We talk with Isaac and Julie Etter, a mom and son, about what they have learned about transracial adoption and what they wish they had known at the beginning. Isaac is the founder of Identity, a startup focused on using technology to help adoptive and foster families thrive. Julie Etter is a mom of five and a humanities teacher.
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Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of this show, as well as the director of creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking with a mom and son duo, about transracial adoption and about what they what they have learned in their journey. We will be talking with Isaac and Julie Etters. Isaac is an activist and social entrepreneur. He was translationally adopted at the age of two. He is the founder of Identity, which is a startup focusing on using technology to help adoptive and foster parents. He has used his story of being adopted and growing up in a white world to curate deep conversations about race in America. And Julie, her is Isaac's mom. She is also the mom of four other children and a humanities teacher. And she is excited to be a grandma now to Isaac's sons. So welcome, Julie and Isaac to Creating a Family. We're so glad to have you both on to talk about your experience in transracial adoption.
Thank you. Thanks for having us.
Yeah, thanks so much for having us
here. All right. So Isaac, I guess it would help start at telling us your adoption story. From your perspective. Why were you placed for adoption? Where were you the first two years? Where were you raised? Just in general? What what what is your story? And from your perspective?
Yeah, absolutely. And thanks again, for having us each day. For me, you know, I was placed for adoption I was to, after my birth mother tried to raise me for two years battling, you know, multiple things related to poverty. And so though, that is a sad story, there's also you know, a common story of how children end up in our system. And so that's really the circumstances that led me to being placed for adoption. Then I was adopted within the same year, you know, divine timing, as it is, my adoptive parents were headed right to the agency around the same time I was being placed. So within about a year, I believe I was adopted by adoptive parents shortly after that. Yeah, yeah. So yeah.
So you were only in foster care about a month and then you were placed in an adoptive home at that point?
I believe. Yeah. We happen to walk into the adoption agency that day, he was dropped off there. And so with me, now, the adoption was not finalized for a year. So he was technically our foster child for about a year. Yeah.
Yeah, that's okay. Isaac. So you were crazy. Yeah, that is about the.
Yeah. And so yeah. And then, you know, shortly after I was adopted, maybe give it like, two, three years, we moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, known for Amish people. A little bit more rural, a little bit more country. And, you know, I, you know, my dad and my mom have both taught for classical Christian schools, you know, my whole life, not the most diverse area. So we grew up with, you know, I grew up not really feeling like I saw people around me that look like me that weren't also adopted. And I think that led to some challenges as I grew into an adult, but I think that's like, kind of like the baseline of how I got here.
And Isaac, are you the only member of your family adopted? Are there other adopted children?
I am not so youngest is also adopted. He's about 10 years younger than I am. So he is, I believe, just entering high school this year, right? Yeah.
Okay, gotcha. And is your brother also translationally adopted? Your younger brother?
Exactly. Yeah, he is. He is Hawaiian. And so Pacific Islander. Okay,
interesting. Okay. Now, Julie, what was your motivation for adopting? It sounds like you had three children. So what led you and your husband to consider adoption for adding to your family?
So Isaac was our is our oldest. And we had three children after? Yeah, gotcha. Okay. So we had always talked about adoption, it was just something that we wanted to do. My husband and I are very, I don't know, just have always had a love for other people, for people who don't have a voice, I guess, you could say and, and so always knew that we would probably adopt. We, just like many young couples started to try to have children early. In our 20s. We were young, and went through a lot of infertility that was unexplained. And I just remember the doctor telling me one day, you know, I don't know why this is happening. We don't have an answer. But if you want a child, soon, I would suggest adoption. And that wasn't devastating news for us, because we like I said, we always wanted to adopt. So we thought okay, we will we'll do that. It's interesting because I was ready immediately. My husband probably less naive than I was, at the time, said, You know, we probably need to mature a little bit here. before adopting, I, unbeknownst to him made an appointment with the adoption agency for information just to ask questions.
That's a gateway drug, by the way.
