Resources for non-traditional parents?
August 31, 2022 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Hi, I am looking for online communities, books, and other resources targeted toward parents like me who are 1) old; 2) adopting; and 3) trans-racial parents. And also general helpful parenting resources to the extent not covered by other Asks.

After a long and not-great journey, my husband and I are hoping to adopt a newborn who is due to arrive in November. My husband and I are the oldest parents we know! Also we are the only ones who are adopting (some other adopters but their experiences are all 10+ years ago)! Also, we will be a three-race family (tri-racial?). We are excited and would also like to be as prepared as possible.
posted by *s to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I like Now I am Known from Peter Mutabazi whom I first heard interviewed on the Adoptive Mom podcast. I am acquaintances with a couple who has adopted two sons (transracial adoption) though foster care in Texas: I can share their Instagrams via MeMail if you're interested. I also really like Brandi Ebersole's work on transracial adoption, both as a child and parent. All the people I mention identify as Christian and their faith is a big part of their lives; however, as an atheist following them, I find them very inclusive and not at all dogmatic or anything. Lots of realness and love and hope!

Also, if I may ask -- and perhaps it's unimportant all things considered -- what do you mean by old? For some it may be 40s but to me it's like 60s.

I wish you all the best of luck and much happiness!
posted by smorgasbord at 2:28 PM on August 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is one of the parents white and the child a baby of color? I ask because there's a lot of content directed at transracial adopters when the parent is white, but less if the child is white (which is not nearly as common, of course). I'm going to assume that's the case for my answer, even though I realize at least one parent must be a parent of color.

Also, to give some context: I'm a white adoptive parent of two Black children, now older teens. I did all the research, well beyond what any agency or person suggested, and did most of the "right" things for my kids, and yet I was so naive! And made so many mistakes! So here's a list of things to help you get started...

Generally speaking, I'd encourage you to look for resources from adult transracial adoptees. There are a lot, and they have incredibly rich experiences that can inform a lot of what we (me too) do as transracial adoptive parents. Some of their words can be tough to hear, and I'd encourage to be prepared for that and not to look away. Adoption can be an intensely traumatic experience for a child, and being raised without racial mirrors adds onto that. Many adult adoptees have had rough experiences and share that to help us be better parents.

The blog Harlow's Monkey is excellent. The author is a social worker and PhD who studies transracial adoption in addition to being an transracial adoptee. She's got lots of resources there.

There are a million books. I'd look up adoption memoir in your local public library catalog and ignore stuff written by white adoptive parents (we have way too strong of a voice in adoption as it is) in favor of content written by adult adoptees. A few recent books to start:
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
What White Parents Should Know about Transracial Adoption

Don't worry about the fact that these folks are now adults and were children many years ago. They have so much to teach us.

If you message me, I can also give you information on a Facebook group populated primarily with adult transracial adoptees where parents are allowed to engage as well.

One of the big messages you are going to see is about your community. Are you living someplace where your child will grow up as part of a community of people who look like them? And if not, what will do to change that? I know that is a HUGE question, but it's so incredibly central to our kids' identity formation. Raising kids of color in a community with racial mirrors doesn't undo the trauma of adoption, but it's incredibly important not to add to it.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:52 PM on August 31, 2022 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi, not to threadsit but old for our purposes is mid to late 40s (I say old because we exceeded the age limits for most adoption agencies where we live). And yes, we live in a diverse neighborhood, have lots of friends who look like our child, and are sensitive to adoption trauma and potential othering. One parent is white and the other nonwhite. These recs are great, thank you.
posted by *s at 3:19 PM on August 31, 2022

Best answer: Brown White Black by Nishta Mehta is a collection of essays about being a mixed-race couple adopting a child of a third race. I don’t remember Mehta’s age, but her wife was definitely on the older end to be a new parent.
posted by elanid at 5:11 PM on August 31, 2022

Best answer: Follow Dr. Stacey Patton on Facebook. She's a Black person who was transracially adopted by white people. She talks a lot about the abusive parts of her own childhood. Some of the abuse she details is obvious (being hit) but she also talks about her parents' racial contempt and ignorance and the harm it caused her.

