In adopting a child, we may seek certain characteristics, but humans are complex creatures. We cannot select a child's characteristics based on his or her ethnic background. Every child has her own unique characteristics that need to be valued and cultivated. Children will be who they will be, a fact of life that is as true when adopting as when you have a biological child.
A child's race or ethnic background does not predict the child's characteristics, but it may well predict the reactions of others. That is why the first question that comes to mind when you consider adopting a child outside your racial background (a transracial adoption) is often, "What will my family think?" Perhaps you do need to consider the responses of family and friends, especially if you think your family would have difficulty accepting such a child. Often the lack of acceptance, however, has more to do with what your mother's Aunt Edna may think rather than
what your immediate family will think. Sometimes people use nonacceptance by family as a way to cover up the fact that they would find it difficult to raise a child who does not look like them or who belongs to a certain race or ethnic group.
If you are truly comfortable with a transracial or international adoption, expecting acceptance from every last relative, including those you see once a year, is unrealistic. If you are concerned that closer family and friends may have difficulty, you may want to discuss some of their concerns with them and let them know that you want to consider their feelings. Your parents may have to go through the stages of grief related to the loss of having biological grandchildren, and from there they may need to come to terms with having grandchildren who do not look like them. It may have taken you months or years to process the decision to adopt transracially; expect your family members to need some time to process their feelings as well.
Remember, grandparents and other close relatives who say they cannot accept a baby of a certain racial or ethnic background will probably be enthralled with him once he arrives. If they can't accept the child, you may ask yourself, in the words of one adoption attorney, "Do you really want to be around someone who cannot accept a sweet innocent baby because of the color of her skin?"
The materials for this course have been reprinted with permission from the book The Complete Adoption Book, Third Edition, Copyright © 2005, 2000, 1997, by Laura Beauvais-Godwin and Raymond W. Godwin. Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Media, Inc. Co. All rights reserved. The complete book is available at bookstores on and offline.