Adoptive Parents – Be our Ally

Being an Ally

This blog began in the spring of 2006 when I was finishing up my MSW degree and discovered a group of transracial adoptee bloggers. I wanted to connect with these bloggers who were writing about their experiences that so closely matched my own experiences growing up as a child adopted from Korea to a White, Midwestern family. When I first began blogging, I noticed that several of my fellow adoptee bloggers had to move their blogs (or password protect them) due to
harassment by adoptive parents. While I believe
that people should be able to express different opinions here, I ask that everyone does so *respectfully* and *with manners.*

I am not here to denigrate adoptive parents, or to make adoptive parents feel bad about adopting. I am not your personal TRA pez-dispenser, here to educate you, give you
parenting advice or a “how-to” list.

This blog was not written for adoptive parents.
I write to share my experiences and my thoughts for my TRA friends and those who are our allies.

Therefore, I ask that if you visit this blog you respect everyone
else who visits too. I ask you to read these posts with an open mind. I
ask you to suspend judgment about us.

Do not assume that if I write
about some hard truths that I, as an adult Korean American adoptee, has experienced that I must be (in any order):


 – or any other such assumption. If you want to argue and debate my
truths, how are you going to respond to your own child’s future
experiences when and if they are brought to your attention? Are you going to invalidate their feelings and experiences

As you read through this blog, please keep the following suggestions in mind. I wrote this checklist for adoptive parents, siblings, friends and those who are in relationships with transracial adoptees.

Behaviors & Attitudes of Allies to Transracially Adopted Persons

Ways to be an ally

  • Interrupt offensive jokes. Even if they aren’t about your
    child’s racial or ethnic group, if you stay quiet you are “showing”
    your child it’s okay to make fun of people of color
  • Educate yourself and support the social justice issues and causes
    of the racial and ethnic community your child belongs to, both in the
    US and from the country of origin
  • Read books/articles/view films by adult transracial adoptees
  • Interact and find support from other adoptive parent allies and likewise support other allies.
  • Don’t judge others experiences, especially if they seem negative.
    Seek to understand their experiences. Don’t dismiss experiences of
  • Acknowledge the powers and privileges bestowed upon you based on
    your social group membership. Understand your privileges as a white
    person and as a parent, and help others understand their own privileges.
  • Utilize your power to bring about social change that benefits all
    people, especially those underprivileged from your child’s community.
  • Seek to understand all the different forms of oppression – gender, racial, class, GLBTQ, etc.
  • Notice the numerous intersections between different forms of oppression.   
  • Let your actions speak louder than your words. Participate in your
    child’s racial/ethnic community because you value the diversity, not
    just for your child.
  • Don’t make your child be the “bridge” for you
  • Don’t expect external rewards for your work as an ally – feel good and be proud about the work you do.
  • Don’t expect your child’s racial or ethnic community to welcome you
    just because you want to participate, and especially if you want them
    to be invested in your child. You need to be invested in their lives as
  • Walk your talk.
  • Know there are different ways of doing and seeing everything.
  • Be comfortable with criticism and feedback. Accept that others may stereotype you
  • Don’t buy into stereotypes. Try to acknowledge your own prejudices
    and baggage. Take ownership in your own conscious and/or unconscious
    participation in oppression. Use examples that don’t exclude a
    particular group’s experience.
  • Don’t get stuck feeling guilty for the oppression of the past. Know
    that the past is not your fault, but the present and future are your
  • Demonstrate your ally role through your actions rather than trying to convince others of it through your words.
  • Don’t expect someone else to represent an entire social group,
    especially just because you are parenting one from their community.
  • Remember to speak only from your own experience, and do not assume your child speaks for his or her entire racial/ethnic group.
  • Don’t assume to know what support others want and what’s best for them.
  • Recognize that no one form of oppression is more significant than another – there is no hierarchy of oppressions.
  • Accept that none of us are experts in diversity.

I believe there is no way to lay out the path for every family’s
journey in some prescribed way. Each one of us is a unique and creative
individual who has some damn hard work to do in their lives to get to
where they need to be. Who am I to tell you how to do that?

The reason I share is to encourage those in power to review and reassess their strategies,
so that future generations of transracially- and internationally-
adopted children have a safe and secure sense of themselves in an
increasingly diverse and global world.

***[from Barnes, L., & Ederer, J. (2000, April). From agents to allies: Active citizenship in our multicultural communities. Workshop Presentation at the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Conference, Washington, DC.]

Materials adapted from: Ederer, Jeff & Barnes, Lori: Allies for Social Justice., ACPA 2000


Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.