What White Adoptive Parents Need To Know About Raising Black Children

Written by: Lydia Berkey

Written by: Lydia Berkey

I am a black woman who was adopted by white parents at 4 months old. 

Growing up in a white family felt normal in the sense that it was all I had ever known, but it also felt unnatural. I’m not white so it was difficult to develop my racial identity as a black woman surrounded almost entirely by white people. I didn’t have parents that could relate to my experiences and life of being black, which led to me feeling disconnected. My parents even said that as soon as I could talk I would point out the differences in my skin color from theirs.

When a family adopts a child of a different race they become a multicultural family. It is important for white parents to adjust their lifestyle and family norms accordingly. Many transracial adoptees grow up isolated from their race of origin. I strive to emphasize to white adoptive parents the importance of transracial adoptees having a sense of belonging and identity when it comes to their race, which should begin in their early childhood years. I believe white adoptive parents can best serve their transracial adoptee through representation inside and outside the home. Your child should be reading books, watching shows, playing with toys with characters that look like them. They should be going to events and interacting with other individuals that look like them. I want to encourage you to talk and celebrate the differences amongst your family members but please remember, while your child’s skin color makes them beautiful, please remind them that their worth is not rooted in their race.

Many times when we educate our children about racism and the oppression of black people we use examples from the past, like slavery and the civil rights movement. But I believe it’s important to give current day examples, such as systemic racism, stereotypes, and micro-aggressions, as racism takes on many different forms throughout our daily lives as black people. Racism is a heavy topic, so give your children hope! Show them the peaceful protests that are going on around the world, and how people are fighting for change! Read books about racism and books with characters that look like them to showcase their beauty.

White parents: it is so important to empower your black children to speak out when someone does or says something racist to them. Not only is it important to teach your children to stand up to racism but also let them know they can always talk to you about what they are feeling.

Also, to future white adoptive parents: before you start a transracial adoption I really want to encourage you to learn about racism, what it looks like in your community, family and in your own heart. Often times people don’t consider themselves racist or privileged but by learning about white privilege, racial history and systemic racism, people can uproot many of their own subconscious biases.

I work full time as a permanency worker at a child welfare agency and part time in a group home for teen moms. I would love to have you join me on my instagram page where I talk about race and adoption often, and please reach out if you have any questions.

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