The terms ethnicity, race and culture are often used interchangeably. This can be confusing. It is helpful to understand that transracial adoption is a term that has been used to describe the placement of a child who is of one race or ethnic group with adoptive parents of another race or ethnic group. This results in a combining of cultures. Culture is typically an important part of a community or family identity. Culture involves a shared system of learned values, beliefs and rules of conduct. Ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity is common in families. This is more prominent today than it was in the past. Families come in many different forms. For transracial families, the integration of more than one culture will be required to recognize the diversity of other family members.
A key difference between adoptive and biological children is that an adopted child may be of a different racial background than their adoptive parent(s), whereas a biological child will be of the same racial background as one or both parents. A biological child therefore has an ethnic connection to one or both parents, but an adoptive child may not. It is our belief that adoptive parents(s) should make a concerted effort their adopted child with support in this area. This support can look different for each and every family.
We strongly encourage adoptive parent(s) to embrace and nurture their adopted child’s ethnicity and birth culture. It has been shown to be very important in identity development of children/teens.
The Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association writes that “positive racial identity depends on our ability to identify fully with our ethnic roots, yet remain confident that race or ethnicity does not limit our opportunities in life”.
Promoting healthy identity formation in adoption. Courtesy of the Donaldson Adoption Institute.