When a Black Family Adopts a White Child - A Different Twist on Transcultural Adoption

8 years ago

Chitlun's and greens for dinner?

Malt Liquor in the baby bottle?

Fried chicken for an after-school snack?

Many of the discussions surrounding transracial adoption center on white families who adopt children of color. Conversations about international adoption and the emotional toll that adoption can cause for adult adoptee's and their parents are common and usually based on how to maintain one's cultural identity yet adapt to a new and sometimes hostile environment.

But what happens when the roles are reversed? In this case, black families that adopt white children?

First, this isn't about that horrible Steve Martin movie. According to a recent article in Newsweek this situation might be one that we will see more often in the near future. The article is centered on 9 year-old Katie O'Dea-Smith, a white girl whose parents are African-American. This case is a bit confusing as the mother of Terri Riding, who is the adoptive mother actually has legal guardianship of the girl, who came to her home as a troubled 3 year-old foster child. Her daughter and her husband serve as parental figures to the girl - and also have guardianship rights:

As a black father and adopted white daughter, Mark Riding and Katie O'Dea-Smith are a sight at best surprising, and at worst so perplexing that people feel compelled to respond. Like the time at a Pocono Mountains flea market when Riding scolded Katie, attracting so many sharp glares that he and his wife, Terri, 37, and also African-American, thought "we might be lynched." And the time when well-intentioned shoppers followed Mark and Katie out of the mall to make sure she wasn't being kidnapped. Or when would-be heroes come up to Katie in the cereal aisle and ask, "Are you OK?"—even though Terri is standing right there.

Brave from Mother Talkers who has two children from Guatemala, says that pervasive racial stereotypes in the media about black folks is a symptom of this kind of behavior:

The roots of this reaction probably lies in racism and the history of African Americans in the US. We have plenty of media images of African Americans as gangstas, drug dealers, maids and caretakers of white children, but not as many media images of them as parents, adoptive parents, successful corporate CEOs, teachers.

Mollie from Get Religion seems more concerned about the analogy describing Katie as 'pale as a communion wafer' than the adoption story. But she is correct in looking at the present demographics of children that need homes in the States:

I have neighbors of various races who have adopted children of various other races — including a black mother with a white child. But while it’s acceptable and increasingly popular for white families to adopt black children, the opposite scenario isn’t as prevalent. While both white and black families prefer to adopt children of their own race, black families have a better chance of adopting a same-race child because of the current demographic situation in foster care. So this makes for a great idea for a story — particularly since we learn in this Newsweek piece that Congress might reinstate race as a salient consideration in adoption cases.

Jae Ran Kim from Harlow's Monkey who has dedicated her blog to transcultural adoption( I highly suggest checking it out) recently spoke at the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parent Association's Cultural Connections Conference and posted her guidelines on Things to think about when parenting a child transracially or transnationally.

So what do y'all think about this? As a transcultural adoptee, I certainly believe in adoption as despite the cultural background of the child, there are parents who are willing to dedicate their lives to those who need it. On the other hand - as dad Mark Riding says, there is a lot of caution and concern from (not so?) well-meaning people who are...let's face it - not used to seeing that family dynamic.




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