Are you a transracial adoptive or foster parent? Have you wondered how you can help your child form a healthy racial identity. Does racial identity formation change depending on the race of the child? Today we talk about all this and more with Dr. Gina Miranda Samuels, a professor at the University of Chicago and Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. She is a transracial adoptee and co-author of the book Multiracial Cultural Attunement.
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Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about adoption in foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am both the host of this show, as well as the director of the nonprofit creating a families.org. Today we're going to be talking about transracial adoption fostering, and specifically we're going to be talking about understanding race and racial identity. We will be talking with Dr. Gina Samuels. She is a professor at the University of Chicago and Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. She is a transracial adoptee and the co author of the book, Multiracial Cultural Attunement. Welcome Dr. Samuels.
Thank you, thank you for having me.
Well, transracial adoption and foster placements are common, and transracial. Kinship families are also increasingly common were grandparents or other relatives of one race are raising a biracial grandchild, niece, cousin, whatever. And trans rights role of placements can be white parents with black, biracial, Asian, Latin X children or children of other racial or ethnic identities. But it can also include black and brown parents raising a white child, I think we often don't think of that. But that also is included. When we think of transracial adoption. And I, I do believe that they they often feel left out of this discussion. So let's start by just talking about how children in general well, and let's make it specific to the US. Or you could talk if you could expand to other countries if you know as well, but how do children in the US come to understand race at different ages and developmental stages?
Yeah, and I think that's important to sort of state that kids who are adopted, or kids who find themselves in foster care or being raised by kin, at the core are our kids. And so there are some aspects of their development that aren't any different than anyone else. And then there's sort of this layer that goes on top of their experience, because they find themselves in these family structures that sometimes are different and distinct. And so I appreciate starting from the place of these are human being children. And like any other human being children, they are aware of difference. And we know that even as young as, as two, three months old, babies start to take in cues about who is familiar, even before babies are born, they have the capacity to recognize familiar smells, and sounds, even in the womb. So I think one one thing for people to know is just as soon as two, three months old, babies are able to recognize differences in skin tone, facial features, that later in their life, they will come to associate as race. But obviously as babies, they just know it's different, this person looks different, this person's hair is different. This person's skin tone is different. Their sound, a voice is different. And so I think that's important for parents to think about in terms of exposing children to a whole range of difference in the visual visible difference of people that we later will understand as race and that, you know, the Clarkdale tests that were done way back in the day to under do or outdo the racial segregation in schools, we've done these things more recently post desegregation, and found that still, children of color and white children tend to pick up these preferences, these Eurocentric white preferences for white as being associated with someone who you would trust somebody who you might like better, somebody who you think is safer, somebody who you think is smarter or more attractive. And so you know, that can happen as early as three, and certainly is in full bloom by the time a child goes to school and is in kindergarten. And so just like with gender, or anything else, these are floating in the air of our society and children pick them up immediately and start to layer on top all of the meanings that we as adults ultimately come to associate with both good and bad things that have to do with race and culture.
I think that, that we don't acknowledge how quickly racial bias develops, that have read a fascinating study that talked that was at a very young age, like one or two children tended to prefer of same race, they would build some familiarity and things. But then when they what was interesting, they did the same kids at four, three and four, and they found that even black and brown children were preferring the in group became the the white, which was Yeah, which is fascinating.
Yeah, yeah. And over time, and, you know, a way in the 40s. When this was first done, it was there was not much difference between kids of color and white kids in terms of preference for White. And what we found is now there is a slight improvement and that some kids of color don't have quite as strong preference. away or might also exhibit preference for their own race. But that for white kids, there's been no change in that preference. And since
the 1940s. Well, that's interesting. Let me pause for a minute to tell you about a free educational resource that we are providing. Thanks to the jockey being Family Foundation, we now have 12 free online courses available for you to listen to can be used as continuing education if you need that. And they're all about parenting and how to be the best parent to your child. You can get them at Bitly, slash j, b, f support, and is bi T dot o y slash. This is all one word, J. B. F support, and also let others know about it. So how does transracial adoption or fostering or kin care impact a child's understanding of race?
