Every family is beautiful. Every family has a story. These are stories of two families that are raising children of a different race. This isn’t uncommon in foster care and adoption- but that doesn’t mean it is easy.
Dreaming of a Family
“We walk around Calcutta, India, searching for children that live on the streets in hopes of providing for their daily needs in our orphanage and to tell them how much Jesus values them,” said the missionary and guest speaker at the camp I worked at the summer after my junior year in college. In the span of her 25-minute talk, an acorn of desire to not only adopt a houseful of children, but to make sure that my family was a veritable rainbow of melanin was planted. Growing up, I had friends of all races, so when I began fostering, and ultimately adopting, I was not phased at all by the fact that all but one of them were of a different race and/or ethnicity than I am. Before I became a mother, I spent a lot of time traveling this beautiful planet and being mesmerized by the various cultures I was immersed in.
Now as a mom, I have grandiose plans to take my children on international trips to learn more about their respective cultures, but in the meantime, we read a lot of books. To honor my Latino children, we will be taking classes and working towards becoming fluent in Spanish. My son from South Africa is encouraged to continue expressing himself through the music that flows through his veins and the dance that pours out of him. We listen to music from his country of origin and discuss the memories he has.
One of my favorite things about my family is that our skin doesn’t match. When I look at my son, all I see is a human that I love completely. I am so thankful that, because we look different than many families, we get to be a part of breaking down barriers. I believe that our family is a constant reminder to the world that love has no color. Although it has been a great joy to raise a child with skin color darker than my own (OR of a different race), it hasn’t come without challenges.
Challenges of Raising Children of a Different Race
Although all four of my children are adopted, my South African son looks so much like me many people are surprised to learn that I didn’t give birth to him! One of our greatest challenges as a transracial family is the unplanned and unfiltered quips, questions, and comments that people feel compelled to present us with. Just in case any of those people are reading this blog, I want to point out that when you see me walk into a store with my beautifully different children, or any family that looks like mine, for that matter, you should not ask me if I’m running a daycare, their nanny, or “bless my heart,” but you are more than welcome to ask if we are a family, how we came to be one, and what you can do to help our nation’s and planet’s most vulnerable children.
I’m sure the majority of people don’t mean any harm, but I can only think of what my children are feeling when people speak to us in that manner. We obviously recognize the differences in our skin colors, but we spend so much more time on building our character that it becomes roughly 1% of what we discuss. My friends and family have been so welcoming, loving, and understanding towards my children that we are all often caught off guard when people are surprised by us. I hate to even give voice to prejudice, but I must say that the worst thing anyone has ever said about our racially blended family was that, though they guess it’s nice that I adopted a sibling group from foster care, they just wished that I’d chosen to adopt only children that look like me. To think, someone would rather I let the child I raised from 1-month-old until I adopted her at age 3 be adopted by a family that she looked more like physically than stay with the only family and home she’s ever known! The only response I could give to that was, “Lions don’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.” I refuse to allow small-minded people to have any sway over our family and they will certainly never affect how much we love each other.
The hardest part for me was early on. The looks would come in public from people trying to figure us out. Many would stare at our family with questions in their eyes. Some would make comments, trying to get more information. I still struggle to understand why the difference in our skin color (and what we are doing together) is such a big deal. People are always quick to give their opinions with simply a look. Those looks have been both hurtful and helpful. I’ll never forget the lady watching us in the shoe department. She was the first to look me straight in the eyes and give me the biggest, kindest, most accepting smile. Although we never spoke a word, she gave me the sweetest gift that day. Over the years, I’ve come to welcome the looks and questions. It’s a good thing since we get them everywhere we go! Instead of feeling defensive and trying to protect my son, I now see the glances as new opportunities to help make small changes in people’s mindsets. Our world still has so far to go.
The Beauty of Raising a Child of a Different Race
My favorite thing about raising children of different races has been experiencing each culture through each other’s eyes. When I speak to my children in Spanish they pay closer attention than when I speak to them in English! We attend cultural festivals that celebrate the heritage of their respective birth families as well as others from around the world.
The best advice I can give to others raising children that are of a different race/ethnicity than them is to love your children fiercely for who they are and who they will become. Honor their unique roles in all of the heritages represented by your family. Plan how you will respond when people make snide remarks (I choose to inform people that my children are my greatest blessings and my cup runneth over). Life is too short to live it as anything less than a grand adventure and we’re buckled up for the ride!
It is important to our family to have people in our lives of all different skin colors (races). We are always looking for new opportunities to meet people of different races to invite them into our home and into our lives. Spending time with families that look similar to ours has been very helpful and encouraging.
We have been purposeful to look for strong African American men who are willing to help us learn and invest in our son. We found an amazing barber who not only helps to teach us to take care of his hair but also speaks life over him while his hair is being trimmed. Things as simple as taking care of skin and hair takes some time and effort. I’ve had to ask a lot of questions.
If you have considered adopting a child of a different race, I encourage you to not allow fear to hold you back. I have found that there is an extra special blessing in having someone in your family who doesn’t look like you. Be eager to learn new things, ask questions, and invite people that are the same race as your child into your home.
Are you ready to take a next step in fostering or adopting a child? There is a huge need for more families to step up so that every child can have a family!
Contact Care2Foster and we will walk you through the process- no guilt, no pressure! We want to talk to you about your doubts, answer your questions, and connect you to resources.