In 6th grade I had a very close friend named Parminder, I think we both got along because we were quiet and kept to ourselves. The one thing that always intrigued me about Parminder, was the contrast between her skin tone and hair. She had the blackest hair I had ever seen, and her skin was the color of copper. It was rare occurrence for Parminder and I to see each other outside of school, but one day she invited me over to her house. When I walked into her house, I expected to see parents that looked just like her, but I saw two very blond hair and blue-eyed people and that’s when it dawned on me that Parminder was adopted. Being the nosey kid I was, when I asked her about it, she told me she was from India and was adopted when she was 2 yrs old. I didn’t think anything about it until I was listening to the news these past couple of days.

In recent news, The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) has been questioned in regards to transracial adoption practices and procedures. Basically the MEPA prohibits race from being considered a factor in most decisions about adoption from foster care. Whether you’re black or white, you’ll go through the same adoption training as someone who wants to adopt a child from their own race. Statistics show that there is a larger number of minority children in the foster care system compared to white children.

Personally, I believe that it shouldn’t matter who adopts these children, as long as they’re given a chance to get out of the ‘system’, but I do feel that if a couple does venture out to adopt a child or another ethnicity, there should be some type of ‘ethnic’ & cultural sensitivity training involved. I think these children should be able to live in an environment that provides the child an opportunity to participate in positive experiences with their culture, religion, and language. A child should be able to interact with parents who have an understanding what it feels like for the child to look different from their parent and also to have a parent that has knowledge of special dietary, skin, hair, and health care needs. Although there are private organizations who take part in similar trainings, I think this should be mandatory and State funded initiatives.

One incident in particular that I remember was how Parminder would always lotion herself up throughout the day at school and she would never want to play outside when it was really sunny. When I asked her why, she always said she didn’t want to become darker and since the lotion was white, she would hope that it would change her to a lighter color, so that she could match her family.

When I look back at the years of friendship I had with Parminder, I can see where her parents failed her. She wasn’t taught anything about her Indian culture, she thought because her skin was darker than her parents and siblings that something was wrong. It wasn’t until we attended college at Rutgers University, which has a large Indian population, that she was able to learn and appreciate her culture and embrace it. I would hope that children that are involved in transracial adoptions are taught their history, culture & the ability to embrace their differences and to be proud of who they are.

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  • Anthony

    Knowing how to care for a black girl’s hair is a very important thing! If a person is going to raise a black child, that person needs to take the time to know what might really impact the child in question. In a world where long and straight hair is valued, one of the worst thing a person could do for a little girl’s self esteem would be to not be able to properly care for the child’s hair so that it will grow. This is doubly an issue if that child is going to be raised in a house of white people with long and straight hair.

  • This article is a very good example illustrating the need of genetic mirroring in human beings and how that lack of opportunity in adoption can negatively affect an adoptees self esteem. The simplified process goes like this: Child looks at mommy or daddy and because of their natural love for them, they think their parents are beautiful. They are reassured by their smile, their facial expressions, etc. Child grows up, sees similar expressions, face in their own reflection in the mirror and feels good about the way they look. They learn to accept how they look and love themselves.

    Often in international or inter race adoptions, the adoptee does NOT have faces that look like theirs to admire or even to get used to. So when they look int he mirror they look “wrong” and this can become internalized.

    Often when we think about adoption, we assume we are “saving” children, but “more” things often doesn’t compare with the less tangible that is lost by removing a child form their people and their culture.

  • It is absolutely imperative that families adopting children of another race/ethnicity examine closely what this means for their family and ultimately the child/children they hope to adopt. I am brown, adopted by a white family. While my life was indeed good and still is there were very critical elements to my development that were difficult due to the lack of understanding of my family surrounding race/difference and what all of that meant to me and how it affected me. In particular, my hair was a HUGE issue. This is a big miss for families…there are plenty of resources to learn how to do your child’s hair or better yet, ask your friends of color to teach you. No friends of color? Well, um for starters you might want to find some and go to some places where you are the minority. There do not need to be cosmic shifts here but more attention does indeed need to be paid to the additional preparation of families that are considering adopting a child outside of their race. Thanks for the article.

  • angryasianadoptee

    I’m a transracial, transnational adoptee from Korea who grew up with white parents who divorced a few years after adopting me. (My comments below only refer to white prospective adoptive parents, but I do think we all need to have a race consciousness.) I think white parents should stop and think about who their friend circles are before they even think about adopting a child from another race. If white parents have no friends who are of that prospective adoptee’s race, what is their knowledge and connection with the culture and values of that group and how are they going to instill positive values into this child? How are they going to get input from their friends whether they are making the right choice? Why one race over the other? (Please, once you adopt, do not expect us to be your cultural bridge. That’s not going to happen.) And if positive values about their race/culture are not intentionally instilled into the kids, then how will kids combat the negative messages that they will inevitably pick up? And if you look at how these message are picked up and kids are socialized, particularly children of color, what are the sources? There are parents, school, teachers, fellow peers, television shows, and the media to name a few. If the parents do know have much knowledge of their child’s culture, if the school their kids go to is predominantly white with curriculum that brushes over/dismisses the child’s heritage, if TV shows – in my example – show very few positive, non-stereotypical images of Asians (the “model minority” is NOT positive. It is intensely damaging to the API collective and to us as individuals and messages we internalize about who we are supposed to be.), then how are we to gain a positive idea of ourselves? What if most of the media we consume shows us that being white is the standard? What if we complain to our parents that a kid said something “not nice” (ie racist) to us and our parents just dismiss them as being mean, but do not give us the words to combat racism and to view ourselves as normal? What is our white parents are blinded by their own white privilege that it disables them from truly understanding their child’s experience? Regardless of these things, I do love my parents, and, yes, they could have done better. But what I’m talking about right now is not my parents, but it is questioning the systemic, racial dynamic that affects all of us.