“How do you plan on raising a black man?” Your transracial adoption may hang in the balance depending on how you answer
this question. At least it did for one couple.
Clearly we don’t know all the details, but we do know that this foster care adoption story ends when a pre-adoptive mom responded to this question with “I plan on raising him the same way I would a white man.” The adoption process was halted with that one statement. But as with all stories involving race, we need to understand the context.
The case started when a white Philadelphia couple signed up with a private agency placing children from foster care with the county Department of Human Services. In October 2012 their caseworkers matched them with a two-year-old African American toddler. I don’t know how long he had been in foster care, but his placement goal had been switched from “reunification” to “adoption” in June 2012. He was living if a foster home with a single black woman on disability with several children. The foster mom did not want to adopt him.
The adoption process began with gradual visitation progressing to weekend stays. The couple received “glowing reviews” by the agency, and the child was expected to move permanently to their home in Jan. 2012. A week before the child was to move, a DHS supervisor visited their home and asked the fateful question. A week later the adoption process was stopped presumably because of the mom’s response, although we don’t know for sure, and DHS said that during that week, the foster mother expressed an interest in adoption. Ultimately the two caseworkers that had supported the adoption were fired, allegedly because of their support for the adoption. While it may be irrelevant, it is worth noting since race is everywhere in this case that both social workers were black.
Importance of Words in Transracial Adoption
To be perfectly honest, my first reaction was to cringe when I heard the adoptive mom’s response that she would raise her black son the same way she would raise a white son. I judged her answer as woefully lacking and wondered what type of preparation she had received in interracial adoption. However, when I read more details, I wondered if this one response reflected the reality of their life and preparation for this child. The couple lives in a predominantly black area and had hired a black babysitter to care for the child while they worked. I don’t know what other steps they had taken as a white family preparing to adopt a black child, but they had at least made a start.
How to Raise a Strong Proud Black Man
Oh yes, when I read her response, I was already formulating a much better answer in my head. I would have talked about the importance of incorporating black role models into our life, and establishing a support system to help us raise a strong proud black man in this society where overt and covert racism is a fact of life. I would talk about how I hoped to prevent my boy from being the next Trayvon Martin. I would have answered the question as someone steeped in the nuances of transracial adoption, and I would have meant every single word because all of this is part of raising a black man in America. But my answer would have been incomplete.
The part I would have likely left out in my effort at providing the “right” answer, is that I also would want to teach my son to be honest and kind. To be respectful of all people, including women. To search for meaningful life work that brings him happiness. To be productively busy, but not too busy that he overlooks what’s really important in life. I’d pray that I would be able to raise him to strive each day to be a blessing in someone’s life. I’d try to teach him all of these things regardless of the color of his skin.
“How do you plan on raising a black man?” I would have answered the supervisor’s question emphasizing the word “black”; the mom emphasized the word “man”. Neither answer is wrong. Neither answer is complete.
Image credit: Visionsofgrace