And so we showed up at the adoption agency on May 9, and Isaac had been dropped off that day. And at that time, this particular agency really only dealt in infant adoptions. And they said, you know, we have this two year old, that was dropped off today. This is just an example of the kind of children that would be available. And we left there. And I told my husband in the parking lot, we had not even left I said, I feel like he is my child, if you are not interested, tell me right now. And long story short, because they did not deal in adoptions of children who were not infants. They really rushed us through the system, which, in hindsight, was probably not wise. But they didn't they didn't want him in foster care he already had had been in three, even within a month had been in foster care for three different homes. So they just wanted him to get into his his final place. So yeah, he was with us on June 9. And then I think us if we had other kids, we had went on to knew that we wanted to adopt again, we didn't want Isaac to be the only adopted child in our family, and did not mean to wait for 10 years, but went on to have three biological kids in the middle there. And none of them really planned because we didn't think we could have had children, but it just kept happening. And so then finally, mica fell into our laps. 10 years later, so yeah.
Excellent. Okay. And, and Isaac has already mentioned that it was a fairly homogeneous environment, what was the what were the racial demographics of your community.
So when we first stopped to come and lived in Virginia, we were in Fredericksburg, Virginia, just like a suburb or suburb of DC. And so that was a pretty diverse area. And we went to a church that was pretty diverse. So it was, you know, Isaac was exposed to all different kinds of minorities on a regular basis. My husband, when he was six years old, my husband found a new job. And we moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. And then, as Isaac said, I remember I saying at one point to me when he was little, Why did dad have to find a job in the whitest place in America. And at that time, that was really true. And it's still kind of true of Lancaster in that this, the rural areas are very what like you, we could go weeks without seeing a minority, which was new to all of us. In the city of Lancaster. It's very diverse, because we were actually a very friendly city to refugees. And I don't know if that's changed since we've moved here. Or if our community has said that we fellowship with has changed since we've moved here, it's probably a little bit of both. But it is true that through Isaac's teen years, we didn't fellowship a lot with the people in the city or for no other reason than just our paths never crossed.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So yeah. Julie, what were you taught about transracial? Adoption before you adopt it? I'm taking it that that you did not go in specifically saying that you were only open to transracial? Was that something that you had thought about before? You saw the adorable two year old? That was Isaac? Yeah.
So nothing, we were really taught nothing about it. Like I said, We were rushed through the system. So we had one day of classes. On adoption, we came in. I believe, I've never dated this to prove this. But we came in on what was kind of the tail end of the colorblind era, that you can just love kids through their abandonment. And if you don't see color, and they're never treated any differently, then everything's going to be fine. And, and we we actually, we did specifically say that we would take a child of any race like we, but again, naively, we're not educated. And to me, that would not have changed our answer. But I certainly wish we had had more education, or any education. And yeah, so we really weren't you know, we did ask his birth family, his grandmother specifically, a no, are there things that we can do to preserve his culture or that you guys would like for us to continue to teach him either about your culture or your family? And again, I think it maybe it's generational. She had the same answer. Just love him. We just want him to be in a loving home. And so that's where we went. Naively. Yeah,
well, yeah, we we we do better when we know better to misquote or paraphrase my Angela. Yeah. So that's Yeah. Let me pause here for a minute to tell you about a free educational resource that we can offer thanks to our partnership with the jockey being Family Foundation, we have 12 free online courses for you, our precious listeners, when you go to Bitly slash JBf support, that is bi T dot L, Y, slash j, b, f support our work, you can scroll through the titles, and you can access them free, they normally are have a cost associated, but once you click on them, that cost will be deducted at the checkout. And so they will be free, you can also get a certificate of attendance or certificate of completion if you need any type of CPE credit. So Isaac happy to identify racially, first of all, as a young child, and then as and things change as you as you got older, how was your experience being the only child of color in your environment? And in your family until your brother came along? Yeah,
no, I mean, I think, you know, always as as black to a degree, right? The idea that I was different, racially than my family than a lot of my community was always apparent, it was always part of who I was, you know, there were seasons of my life where it was a big joke. And I was trying to, like, you know, kind of cushion it through humor, there were seasons where I was really insecure about it. And then I also had, you know, two friends who were also adopted and black and biracial. So we kind of, I think we all felt black, but not black at the same time, if that makes sense.
Give me an example of what you mean by cushioning it with humor, I think that is not an uncommon way to try to handle something. So give me an example of what you mean by that.
Yeah, I mean, I can kind of distinctly remember my parents like sitting me down after like youth group one time, because I just I think it was just like, it was racial jokes, right? You have no, you have no context for race racism, or what that means. And so like race based humor, was something that, you know, I thought was like a cushion for my experience. And I don't know if I have like, a great like, example, but it'd be like, you know, like, I can do this because I'm black, or, you know, you know, X is possible, because why are black people do X? And I think that, you know, that's some of the things that I look back on now it can kind of, even though it wasn't apparent to me, then like, I can see that I was trying to make sense or soften this kind of difference that I felt from my community. And I think you're right, a lot of adoptees do it.
