NPR story: “White Kid, Black Family: Transracial Adoption”

A fascinating response to an NPR story

A few days back, we heard from Lisa Marie Rollins, a black woman raised in a white family. Her story drew this response below from Mark Riding, a black man whose family is adopting a white kid. In coming days, we’ll look to talk some more Riding and his family. For now, we’ll bring his comment up and look for yours. He writes:

The timing of this NPR story is serendipitous for me. I have long been struggling with my family’s in-process transracial adoption, but for almost opposing reasons to those in this story — we’re a black family attempting to adopt a little white girl.

I live in Baltimore infamous for its blighted "Chocolate City" status as well as for its distinct up-South racial polarization. When the little white girl came to live with us — three years old, doughy face, Irish freckles, and deep red hair — we faced immediate, unanticipated obstacles, many of which were internal. For example, I hadn’t considered how often we talked about white people at home. I hadn’t realized that dinnertime stories were rarely told without referencing the race of the players. I was also oblivious how frequently I used racial stereotypes. We began diligently censoring ourselves. Of course we’ve routinely adjusted our language and behavior for the sake of our white peers, neighbors, bosses and friends, but this little girl lives with us, which requires code switching and code creating at home. Headline News wouldn’t care about some missing spring break girl if she wasn’t er…blonde. America loves blonde girls. It has required more vigilance than I ever suspected; and I had long considered myself a fairly enlightened person.

Even though transracial adoptions are en vogue, many people (especially white people) are troubled when they see us out together. At the park in our historic Baltimore neighborhood where adopted Asian kids play with their white siblings without a blink, we are greeted with uneasy curiosity. We don’t receive the knowing smile and assumption of family that those other adoptive families enjoy. White park-goers often assume (out loud) that my graying mother-in-law is the girl’s nanny. Given close enough proximity, white people are almost always compelled to question our relationship with her. "So who do we have here" they ask, hardly veiling their anxiety. Even white friends and colleagues from the progressive private school in which I work are clearly disquieted, despite the fact that middle-class white parents with adopted Romanian, Asian or black children are in growing number there. "Oh this must be your little foster child." A colleague announced loudly outside a kiddie concert held on campus. Our little girl was troubled; her family secret had been publically revealed and she didn’t understand how or why. I was doubly upset because I couldn’t even carp freely about the indirect racial prejudice and insensitivity of this white person when I returned home.

My wife, like her mother, has little tolerance for strangers’ nosiness and gives purposely inelaborate answers; she is our little girl, period. Conversely, until quite recently I have accepted us as an oddity and have readily explained as soon as the little girl bounces out of ear shot. I’m certain only some of that has been empathetic; the rest was to assuage my own peculiar feelings. I have never felt as self-consciously black as when I hold our little white girl’s hand in public. However, after several white people have asked me, "and there was no one else in her family that could take her!" my leaf has turned. Now when asked I try to reply plainly, tapering my repugnance with irony: Nah, you know how those families are." With due emphasis placed on the term those.

You can read the rest of the letter here.

Small Size, Big Voice

by Chris Roberts, Minnesota Public Radio
December 14, 2007

Larger view
Mayda Miller is a St. Paul pop rocker with a new cd, "Stereotype." (Photo courtesy of Michael Bland, Sonic Matrimony)

If you’re a songwriter, being a Korean adoptee, a woman and only four-feet-ten inches tall gives you a lot to talk about. St. Paul musician Mayda’s big sound belies her diminutive size.

St. Paul, Minn. — In a crowd, it’s easy to overlook Mayda. But on stage, it is hard not to notice her. "Just look at me," she says. "There’s not a whole lotta Korean artists out there playing and writing their own material. And I’m teeny."

Listen to the podcast and read the rest of the transcript here.

Mayda’s myspace page here.


An African American family adoptes a white child

Mark Riding’s African-American family is adopting a white girl in Baltimore.

You can listen to the story on the NPR website.

And for those who might have missed it, Lisa Marie Rollins of A Birth Project was featured a few weeks ago.

