Help the larger cause · FREE DYLAN REILLY · (2024)

I am an adoption educator (Resume of some of my experience available at the end of petition) and a multiracial adoptee, raised in a "colorblind" white family. I have experienced firsthand the harm of having my entire identity stripped away and the confusion and shame that comes from racial prejudice. When seeking solace at home, I was met with dismissive comments like "they didn't mean it like that" or "you're OUR child, it doesn't matter what they say."

I was around six years old when I first faced the fact that I had brown skin and most of the kids I went to school with were white. This made me stand out, and I distinctly remember how a girl in my class told me I couldn’t play with her because she thought I was Black. I looked down at my hands and up at her face and back down again, confused.

That day, I remember going home and asking my mom why that little girl said what she said and why I looked different. My mother reassured me that it meant nothing and not to mind anything anyone said about my appearance, but despite what she said, the girl’s comments continued to bother me. From that day foreword, I looked at my face in the mirror, picking apart the differences I saw between myself and my family, friends, and community.

As an adult looking back at those memories, what I find interesting is that I was just a child when I realized that my skin color affected how the world saw me and how I saw myself and it only became more difficult as I got older. It was something that othered me in a primarily white environment, and those around me who loved me didn’t know how to address those differences; it became something taboo.

But my story is not unique, which is why we need to mandate comprehensive cultural education on a state and federal level for all adoptive parents who are adopting a child of another race or ethnicity.

Now, we know some adoptees will say they had an amazing experience and didn’t need their parents to do all this it is important to know that adoptees are not a monolith and all have different experiences… But it is well documented that MANY transracial adoptees continue to struggle due to a lack of education of our parents–this is why it needs to be required for all parents.

The systemic issues contributing to the disproportionately high number of Black and Brown children in adoption and foster care systems are complex. However, one thing we can do right now is ensure these children maintain their cultural identities when adopted by families of different races or ethnicities.

One of the first groups to argue against transracial adoption were Black social workers in the 1970s; they believed that transracial adoption threatens the personal development of Black children’s identities and thought that white parents would be ill-prepared to help Black children against racism. You can find their full statement here.

In 1994 Congress passed the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) and removed race from consideration for adoptive placements. This made it easier for white middle-class adoptive parents to adopt children of other races since the law did not form any federal guidelines; it left requirements up to adoption agencies to provide racial and cultural education. The problem with this is that the requirements that adoptive parents fulfill (i.e., racial competency, home studies, income, etc.) vary from each agency and state; some states still only require potential adoptive parents to fill out a questionnaire concerning their attitudes toward race and some require actual classes. Despite how it claims to increase the number of foster and adoptive families, MEPA does not mandate federal or even state funding to increase the outreach efforts to families of color.

MEPA made color-blind placement legally mandatory in the US, except for Native American children who were subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). This federal law that governs the out-of-home placement of American Indian children passed in 1978 to protect Native American families from a biased welfare system. It is now the gold-standard of adoption practices, once again held up by our Supreme Court. We need more protections similar to this for all Black and other children of color.

Adoptive parents should be required to take comprehensive classes on how to support their child's racial identity development and learn about their birth culture. These classes should also educate them about the systemic issues that contribute to racial disparities in adoption.

According to The Donaldson Adoption Institute (2016), transracial adoptees often struggle with identity formation more than same-race adoptees due to lack of exposure to their birth culture. By mandating cultural education for transracial adoptive parents, we can help these children develop strong, healthy racial identities while simultaneously educating families about systemic racism within adoption systems.

Please sign this petition if you believe every adopted child deserves an environment where they can grow up understanding and embracing their unique heritage while feeling loved and accepted by their new family. Because it takes more than love. Love is important, but so is education.

What changes we would like to see:

Please keep in mind that there are special requirements for children with advanced medical needs, complex trauma, and already many agencies and organizations that have implemented transracial adoption education already. We have seen the importance of these tools and how they help families, and this is what we are suggesting we start with statewide and federally.

Minimum Educational Requirements for ALL adoptive parents adopting transracially including private adoption:25 Hours of transracial adoption education that can include

Classes onHygiene and hair careHistory of transracial adoptionThe importance of representation and racial mirrorsAnti-racismAnd much moreLearning from Adoptee and Former Foster Youth ResourcesPodcastsTed TalksConsultationsPanelsMandatory 2 hour class with extended family that will be involved in the child's lifeHave an avenue to receive input from adoptees, foster youth, and even adoptive/foster parents so they can give input on the areas that need more focus in multiracial adoptive familiesOrganizations to hire Black and Brown adoptees to consult and revise curriculum on a yearly basis to offer ongoing supports to families when neededFurther financial investment into recruiting a diverse array of foster and adoptive parentsContinued education requirementsYearly classes for staff to keep up to the needs of BIPOC children in care and how to best support their cultural identity

Other suggestions:

Welfare checks throughout the child's lifeMandatory access to therapy for childrenMandatory therapy or group counseling for parents

Background and Research all referenced in "What White Parents Should Know About Transracial Adoption" by me, Melissa Guida-Richards.