So I think one of the ways in which translational adoption, kinship care or foster care can add another layer on to these normative developmental processes around race is that oftentimes, we're walking around with families that don't necessarily match race, really. And so we have in our society, this presumption that families are created, particularly families that involve children through biology. And so we presume that if you're a family, there's going to be at a very minimum racial resemblance. And when there's not racial resemblance, in addition to all the cues that any other child might get about race, you oftentimes experience as a multiracial family, a lot of external question, stares, looks, that's cute you that you are not normal, your family or that your family is not expected. And so oftentimes, I find that people who are new to transracial parenting, or multiracial reality by a family are really taken aback at how presumptuous and outward of how, how assertive people are strangers in these very random places to ask you, how do you go together? Or even might do things subtly that que? I'm not seeing that you all together? So, you know, they might say, you know, I know that when I would go to dinner with my mom, sometimes as an adult, even people would say, is this together? Is this check together? Or people will come up to parents and be like, Oh, or presume that they are adopted? And when sometimes they're not. And so, you know, fam biological families or kinship care, families might experience this, you know, kind of presumption that this is not your biological child or your biological grandchild, when actually it is. So it can happen in all kinds of ways. But I think if you didn't grow up in a family that looked different in some kind of way, the adults involved are oftentimes unprepared for the sort of onslaught of questions that oftentimes are really inappropriate and very private, that people just feel compelled to, like, make meaning of how how, what the explanation is, is that how you all have come together in a family? And so I think, you know, the adults need to be ready for that and think through like, how are you going to model for your child responses to that, that don't make the situation more traumatic or dramatic than it needs to be? But that protects the boundary of your family really clearly.
Okay, great, perfect. Do we need to say anything? But I don't know the answer to this to children who are translationally adopted? Has there been any studies that have indicated that they are? More say that they earlier attuned to race because they noticed differences or not? I don't know if that's I don't know the answer to that.
Yeah, I think there, there is some indication that kids who are translationally adopted are kids that are growing up in a in a family where they might earlier have these outside triggers, I think, as we talked about earlier, that all kids very early learned about race, but what can happen is that kids who are in transracial adoptive families or multiracial families of some sort, might, in a very early way, also learn more adult meanings of race. And so well, you know, the children at three and four that might be exhibiting preferences for white bias, they may not be able to they did not necessarily have a, an extreme circumstance or something that came to them from the outside that lost on that adult meanings. But when you are walking around as a mixed race family, and you might have adults that actually express this directly to you, it can prematurely expose you to the hatred and the bigotry part of the racial meaning of different so it's not just that you're recognizing that there are differences which is not a bad thing to recognize, but that you also are exposed very early on to some people's very strong and negative opinion. about your family, about you and the skin you're in. And oftentimes, I think parents, particularly white parents, where they have not been exposed to that version of the world are caught very unprepared for the strength of people's opinions around race mixing.
So how does trans racial or trans cultural adoption or fostering or kin care impact kids?
I think some of the ways in which trans racial or trans cultural adoption, kinship or fostering can impact kids sort of depends on ways in which parents have introduced that as a as a thing around which one socializes their identity. It has to do with whether the age of the child and whether or not they have a relationship. So I think oftentimes in foster care, there's a very different experience that these young people have in their foster homes because they have lived in their biological family. And so that presents a different kind of way of parenting because you're parenting a child that has had a certain number of years of experience, being racially socialized, and culturally socialized in their family of origin. And then may either go to a grandparent or auntie where that may be different or similar, or may go to someone who they are not related to where it could be completely different on many layers. I do think that one of the things that oftentimes we don't talk about is the way in which being a transracial adoptee or having transracial fostering experience. But that is not the normative context in which people grow up that there's the world is organized. And I mentioned this earlier, the world is organized to understand families as having parents who share really key experiences that they anticipate their child is going to also experience and that they can pass this version of how they've coped in the world on and that is particularly important for kids of color. And so we assume all our models of racial identity, assume that parents have these capacities already in them, and they've dealt with them in certain ways. And then they can sort of transmit that initially to children. And in a mixed race family and a translationally adopted family and particularly in white parented. transracial adoptive families, that's not the case. And so sometimes, that means that parents may, for the very first time, be in relation to someone with whom they do not share a raise, but someone who they are needing to be the bridge to a community that they are not necessarily members to. And I think the degree to which they parents have not developed those kinds of anchors and relationships in those communities, independent of their children, that can be hard for parents to do alongside while their child is supposed to be doing having these relationships. And so I think a lot of times transracial adoptees, there's a phrase that's called coming out of the fog. And I think a lot of transracial adoptees experience this period of their childhood, sometimes their entire childhood, as sort of being in this fog relationship to their cultural communities of origin or only being exposed to very superficial aspects of their cultural origin, like through restaurants, or festivals or that sort