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CULTURE AND IDENTITY


RACE

Many international adoptions are also transracial adoptions. This adds another layer of complexity to the adoption. The distinction between racial and cultural identity is unclear in most adoption outcome studies. Visible adoption affects the whole family; the family loses its privacy and becomes a transracial family. The child may have the stressful experience of "double consciousness" - identification with two cultures simultaneously but alienation from both. Depending on the makeup of the surrounding community, the child may be stigmatized within the daily environment. This may be subtle and insidious; adoptive parents are sometimes unaware of their child's experience of covert racism.

Transracial adoption or transcultural adoption accounted for 14% of all domestic adoptions in the United States in 1994; adjustment was deemed successful in 70-90%. Some question whether good adjustment comes at the cost of sacrifice of heritage. This concern is the basis for the current practice supported by most social work organizations of transracial placement only after the possibility of same-race placement is exhausted.

Experts on transracial adoption recommend that parents cultivate special awareness of the roles of race, ethnicity, and culture in the lives of their children. They must become sensitized to racism and discrimination, and create opportunities for their child to learn about and participate in his or her culture of birth, beyond attending the occasional ethnic festival. This is best accomplished by finding role models for their children within their birth culture. Finally, parents must provide their child with survival skills to cope successfully with racism. A survey of transracial adoptive parents generated 39 recommendations for prospective parents considering this type of adoption, which is set forth below.

 

From THE HANDBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION MEDICINE by Laurie C. Miller. © 2004 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Used by Permission.

 

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