I remember Isaac, I know, you've probably never heard this before. Your dad and I actually went to the youth leader. We call the meeting. And so we feel like Isaac's kind of being bullied with racial jokes and things like that and youth group. And the youth leaders response was, oh, well, Isaac, like he's the first one to joke about it. He's the firt you know, and I remember saying to him, Well, that's kind of like 101 of working with teenagers. They joke about what they're insecure. But yeah, that's I remember exactly what you're talking about. Isaac? Yeah.
That's yeah, that's interesting. And you're right. It tells a joke first, because if you tell it, then they're not. They're laughing with you. Not at you. Yeah, right. Exactly. Yeah.
Yeah. And I think, yeah, I just think that really was how I coped. And it really wasn't until like my senior year of high school that I really thought of myself as like a black person that wasn't necessarily like, also liked, like, you almost have like a little bit of racial confusion as a translation modality, especially if you don't know many black people. So I kind of felt simultaneously like white and black at the same time, really, up until my senior year of high school when I like, was like learning about, like, modern racism. And like, you know, we see things like Black Lives Matter emerging and things like that.
Okay, before we get curious about that, before we get there, what was your school experience? Like? I'm assuming that you were in a white community, it was mostly a white school, but anyway, what was your school experience?
Yeah, so I only went to private school till about like, second or third grade. And then my family started homeschooling as, you know, I had a, you know, I had learning issues, you know, kind of very typical, actually a foster and adopted youth just like academic struggles. I went to like a very rigorous private school that really wasn't set up to deal with the way that I learned. And so I think my parents probably either homeschool probably for third grade and till I graduate high school. Now we did have coops and like classes, and I also took online school classes. And so all of those spaces were waiting unless they were adopted. Be honest. And so like those there, there were people of color, but we were all adopted. And I believe that there was made, I believe there was only like one family that wasn't. And so that was really my school experience, you know, so, but I felt different. There was also kind of like this, like, well, like, you know, worthy adopted kids that are here. And so it didn't like, you know, I had friends, I had good friends, all my years of high school, I had great friends, my senior year of high school, I didn't think that it deterred me from finding community or friends. But I think personally, it left me in an interesting position to try to, like fit in and navigate a lot of different things. You know, I wasn't necessarily super athletic in high school. And so like, that was kind of like a confusing thing. You know, a lot of comments about like, I should be able to do X, because I'm black. So I was navigating. I was navigating situations like that in high school, and really just, you know, trying to navigate being really the one of would say, like, four to five black people and four to five black people ranging from like, elementary to high school, not like just high school,
and most of them were adopted as well. Yeah,
all but I'd like you. There's one girl that there was one family who I remember, like, they were the black family that's somehow was not adopted, their dad was a pastor. And like, that's the black family that I remember growing up around. I'm still friends with her to this day. You know, I see her around Lancaster and we still chat. But yeah, they were the they were the black family that was there they were, I think they were the only black people in our community that weren't adopted.
So did you experience Isaac racism growing up?
I'm sure my mom can leave more context of that, then
I'm going to ask her next.
But yeah, no, I appreciate I'm gonna ask her. Yeah, yeah. No, I appreciate that. Yeah, I mean, in my eyes, yes. And no, which is that I'm sure I did. I'm positive I did. And then sure microwaves like, sports, rapping, like, all these kind of like stereotypical black things that I wasn't, I always got reminded of them. And so that's the kind of like a micro way of racism growing up. I don't think I even really had the framework for racism. And so, you know, I can, I can remember things now that seem racist, like that I played a slave and to musicals, or, you know, things, things that were said to me, by teachers and friends. And, you know, I just at the time, you know, as a kid, growing up like, this is your only experience, so you don't necessarily have the context for like race and racism, when your life has kind of been preached colorblind. So I was kind of like steered in this direction that it's like, not because of race. And so, you know, obviously now looking back that that's not true. And I know that my mom has had a very different experience on the other side trying to protect me. But you know, and from my perspective, you know, I didn't look at any, like, major racism that happened to me. Certainly comments, but yeah.
Julie, what was what was your experiences Isaac's mom? I mean, the adult in the situation? Did you see things?