of thing. And that it's only until adulthood, that many of us end up reconnecting or connecting for the first time in an independent way with people who look like us. And that can be very traumatic to do because people expect that at the age of 18 or 20. You're not having your first time Korean experience. And I guess I would also say the other the difference between different groups is I think particularly kids who are mixed race with white and I think kids who are Asian are at particular risk for growing up in incredibly white contexts. And some research has been done on this by looking at census reports as to where adoptive white adoptive families in particular, choose to live. And what they found was that white parents of translationally adopted children of color, live in whiter places than white parents do have similar economic backgrounds, and also have interracial couples and that Asian transracial adoptees lived in the whitest communities of all groups. And so that's a little concerning, because it says something about the kind of the racial composition of the schools that those children are going to go to to their churches or synagogues or places of worship to their sports teams to you know, their daily life. So it's not just that they're in a white family or a white parented family, but that they are also going to access you know, not have that access in other social spaces of their of their daily life. And I do think that that's a little bit different than other kids of color where oftentimes they have three weeks any family or other social environmental conditions of their school have access to same race peers and experiences separate from their parents. And it's also just weird when you you're an adult, and you have a picture of your family up there, and you invite people who don't know this about you. And they're like, Who's that white lady in the match? Or was that white guy over there was that, you know, what are you doing in that picture with those white people. And so I think there's just, it's just a lifetime of explaining that difference. And it comes up in the most weird spaces and times, and I think other folks don't, don't tend to need to do that kind of constant explaining about people that are so intimately connected to them as family. Another way in which transracial adoption, or kinship care, or fostering can impact children is the sort of racial ethos that white parents in particular come to understand what it will mean for their child of color, and what whiteness in particular will and won't mean for their child of color. And the degree to which being in a white family for a person of color can pass on or can, you know, convey white privilege to a child. And I think, certainly when you're growing up in a small community, or a community where you can control the child's environment, and everyone knows each other, then there is sort of this sort of, you know, in a white parent shows up to advocate for a child of color, there certainly is benefit sometimes to that in a, especially in a predominantly white school, or in a in a community where there is not a lot of racial diversity. I think the the problem with that is just like anything in parenting, parental protection only goes so far from the real world. And as the child grows up, they are going to have experiences out in the world that white people don't. And it actually becomes a risk factor for a child, the degree to which a parent hopes, hopes against hope that just because they want their child not to experience racism, that it won't happen. It's no different than you know, any parent doesn't want their child to experience heartbreak, it's a normal part of life, we all have experienced it. And it's important and essential for children of color, to learn how to deal with people and a society that is not necessarily going to give them the benefit of the doubt, that in fact, is going to do quite the opposite for that. And so it's, I would argue, it's wildly dangerous to do that, though, I understand why white parents want to do that. It's not possible. And so it's really important as, as people engage this idea of race, that part of that for a white parent is going to be to let go of the presumption of white privilege that they the way they imagine the world is the way the world is, and that there is a whole nother dimension of the world that their child is going to experience. And there is nothing that you can do to prevent it. But you can do something to prepare your child and to have conversations and be a place where your child when they come to you in pain, that you are not going to say are you sure that was racism? Are you sure that happened to you, and that they're going to have to prove it to you too. And so to be ready, that when they come to you and say this thing happen, that you're ready to hear what happened to them, even if it's a beloved school that you went to, and you never saw anything like that, or it's a beloved pastor, that you have been, you know that your family has gone to this church for your whole life and for multiple generations that all of a sudden, a new version of that setting is being revealed. And it will be harmful to your child if you're not able to be there with them, to help them find their way through. As you're trying to catch up with oh my gosh, did this really happen? It wasn't racism. And I think a lot of when I earlier when I did research on through with parents, there was an incredible amount of time that was spent trying to discern whether or not something was racist. So they, you know, post things like okay, so I went into Target, and this person was following us around, and I looked around and they weren't following anyone else around. Do you think that was racism? You know, and I thought, but why are we wasting time? Let's pretend it was, what are you going to do? Like, let's just start from the place that it was, and what would you what would you want to do? What message do you want to give to your kid about that? How do you want to deal with that? Because there's so much about being a person of color that you never know for sure. Like that's the that's the nature of it. You don't we rarely know for sure if the person didn't sit next to you on the plane because you were black, or if the person looked at you askew because you were Asian, and it's COVID U 's these things oftentimes can't be proven and so spending time with was it for sure is so unhelpful. But I think that that's where a lot of white people Enter into the conversation of racism is that we have to know 100%? For sure. And so how do we think as parents, whether it be kinship, or foster or dotchin? How do we just start from the place that the world has racism in it? And that this will come to your child? And how do you want to partner with your child so that they exist in a supportive loving family that is willing to see that with them through their eyes and through their experience of it?
