Posts Tagged ‘Gina Samuels University of Chicago’

My son and the NPR program on transracial adoption

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

If you’re reading this blog for the first time, you should know that I’m a white adoptive mother to two children born in Guatemala. My daughter, Olivia, is almost 9; my son, Mateo, is 6. Olivia is indigenous Maya; Mateo is what Guatemalans call “Ladino,” meaning his heritage is Hispanic. Each has brown skin; one darker, one lighter. Our family discusses skin color often; see two previous blog posts, Peach and Brown.

On Friday afternoon, as he climbed into the car after school, Mateo asked me “Can brown people marry white people?”

“Of course they can,” I said. “You can marry someone with any skin color.” I skipped my usual speech about marriage, which includes a requirement for love, college graduation, money in the bank, maturity, self-awareness, etc. etc. This conversation was about something else.

I continued, “Did someone say you couldn’t, because you’re brown?”  Mateo nodded, looking miserable. I paused and took a deep breath. “Another kid? Or a grown-up?”

“Another kid,” Mateo said. (And here I will disguise the child’s identity.) “X.” 

Why am I writing to tell you about this? Because I want you to know that, yes, even here in Marin County, Northern California, which considers itself one of the most enlightened, educated places on earth, another kid said those words to my 6-year-old son. And I’m guessing X didn’t make it up out of thin air. He must have heard it from an adult.

On May 11, NPR ran a great “All Things Considered” program that really resonated for me:  The Parenting Dilemmas of Transracial Adoption. Here’s an excerpt from the NPR website:

Today, approximately 40 percent of adoptions in America are transracial — and that number is growing. In decades past, many American parents of transracial adoptions simply rejected racial categories, raising their children as though racial distinctions didn’t matter.

“Social workers used to tell parents, ‘You just raise your child as though you gave birth to her,’ ” Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, tells NPR’s Neal Conan… Pertman’s organization has conducted extensive research on transracial adoption in America. He says turning a blind eye to race wasn’t good for anybody. “We don’t live in a colorblind society,” he says.

University of Chicago professor Gina Samuels — who is multiracial and was raised by a white family — has also researched the experiences of children of color who were raised by Caucasian parents. She tells Conan that parents who take a colorblind approach to raising their children often do so with the best of intentions.

“[It] reflects maybe how they hope the world will be someday,” Samuels says. “But oftentimes what this ends up doing is having children [meet] the world — the real world — unprepared.”

On Friday, my son Mateo came up against the “real world” referred to by Professor Samuels. And please let me assure you, this wasn’t the first time. I’m glad Mateo trusts me enough to talk about it.

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Adoption in USA Today

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

We’re in San Diego for Spring Break, with plans later to go to the beach and fly our kite. Right now, the kids are still asleep and Tim’s on a bike ride. I’ll take advantage of the time to post a link to this article from USA Today, Adoption changes spur growth in multiracial families. About 130,000 children are adopted in the US every year–that’s a huge number!–with most adoptions occurring from the foster care system:

With 130,000 children adopted each year in the USA, researchers find growing numbers involve kids whose race is different from their parents’.

The latest data show that about 40% of adoptions in America involve such families; among children from other countries adopted by American parents, 84% are transracial or transethnic, says Adam Pertman, executive director of the nonprofit Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research, policy and education organization.

The most common type of adoption in the United States is from foster care, comprising 68% of adoptions, compared with 17% for infants adopted domestically and 15% from international adoption, Pertman said.

The article concludes by addressing the issue of transracial parenting, an issue with which many readers of this blog are familiar.

Research by Gina Samuels, an associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, has focused on identity development among transracial adoptees. Samuels, a multiracial adoptee who has worked in child welfare, has found that the goal of being “colorblind” that white parents often espouse may not be the best approach for white parents to take with their kids of other races.

 ”Colorblindness actually creates discordance,” she says, because parents set their child up to believe that race doesn’t matter — until the kids find that often race is an issue in the real world and they haven’t been prepared for it.

As the adoptive mother of two children born in Guatemala, it didn’t take me long to figure out that many people “see” my children differently from the way they see me. My awareness has been raised. But I can always use a reminder to remain sensitive to my children and their experiences as they interface with the world.

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