Yes. The joke in our family is that I'm like, the fiercest Mama Bear. So I'm all about protecting my kids, you know. And unwisely, I think now, again, hindsight, I did a lot of protecting Isaac. So things as simple and the microscale probably as having people refer to him as one of them or using them and they as the
group of black collective. Yeah,
yeah. Or having friends and family be surprised that oh, well, Isaac's black, and he doesn't say a word this way. Or he doesn't do that, you know, and, and a lot of that. So a lot of that happening to policies at the school or the different organizations that we, you know, had him while we were homeschoolers, we are very extroverted family. So we never believed that we were going to homeschool our kids and keep them in a bubble. So they were involved in so many things. And always, you know, I'm not going to say 100%, but I was often going in, but Isaac actually is just finding out about this recently, I've been telling stories about different boards or people I would go before and say, Look, these are racist policies. These are, I'm not going to have my son, you know, commit to these policies and things. So I was doing that on a pretty regular basis. You know, and then just the very typical that you hear about going into stores, and you know, people following him around, but not his white brother, that kind of thing. Things like I had to kind of if I had to, but I confronted a group of parents one time when his friends on his 16th birthday, this still bothers me so much. And Isaac is always telling me, I think you think about this more than I do. A group of his friends put fried chicken and watermelon on our front porch on his 16th birthday, thinking that was a really funny joke, and I let all of their parents have after doing that, but I just protected Isaac from Allah that I thought that I was keeping him from being hurt. And I guess that was a very short sighted view of Yeah,
yeah, well, yeah. But yeah, and for the record, I would also have been both horrified and angry. Isaac, will you tell the story of you've told it to me once before in a different context, about not really understanding racism, and you were running with some friends, when you were in high school? I think that's it's such a, and then went home and Googled, so tell us that story. And the usual use of googling I would have had,
yes, absolutely. Yes. So going into my senior year of high school, I was a big fan of the social media network Tumblr, which was a mishmash of like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, back in the early 2000s 10s. And on there, one day, I came across this hashtag called blackout day. And it was something that college students were doing in solidarity with, you know, black men that were killed by the police. And of course, as a 16 year old, growing up in my environment, this was a totally brand new concept to me. What I was coming across in this thread, police brutality, racism, you know, seeing posts, you know, we're like all white people are racist, all these things that really had never come across my my viewpoint before. But as a transracial adoptee as a black person, definitely feeling very confused. And so for a year, in my life, I was in this internet world, kind of trying to figure out this whole race thing and did a bunch of crazy things with my hair to try to express being black. Then the night I turned 17, me and my friends, you know, again, Lancaster, we were we were out for a walk late at night, around some country fields. And we were, you know, coming down this big hill. And at the top of the hill, there was a cop car started, like waving around like a flashlight spotlight looking for people, you know, really scared that maybe somebody called and like, we got a noise complaint, me and my friends started running back to my parents house. And as we're running, one of my friends shouts out, it's alright, Isaac's the only one that's gonna get in trouble. And I think for me, that was like a really, it was almost like a like a key like unlocking a door. Like, I really understood that like, one a lot of the stuff that I was reading online, at least about racism was true. And not only did my friends know about it, but if my friends knew about that meant, like, probably the people that I was living with in my community knew about it, and nobody had told me about it. And so that night for me became I think, you know, this awakening that I was going to have a different experience than I knew that was
that did you talk to your parents about? Did your parent or your parents aware that you were learning and going online trying to learn about racism? It? Did they did you tell them about this experience that you had.
Not until years later, I'm notoriously private, to a false and audit. Now I feel like me and my parents probably have a better relationship now than ever, but especially during these years, like I just did things like I just learned things and like, it was my it was my world. And so, no, we didn't have conversations about it. To be honest, I didn't really know what I would say to be honest, either, because we had never really had those conversations and like that, to me, that was there was nothing that I knew to say. And so yeah, it didn't really come up until I was in college.
Is it fair to say you didn't have the context? with which
to talk? Yeah, absolutely. And it's just, you know, what do you say? Like, I think in my mind, I was like, What do I even say, like, am I supposed to just ask them if they're racist? Uh, you know, just like, just it became like, a little bit more of a, not even just me trying to be private, but a little bit of a confusing space to try to even bring up and I think that's probably why instead of it being a conversation, it was more of like, they just kind of found out that I had different worldviews about race from the internet.