So Dr. Santos, in your research in, in your experience, do you see a difference in the experience of how race is perceived by both the parent and the child, depending on the race of the child, whether the child is Asian or Latinx, or black, or biracial. So
in my, in my research and my training, I do see a difference based on the race of the child and also of the parent across different racial groups like Latin, a Latin X, black, biracial, Asian, because in our society, we have different stereotypes about who these groups are, what their natural inclinations are, the degree to which these groups are proximal to whiteness or not. And I think, as I was mentioning earlier, in terms of where parents choose to live, where parents choose to adopt from, also shapes these things and the imaginings of the importance of race. So I think a lot of times when we think about kids who are Latin a or Latin X and Asian, we think in terms of culture. And when we engage ideas of blackness, we think of terms of race and not culture. And that takes all kinds of shape, then in terms of the things that parents think about in terms of the entry points into how I'm going to socialize my kid and what I'm going to expose them to and how do do Asians really experience racism? I think a lot of white people don't think they do. And so there's a lot of Asian transracial adoptees that don't get racially socialized to expect racism and to deal with that. And I think in particular, with biracial kids, particularly biracial kids that are mixed with white, there's a presumption that somehow white parents can connect through the whiteness part. And that the they're not as, for example, not as black or they're not as less of x or they're not as whatever it is, and that you can kind of just kind of, you know, connect on that on that white side. And I think what ends up happening is that that's just not the way the world works, particularly for kids who are biracial, black, white. And so often, and and there's a presumption that or there's a presumption that you're just black, and that you'll just slip right in. And I think, you know, my mom always said, she felt like she did a really good job racially socializing my sister and I to blackness. And I would I would agree with that. But she had no clue about what I would experience when I was on my own in a black community around skin tone. And, you know, these presumptions that I thought I was better because I was lighter skinned, or my hair was, quote, unquote, good hair. And these were things that I was not exposed to at all, even through the black people that I knew growing up. And so to really understand not only just we've been talking a lot about preparation for racial bias, presuming a white context, but there's also within group, skin tone, bias, colorism, internalized racism, all of that sort of stuff, that I think also, many transracial adoptees don't get prepared to deal with the racial politics in their own birth cultures. And the idea about what it is going to mean for them to try to develop relationships on their own, having been having grown up in a white family, that that's a liability to, to be able to get into a community of color and be seen as authentic. And so biracial people oftentimes were on our faces, that are racial ambiguity. And so there is oftentimes an automatic presumption that we are proximal to whiteness through at least one white parent. And so there is an added sort of layer of racial socialization that we go through that we need to understand how are we going to bring these these different racial and ethnic and cultural groups together in our own being in our own life? What does that going to mean for us? How do we have role models that are also mixed race and not just representative of these different of our parents? racial ethnic heritage is but also of how do you do multispeciality in a healthy way? And I think a lot of times parents aren't, aren't thinking at that level of complexity.
So why is taking the colorblind approach to parenting not helpful? I mean, adoptees and foster youth often don't report experiences of racism to their white parents because they believe their parents will be unresponsive or will discount the incident. So why is Why is not being I'm colorblind, not helpful.
So I think the reason why being colorblind isn't helpful is because when you convey to your child, that the world is a certain way, in a in a fervent sort of statement of like, we're just people certainly talk to a lot of translationally adopted people where they said, you know, in our house, we couldn't even use the word race, we would have to just kind of talk about people as people and not use race signifiers. And our parents were very, you know, kind of proactive and assertive about that. And then you go out into the world, and it really matters to everybody else. And everybody else is talking in racial terms, it creates this schism of complete discordance between, you're going out in the world, and everyone else really cares about this. And then you come home and you have these sort of unspoken or spoken rules about race doesn't matter. And I think that a lot of times, white parents do this, as a sort of overt, obstinate rejection of that, like, we are not going to be a different family, we are not going to insert this very kind of strong ethos of like, we're not going to this does not matter, I love my child, it doesn't matter. And so I think for most people, it comes from a naive but well intended place. But what it does is create a complete wacky reality for your kid. And if race doesn't matter, then also you're saying that everything that happens related to that child's race doesn't exist. So why would you go to your parents and tell