Blog Talk Radio Transcript – AIR DATE: 3.21.2017 “Transracial Adoption in Michigan” (You may listen to the podcast by clicking on the audio link, or read the transcript of the podcast below.)
Amanda and her husband are a Caucasian couple that adopted an African American baby. In this blogpost, Amanda shares what they found helpful on their adoption journey to become a transracial family. She tells how she worried about what she calls “oversharing.” It turns out Amanda’s “oversharing” was really just her expression of joy that translated into wanting everyone to know that adoption is not scary. That if you are struggling to grow your family, look into adoption as an option.
Jennifer J. : Hi, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski and I’m a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associate’s premier talk radio blog show. Adoption Associates and its staff are trusted leaders in adoption and we have placed well over 5 thousand children into loving homes. Since 1990, we have advocated, supported, and nurtured both birth families and adoptive families, and helping families and birth parents grow through the adoption process is important to us. Our offices are located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Freeland, and our pregnancy and adoption services are available throughout all of Michigan.
Thank you very much for listening in today. We hope you find this forum to be inspirational, educational, and thought-provoking. I am very excited to welcome to our show today Amanda. Amanda, are you with us?
Amanda : I am. Hello.
Jennifer J. : Hi, good morning. Thank you for being on Adoption Focus and today we have the pleasure to hear from you about your family’s experience with transracial adoption in Michigan, which is the topic that we’re going to focus on. You and your husband came to Adoption Associates in 2010, if I’m correct, interested in growing your family through adoption. Tell us more.
Amanda : Well, like a lot of couples, we were going through some fertility issues, and we had been trying to start a family. It just wasn’t working out for us, and my mother suggested that we look into adoption. And when we started to do some research and reading about it, we just felt like this was the way that we were meant to grow our family. So, we stopped all doctors appointments and really focused on trying to find an agency that we trusted to work with to start our adoption process.
We had gone to several different places and talked to several different agencies,. But, it wasn’t until we met with someone from Adoption Associates that we really felt like they were invested in us and were excited to work with us. They were very honest about the process and what was going to happen and everything involved in adopting a child. And we just felt very comfortable with Adoption Associates and so happy that we went through our adoption journey with you.
Jennifer J. : I’m happy to hear that you felt that ease and comfortable with the agency. That is something that is important to us. So thank you for those kind words. Let’s fast forward a bit to 2013 when you were selected by a birth mother and subsequently adopted your daughter. You and your husband are Caucasian and your daughter is African American, so you’re now a transracial family.
Amanda : We are.
Jennifer J. : Can you talk about the considerations that went into that decision? The decision to be open to adopting a child of a different race than your own? To go through the transracial adoption process in Michigan?
Amanda : I spoke with my husband recently about being on the podcast. I wanted to talk about our transracial adoption in Michigan so I could get an idea of what to talk about today. My husband remembers things just a little differently than I do when we were starting. He remembers that we were unsure about adopting transracially. When we talked to our caseworker, she suggested that we go to the transracial adoption meeting. We learned a lot at that meeting. We did an exercise with different colored beads to talk about the different races in our neighborhood. Our doctor and our dentist. Our friends and our church. It really opened our eyes to where we lived, and who we surrounded ourselves with. I remember leaving that meeting feeling like our eyes had been opened to what it meant to be a transracial family. It felt right for us and we were really excited to start that journey and to be open to whatever God had planned for us.
Jennifer J. : Was there something in particular that you were excited about? What got you so excited after attending that meeting?
Amanda : I don’t really remember one specific thing. The bead exercise with the different colored beads was very meaningful. And we talked about our neighborhood and who we hung out with. And we just realized how diverse of an area we lived in and how we had so much to offer. We wanted to be part of that community. That exercise in and of itself was really eye-opening for us. When we left I remember looking at my husband and just saying, “This is what I want to be. I want us to be a transracial family. I’m open to whatever.” And he said, “So am I.” And it kind of just went from there.
Jennifer J. : Awesome.
Amanda : Yeah. It was a great thing.
Jennifer J. : That’s really good to hear. I’ve heard a lot from couples about the exercise with the beads. It might sound pretty benign, but it’s pretty powerful when you go through that each different area of your life and you’re asked to select that bead that represents those particular races. I’m glad to hear that that was impactful for your family. How are you creating a diverse family life and home environment that is reflective of your transracial and multicultural family?
Amanda : At this point she’s three years old, and so there’s not a whole lot that she notices, per se. But her hair and skincare was a big deal for me. I really wanted to be the one to take care of her just like any other mom. I wanted to know how to take care of her hair and do the best for her as far as teaching her and helping her to be proud and know she was beautiful. In addition, we have several books that we read that are about different races. And she has dolls of other races. I remember going out and buying the Princess and the Frog because I wanted her to know that princesses aren’t just one color.