Well, yeah, I was gonna say, I think you use it as a time to pull away from us. Again, my mama bear kicked in and I think everything we raised dies again, he was going to throw at us. You know, I don't agree with that. And I'm gonna live the extreme opposite of this. You know, it's just constant. And I remember us having a pretty heated argument one time and me just looking at him and saying, When are you going to understand There's nothing you can say to me, that's gonna push me away. I'm not gonna allow it. I'm just not like, I'm not allowing you to push me away, kind of thing. And I think that was a like, we had to prove that to him that even about race that we didn't understand. And we made lots of mistakes. And we had to own that. Right. We had to own that. And we had to educate ourselves and realize, and we're still in the process of that. But I think that he was probably afraid to talk to us, because not only do you not know what to say, but is this going to cause a fight? Because they don't agree with me?
Or separate me further from them right away? I'm pushing to separate, because that's my normal stage of development. But on the other hand, I already am different. And will this just separate us too much? Or? Yeah, although, so when did your awakening Juliet, one of the reasons I so wanted to interview the two of you together is that I am so impressed from what Isaac has said about you that it would be easy to meet, I think so many parents, our tendency is to want to be defensive and to say, you know, okay, wait a minute, I didn't screw you up that bad, you know, or way I did? You know, I mean, that's, you know, it's, it's hard not to, as a parent, take that approach. But you didn't. And so, what, first of all, were you even aware that he was online doing all this stuff? Someone.
I was aware that he was a finding out a lot online, I didn't know about his Tumblr, and I didn't know exactly what he was doing. But I'm pretty aware. Like we try to give our kids freedom to have space to figure themselves out. But also understanding kids in the Internet can be very dangerous. So me trying to keep a watchful eye on what's going on. So I so I always say about my kids. I'm not naive. I know, they're figuring things out. I know, they're online, and they're looking at things, but I don't always know details. And I would say that that was probably true with Isaac,
and well, his changing his hair. And I'm sure he right. Yeah, he was also saying other things probably in wanting to dress in certain ways, which are Yeah. I have a question for you guys. Are you subscribers to the creating a family.org podcast? The advantage of being a subscriber? Well, it helps us so that's number one. But number two, it also helps you we have more than 15 years, yes, count on 15 years of archive shows, including many, many, many shows on transracial adoption. So once you subscribe, you can scroll through all those archives and click on the title will tell you whether it's covering transracial. And you can listen to all the old shows. And they don't, they don't go out of date, the information is still current, you can follow or subscribe to the creating a family.org podcast wherever you catch your favorite podcasts. However, you're listening to it now. There is a search button and you can usually search for creating a family and then click subscribe or follow up. Thank you. So what what brought you to the to the realization that you needed some growth you needed to grow in this area?
Well, first of all, I can't hardly talk about this without crying. So it's already happening a little bit,
but I was excited is one crier to another. I've got clinics here. Not going to help you.
So I don't remember the year and I don't remember which brutality case this was but it was a brutality case that had happened. And well actually was the year Isaac, you went to Atlanta for the summer to Georgia for the summer for the first time. So this right after your I guess you would have been 18 if you turned 18. Yeah. And I remember watching across the news, there were riots in Dallas, and a few of the police officers at the riots were shot. I don't remember if you guys remember this. So it just all erupted into so much violence. And so that Saturday, there were just protests planned for everywhere. And one was in Atlanta. And I remember just thinking, Oh, my goodness, Isaac is going to be in Atlanta, he's probably going to go to this. And we haven't educated him. He doesn't know. I'm sorry to say that. And I just remember calling him and saying Isaac, we have so many conversations to have, but please don't go to Atlanta tomorrow. Please don't, don't do that. So that was kind of the opening for me. Of course the George Floyd case was huge, but I would say that I had already my husband and I already done so much his sister, her senior year in high school, she was a competitive speech and debater and she chose to do her senior year speech on Malcolm X. And in a Christian league very conservative knowing that it was a award winning speech, but that she maybe wouldn't win awards because of the topic. And that environment. And I remember her, I'm not gonna get it completely correct. But basically her thesis was, if the church had loved Malcolm X, like the Bible tells us to, would he have been pushed to the point that he was. And that was just that made me like, oh, I want to read all about him. So I think it was just kind of like a family, family effort in wanting to understand and love Isaac better. And then when his younger brother, the next brother, closest to him, who's eight, turning 19, actually next week in this now became a teenager, and I realized I wasn't having the same talks with him. I wasn't saying Sacher, you can't wear a hoodie, or baseball cap at night, I wasn't saying to him, keep your driver's license on the dashboard of your car. So you're not having to go in the pockets of your car. And it was just like this dawning of Whoa, I have treated my black son differently. There is a problem in this world that I'm having different talks with my black son than I did my white son. And then I'm just, these are all like, disjointed, but I don't know if I've ever told Isaac this. I'm embarrassed. I think I have Isaac. It's an embarrassing thing to say. But I think it's important. I was driving in Lancaster City one time. And if I ever told you this, I thought though, sorry, I was driving in Lancaster City one time, I stopped at a red light and someone knocked on my window. And now the quarter of my I could see a black man. And it terrified me, absolutely terrified me. And when I turned and looked at it was Isaac. And that was just I went home and cried and cried and cried. After that, so the I don't know, it's just little things happening here and there. That, as one of my friends told me one time, who's also White, who was going to diverse church, she said, I just decided one day that even though I don't understand their pain, and I've never experienced what's going on, I'm going to actually believe them that they are in pain and that these things are happening. And she said, you know, once you decide to believe the whole world is opened. I think that that was all of these things took me to that place. And we started to believe and realized we had a lot of apologizing to do a lot of educating ourselves to do and our children. And we're still on that road. Yeah.