them about something that they have been very clear about to you that it doesn't exist? So? Well, I think a lot of parents think that, you know, pretending to Nazi race, as much as that actually is really, really dishonest because we That's like saying, I don't see gender, I don't see that you're tall, I don't see that you have brown hair or black, it is kind of it's dishonest. So in addition to being dishonest, it also it doesn't create the very thing that I think a lot of parents think that that is going to do where it's erasing this barrier between them. And they're going to be the same as humans. But what it actually does is very slowly start to create distance between a parent and a child, and it makes that parent not a safe place to go and explain what's happened and what should I do and how should I cope or even to be soothed and to be comforted by the racism that they're going to be experiencing. So parents actually, in choosing colorblindness, they're choosing themselves and their own racial world view over that of their child. And that's a very harmful thing to do, rather than a helpful thing. Hey, guys, if
you have not signed up for our monthly newsletter, please do. It is great. Obviously, I just said it was monthly, it comes out once a month, it is a curation of some of the best content that we have found that month to share with you want to help you be a great parent to your child, you can subscribe by going to Bitly, slash trans racial guy, and you can subscribe there. And as you could tell from the URL, you will also get our new downloadable guide titled strengthening and supporting your transracial adopting, that will be your thank you for subscribing to the newsletter. It is a fantastic guide, I cannot stress that enough. So go back to Bitly bi T dot L Y, slash trans racial guy, that's all one word Bitly slash transracial guy to subscribe to our newsletter and get your transracial guide. You're strengthening and supporting your transracial adoptee guide. You know, going back to something you had said before that I'm curious about, about how we often with Asian and not next children, we expose them to culture, but when we have black or biracial children, we expose them to race. You know, one of the things that I think that that black and brown parents I'm sure are facing as well as white transracial adoptive parents, although it probably comes more naturally in black and brown families is how do we celebrate? We want to prepare our children for racism. And so we want to we do focus on that. And yet, are we not missing the celebration of all that it means to be black and brown? And that because we're spending so much time preparing him for the bad things that could happen? We're not celebrating all the wonderful things that happen because you are a black, brown, whatever.
Mm hmm. Well, I think it's important to do both, you know, I would hope that we would do that all is and that they're sort of required, like you in order to prepare someone for the reality that somebody's going to think that you're not attractive or somebody's going to think that you're not good enough. You have to To tell them that they are. And so it, one requires the other. And so I would hope that as people are helping young children to sort of anticipate a world where not everybody is going to see you the way that I do not everybody's gonna see you the way that our family does, or that whatever how you know how you do that, that you're also planting in children a sense of who they who they are. And that just telling them that is not enough. They need actual mirrors to see other people who are like them who are happy, and having beautiful lives. And that are different, though a lot of different versions of that, I think, you know, that's one thing that I think white people oftentimes take for granted is that there are lots of examples of fabulous white people and lots of examples of crummy white people, lots of examples of everyday white people that aren't there, just, you know, whatever they are. And we all need that. We all need that. And I think we under white people sometimes underestimate the importance of presenting children in lots of shades, not just their same race, but people of all kinds of shapes, sizes, forms, ages, cultural persuasions, religions, that just that kind of diversity and exposing children to all of that. And that that shouldn't be a conversation. And it shouldn't just be the world is scary, and it's horrible. And there are people are going to hate you. It's not that but it's a balance of those things. And they aren't, they can't be conveyed just verbally, that kids have to live that reality and see that and experience that reality. So it's not just you're telling your kid Oh, you're a great person, but then they go out and everybody they know, in their environment, doesn't see them that way, and doesn't treat them that way. That's not enough.
Yeah, not just you're a great person, but that the people of your race have done amazing and wonderful things. It's, it's and you're right, and some are do bad things. But that's the case for everyone. Everyone. Yeah, yeah. You know, there's a we have in the last five years. And Trent Well, probably even more than that, maybe 10 years, and the transracial adoption world have really focused particularly when we're talking about white parents and black kids. We've really focused on haircare and while that haircare is hugely important, socially, culturally, and it's well, it's just how you look. The phrase now that we're kind of coming back to is it's more than about the hair. What what do we mean by that? And? And how can that I mean, we're not discounting the hair being important. But we want people to go beyond that.