When it first became popular for white parents to adopt children of color, families were advised to raise the adoptees as if they were white. This recommendation was based on the idea that recognizing racial differences would negatively affect development. Later research has shown that transracial adoptees are not exempt from prejudice and racial stress simply because they were raised within a white family. In an ideal world, children would not face any discrimination. Unfortunately, we live in a world that emphasizes our physical appearance, and often that includes our race and ethnicity.

Racial prejudice is a pressing issue. By age three, children can identify racial groups; by ages six to eight, children can consistently classify others by race. Despite this, many adopted parents raised children with a colorblind mentality. Colorblindness, also known as the colorblind racial ideology, is the widely held belief that skin color does not play a role in interpersonal interactions and institutional policies and/or practices. As a woman of color, it is hard for me to understand why so many adoptive par- ents take a colorblind perspective when race plays a significant role in so many things.

Research has begun documenting the harmful effects of racism on the mental and physical health of people of color. Now we know that these effects can lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, even obesity and cardiovascular disease. Some studies show that negative mental health symptoms can appear when people of color are treated like second-class citizens, when they are exoticized, or when they have their experiences invalidated. Racism is often a stressor that elicits coping responses as well as physical and mental stress responses that can contribute to negative health outcomes.

Racial minorities can also experience a trauma response that can result in hypervigilance and hypersensitivity to certain social situations that are triggering. In addition, racism can contribute to negative effects on mental health when people of color internalize negative racial stereotypes that harm their self-worth. Institutional racism contributes to experiencing the effects of chronic stressors and poor living conditions.The lack of a quality support network and the limited number of health professionals and therapists of color can contribute a significant barrier to mental health access.

It’s important to note that:

“Black and American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children are overrepresented in the child welfare system, resulting in disparate outcomes. Inequitable decision-making results in racial disparities at nearly every point along the child welfare continuum.

Families from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds may experience inequitable outcomes when they become involved with child welfare. For example, African American families are more likely to be investigated by child protective services than other families. Additionally, Black, Hispanic, and AI/AN families disproportionately experience poverty, which increases their likelihood of being reported to child protective services than families with more resources.”

You can also read more about the disproportionality in child welfare here.


Some additional Statements from Adoptees of Color about their experiences growing up with white parents:


I am a Black private infant adoptee that was adopted by a white family in Utah. My adopted mother had 3 biological boys, but she wanted a girl. I was a custom ordered child-her request being “a peanut butter skinned baby girl with black curly hair” I was fetishized by my adoptive mother, and treated like a doll. I was raised where they were comfortable in a predominantly white community, and was kept from my culture, heritage, and my history. I was a target of racialized treatment and struggled with my identity and self esteem. I was not taught what racism was or microaggression. I was also raised in a highly abusive home that contained and 3 male pedophiles 1 convicted. Nobody came to help me because of the societal narrative, that adoption automatically equates a “better beautiful life for children.”

I advocate that we need more checks and balances on children who have been adopted. No child of color should not be solely raised by white people when there is no cultural competence in place. we need to center the voices of those most affected by adoption-the adoptee.

