HRC Blog

Family Stories At The Intersection of Race and Adoption

The following post is submitted by Beth Hall, director of Pact, An Adoption Alliance, an HRC-recognized Leader in Supporting and Serving LGBT Families based in Oakland, CA. At the core of Pact’s mission is serving adopted children of color. Read more about Pact’s mission and values here.

PACT adoption allianceMeeting the needs of fostered/adopted youth of color begins with placement and continues for a lifetime.

A central task of childhood is to define and come to value one’s self. This task can be especially challenging for foster and former foster youth of color. These youth must do some psychological heavy lifting during their childhood because of the compounded negative effects of racism and the significant losses that lead to their placement in foster care.

Families seeking to provide a loving home for foster youth of color must understand that there is no such thing as an environment diverse enough or friendly enough or “good” enough to protect children of color from racism, or to protect fostered/adopted children from their experiences of loss and adoptism (a prejudice, privilege or discrimination based on someone’s entry into their family through adoption as opposed to birth).

Discrimination hurts everyone, but to successfully support their children of color and to become effective anti-racist allies, white parents especially must overcome their fears and take an unflinching look at their own blind spots and biases about race. In addition, those who were not adopted or fostered themselves must explore the societal privileges that the non-adopted receive (like medical history, family history or ancestral knowledge just to name a few) and often do not notice.

In our society that considers “color blindness” a noble attitude, parents are often reluctant to talk about or even mention racism. But we must talk, and we must talk in a way that encourages our children to engage in dialogue, too. When parents confront their own fears, they are modeling for their children who will of course need to do the same. Similarly the notion that adoption is something that happened and doesn’t impact a person’s needs or identity, denies the reality that there are privileges associated with being raised by the family that gave birth to you, which are often invisible to those who are not experienced or educated about the realities of how it feels to be adopted or fostered.

Breaking the racial and adoption “sound barrier” is critical to providing important survival tools to the adopted child of color. Talking about and understanding racism and adoptism gives a child a way to see that the related -isms he experiences is not about him; rather it’s about something bigger that operates on a societal level.

We know that LGBTQ individuals can be effective and successful parents, in part because they have already had to traverse the heterosexist bias that exists in society and thus are often particularly sensitive and competent to manage the additional biases that adopted children of color will face.

At Pact we believe that family stories are an effective way to demonstrate the important skills and strategies parents can use to address their children’s needs and concerns when race and adoption intersect. We hope you enjoy the stories of these families and learn!

This May, HRC is proud to celebrate National Foster Care Month by honoring the leaders at child welfare agencies that are committed to improving outcomes for LGBTQ youth, the LGBTQ foster youth themselves, and the foster families supporting them. Stay tuned to HRC blog throughout the month for more foster care stories.

Learn more about foster parenting and adoption now.

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