Right? Right. So yeah, what we mean by more than hair, I remember I wasn't when I just began doing transracial adoption trainees with parents, I had a, I found a piece of clipart with a parent, like yanking the crap out of a kid's hair, and the care would care scream, the kid was screaming, and I thought, yeah, it's so like, it's about hair, but it's not about hair. And so I think, you know, the degree to which it is about hair, is that, you know, kids running around with a wet black kids in particular running around with a white parent, either their biological parent or an adoptive parent, it sort of is a symbol of all things that seem to be wrong about transracial adoption, and white people raising kids of color, it's just sort of become this emblematic symbol. And so
there is not an adoptive parent of a black child around or there shouldn't be, who is not a little paranoid they want they want that kid's hair, the signal. Exactly. their child's hair is a reflection on their parenting. Yeah,
yeah. And it kind of early on, it was it was sort of like this, you know, like, if your kid was running around with hair undone and attended to, it sort of was like, wow, if you're gonna let your kid run around like that, what else are you neglect? Yeah. So he became a signal of racial neglect of white parents. And so, yes, I think it's a big deal. The piece where it's about more than here is now you can go anywhere, there's YouTube, there's, like, you know, like, being able to do your hair. Now. It's not quite as foreign land as it used to be. And I think because white parents are, are so signaled to, to that as a stereotype, it's sort of like now that's a frontier that more people are aware of, they need to be on top of, but that's like the basic like giving your kid a bath and teaching them how to brush their teeth and their hair. Like these are basic foundations of basic parenting, you know, and so, it's so much more than about hair about how your kid feels in terms of being comfortable around other people who look like them. How comfortable are the parents around being around people who look like them? Where are you going to choose to live? How do you define a good school beyond academics and the degree to which a child's not just going to be able to be educated in a way that you want them to be? academically but also what's the social context that your child is going to experience every day eight hours of their Life away from you and the degree to which that's going to provide racial safety and racial socialization, that supplements whatever you're going to be able to do. And so I think the hair, the hair is symbolic, and I think will forever be in the minds of people both in the black community and for white parents. And we'll probably continue to be that way. But as we move forward and having a little bit more hair literacy, cross cultural hair literacy, there's just so much more to raising a healthy child period than how they wear their hair. And I think any parent would agree that raising their child was extended far beyond and creating health, healthy child of any race, gender, sexuality requires so much more than their outward appearance and the development of that. And so that's that's certainly also true for children of color.
Either said in the past that transracial parenting requires the parents to be fluent in race talk, and that socialization is not a conversation. It's a daily incremental and developmental family process. I love that. And I can you talk, talk more about that?
Yeah. I think, you know, a lot of times when I do trainees, parents will say, Well, how about when do I have a conversation? Or what age do I tell a kid this or whatever. And I think well, that's, you know, race, race development isn't like that, where you, I don't know, you sit down and you say something once, and then it's done. It's a long term, sort of how you live and swim in the world. It's how you model things every day. And I oftentimes compare it to how parents might think about religious education. You don't sit down and tell your kid, we're Baptist, you're a Baptist. And here's a picture of a Baptist. And here's a picture of a Baptist church. And next week, we're going to go to a field trip, and go to once one, you know, church service, and once a year, and people laugh, like, you know, so how many of you are religious in some kind of way? How did you do that? How did you How does that show up in your family life? What do they do that is Jewish, that is Catholic, that is Muslim, that is Buddhist, you know, like, what do you do? And the same way that you would want to socialize your child around that kind of an identity is what happens with race and culture. And if you don't do it that way, then whatever's dominant in your life, and in your neighborhood will be the thing that your child is socialized to, which tends to be whiteness. And so you don't need to do extra things for that, because the whole society in the US is set up to socialize your child around that. And so you've got to do something that swims as strong of a stream, as that does, if you're also wanting your child to be that degree of familiar, fluent, comfortable, and then to truly choose to what degree do they want to as an adult, engage, if you wanted your child to play piano, if you don't show them a picture of a piano and let them touch it once, and then think that when they're 18, they're gonna choose to be a pianist. And so anything like that, that that is what race and culture and ethnicity is in our in our lives. And it's not a converse. It involves conversations sometimes, specifically. But it's so much more than that, in order to really develop that as an identity and a competence and a part of who a person is
something that I want to shift a bit because I think we often don't talk about this enough. And that is, how does becoming a trans racial family through adoption, or fostering or kinship care? How does that impact children who are already in the home who share the same race as their parents, be they by birth or adoption or other fostering less of an issue with Kin families? But the but how does this? How does it change their worldview? Or and for the good or for the better? And what do we do for the kids who are already there? How do we prepare them?