How did you Isaac, from your perspective? How? How was your awareness of your parents shifting? And what did that do to both your relationship with them, but to your family? And I mean, growth is painful, and change is painful. It's also necessary and, and healthy. But it's it's still scary, even for you, I suspect.
Yeah, absolutely. You know, a lot of while this was going on, I was on my own journey. And I think that it's another divine thing, right. As I think we have a lot of those things where like, you know, I left for Georgia at the end of my first semester of sophomore year. And a lot of the stories that my mom told minus the ones involving me, a lot of them happened while I was gone. You know, my sister chose to do that speech and debate topic that kind of started this journey. We had, I had a wonderful mentor that became close friends with my family after I left, who was a black professor at the college. So I went to a lot of this, I think shifts from my parents really happened during that time. While I was kind of off trying to figure out like, where did I fit into the world. So I was on this, like, solo identity journey, and certainly feeling some pain regarding my family. And what I felt like they couldn't understand. But I think that that's a blessing. Because one, like you said, like growth is hard. And growth is also not in the straight line. And so I'm sure that yeah, like I'm sure that my parents had like ups and downs, I'm sure they said things that I might have not been so graceful about during that period, I'm sure that I'm sure that it's a blessing that older mentors of mine and that their community, whoever was like aware of bringing these topics up, were the people that they could go to to grow and learn and that I kind of got to come in closer to the back end. Interesting. You know what I mean? Because like, I'm 18 at the time, you know, like we just have to be honest, like I obviously wasn't like gonna be the most gracious person in the world at 1818 year
old males are not always known for that. most accepting with righteous and perhaps nor should they be. Yeah,
exactly. And so it's another thing that I think is just kind of life being beautiful is that like, they got to go on that journey, and I got to go on my own and have a really separate experience, right? Though I definitely was dealing with my own pain related to my family. It was really having a totally different experience. Like I was figuring out who I was in the black community, I was making like my own friends, like I was, I was in community of all black people for the first time of my life, like I was having my own journey and my own identity search while they were able to go through this. And I think that kind of happening simultaneously. And then we moving back a year later, all worked out really well for us to kind of restart the conversation.