You know, little things like that. I mean, she’s still little, but I didn’t want her to only see one thing. Daycare is not as diverse as we had hoped, and we have to find other areas right now to show her diversity in the world. So those are some of the little things that we do right now.
Jennifer J. : Yes, but it’s on your radar, so that’s important. As a family, you guys recognize value in that and you’re seeking those opportunities and it sounds like that you’re being pretty proactive. That’s real important to acknowledge as well.
Amanda : Yeah, absolutely. Because we don’t want to wait until she’s older and she starts asking questions. Obviously she’s going to at some point realize that she doesn’t look like us. So to start showing her different races and different cultures and different books and movies and toys is a way to start. Better to start before she gets to school and starts to see all that stuff.
Jennifer J. : Right. Very good point. Often times we hear from trans-racial families that through the years they continue to reevaluate their circumstances to find opportunities to enhance and better meet their child’s needs regarding racial diversity and acknowledging differences. Are there areas that you and your husband have identified for potential growth?
Amanda : Well, certainly when she starts school. She is in daycare now that acts like a preschool for her at this point. But she is the only child currently of another race. So there’s definitely area of growth there when we look at school and see will she go to public school? Will she go to private school? What will that look like? We go to a wonderful church that is very diverse and so she has that opportunity with Sunday school and that right now, but certainly when she is ready to go to kindergarten and stuff, we’ll look at school and maybe taking her to get her hair done other place instead of just at home with me, or play dates with friends that have adopted, or other couples that …
I think of … I keep thinking of the show, This is Us, and when they’re at the pool and the little boy is marking down how many different African American people he sees on a daily basis. And I don’t want her to not see that her life is diverse and have to count how many different. Like I want her to [inaudible 00:10:55] for that, but it’s just a normal part of life. Like I don’t want to put too much emphasis on it, but at the same time, I don’t want her to feel isolated.
Jennifer J. : Absolutely. Absolutely. There’s a balance there in creating that as part of your home and in your environment. As you mentioned your community means that it doesn’t have to be awkward or strange or atypical, because the diversity is a part of your life. So for families, maybe for families who live in areas of the state or the country that aren’t as diverse, they have to be a little more intentional in their efforts and then evaluate the appropriateness of adopting a child of a race different than their own.
Amanda : I remember that from part of that meeting that we went to. Other couples saying like, “We live in a very isolated area. There are no other … There’s not much diversity at all.” And they were talking about seeking out doctors of your child’s race, or dentists, or daycare, or finding mommy and me groups that are diverse to show your child that and to get out and get out of your bubble and get out into other areas so that you can provide that for them. And there’s so many different places. You know, dance class and sports and all kinds of things that you can get involved in to create that diversity and cultural differences that we have.
Jennifer J. : Absolutely. So are there one or two things that you feel you’ve learned through becoming a trans-racial family?
Amanda : Oh sure. I remember at the very beginning, when she was a baby, and she just came home, and I was just coming back to work or getting out in public. And I always felt the need to … I think I noticed … I think I was more aware of our family than other people were. I was making it more of a big deal than other people were. I felt the need to overshare. Like if I showed someone a picture, like I felt the need to explain that she was adopted, or whatever. And I learned pretty quickly that that was not necessary, and I kind of was opening myself up for people to say things, inappropriate things …
Or not inappropriate, but maybe hurtful or uncomfortable things that didn’t really need to be said and could have been probably avoided altogether had I just not felt so compelled to tell everyone what we had gone through, or not everything about it, but just that she was adopted and that she was African American, and that we were … I overshared way too much at the beginning. And I remember talking to my caseworker about it at some of our visits after she came home that I didn’t know why I was doing it. Like, “Why am I doing this? Why can’t I just be quiet?” But it was just, I don’t know, it was just something that like I couldn’t stop myself. I felt the need to explain it.
And then I pretty quickly realized that that’s my story, and what you decide about my family is your thought. Like I don’t need to hear it and I don’t … Like if you want to have a nice discussion, sure. But I didn’t need to tell everyone my business all the time. And that was something that I struggled with at the beginning because I think of course I loved my … I was in love with the family that we have and I wasn’t ashamed. I just, I don’t know. I just overshared all the time. [crosstalk 00:14:55]
Jennifer J. : So you’re oversharing … It sounds like you’re oversharing may have just been a result of you being excited and happy and proud of your family, not so much you needing to justify. Or was it did you feel you needed to justify the fact that you were a trans-racial family?
Amanda : I don’t know if I needed to justify it. I know that this, like going through this process just made me so proud of what we are doing and just wanting to tell the world about adoption and educate everyone that I possibly could. And maybe it was partly that? Maybe I partly was just wanting to tell … Like to show people that this is the family that you can be. You can be like us. And maybe it was a little bit of both. But I’ve always been just so proud of the process that we went through and wanting to be involved in however I can to talk to other couples that are waiting, or thinking about it, just because I’m just so happy about what we went through and the result of it. And yes, it was tough, and it was hard, and there were decisions to make and whatever, but it was so very exciting and rewarding, and I just … I don’t know, I love to tell people about it. [crosstalk 00:16:15]
Jennifer J. : Right. And I think it’s kind of interesting that you’re oversharing in and of itself was maybe slightly problematic for you, but I love the fact that oversharing was a result of you being so excited. Like, “Look at us. We’re great and you can be like us too and let me tell you about it.” That’s pretty awesome that you guys were excited and just wanted to share all this joy that you had with everyone.
Amanda : Yeah. And I think we learned when to overshare and maybe when not to overshare. Maybe it wasn’t appropriate to just overshare when I’m at work and whatever and no one asked me or whatever. Because those were times that resulted in comments that I was just like, “Well I could have done without that today.” Or whatever but mostly I just … It never stopped me. It never stopped me from talking about it, never stopped me from when someone asked the question or someone said, “Hey, can I give so and so your phone number?” “Oh, absolutely you can. I will talk to anyone about it.” But I certainly learned when to overshare and when to just let it go.
Jennifer J. : Good, good point. Were there any other things that you felt that you learned through the experience of becoming a trans-racial family?
Amanda : I mean, I think that it was just we became more aware of everything around us. Like maybe watching the news, we watched news stories, or read things online or whatever that we read and that we became engaged with. But I feel like now, things hit a little closer to home, or it makes us think about how we’re going to explain that to her someday. Or hearing people say something that they shouldn’t and how that can be hurtful to her someday, and how we’re going to handle that, and how we’re going to teach her to be strong in who she is and how to react to some of that stuff and maybe how to approach different subjects with stigma and racism and whatever. Just how we’re going to handle it as a family and how we’re going to teach her to do that.
Because there is a lot of it out there, and you see a lot of different things on the news that can be scary, but at the same time, it’s going to open her eyes to what do we need to teach her and what do we need to talk about as she gets older, and how are we going to help her deal with it? So I mean, it definitely made us more aware of a lot of things that maybe we didn’t pay as much attention to before.
Jennifer J. : And it’s created an opportunity for you and your husband to explore how you feel about those topics and then what your plans are now and in the future for educating your daughter as well.
Amanda : I mean even now we talk about … I discussed with him the podcast and we talked about different things that we thought or went through or things that have happened since and how that changed our view. Maybe before somebody would say something that we knew was inappropriate but we brushed it off and now it hits very close to home and we’re so much more aware of it. And we take a stance on things. Like we’re not afraid to say, “Hey, that’s not something we say in public. Or that’s just not something that you say in general.” Like it just … It opens up more conversation for us with other people, but at the same time it also makes us more … I think it makes me more strong in standing up for my daughter, for other races. I feel like I’m more vocal about things than I was before.
Jennifer J. : Right. Your perspective has changed now that you’re a parent through trans-racial adoption. What suggestions do you have for other families who are considering adopting trans-racially?
Amanda : Don’t be afraid. Go to a meeting. Learn more. Think about your surroundings. And that meeting was just so powerful to us that it just drove home that this is what we wanted. And even if you are like, “No, I don’t think I’m open to it,” still go to the meeting and listen to what they have to say and think about … Meet other couples that are open to trans-racial adoption and reach out to other couples that have gone through it. Or me even. Like I would love to talk to anyone that is unsure. And just, it’s so not as scary as you think it is. And it will change you, and it will change your view on the world and it will make you stronger and just more aware of things and it’s just, it’s amazing. I just don’t even know what else to say besides that.
Jennifer J. : That is absolutely perfect and just enough actually. We are approaching the end of the show. And I recognize that talking about trans-racial adoption is a topic that some people are hesitant to go into. It’s a topic that we need to talk about. It’s important. It’s an important aspect of we do in adoption work. And the fact of the matter is there are children of all races and cultural backgrounds that are in need of loving homes and parents. So Amanda, I do very much appreciate you sharing your story with us. We’re getting ready to close out for today. Do you have any additional thoughts or anything else you’d like to say before we end the show?
Amanda : Well thank you for having me. I mean, I know it’s a very tough, touchy subject to talk about. But like you said, it definitely needs to be talked about and there are so many wonderful children out there that need loving homes and just be open and go to a meeting, read a book, or talk to someone else. It’s so amazing and you won’t regret it.
Jennifer: Thank you, Amanda, very much for today. For those of you looking to connect with Adoption Associates about choosing adoption for your baby, please call us any time at 800-677-2367. Or, you can text us at 248-919-8094. We also have very helpful information on our website HERE.
For now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. Have a great day, everyone. Bye. Bye.