Yeah, I think that is so under, I think the you know, the experience of siblings. Yes, you know, the spirits of the siblings who are there already or come after, sometimes that happens when a child is adopted, and all of a sudden, then parent becomes pregnant and chilled biological children are become a part of that family system unexpectedly. That I think a lot of times we spend all our time thinking about what to do with the adopted child and forget that their siblings play a huge part in their experience in that family, particularly in white families where kids are going to be the only brown kid and then they have all these, you know, everybody else matches and they're the one that really, really sticks out. And so we don't have a whole lot of research that explains how do we how do we do that? I certainly am familiar Just made more informal a clinical work that a lot of times white siblings end up, you know, having to come go out to bat for their kids, their siblings at school, they themselves get teased about having a sibling of color, they get asked a lot of questions that sometimes people kids will feel more comfortable going to the sibling to ask questions about their sibling and what they are and how that happened. And, and all of that. And I think there isn't a lot of preparation as a family about this is our family. It's not we're a white family with this black kid here or with this Asian kid here. But we are a mixed race family, we all carry this identity. And how do we want to handle this and to involve the whole family and having those kinds of dialogues so that the kid who's adopted or the children who are adopted, who are a different race, don't shoulder that on their own, and that all the, you know that we're gonna go to the whatever, to this weekend for Tony, oh, but like, No, we're going as a family, because this is part of our family identity. And we're all going to experience it, and we're going to talk about it and what we learned, and we're going to celebrate it, so that siblings also feel they have some some capacity, because they too might end up Ben seeing a world version of a world that they wouldn't had they not had this sibling of color. And so I think that that's a sorely under attuned to aspect of, you know, it's all parent parent and the one adopted kid or the two adopted kids, or whatever that is. And so I appreciate that question. Because I think we under attuned to the role that siblings can play, and also struggles that they might experience that people aren't really paying attention to,
and helping them understand how to respond to questions, because they are going to get it helping, they are going to get it. Yeah, helping them understand. I am a huge believer in children's literature, I love children's literature. And I love reading to all kids and I love to add to my kids and, and one of the we're going to come to tips for parents, but one of the tips is going to certainly be including books, and not just books about race, but books where a brown or a black child is the just it's a normal book, not even about race, but they're the the heroine or the the main character, or they're the enemy or whatever it just was. But one of the I was talking with a family of a mom a while back and and was giving this as example and giving her some resources and finding these books that she says, Well, I will buy them. She was implying that she was buying for her black child. And I I should buy it for all of your kids. Yeah. Older Yeah, regardless of they all need it, they all need to see the diversity of all the experiences. And so anyway, I throw that out there as well. In talking about siblings, I think we would be remiss not to also talk about extended family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, whatever, because they also are being impacted by our adoption. So let's talk some about the extended family and the importance of preparing and how to prepare, if it's even possible.
So extended family is another one that I think is really under discussed. You know, these are oftentimes folks that aren't key in the decision making process, that I think even in the social work role of preparing, we don't necessarily talk through with parents, how are you going to handle racism or negative reactions or just shock? Or unpreparedness? You know, doesn't have to be traumatic. But just you know, how are you preparing the grandparents of this child, the aunt and uncle of this child, the causes of that, you know, how have you had conversations before with them about this? Do they know this, just so that they can get a real sense, because I think sometimes parents are a little surprised about the reactions that their extended family members have, you know, are you prepared to not go to to a family event? If it's going to mean your child is exposed to racism? Are you you know, what would you do? And to actually help parents to think through that? How will they respond? How have they responded before to, you know, Thanksgiving and watching football and Uncle Joe saying something really, off putting or worse, what is going to be your reaction to that and really thinking that through and that a lot of times in the research, when transracial adoptive families or young people talk about experiencing racism, it oftentimes is in the context of extended family and extended family gatherings. And that that happens also with biracial kids who are in kinship families, where you know, they're with their paternal grandparents or whatever, or they are cut off from paternal grandparents because of racism. And so these things really cause schisms and fit in families. And I think it's really important great My parents, aunties, uncles, cousins are such an incredible resource in raising children, and in a family experience when there are healthy relationships. And certainly there's a lot of reasons besides race, why people in their extended families don't have those connections and have nothing to do with race. But to think about in an otherwise supportive family system, how this family is or isn't ready to be supportive to a child of color is a really important circle of resource and relational work that adoptive parents need to think about doing because it will profoundly shape that child's access to their grandparent as a as a loving, nurturing parent, or a grandparent or auntie or uncle or cousin, or somebody from which they receive racial abuse and trauma and harm, or just, you know, a lack of being able to, to plug in in a positive way.
I do think something that we have to realize as parents I, I firmly believe that grandparents do not have a voice in your family building period. I'm just gonna throw that out there. Period. Gonna say I really felt strongly about that, but in my own life, but I do think that it's it's only fair for us to realize on some level that generally speaking, we have spent a lot of time thinking about Yes, it especially if it's a trend Well, adoption in general adoption period, yeah, adoption period. But But that, but when you introduce the added complication of a transracial adoption, we've often hopefully studied, thought it through made a decision that we're a family who can do this. But very often, we haven't, and our parents have not been any part of this. And so we dropped with them, by the way, and we're excited, we're so excited, aren't you, and we expect them to go from zero to 60, where we've taken a year to do that, yeah, expecting them to do it in about three minutes. Not even that we expect, instantaneous, because it is the week we're looking at their face. And if they don't show overwhelming enthusiasm, immediately, it's a sign it's a sign, and then we're gonna get a defensive, a potentially. So I just think that in fairness that we have to give, help them understand why we made this decision. It was a decision, we're not asking their permission. But we've made this decision. These are the reasons this is why we think we're up to it. Here are some resources, I'd love for you to get, you know, we can't wait, you're going to be a terrific grandparent, we these are some resources. So to do it as oppose with a little more gentle.