Because you get both each of you grown separately and, and your parents were willing. What is nice to see their love for you was the impetus. But they didn't depend on you to be their educator, they, they did that on their own. And, yeah, I want to thank our partner, Vista Del Mar, they have been a longtime supporter of both creating a family, the nonprofit organization, but especially of this show, 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. They do international home studies, as well as post adoption support for international families. And they have a foster to adopt program. You can find them online at vista del mar.org/adoption. So Julie, what do you wish you had known before you
adopted a black child? Well, what specific so you're talking, you're talking to other parents now. So what would you have done differently? If anything, what was what you wish people had told you, because now you're gonna be telling, you have the opportunity to tell
them. So I think I'm just going to try to think from childhood through adulthood. I think initially, just understanding that adoption in and of itself is hard. When we went to adopt our younger son later, Isaac was 10 at that time, and I feel like the classes that we had to take for mica were more helpful to what we were dealing with, with Isaac at the time. But you know what? Yeah, one of the things that they told us in that class is that adoption is that it's the death of a relationship, and that the grief of death is cyclical. And you may think that you're over it, and then a pivotal moment in your life comes up, you're changing hormones, you're getting married, you're graduating or whatever. And that grief is going to come to the surface again. And I think that when you're trans racially adopting, there is even more confusion, because you've got the identity issues, on top of the grieving this death of a relationship that never really goes away there because there's no closure. Right? There's, there's no closure in that. And so I think that understanding that you've got kind of two Whammies coming at you, when you're trans racially adopt. And being prepared for that, you know, we can see that Isaac was struggling. But we thought, you know, we can love him through this, we can love him through this. And that just is not what happens. Perfect, professional help is needed. And if I had it to do over again, we would have had Isaac in counseling, and we would have been in family counseling on a continual basis, probably even like for a lifetime, because this is such a cyclical grieving process. I definitely would have sought counsel from other black parents about how to educate about racism, without scaring them or making their lives miserable, or whatever. I don't know. But but if it had been about how have you healthfully educate your children about racism? And how do you protect them? Because I don't think it's bad to protect your kids. But how do you protect them while educating them? I think would be a pretty important thing. And you know, I don't know. I mean, obviously, I would have exposed to more. I mean, I think that's a given I would have exposed him more to his culture. I mean, I remember my husband standing in the grocery store aisle one time because his skin was so dry, and just waiting for a black family to come up and asking them what he just stood there waiting for someone black to come up to ask, you know, what do you what's a good thing for me to put on his skin? So I just would have sought more education, from other black families on practical things. When we live Did Fredericksburg there was an older black lady in our church, who would take Isaac once a month to like her family gatherings and do fun things like that with him and like just exposing him to all of her family. And she would also take my his sister at that time who was a toddler. And when we moved to Pennsylvania, just out of busyness and chaos, a bit overwhelmed of restarting a life. We didn't find someone here to continue that practice. And I wish that we had found him black mentors like that, from the very beginning, all the way through his adulthood. Yeah, it was just practical things that I think
the practical things are exactly. But we want them to be when we thank you practical is good. Isaac, what do you want transracial adoptive parents to know.
I think, you know, just I'll just do an echo. You don't I mean, I think, you know, we didn't practice. But we've been having these conversations, you know, I'm grateful that my parents have always been really supportive of my work in this space. And you know, a lot of the things that my mom shared are things that I share, which is that like racial mirrors, having your child and community that looks like them is always a big win. I think the therapy is also huge. You know, that isn't as much I haven't talked about that as much. But I think that also plays a huge factor, when you're thinking about grief and loss, because one, like everybody in the adoption sphere, usually feel some kind of grief and some kind of loss, including the adoptive parents. And so I do think that family counseling, or at least counseling between my parents, and I would have been a great thing for us to have growing up. And maybe some things maybe would have come out or come to the surface sooner. If so, I think that's a great suggestion that that my mom had it was and I think also like the the commitment to learn, like a lot of this work, you know, if you've got an infant or a two year old, or young child, right now, you're not necessarily having to talk about like what to do when you get pulled over. But this is this is a great time to start learning to start getting in different community, this is a great time to to get yourself surrounded by people who you know, will not only add value to your experience by maybe helping with Hair, Skin culture, but also challenge you to really live up and to uphold the values and treat other people that look like your child the way that you would want your child to be treated. I think the car story my mom gave is just such a such a amazing example of something that I talked about all the time, which is that like, the way you feel about people that look like your child, is exactly how the world will treat your child. And I think that car story just sends that home, which is that, you know, the tension was high when it wasn't me. But it dissipated when it was me. The true the true feeling about black people in that story was the first feeling. I mean, that's obviously not a reflection of the current state my mom is in. But I think that is a really powerful story. To capture that image for adoptive parents to really say like, you've adopted this child, you have a commitment to prepare them for a world that's going to see them how you are seeing people that aren't your child, but look like them. And so yeah, that would be like my advice is to start this learning process. And to really dedicate yourself to to the lifelong journey of it.
We tell parents you're first the first black person in your life should not be your child. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, her person of color regardless. Thank you so much, Isaac and Julie, editor for being with us today to talk about transracial adoption, but most important about what you've learned in the process, because I think we all hopefully we are all open to learning things in the process. So thank you both. I truly appreciate it.
Thank you for having us.
Absolutely. Thank you. This has been great.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai