Cultural Diversity Training: Why It’s Important, Especially In Transracial Adoptions

Preparing To Be an Adoptive or Foster Parent

In preparing to become a foster or adoptive parent, all potential families are required to attend Preparation Classes. Many of these classes help parents prepare for the trauma children in foster care have experienced and teaches them interventions which are successful in healing abused and/or neglected children. One training topic that’s incredibly important to us is our Cultural Diversity Training.

The Importance of Cultural Diversity

I invite you to think about why cultural diversity is important in the…

  • School system?
  • Workplace?
  • Government?
  • Media?

Got your answers? Don’t worry; there’s really no wrong answers as long as you truly believe in its importance.

Here’s my answer: In May of last year, the LA Times wrote an article about how Houston has become the most diverse city in America. Cultural diversity is important in the specific areas I mentioned, because they are core to who we are. We spend all of our time growing up in school, we spend most of our adult days at work, the government and media help implement action and change on our behalf. It’s important to have cultural diversity in these areas to ensure our personal world matches who we are as communities and as a nation.

The M&M’s Test

How Diverse Is Your World?

I’m giving you an excuse to buy M&M’s, so do it. Now, assign your M&M’s as so:

  • Red = Hispanic
  • Yellow = African / African American
  • Blue = White / Caucasian
  • Green = Asian
  • Orange = Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
  • Brown = Multiracial or Other

Now, ask yourself these questions and set your M&Ms aside for each answer:

  1. Select the M&M that most closely represents your race/ethnicity.
  2. The M&M that most closely represents the race of your significant other.
  3. Select the M&M that represents the race of your closest friend.
  4. The race of the people with whom I worship are predominately…
  5. My neighbors (at home) on either side of my house are…
  6. The M&M that most closely represents the race of your doctor…
  7. My dentist is…
  8. The M&M that most closely represents the race of your boss…
  9. My co-workers are predominately…
  10. The people in my social circle are predominately…
  11. The author of the last book I read was…
  12. In the last good movie I saw, the people were predominately…
  13. The people in my favorite TV show are predominately…
  14. The person who I most admire or who has had the greatest impact on my life is…
  15. The M&M that most closely represents the race of the people in your favorite musical group or band…

Look at what you’ve put aside. Is your world diverse?

This Is Us

At Arms Wide Adoption Services, we try to keep up with trending topics. Many of us have been drawn to the NBC show, This Is Us. Have you seen it? If so, you’ll understand where we’re going as it relates to this training. But if you haven’t, I’ll give you a brief synopsis (SPOILERS AHEAD): A mom and dad lose one of their triplets during birth. At the exact moment, a black baby is dropped off at the hospital after being abandoned at a fire station. This white couple decides it was fate and adopts the black baby as their own.

Making the Decision to Adopt Transracially

This brings us to our very first clip: The Big Push – Adopting Randall

After watching the clip, I have some comments and advice to share with you. From the clip, you saw Jack push his wife, Rebecca, into adopting. Sometimes it takes your partner taking the great leap for both of you, so you can do something wonderful. But I always think about how Rebecca has no time to process the loss of her child during birth. Although it worked out for this television family, you shouldn’t rush into any adoption. And you shouldn’t push adoption on a partner if they’re not sure. You have to be a united front.

Challenges with Adoption

1. Forming Attachment

This leads me to the next This Is Us clip:

As you can see from that clip, Rebecca is having trouble connecting and forming attachment to her new son. With the other two, she had them in utero for nine months, and she can see herself in them. She also has a fear that her son’s biological parents would come back into the picture. Here are some barriers to forming attachment:

  • Fear
  • Unmet expectations
  • Unaddressed personal trauma
  • Only one parent wanted to adopt

Ultimately, in meeting Randall’s biological father, Rebecca learns Randall came from love, and that she has been given the right to be his mother without interference. She also learns to give him his own name, Randall.

2. Not Being Colorblind

This brings us to our next clip:

Early on, Jack and Rebecca realize they can’t parent Randall the same as their other two children. After talking with some people at the pool, Jack and Rebecca decide it’s time to let Randall know he’s a little different. Enrolling Randall in Judo classes allows him to connect with people who look like him. It takes a village to raise a family, and this opportunity gives Randall and his parents another community they can rely on. It also allows Randall to see his parents in a relationship with people who look like him.

Here are some questions you can consider as they relate to the last clip:

  • Where do the parents start out in the scene? What is this symbolic of?
  • Why did Jack continue to do pushups after instructor said he could stop?
  • How might this relate to how adoptive parents feel with a child from a different race?

3. Biological Children

This leads to another special moment with Jack and Randall, where Jack reminds Randall how exceptional he is, and how loved he is:

I’ll let you decipher this clip on your own.

What do you think are some differences between an adoptive family with no biological children vs. and adoptive family with biological children?

As always, there’s no wrong answers. But here are some of mine:

  • Family expectations
  • Biological child expectations and jealousy
  • Disrupted routine

To relate this back to This Is Us there is a scene when the family is at the pool. Jack and Rebecca are focused on Kate and Randall. In the meantime, Kevin follows a football into the deep-end of the pool. He struggles to swim and feels like he is about to drown. After this happens, he marches over to his parents and says, “I ALMOST DROWNED AND YOU DIDN’T EVEN CARE. You’re too busy making sure Kate’s not eating too much and Randall isn’t too adopted. Meanwhile, where’s Kevin? OH, HE’S DEAD!”

Adding a new family member is always an adjustment, but throwing biological siblings in the mix means even more personalities and expectations to manage.

4. Extended Family Issues

Here is another scene from This Is Us:

When considering a transracial adoption, you have to think about how extended family members will react. Racial opinions of family members impact your family because it means they may be unwilling to provide support or even visit. This could be tough on you as parent if it means cutting out a relationship you or even your biological children had been used to.

Here are questions to ask when trying to identify racial issues within your extended family and close circles. Do we:

  • Talk about racial injustice in our country?
  • Have a stereotypical view of people who don’t look like us?
  • “Do life” with people who don’t look like us?

Cultural Socialization

Cultural socialization refers to the manner by which parents address ethnic and racial issues within the family, specifically, the ways parents communicate or transmit cultural values, beliefs, customs, and behaviors to the child and the extent to which the child internalizes these messages, adopts the cultural norms and expectations, and acquires the skills to become a competent and functional member of a racially diverse society (R. M. Lee, 2003).

In the case of transnational and transracial adoptive families, cultural socialization typically refers to the transmission of the child’s and not the parents’ birth culture.

Determinants of Cultural Socialization
  • Parent’s attitudes about the salience of race
    • Do parents identify as “colorblind”?
    • Do parents believe this to a “post-racial” society?
    • Have parents ever witnessed or experienced discrimination? How did they respond?
  • Parent’s belief in the importance of cultural socialization
    • How important is a child’s birth culture?

Final Thoughts

We are always going to have our own internal biases, but the important thing is to recognize them, understand them, and not ever project them on our child(ren). When considering a transracial adoption, it’s important to understand your adopted child is different and their culture should be celebrated. Do not be colorblind. Immerse yourself in your child’s culture to show them you care about where they came from.

About The Author

As the Supervisor of Recruitment and Training, Ashley Sims works to engage the community and provide education about the mission of Arms Wide Adoption Services with the hope of developing more foster and adoptive families for children in foster care. She is graduate of the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work and has a passion for abused and neglected children. Learn more about Ashley here.

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