If the child is Black, please make it your MISSION to learn how to properly care for their hair. And you need to take extra pains to dress them well and keep them looking tidy and well-cared for, to help compensate for the world's racial bias against them. Black children are heavily penalized if they look at all ragged. Every Black mom I know is aghast and marvels at how casual and dirty a white children can look - messy hair, stained clothes, dirty nails - and nobody bats an eye. They know their Black children need to look impeccable to ensure the world sees them kindly.

If the child has darker skin than yours, note that you will need to wet and moisturize their skin properly, especially on the parts that get a lot of exposure - face, hands, knees, ankles, elbows, and possibly daily. A splash of water followed by vaseline or coconut oil works well. Prevents the skin from looking dry and ashy.

Interrogate "subtle" racism in your own families and aggressively shut it down while the child is an infant. Begin as you mean to go on - do not let relatives make comments in front of a baby that wouldn't work in front of a 12 year old.

Make sure the white parent understands that a racialized child will have a deeper understanding of racism by about age 5 than the white parent ever will. The white parent is the beginner, the child will be an expert. The white parent must never gaslight the child by minimizing or denying the child's sense of when something unjust is happening.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 9:19 PM on August 31, 2022 [5 favorites]

Work on establishing your network of family, and then make sure that your child also “owns” that family. In other words you should not be the only instigator of family get together etc, they should also as they grow older in their own home etc. Because they likely won’t have any siblings and, excuse the crassness, but there’s no guarantees in life and they could easily be suddenly “re-orphaned” in their thirties, which to paraphrase oscar wild looks like carelessness. They (assuming) won’t have family that looks like them, but they can have family that feels like them. Family of choice is all well and good, but this kid needs both. Speaking as a partner of a trans-racially adopted person who had lost four parents by their thirties.
posted by Iteki at 7:58 AM on September 1, 2022

Sorry I see you asked for resources not anecdotes or advice, just flag me as noise if you would prefer it (and this) removed.
posted by Iteki at 8:00 AM on September 1, 2022

Best answer: Take a look at PACT, It’s a California-based adoption agency that has done fantastic work supporting transracial adoptees and adoptive parents of color. Lots of great resources on their website (not California-specific). If you're considering open adoption (or even if you're not), Mickey Duxbury's Making Room in Our Hearts presents a wide range of family stories from a wide range of families.

Strongly seconding the recommendation to read & listen to adult adoptees. Nicole Chung’s book is great, and she’s also done some anthologizing and editing work highlighting adult adoptee stories (roundup on Catapult here; Chung's intro is here.) April Dinwoodie is an adult adoptee and memoirist who hosts a podcast about adoption.

Closure is a terrific documentary about an adult adoptee (Angela Tucker) reconnecting with her birth family. Tucker is also now a prominent voice in adult adoptee circles: she has a website with lots of relevant resources, especially about transracial adoption, she has a book coming out next year that I'm excited to read ("You Should Be Grateful") (!), and she started the Adoptee Mentoring Society.

Not directly/exclusively about adoption, but some thoughtful, provoking stories about multiracial families: Good Talk (graphic novel/memoir by Mira Jacob), and a short documentary series called The Loving Generation (used to be on NYT but is now on youtube, here.) Features Nikole Hannah-Jones, Melissa Harris-Perry, & more--including Rebecca Carroll, whose adoption memoir (Surviving the White Gaze) is very much worth reading.
posted by miles per flower at 9:10 AM on September 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Mariama Lockington is a Black, transracial adoptee whose work is invaluable. You might especially like

Sharon H. Chang has also done some work on having a mixed race family, including Raising Mixed Race and Hapa Tales and Other Lies.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:17 AM on September 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

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