I was repeatedly told "I was white now because you pass as white (now) after they bleached and damaged my skin to make me look more white. They constantly told me I would be wrong for wanting to know more about my ethnic background or biological parents and that it's a false narrative that adoption is traumatic and that adopted people don't feel like they fit.This caused me really bad mental health issues especially when it was frequently thrown back in my face they adopted me to "save me" not because they actually wanted to.They truly believed it didn't matter because I was their family now so those things shouldn't matter because ethnicity/race are just constructs and we're all people. But because of that I was neverwhite enough but l also never fit in with people of my ethnicity and I almost didn't survive because of it."My adoptive parents tried to pass me as Italian because they thought being mixed race made me socially and visually inferior. They only told me my birthfather was black after a kid at school called me the N word. Then my mother called me another racial slur when I wore my hair in braids. She told me I shouldn't marry a BIPOC person, failing to consider that I might meet someone whose mother felt the same way. This sense of social inferiority has never left me, and it came primarily from my parents.Forced white assimilation, loss of my language and loss of access to my Latino/ indigenous heritage broke my heart. For a young child, it had irreversible effects like not feeling safe in my own body, not knowing how to protect myself or having people who look like me to protect me. I have to learn to cope with the anger and trauma left in my mind and body.Without change and access to resources to heal, adoptees continue to suffer invisibly from this white privileged broken system. If society is working towards racial equity and awareness, the adoption system is another example of systems of trauma that has to be included as what's happening in society to transracial adoptees. There is not an invisible colorblind neutral space for me, my culture, my race is history on my face that can’t be erased.I'm a black biracial adoptee who's father was never told about me. I was denied my family, my heritage, my reality. I was raised in a racist white environment leading to pain, confusion and self hate. Adoptees of color belong in homes of color.I was adopted at a time when it just was not done as much and my parents were woefully unprepared. And did as they were socialized to do and saw my outbursts to being called Black (then my name) and having family reunions one day I was allowed to come people stayed away. Everyone being appalled when I did anything that any of the blond hair blue eyed cousins did. I feel like the damage is generational. I married a Black man his family never accepted me because my tone my way of being everything that I knew was very white (if I could say that) and now my children who are in college live in this inbetween place as I did. I made up their childhood because I had no firm footing in either world. It lead to a very complicated life and sure I may have been happy as a child being sheltered by my white parents but the racism in my world was very prevalent. my parents were quite wealthy and I was often in Spaces were no Black people had ever been. Unfortunately, my parents deny the damage in that they deny the loneliness they deny the outcome and they insist that the world is better and we've come along way. I've tried to explain to them that the system that was damaging me was who they were trying to use to fix me the long one we decided to partways I feel like there's way too much of blatant racism to even explain the parents always give me the answer. They're just ignorant whenever I would come home with stories of the N-word or being put in the back of the line or, having someone be coddled and response to my actions from their actions.Not that I am against transracial adoption, but currently it is not working for transracial adoptees. Growing up as a TRA, I lost my culture, my native tongue, and any connection to my cultural community. My culture is a part of me, so when I was adopted, even if inadvertently, a part of myself was left behind. As an adult, trying to recover those pieces is an endless search for something that is never truly found.I just want to say hearing over again that we "weren't like the other ones" white people were just sh*t talking and stereotyping made me absolutely panic when people would say "what are you/where are you from" because I knew I should be truthfully and say half Mapuche half Ghanaian from Chile but foreign and BIPOC when you could just be Latino or white and American seemed like the safer choice. That letting people call me China Doll, Chachi and Pocohontas seemed safer than correcting them or telling them I didn't like the name, it was inaccurate, inappropriate or insensitive That the only time my adoptive parents stood up for prejudice and racism and being singled out publicly and loudly is when my teacher paraded me around school to show off how I looked EXACTLY like a little girl in the Chile section of the book that week. Not because it took me out of class or because the girl was traditionally dressed and I was getting upset because they didn't want me asking questions about family there.That my parents were more protective of my moms Arab heritage than my Indigenous one to the point I have to remember to not say Syrian when asked where my family is from. That there were people that referred to me and other BIPOC adoptees in the family as charity cases who got lucky to our faces. That every person who has gotten mad at me has thrown my adoption and subsequent abandonment in my face as not being worth my parents privilege and that they were smart to get rid of me.

Statements from White Adoptive Parents Supporting Transracial Adoption Education:

