Friday, December 3, 2010

Weighing In On Transracial Adoption

This topic keeps coming up in my little world so I need to share some thoughts. Awhile ago I was talking to a friend who recently adopted an infant from Africa. She shared numerous stories with me of how she and her husband have faced persecution because they are a white/Caucasian couple who have adopted a black/African child. Her stories of other’s negative comments and actions towards them were mostly of strangers who saw them out in public with their child and decided to voice their opinions on their transracial adoption. When my friend was sharing these heart-breaking stories with me, my jaw literally dropped to the floor. I absolutely cannot believe that people would actually behave in this manner towards another human because they adopted a child of a different race. It just blows my mind.

And just this week, another family who recently has started the adoption process emailed me about issues of race coming up in discussions with extended family members since they too are a white couple, adopting an African child. My friend had a superb question for me. She asked: As Christians, do we still have to live black vs. white or couldn't we try to love and accept one another as the family of God? Or is it too naive to think that way?

So, I believe it’s time for me to weigh in on this topic. Thankfully I don’t need to eloquently figure out how to word my thoughts on this, because someone else has already done that for me. Good old Russell Moore. Let me share a short excerpt on this topic from his book:

Right now there are untold numbers of children – many, many of them from racial minorities – tied up in the foster care system in the United States. Can any of us honestly believe it would be better for an African-American child to remain in this bureaucratic limbo than to be a child to parents whose skin is paler than his? Who could really suggest it would be better for a white Russian child to live in an orphanage until she is dismissed at eighteen to a life of suicide or homelessness or prostitution than for her to grow up with loving African-American parents?

This approach loves the abstract notion of “humanity” more than it loves real, live human beings. It neatly categorizes persons according to their racial lineages rather than according to their need for love, for acceptance, for families. As Christians, we can’t see things that way. Our love for neighbor means we must prioritize the need for families for the fatherless, regardless of how their skin colors or languages line up with one another.

This author brings up the point of putting the need for a family for an orphan as priority over skin color. Let me also touch on our personal experience in adopting a child out of poverty. Because I have physically been to Africa and experienced what is even only a tiny fraction of the poverty there, I would like to defend the fact that regarding Africa, adoption is chosen by birthmothers as a means of SURVIVAL. Racial preference isn’t even on the radar. I understand that it is extremely hard for the typical American to comprehend that people are actually starving…TO DEATH. But I’ve seen it. I understand that it is extremely hard for the typical American to comprehend the amount of children spending EVERY WAKING MOMENT in an over-crowded orphanage or foster care home, with no family. But I’ve seen it. I understand that it is extremely hard for the typical American to comprehend that there are seriously children LIVING ON THE STREET with no caretaker. But I’ve seen it. I understand that it is extremely hard for the typical American to comprehend that there are school age children who have not and never will have the opportunity to be educated. But I’ve seen it. The typical American doesn’t want to hear about the young African girl who has to sell her body in prostitution so that she can have money to buy food. The typical American hasn’t ever met an African mother and father who are giving their two boys in adoption because malaria is killing the children in their village since there is no access to good food, water, or medicine. When your child is dying next to you of starvation, I can imagine that the last thing on your mind is that you really don’t want your child to get food if it is provided by someone of a different race. But the typical American hasn't first-hand experienced any of these scenarios. And, what is frustrating is when people who have never experienced this sort of poverty have negative and critical reactions to transracial adoption. This is what I would say to anyone who would personally attack our own transracial adoption: Look my child in the eye and tell him that you would rather he starved to death than be raised by a white family. Say it to his face.

Take a look at this picture of us with Justice’s birthmother….
This was the first night that she ever met us. Does it look she is concerned that she is giving her son over to be raised by white parents? No. She was so thrilled that she could give this opportunity to Justice that she didn’t stop thanking us and praising us and hugging us and kissing us and praying with us and smiling ear to ear the entire time she was around us.

Now, back to my friends who have been persecuted outrightly by strangers regarding their adoption. They also had the opportunity to meet their son’s birthmother, who was a 15 year old young girl. It still gives me goosebumps thinking of how they described the moments when they met her. With tears my friend has shared with me how joyfyul this birthmother was in knowing that her son had been given a family that would care for him and give him opportunities.

Over a month ago I also got to sit in the home of another adoptive family and watch close to a 3 minute video of their children’s birthmother praising God that her son and daughter had been adopted out of the extreme poverty of Haiti. This birthmother sang praise songs to her children (who were adopted by an all-white family) after she had gotten to watch a video clip of her birthdaughter dancing and twirling with her new Caucasian sisters (the birthmother had gone back to the orphanage where she had left her children to see if they had made it through the earthquake and the staff showed her the video). This birthmother was so thankful that her children were saved and were going to have hope for a better life that she couldn't stop singing. It was BEAUTIFUL!

