Black family adopts White child

I'm supposed to be taking a break so I can finish all my final projects and wouldn't you know there are all kinds of adoption-related things going on in the world! It figures!!


Photo courtesy of Mark Riding

From Newsweek – What Adopting a White Girl Taught a Black Family About Race in the Obama Era

As a black father and adopted white daughter, Mark Riding and Katie
O'Dea-Smith are a sight at best surprising, and at worst so perplexing
that people feel compelled to respond. Like the time at a Pocono
Mountains flea market when Riding scolded Katie, attracting so many
sharp glares that he and his wife, Terri, 37, and also
African-American, thought "we might be lynched." And the time when
well-intentioned shoppers followed Mark and Katie out of the mall to
make sure she wasn't being kidnapped. Or when would-be heroes come up
to Katie in the cereal aisle and ask, "Are you OK?"—even though Terri
is standing right there.

But after a half-decade of rude comments and revealing faux pas—like
the time his school's guidance counselor called Katie a "foster child"
in her presence—he now fights the ignorance with a question of his own:
why didn't a white family step up to take Katie?

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

8 thoughts

  1. FYI, the link to the article doesn’t work.
    As for the story, it definitely looks eye-opening. I can imagine the struggles that family must have had with prevailing attitudes.

  2. I was not disappointed by that story! And a great ending by the reporter. I understand everything the family has undergone – is and will. I see the history, the stereotypes, etc.
    I DO have to say, that it IS unusual, and therefore there will be a % of people who are just SURPRISED, as I would be. And like myself, delighted!
    As one who has heard about and seen first hand the scary tantrums of a traumatized child, I honor any family for making a home for that little girl.

  3. I had two problems with this article. One, it told way too much of the girl’s personal history. Two, it seemed to cast the adoptive parents as heroes (some phrase about “needy” children, etc.)

  4. Is it just me, or is there some sort of urban mythology about white children not existing in foster care? This hasn’t been my family’s experience at all, and I have long wondered if this popular (and inaccurate) notion is perpetuated because it reinforces the idea that only women of color would or could be so bad off as to lose their children to the child welfare system. According to AFCARS, 41% of children in foster care are white. In my experience as an Arizona foster parent, African American and Hispanic children are far more likely than white children to have extended family members willing to parent a child as a “kinship foster placement,” and we see far more white children in foster care, and ultimately placed for adoption than we do children of color.

  5. I agree with Julia. As an adoptee I would be mortified to learn this much personal information was made public about me as a child.

  6. When I was around 10 and living in foster homes, I am pretty sure I saw the people that looked after me as heroes. I don’t see myself as one as an adoptive parent – but voluntarily taking on responsibility for a child is a lot of work. Right or wrong.
    So far as white children of parents of color I have actually known many over my life. Particularly when I was a child in the military community. I once dated a young white woman whose mother was Chinese. So far as I know they got along quite well. Her ma was very hard on me, however. 😉

  7. Yes, there are white children in foster care. However, black children are disproportionately represented (i.e., the % of foster children who are black is higher than the % of children in the general population who are black.) This can occur at several points: Compared to white children, black children may have higher rates of matlreatment reports, higher rates of entry into foster care, and longer stays in foster care than white children. I don’t have time to look up stats on this right now, but I know offhand that a 2003 issue of _Children and Youth Services Review_ (vol. 24, no. 5/6) examined this issue. I am sure there is more recent reserach avaialble, too.
    I believe I heard some recent research that foster children placed with kin have longer stays in foster care than children not placed with kin. There are likely multiple reasons for this, some good and some bad. I’m sorry I can’t remember offhand where I read this.

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