Yeah, yeah. Well, and I think you know, these are, as you're listening to you talk, the family systems teacher in me is coming out that, you know, children coming into families is often at times that triggers very intergenerational dynamics between us and our own parents. And so the degree to which, you know, like, the kind of relationship we've had over time with our own parents, and our own grandparents and boundary setting that we've needed to do as an adult, that, you know, you're not coming to ask permission, but you, you know, thinking from the perspective of your future child, that it's worth the investment if you if you can to think about the kind of relationship you'd like your child to have with their grandparent, what is the preparation that this grandparent needs so that they are on board and and what are you what boundaries do you need to set? If they're, if they're not? And what how do you imagine that unfolding is sort of a switch in kind of the identity of like, I'm taking my child's perspective about what is the grandparent need? And what is my role in preparing them for something that I've decided to do?
Yes. You guys have heard me say this before, but this show would not happen without the support of our partner agencies who believe in our mission of providing unbiased information supported through expert based trauma informed information to help you do that, as I keep saying the best parent possible. One such partner is Vista Del Mar. They are a licensed nonprofit adoption agency, with over 65 years of experience helping to create families. They offer home study only services as well as full service, infant adoption, international home studies, and post adoption support, as well as a foster to adopt programs. You can get more information about them online at vista del mar.org/adoption. All right, well, let's end with tips. What What tips would you give adoptive parents who are considering or adoptive foster or kin parents who are either considering taking a transracial placement or are in the midst of it?
Yeah, I would say you know, first just do a scan like your your kid that's coming shouldn't be the first First whatever in your life, and I usually say that right away that that, that that usually for me is a little bit of a red flag if you are adopting a child of a different race, and this is going to be the first most intimate relationship you've had with somebody there that that is a little bit of a signal to me that there's some relational building that you need to do that you need to be on your own comfortable to have friendships and relationships and know people and be able to navigate a particular racial or cultural community, yourself in order to be able to teach that to your child. And so you know, getting a little bit ahead, so that you can be the parent who is doing that. And that doesn't mean that parents all the time, don't learn alongside their children, they do the kid, the kid comes, and you learn, maybe more, but you teach the kid and that's beautiful. But this is one of those things where you need to be not at a two or three year old level with regard to race and racism. And I think for people who feel like, yeah, yeah, I got that under control, have a conversation with some of your friends of color about what you're doing. And not in a not in a way, that is a permission kind of thing. But just, you know, talk with them, and be open to what they're saying about how they understand you and your readiness and the sorts of things that you might be embarking on that, you know, I have these conversations, oftentimes with my colleagues, and it's the first time ever that they've heard from me certain things, and it's given me permission to be a lot more direct with them than I might have chosen to be otherwise. And then I would say, you know, talk to some folks who are further down the road of transracial parenting and like a lot, don't go just talk to one is like, that's great. It's really wonderful and fabulous, or when it's like, it's horrible, don't do it, like, you know, really talk to people, white parents who have done what you've done, and have a little bit more sage advice and experience whose kids or adults maybe, and talk to a lot about the things that they have learned the processes that they had to go through the changes and surprises or the things that they wish they would have done, or the things that they did do. And they're so glad that they did, and talked to enough that you have a well rounded sort of understanding of that. And it takes seriously I guess, where you're where you're living, and the you know, the capacity of that community to supplement what is not what you what you're not going to personally bring in the kinds of relationships I think a lot of parents do. Think about this in terms of a village, you know, and it's this is just another layer of requirement of that village, that you have a number of people who can be in relationship with your kids who can embody various versions of identity for them. And, and that that's great to have it be a similar race. And then it's also really great to exploit you and my mom exposed us to all kinds of races, cultures, ethnicities, people, ages, etc. And so that everything wasn't just black and white in our house. And I always really, really valued that having that kind of diversity. And so I think not just exploring just literally the country your child comes from but also exposing them just to racial diversity and that that's a beautiful thing. It's exists in our family and exists all around the world. And to have that level of curiosity and, and love for that so that they can see it in lots of versions I think is is super important.
Thank you so much, Dr. Gina Samuels for being with us today to talk about transracial adoption. I truly appreciate it