I remember easily the story that our pastor shared in church of the day that he and his wife got to meet the birthparents of the two boys they adopted from Ethiopia. The first reaction of the birthparents upon meeting our pastor and his wife (a white family who was adopting their African boys) was to fall on their knees in tears and praise God. They kept saying thank you, thank you, thank you.

I understand that some will read this post and say that I am biased because our family has done a trans-racial adoption. But don’t call me biased because of that. Call me biased because I have been to the continent where 46 million orphans are waiting for someone to give them an opportunity at life. Call me biased because last week two days before Thanksgiving we got a phone call from a young bi-racial 16 year old who had just gotten kicked out of his foster care home and put in a youth shelter. His parents had reliquinshed their parenting rights years ago when he was 3 years old and he had no other family to turn to in his desperate need. So who was the first person he called for help? His basketball coach….my husband. And my husband worked his tail off for a day and a half trying to find a family in our community licensed for foster care who would take in this young man, permanently. And at the last hour, just before this boy’s case worker was about to head home for Thanksgiving break, my husband found a family for this young man. And guess what, they are an all-white family. And guess what, this young boy did not have to spend his Thanksgiving in a youth shelter. Now he lives with this family in our community and he has been texting my husband every single day thanking him and telling him how awesome his new family and school are.

Sometimes I would like to take the people who make these negative transracial adoption comments and stick them in an orphanage or in foster care and make them live there for a few years. Then I will come back and interview them ask them if they still would like to ensure that a child is never adopted by someone of a different race. It just doesn’t make sense to me. In my opinion it is NOT better for a child to spend his or her entire life housed in an orphanage than to be raised by a mommy and daddy of a different race. In my opinion it is NOT better for a child to live on the street, homeless, with no parents than to be raised by a mommy and daddy of a different race. In my opinion it is NOT better for a child to starve to death or die of a preventable disease than to be raised by a mommy and daddy of a different race. Absolutely not. Orphans need a family. And food. And shelter. Not to mention education, good medicine, and access to opportunity. And these things take priority over race.


Lori said...

Until we have the eyes and heart of Christ, we don't even see the need. I think of the song by Brandon Heath, and pray everyday, "Give Me Your Eyes."

Jody said...

We all need to stop being the typical american, move out of our comfort zone and be the hands and feet of Christ, loving all of God's children. Press on.

Venegas Family said...


SO well said!! Thank you for this post!

Farmgirl Chaos said...

Thanks for sharing your heart Janel. God has sure blessed you with a way with words.
Also, I love seeing colorful, happy families, thanks to adoption. Your family is only 1 of a handful that I know, but I always smile whenever I see your and the other families. :)

the crawfords said...

Personally I can't wait to have a little variety of beautifully colored skin in our household. And I can just imagine what I would say for some ignorant person in the grocery store who might negatively question it! "well, thank you very much for your unneeded opinion, person who I don't even know. We just thought that these children might like to not starve to death or have to sell their bodies to survive in the pit of Africa. Maybe you should ask them if they'd like to go back? Oh and by the way, I'm far more concerned about what the Creator of these children has to say about their lives then some random person who wants to give me their two cents worth. But thank you for your opinion. Have a nice day and may God bless you and your simple mind." HA! that's probably what my sinful heart would want to say. I hope I would come up with something a little more gracious! :)

Matthew & Jennifer Pitkin said...

Oh wow, this is an amazing post and answers so many questions! Keep preaching, Janel! I am sobbing right now, feeling so encouraging and empowered to keep pressing toward our future son/daughter from Ethiopia! Praise God that He has given you a gift with the written language and blogging so that others can read and hear and press forward with the wind to their backs! Love you!

kayla said...
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Emily @ Busy Mommy said...

I still have a lot to learn about this adoption process and adopting transracially. I can't even imagine what I would say to someone who would question the choice. I know that I wouldn't want to be negative and defensive back towards them, but I would want to get the message across about how many orphans there really are out in this world. There is need ALL around the world, but Africa has extreme cases of poverty, starvation, etc. and you've seen it with your own eyes!

Lynne said...

we also adopted transracial the comments that came from our family... i can just shake my head... but we prayed and God changed their attitudes and hearts and minds... (concerning us.. i would think) and today they love our children as if they are their own.... God is amazing and He can change hearts...

The people who freely give their opinions about this are usually the scared ones.. the ones who are to scared to see the truth, because then their hearts will break with pain for these littles... xx