

I am a potential adoptive mom. My husband and I have one biological daughter together. She is 10 years old. We are a Caucasian family with no people of color in our extended family. We are currently home study approved and waiting to be matched with an expectant mother. We are open to adopt a child of any race or gender. Because of our openness, our Adoption Specialist from our Home Study agency, suggested that we read “In Their Own Voices” while we wait. She felt that it would help to prepare us as a Caucasian couple to parent a child of color, should that be our path.

In Their Own Voices opens with a history lesson and details the various organizations which hold the position it is not in the best interest of a black child to be adopted by a white family. Even the NABSW (National Association of Black Social Workers) discouraged transracial adoption at the time of the writing of this book. Prior to reading this book, my husband and I had a shared mindset that unconditionally love is what matters most. After reading this book, our mindset has been shaken up quite a bit on that point. We now know that there is far more than love needed to raise a healthy child of color in our society. This book helped us develop a foundation of understanding for what it takes to parent a child of color, and to prepare them to be a person of color in this world as it is in many ways an entirely different experience than it is for white children.

If you choose to read this book, do not stop reading after Part 1. Admittedly, Part 1 can be kind of depressing. Part 2, however, is much more encouraging for families considering transracial adoption. It is a collection of interviews with black/biracial adoptees who tell what is was like to be adopted into a white family. They discuss their struggles and hurtful things that happened to them. They give advice on how to best care for a black child specifically, with attention to details such becoming knowledgeable about their haircare. 

Our understanding from reading this book is that while many children of color raised by white parents (at the time this book was written) were positive about their adoption story and upbringing, there are many adult adoptees who would have rather been raised by a family of experience that matched their race. 

The factor that most directly affected their perception of their adoption circumstance was having parents who sought out opportunities to expose their child to communities, schools and social activities with other people of color. Some families even made drastic changes to their family by moving to neighborhoods with schools which had a higher attendance of nonwhite children. This commitment to their child’s experience with race seems to have created strong relationships between the adoptee and the adoptive parents.

This book really opened my eyes to what really is required of us as potential adoptive parents to raise happy, confident, successful children of color. We now acknowledge the importance of immersion for your child of color into a community that will open themselves up to including you in theirs. Your child needs friends that look like them, successful people of authority to inspire them and other adults and role models to teach and guide them on the nuances of their culture that a white parent simply cannot know. They need to see that it is important to you to also become part of their community of color, too. Educating the child is not enough, they need relationships, as we all do. 

Each adoptee’s story is very unique. It’s well worth the read! I’m better for having read it and highly recommend it.