Earlier I mentioned that we would most likely have to continue with online classes for some or all of our remaining training hours. Our social worker recommended Adoption Learning Partners, a so-far wonderful resource that has some general and some very specific classes for those folks adopting or already created adoptive families. You go through a series of slides with audio, some ask you to make notes within the application during the session, and then you are asked five short essay questions at the end to ensure you did take in the important aspects. A pass is not automatic – your notes/answers are sent to ALP and someone reviews your course before releasing a certificate. The certificate has our names, the course, and how many hours it counts for.
The first online course we completed was Conspicuous Families (1.5 hours) because it touched on a few things that we have been thinking about.
We will be the definition of a conspicuous family if/when we are matched with a child. All the children in the South Africa program eligible for adoption are Black. In fact, all of the children placed with our local agency are Black, so even if we had not chosen international adoption, D and I knew we needed to educate ourselves on what it meant to be a transracial family.
The course was a fairly simple one – it informed us that there would be stereotyping, not only of our child for being Black but of us for choosing to adopt outside our race and of our family as a whole. They asked us to consider what stereotypes we ourselves were already using in our day to day interactions.
The largest portion, in our opinion, was with regards to how we dealt with instrustive and/or rude questions, and how we planned on dealing with them in the future when our child was with us. It helped us determine our “style” of response – informative, meaning that we choose to share/educate the person doing the questioning – and gave some suggestions about reading the situation before answering. We loved that reading the situation included the disposition of the child during the questioning. Are they cranky or tired? Ashamed? As parents, it will be of the utmost importance to make sure we are answering in a way that gives our child confidance and makes them feel secure, not only as part of our family but more importantly in their identity as an adoptee.
Can it always be done? Realistically? No. Some stranger somewhere is going to be offensive, combative, and nasty at some point and there is no avoiding it. But we can make sure we discuss this aspect of being an adoptive family. Adoptive family. The course recommended bringing the attention back to the family a lot. We’re all this in together, after all. Our child will be an adoptee and we will be adoptive parents.
The last section of the course was information on making sure families were not only transracial but multi-cultural. A lot of this portion we had already discussed over and over and over again. Making sure we are in a colorful neighborhood, making sure our school district was diverse (about equal percentages Black, White, and Hispanic). Our friends, our religious community, our doctors, do they all look like us or do they look like our child? Important questions, and these were very important to a number of adult transracial adoptees who shared their stories for the coursework.
Is this all we need to know to being a conspicuous, transracial family? No. This course is not even close, just a good starting point to build off of. We will never be Black, never be able to personally identify with the struggles our child may (and probably will) go through, so this is one of the most terrifying, most vital, things we need to be educating ourselves on.
D and I pray hard that we will be able to form the community connections and to keep the open dialogue needed to be White/Mostly-White parents to a Black child. Love is not enough.