I was required zero hours of transracial adoption education. We were matched with a “white” child to learn at the hospital that child was not white. The transracial adoption education from adoptees has been crucial to my own education, our family and most importantly my child/transracial adoptee in forming who he is, his identity, culture and celebration. This is so crucial that I pay adoptees to education prospective parents and adoptive parents virtually and fly them in person to conduct work shops-it’s that important.I would LOVE this to be a requirement of transracial adoption!! My husband and I had to fight to get any type of transracial adoption specific training through our fostering agency. Thankfully we found several great resources, but we would never have been required to do so. Some things I’ve learned from transracial adoptees that have been incredibly helpful… the importance of racial mirrors, how to respond to inappropriate questions/comments about your family/children, how to respond to difficult questions from your children… there’s so much!!It's actually hard to sum up what I have learned from transracial adoptees, particularly you and your book because it has been SO much. Here are a few things I can think of off the top of my head: transracial adoption's effects on identity. Things that transracial adoptees miss out on that most people take for granted. The importance of racial mirrors. Why white parents aren't able to fully understand what it's like to deal with racism. Also regarding training, my agency made anyone even considering adopting transracially take a class on transracial adoption and identity. We had to submit paperwork identifying potential racial mirrors in our life for our child as well. To me this was the bare minimum but it also inspired me to seek out more adoptee voices online and in real life.We adopted from foster care, and listening to adoptee voices like yours has kept adoptee experiences, challenges and stories front and center. As a result, I am more curious with our kiddo, more trauma informed, and more apt to seek out materials written by FFY or adoptees (and more likely to avoid shiny texts by Adoptive Parents)This is so important. In California, we were required to take several classes on adopting transracially and how to honor and integrate our sons’ birth culture. What I have learned most is how much representation matters, and being in community with people who look like you. Our sons are Mexican, so I am taking Spanish classes through a local cultural center which also teaches me more about their heritage that I can pass along. We also have art by Mexican artists in our home and I make sure they can see themselves in the shows they watch on TV and the toys they play with. Nothing will replace what they lost by not being raised in their birth families, but the very least I can do is show them their heritage is beautiful and loved and respected in our home and should be celebrated. And I have learned SO MUCH from you, and Angela Tucker, and a million other adult adoptees who are gracious enough to share their stories and experiences. THANK YOU. You all make me a better mom.Transracial adoption education is incredibly important for your adopted child to grow up comfortable in their own skin and feel they have a connection to their ancestors, tribes, or communities that they have been removed from. It's impossible for parents to get a true view of the experiences of another culture without education and mentorship for the whole family. It also prepares you as a parent to recognize and eliminate very hurtful micro aggressions and blatant discrimination your child will one day face so they can be prepared and confident and proud.In Texas, we were required to take a 1 hour class on it prior to adoption. I honestly could not tell you a single thing covered in that class... it was so basic. Just another thing to check off prior to adoption. Thankfully, if you are looking, there are lots of great resources to be found! Like your page and book!We have been in the adoption process for two years and I have done 10 hours of transracial adoption education and read your book. Although my son isn’t old enough yet for me to apply a lot of the knowledge I’ve gained - I feel that the education has better prepared ~Lauren Junge-MaughanI’m a Hispanic/Latina mom and adopted a black child. This needs to be something that happens. The reason is that I feel like it’s about the long-term more than anything. Not knowing right now isn’t creating challenges for you and your adopted child. It’s about relationships that shape a person and their ability to connect long term with family and friends. My child will be whole if I make sure to acknowledge his whole self throughout his life.Transracially adopted twice with zero education on the topic until we did our own research post 1st adoption. It 1000% should be a requirement and I’d even participate now post adoption.I’m so thankful that our home study provider and one of our adoption agencies required extensive training before we could be eligible for transracial adoption, it’s so much more than just clicking a box yes or no! One of our other agencies provided resources and education monthly on different topics, and I joined a group of women who were on different stages of the adoption journey, we had book club (that’s how I found you!), we had classes and courses, and exchanged resources with one another. As an adoptive Mom of transracial adoptee I know I am constantly striving to be a better parent for her and working hard to fill in any gaps that I don’t inherently know. Having said that though, the community as a whole needs more up to date education, a lot of the required resources were 20-30 years old, in a post 2020 world we really need language and ideas to line up with current events and experiences.We were required by our agency to have transracial education if you were open to any race outside your own. It is important and helpful. The idea that never occurred to me was my son's adoption wouldn't be something he could "hide" because it is obvious. And how we needed to prepare him for questions and how to respond if he wanted to share or if he didn't want to share. From my background in Sociology and that education, we knew it was important that our son had connections to his race and ethnicity outside his interactions with his biological family (we have an open adoption). We factored that in when we were moving. We chose an area with a large population that matched his ethnicity. That way, he could have a doctor, a teacher, and friends that looked like him.Me and my husband (white) recently adopted our black foster son. He’s about to turn 3 and has been in care since 2 weeks of age. Once it became apparent that adoption was going to take place, I took charge and started researching all the ways to do right by him. Through your book we learned of the importance of racial mirrors. Of cultural influences. Of connection with bio family. We are committed to putting in the work (and also learning how to do that in the first place). Monarch Connections has been helping guide us. The part in your book where you talk about adoptive parents morphing into being anti-adoption kind of resonated with me. I find myself cringing looking back at how naive we were as new foster parents. I cringe when well-meaning people comment on how lucky our son is. It’s something I’ll have to work on as well.We adopted in VA and we were required to do 12 hours of training. I benefited from the class on how to take care of my child’s hair and the importance of it in her culture. I also enjoyed the class on the importance of having mentors who look like her and can give her advice and solace when her birth parent can’t. It’s been so beneficial for our family.Oh my gosh this is so so so important. All that was required was us to take one two hour class. Pretty much all of my education has been self motivated through reading books like yours, and following adult adoptive voices. Adopt these deserve mirrors, and if they can’t have those, they deserve people who are willing to give them mirrors.White adoptive parent here who has read your book and cited it in a paper I wrote for law school. Here’s my message to potential white adoptive parents: You are likely adopting an infant. But infancy goes by in a flash, and soon your child will be interacting with other humans outside of your presence. Even if you and every member of your family were completely enlightened and #notracist (hint: if you think this, please do not adopt; you are deluded), your child is about to experience life as a non white person. You have a duty to work at understanding that experience as best you can and to prepare and support your child for the life they are actually experiencing and not the dream you as their white parent hopes it would be.Also, get over your fear of the birth family. Connection with the birth family is more important than your fear or pride or whatever instinct makes you want to keep them away from their child.

Help the larger cause · FREE DYLAN REILLY · (2024)
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