Lisa Marie Rollins, founder of Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora, wrestles with so-called baby lifting and the impact of transracial adoption. Rollins herself was adopted by a white family in Washington state when she was 3 months old.

Rollins says her birth papers described her as Mexican, Filipino and Irish. "My theory is that it was basically kind of a marketing decision," says Rollins, who writes about the transracial adoption experience at A Birth Project.

She describes growing up in a family of people with blue eyes and blond hair, not just the only black child in her town but the only child of color. In those early years, she says, "I basically am going through life with people telling me that I’m not black, when it’s clear that I am black."

Today, Rollins says she loves her adoptive family and remains close to her adoptive parents, but would like to see the end of adoption as we know it. In the present system, she argues, black women are more likely to have their children taken away and less likely to be offered chances for reuniting with them. "These are the types of things that we’re concerned about it," she says.

Check out the story here and be sure to visit Lisa Marie’s blog, A Birth Project and the Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora group.

MPR: “Wanted: Parents Adopting Teenagers”

Something near and dear to my heart.     

Wanted: Parents Adopting Teenagers

A new American RadioWorks documentary, "Wanted: Parents," profiles several Minnesota teenagers who agreed to try once more to trust a family. The documentary presents the story of a brother and sister looking for a home, and includes the voices of other teens, foster parents, adoptive parents, social workers and child advocates.

"Wanted: Parents" will air Monday, November 5th during the noon hour of Midday. A live audience will listen to the program in the UBS Forum and then participate in a discussion broadcast from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Lead producer Catherine Winter will moderate a panel exploring what can be done to prevent young people from leaving their foster homes only to wind up in homeless shelters or back with the very families they were taken from in the first place. Panelists will discuss the challenges and the rewards for families willing to open their homes and their hearts to older children.

Panelists will include one of the teenagers featured in the documentary and her adoptive parents, and Michelle Chalmers of the Homecoming Project, which tries to find families for teens.

The link to the web page is here

Also of interest:

On her own – the story of a youth in foster care who "aged out"

A Family Apart – the story of one family’s journey

A Third Chance – the story featured on the broadcast about a sister and brother in system

They Deserve More – feature of a child specific adoption recruiter (the program my current position was based on)

A Place to call home – the story of a waiting child

MPR: “White Earth Nation welcomes adoptees home”

My friend and fellow TRA Sandy Whitehawk was featured on MPR this morning. I was pleased with the reporting on this piece. You can hear the report here.

by Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
October 5, 2007
Larger view
Sandy Whitehawk spent years trying to reconnect with her American Indian culture after being adopted by a non-Indian family. (Photo courtesy of Sandy Whitehawk)

This weekend the White Earth Nation is celebrating the return of children lost for years. Hundreds of American Indian children were taken from Minnesota reservations and adopted by non-Indian families in the 1950s and 60s. The White Earth Aniishinabe are the first tribe in the country to formally welcome the adoptees home.

Continue reading

Expectant mothers of color face cultural hurdles with adoption – NPR

There are few academics I disagree more with than Elizabeth Bartholet. Here she is in this NPR story. Bartholet is an adoptive parent who adopted transracially. Love that this story features the saying "linger in foster care" phrase, which I think is Rule #1 in talking about transracial adoptions and MEPA. Let’s be clear, though, that this story is talking about private domestic adoptions, not foster care.

After reading Adoption in a Color-Blind Society, which focuses on private, domestic adoptions, it is somewhat easy to divert our attention in talking about the woman’s preference to place her child with a culturally and racially similar adoptive family by bringing up how MEPA "threw away" barriers to transracial adoption and talking about foster care. Maybe they need to revisit this article so they can report on this story with a fresh perspective.

There are plenty of African American families interested in infants. What is the agency doing to recruit and retain African American families?


Expectant Moms Face Cultural Hurdles with Adoption

Tell Me More, September 24, 2007 ·
Expectant mothers of color who desire to place their children in
adoptive care sometimes face diffculty finding other families of color
to adopt, based on cultural preferences. Betsy Bartholett, faculty
director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School, is joined
by Melanie Markley, a Houston Chronicle reporter who recently profiled one woman’s experience.