Thursday, April 15, 2010
There's Always Something to Learn...
The Caseworkers of FLS had the opportunity to attend the Barker Foundation Annual Adoption Conference, located at The University of Maryland, on Saturday, April 10th. The theme was “From Patches to Quilt: The Joys and Challenges of Complex Blended Families.” This message was definitely accomplished from the beginning session with keynote speaker, Collins Tuohy (the daughter of the family portrayed in The Blind Side) to the closing address by Scott Simon, an international adoptive father and inspirational radio announcer for National Public Radio.
The conference provided a variety of classes led by experts and individuals with personal adoption stories. Each year, this conference is a highlight for our agency’s staff and would be a wonderful investment for waiting adoptive families or adoptive families to attend as well (www.BarkerFoundation.org). One session, in particular, that impacted me was the testimony of Rhonda Roorda, an adult African American woman who was adopted into a Caucasian family. Her insights challenged me professionally and caught my personal attention while opening my mind to considering new aspects of transracial adoption.
Rhonda provided a glimpse into what it was like being raised in a Caucasian family. She shared the following key concepts:
• She relayed the feelings of an adopted person who desired to fit into her family and shared adoptees will try to assimilate into their family, at the cost of their own cultural identity.
• She shared about her struggle to connect with individuals who were the same race as herself.
• She identified herself as an adopted person who advocates for transracial adoption.
• She made a point to acknowledge that, although it has come a long way in recent years, transracial adoption still has major areas in need of improvement.
Her personal and practical suggestions for transracial adoptive families are the following:
• Provide diversity in your child’s life (examine your communities—is your child the only minority?).
• Provide a mentor of the same race and gender as well as someone who shares the family’s values.
• Provide books and materials about the history and customs of the child’s culture of origin. For an adopted child, having the option to explore his or her heritage within the family reinforces acceptance of their identity and affection from their family.
• Provide the necessary tools for your child to advocate for him or herself – Society’s view of your child is not necessarily the same as your view, prepare them for challenges and teach them how to stand up for themselves.
Adoptive families who desire to adopt transracially may feel a sense of worry or a burden that they are not equipped or do not possess what it takes to raise a child of another race. I would like to leave you with something Collins Tuohy said that stayed with me, “Don’t raise your child based on race, but as how you want them to be as individuals. Raise them in such a way that they will acquire the attributes and standards you desire him or her to possess to be successful.”