Birds of A Different Feather Can Flock Together
If I am lucky enough to live out a stable, healthy and successful life and get to the point where I am considering children, adopting a child would 100% be an option. Irrespective of the fact that I am adopted, even if I wasn’t the desire would still be there. Furthermore, an ethnical match i.e. adopting a child or infant of the same cultural/ethnic background is not something that is important to me. I would warmly welcome a transracial adoption.
What’s interesting to me is the responses I receive from people when I ask the question: ‘Would you adopt a child who’s heritage/cultural matches yours/your partners exactly or most closely?’. Usually, the answer is yes, but when followed by the question: ‘Would you adopt a child of the same heritage/culture as yours, even if it means keeping other children unnecessarily in care for longer periods of time?’, it is at this point of the conversation that I usually witness an uncomfortable, thought provoked, stricken facial expression from that person.
There seems to be this complex between wanting to adopt a child of the same heritage or as close to it and not wanting to keep a child in the system for longer than necessary because it would be negligent to not try and find that similarity. The problem with this, to be brutally honest, is that it sees more children from ethnic minority backgrounds disadvantaged because a perfectly matched family is difficult to find. Statistically, there are much fewer prospective adopters who come from ethnic backgrounds. If we pair this with the fact that the older a child in care gets, the less likely they are to become adopted it proves there is a real deep seated, problematic cycle.
For a lot of people who say they’d rather adopt a child of the same heritage as theirs, the most common reason seems to be the belief that ‘a cultural fit is an important way of creating a sense of belonging for an adopted child’. Undoubtedly, this presumption comes only from a good place but a lot of decisions made around adoption tend to forget the wants, needs, likes and the dislikes of the most important person in the situation - the adoptee -.
Speaking from experience, being adopted into a family who seemingly matched from an ethnicity perspective was only helpful in the sense that growing up nobody thought anything of it. No one asked questions because they assumed I was the biological child of my adopted parents. I am mixed race… so are my siblings… so why would I be adopted? The only difference this made to my life was that I wasn’t questioned from curious peers at school or I wasn’t looked at differently in public if I was out with my family. However, this didn’t lessen any of the other effects of adoption that aren’t obvious to the human eye. I still had the difficulty of dealing (or not dealing) with it as I grew up. What I’m trying to say is that, delaying adoption unnecessarily shouldn’t even be an option. Nor should we prioritise ethnicity over the other needs of children.
Arguably, we are trying to correct it too much in that an ethnicity match is now the primary concern when really the issue is that there are too many children still in care systems. A child will come to know they are adopted regardless of who they are adopted by. Whether they’re adopted into a perfectly matched cultural/ethnic family or not, adoptees will inevitably struggle to cope with a troubled identity because adoption isn’t something that’s supposed to happen in a perfect world. It’s not a natural process in life.
The reality of this situation is that not every single child or infant waiting to find their forever home will be perfectly matched ethnically to their adoptive family. I certainly don’t think transracial adoption is a bad thing at all. However, I believe that where it is going wrong is how it is being dealt with. I think what is very commonly mistaken is the assumption that adoptees are these clean slates, open and ready to be moulded. Their heritage is likely to be unintentionally forgotten about whilst a new one is imprinted upon them. Naturally, an adoptee will take on the culture of whichever family they are adopted into but it should be encouraged that they are taught things about their own too. It’s the small things like, learning about the cuisine of their culture and integrating this into their family life. This way, adoptees may not feel so culturally lost.
In all other aspects of life we are continuously advocating and fighting for the belief that colour does not matter anymore. So isn’t it hypocritical for it to matter in this circumstance?