Friday, August 19, 2011

Adoption - who is it really about??

This has been quite the summer for me what with travelling to California for the Pact Family Camp in July and only having returned recently from Colorado where I attended the NACAC Conference.  The chance to have spoken with so many parents at both venues this summer has been fabulous.  I also believe being able to partake in a variety of the sessions available to children and making friends with those same children was very rewarding and the best part of all!!

I am looking at things a little more clearly now after having had the opportunity to listen to the  variety of people, including social workers, counsellors, and others who appear to be fairly involved at the initial stage of placing the rainbow of children in care with families.  Unfortunately where the breakdown seems to be starting for so many adoptees is within the system those same children are a part of.

Listening to speaker after speaker discuss the training and involvement necessary for those in the child welfare system was incredulous because as it turns out, there are not enough of the child welfare offices across the countries, both in the USA and Canada, getting or giving their staff the right kind of education when it comes to placing children of colour into the many waiting families.

The system breaks down by not ensuring the staff are all being educated enough with race issues in their own offices and then taking the same training to the families who are interested in adopting a child of colour.  Offering courses after the fact is absolutely not acceptable because not everyone is taking the courses - especially not the child welfare workers to begin with!

There is no way that these children are being offered the best choice when the parents who are adopting them do not, have not and may not, ever decide to have any other people of colour in their lives besides the children they adopt or the ones whom they see when they participate in their annual heritage or family camps.  These children are not being given an opportunity to be raised knowing their parents are confident and secure around the many people of colour in our society - the occasional few in their passing lives is definitely not good enough.  It never has been and it never will be!

The children need to see their parents with and around people who look like them from the very beginning of their adoption.  It is not good enough to take a class or attend a conference or workshop that is based on transracial adoption after the child has been placed within the family setting.  Parents need to have already joined groups with people of colour in them - they need to already have friends whom they socialize with on a regular basis - they need to bring race into their daily lives as much as it will be in the child's daily life.

What is it the parents are so ashamed of?  What are they hiding from?  What are they afraid of when there is nothing of colour in their life until a little workshop has been attended and THEN all of a sudden it sounds like they now need to have a friend who is of colour in their life.  NO WAY!  Totally unacceptable and completely unfair to the children who are now becoming a part of their white family and will definitely have some questions or situations throughout life as a person of colour and having a family who has not participated in the colour of their lives throughout their life, is showing their children that the people who look like them are not good enough for them, as parents, to be friends with.  How is that a benefit for the children of colour now that they are home in their new family?  How does this help them to grow into strong people who feel a sense of pride being amongst other people of colour when their own parents would not acknowledge and befriend those some people of colour?

Children are growing up with parents and in the system with people who are trying their best to do what they think is what the kids need  however what the kids need is to be considered in the equation.  I understand, as a parent myself, how one would say some things are too much for a young child to understand or comprehend or if a parent wants to "protect" the child from the many dangers of society, of the world.  However, when a child is shielded or treated as inferior to parents because the parent believes everything would be fine in the end, this is actually more harming to the child than helpful.  Every child goes through the growing up phase in life and when parents pretend their child is not old enough to understand or handle situations, especially race issues, the child can grow up with an uneasy feeling towards self and how many parents really want that?

There are many ways for parents to ensure a healthy happy child who feels confident and secure from within.  The books in this series are a definite asset to have in ones library - positive messages to increase a positive feeling towards self is what all children need.  What better time to instil confidence in our children than from the very beginning of their lives - reading with them, providing reading material for them, and consistently being there for them in every way is so important and is something I will continue to provide for my children and for the many children out there in the world!!!

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you on so many points, but I still wonder how does a family REALLY join groups and integrate themselves into a 'colored' society? The fact of the matter is that many parents of transracially adopted children experience a lot of racism from the colored community. Some even more so than from their white counterparts. We are waiting to adopt from Africa and I have always been open to having friends of different racial/cultural backgrounds, but somehow as humans we mostly tend to migrate to groups where we feel most alike. Not just physically, but in other cultural ways too. So the issue is bigger than adoption- just because you adopt a colored child doesn't mean you, as a parent, will be accepted into those communities by default if you want to be.
    I think it is unfair to say that many adoptive families are ashamed or afraid to make those connections. I mean, yes, there are some like that. But I know personally, when I have mentioned to some of my black friends that maybe I would go and check out the baby and toddler group in a nearby community that is predominantly black they looked at me as if I was completely insane and told me that the other women wouldn't want ME there. They would be offended and not happy that we have adopted a black child. So what's an adoptive Mom to do?
    I also wonder if you really push to make those connections, how many are really genuine social relationships? And if this is the case, are they really positive relationships to have for your family?
    We are looking to move to a more ethnically-diverse area. But within that area are many prejudices, stereotypes, and social problems.
    So, is it better to have fewer, quality relationships with people who are good role-models, whom you have genuine relationships with, or is it more important just to have a lot of colored faces and people in your world and deal with other issues that will come into play by moving- lower achieving schools, higher crime rates, no acreage to play on, fewer places to ride bikes safely. We are grappling with this question.

    I think there will always be flaws in the adoption system because they are trying to balance what is best for children whilst still being able to place them. For example, we are very open to transracial adoption but were not allowed by our province. Unfortunately, there are not as many Aboriginal and Black families wanting to adopt as there are children available. Now, is it better for a child to get family, albeit one with whom there will be racial differences, or to remain in the foster care system? Which is more positive to the child overall? I would guess the former. I think there needs to be a change in the system here so that Aboriginal and Black children are given equal opportunities to a loving family. But obviously community services here see it differently. I agree that so many issues can be taken out of the equation when children can be placed in racially/ethnically similar families. But the numbers just don't add up. All we can do is the very best we are ABLE to do for each child within the constraints of the imperfect world of adoption. Ideally all children would be able to live healthy, happy, cherished lives with their birth parents. But, since that will never be the case, adoption professionals need to keep striving and learning best practice, but have enough flexibility in the system to recognize the individual child and what will be best overall for them.