By Vivian Blevins
Adoption has become an issue in the U.S. as birth rates decline and countries from which Americans have sought children are closing their doors to American adoptions. While there are fewer babies available, which ones are most likely to end up in foster care, at times being shuttled from place to place with conditions that are less than positive for the nation’s children? Yes, they are the nation’s children, our children. The Annie E. Casey Foundation posted on May 16, 2022, that there is a “disproportionate representation of Black and American Indian children in foster care.”
We need only pick up our newspapers to learn of babies and children in dangerous situations, being assaulted by adults, at times to the point of death. In an ideal situation, all American children would live in circumstances where they have safe housing, nutritious food, intellectual and physical stimulation. Further, they would be free from the prejudices that abound in our country, and they would have lots of love. Sadly, that is often not the case.
Now for my disclaimer: If I only wrote about subjects in my wheelhouse, you’d find my columns boring. And I certainly would not want to process over and over my life experiences. Additionally, my family and extended family would shut me out of their lives if I dared write about them and the challenges they face, challenges common to most families.
Everything is complex, and persons wanting to explore this issue of white families adopting Black children will find plenty of fodder for reasons not to even consider it, and some of the thinking will be overladen with overt or covert racism. The list is long and you’ve heard the objections before.: better to be with their own kind even in foster care, your biological family won’t like it and neither will Black families, they’ll grow up and abandon you, you don’t know what you’re asking for, etc.
I teach my college students that they are responsible for exploring many venues before making decisions as important as committing to adoption. If they discover after purchasing shredded jeans, for example, that the expenditure was a mistake, there is an easy remedy by simply placing the jeans in a donation pile.
I recently was able to elicit some comments from a married couple who have adopted two African-American children. They have chosen to be anonymous and believe that they can only speak for themselves and not for the children as “when and how the kids tell their full story is up to them.”
One parent indicates that she grew up in a conservative Catholic family in the South with antiquated beliefs but lived in a community with a large representation of African Americans and Hispanics. In that community she observed the behaviors of these two groups and was able to find a place to “slide in.” As a parent of Black children, she now knows she needs to reevaluate everything she has always known and must consider herself an “open canvas.”
Her spouse indicates, “Initially, I thought I was color blind and quickly learned how dangerous that can be. No matter how much I wanted to believe it, my Black children will never experience life the way my white skin allows me to.”
The couple offer a few tips for white persons contemplating adopting Black children:
• Know that you will be uncomfortable and will make mistakes.
• If you won’t arrange to regularly place yourself in environments where you are the only white person, adoption of Black children is not for you. This includes everything from taking your male child to a Black barbershop to watching an African-American woman braid your daughter’s hair to attending Black church services and all manner of social interactions.
• Communicate with Black adults who have been adopted and listen. Be the student.
• Realize that you will need to work to define the tools your children need to navigate racism and help them master the use of those tools. Work with an agency that understands the importance of this and will help you. Work with Black mentors.
So is there a reward? Most of us know that no matter how much we believe we have achieved professionally, nothing even comes close to the rewards we receive from having the privilege of being a parent. And no one ever said it would be easy.
The white couple to whom I refer in this column adopted their two Black children when they were infants. They feel blessed to be able to “take this journey with them.” And I believe their little ones are blessed as well.
Vivian B. Blevins, past CEO of colleges in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri, holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. She currently writes a weekly column for Aim Media Midwest, teaches at Edison State Community College, and volunteers with veterans. Her email is [email protected] Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Miami Valley Today does not endorse these viewpoints nor the independent activities of the author.