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White Parents, Black Children

Experiencing Transracial Adoption

Darron T. Smith; Cardell K. Jacobson and Brenda G. Juárez

White Parents, Black Children looks at the difficult issue of race in transracial adoptions—particularly the adoption by white parents of children from different racial and ethnic groups. Despite the long history of troubled and fragile race relations in the United States, some people believe the United States may be entering a post-racial state where race no longer matters, citing evidence like the increasing number of transracial adoptions to make this point. However, White Parents, Black Children argues that racism remains a factor for many children of transracial adoptions. Black children raised in white homes are not exempt from racism, and white parents are often naive about the experiences their children encounter.

This book aims to bring to light racial issues that are often difficult for families to talk about, focusing on the racial socialization white parents provide for their transracially adopted children about what it means to be black in contemporary American society. Blending the stories of adoptees and their parents with extensive research, the authors discuss trends in transracial adoptions, challenge the concept of "colorblind" America, and offer suggestions to help adoptees develop a healthy sense of self.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 176Size: 6 1/2 x 9 3/8
978-1-4422-0762-2 • Hardback • October 2011 • $46.00 • (£31.95)
978-1-4422-0764-6 • eBook • November 2011 • $43.00 • (£29.95)
Darron T. Smith is a frequent commentator on issues of race, including a New York Times post on transracial adoption and Haiti. He is assistant professor at Wichita State University and the coeditor of the book Black and Mormon.

Cardell K. Jacobson is Karl G. Maeser Professor at Brigham Young University and the author or editor of several books, including Statistical Handbook on Racial Groups in the United States.

Brenda G. Juárez is assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, specializing in social justice education.
Foreword by Joe R. Feagin
Chapter 1: Transracial Adoption: Considering Family, Home, and Love, and the Paradoxes of Race Matters
Chapter 2: Contextualizng Transracial Adoption: Demographic Trends, Introducing the Families
Chapter 3: Transracial Adoption, White Racial Knowledge, and the Trouble with “Love is Enough”
Chapter 4: Research on Transracial Adoption: What Do We Know?
Chapter 5: Cross-Cultural Race Pioneers: White Adoptive Parents Learning and Not Learning about Race
Chapter 6: White Parents Teaching Black Children about Race
Chapter 7: Addressing Race with Your Children: Practical Advice for White Adoptive Parents
Appendix A: A Note about Our Methods and Methodology
Appendix B: Transracial Adoption in the 2000 Census and the National Survey of Adoptive Paernts (2007)
About the Authors
This book furthers understanding of the essential elements underlying the question plaguing adoption services for years: does race matter? In their illuminating work, Smith (Wichita State Univ.), Jacobson (Brigham Young Univ.), and Juárez (Univ. of Massachusetts) present the findings of their systematic investigation of the experiences and perspectives of white adoptive parents and their African American children. Dramatic growth in the numbers of transracial adoptions spurred them to ask how damaging the perils are of growing up a black child in a white family, living in a socially unjust world. Their conclusions seem to be that while most white adoptive parents love their black children and do what they feel to be in the children's best interests, the experience is developmentally damaging in salient and irreversible ways, leaving the children ill equipped to deal with the micro-aggressions they face daily living in a racist society. . . . This is an important read for all parents, practitioners, and pundits in the field. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries.

White Parents, Black Children: Experiencing Transracial Adoption, Smith, Jacobson and Juárez examine the experience of transracial adoption through an analysis of the stories of white transracial adoptive parents and adult black transracial adoptees. These narratives serve as a powerful reminder that despite our best intentions to live in a colorblind or postracial world, race still matters. The voices of the parents and adult adoptees attest to the power and significance of race such that 'love is not enough.'The authors uncover several instances where parents were unaware of how their white privilege shaped transracial parenting. . . .While there is a clear and pressing need for greater levels of parental training for transracial adoptive parents so that their black children do not grow up thinking that they are white, many parents are inadequately prepared for the road ahead. The authors conclude with a cautioning statement about the inherent responsibilities involved in the “social experiment” of transracial adoption. . . .As greater numbers of White parents look to adopt Black children both domestically and internationally, the book will surely serve as a valuable resource for parents to help them understand that when forming a family across the color line, love is not enough.

Social Forces

Love is not enough if you are a white parent of an adopted black child. That’s the premise behind Wichita State University assistant professor Darron T. Smith’s recently published book White Parents, Black Children: Experiencing Transracial Adoption. White Parents, Black Children examines issues of race and whether white adopting parents can teach their children how to cope with racial discrimination. 'The research literature is clear,' said Smith, 'that when black children grow up in predominately white communities they do unfortunately encounter the sting of racial marginalization.' 'It’s never a question of love,” said Smith. 'The issue is, can white parents sufficiently humble themselves and do better socially and culturally for their adopted children?' Smith, whose research area is in minority health, said that in White Parents, Black Children he hopes to challenge the concept of a 'colorblind' America and offer suggestions to help adoptees develop a healthy sense of self.

An absolutely unique and badly-needed examination of transracial adoption in a society divided by racism, White Parents, Black Children is sure to become the leading resource for persons concerned about the well-being of children of color growing up in white homes. This volume shows clearly the dangers and inadequacies of well-intended colorblindness on the part of white adoptive parents, and demonstrates that a deliberate race (and racism) consciousness on the part of those parents is an absolute must.
Tim Wise, author of White Like Me and Between Barack and a Hard Place

Amid enthusiastic rhetoric of a post-racial America, Smith, Jacobson, and Juárez give us a fair, plain-spoken argument for why and how race still matters in American society, and by extension, why and how white adoptive parents should take race into account in their parenting of black and biracial adoptive children.
Heath Fogg Davis, Temple University

This book is especially helpful to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of racism and its dynamics. Certainly, people who care about race relations but are hesitant to talk about race and racism for fear of being misunderstood will appreciate the vocabulary the authors offer to readers to encourage them to actively join in the struggle for racial equality. Sensitive and delicate discussions about race must occur if we, as loving adults, want our children's inter-racial relationships to be healthy. In our ever-changing demographics, at a minimum, adults would be naïve to think their children will not need to know how to mediate the color line. In an ideal world, adults would embrace their own and their children's multi-racial relationships in the myriad places they already occur and inevitably will continue to occur-in schools, boardrooms, military camps, and, yes, even in families. Toward that end, readers will appreciate how the authors facilitate discussions about complicated and delicate racial issues that must be engaged in a democracy.
Sharon E. Rush, Irving Cypen Professor of Law, Levin College of Law, University of Florida

White Parents, Black Children is a provocative, timely, and important book that elevates the most necessary discussion about the role white parents have in raising their children of color to proudly embrace their racial and cultural heritages and identities in a still sadly racially/culturally separate and unequal world. This book calls for a spirit of humility, and a mental shift of inclusivity and equality on the part of white parents and mainstream society for the sake of its children. Clearly this cannot be done effectively without the commitment and investment of the black community toward that goal. As an adoptee navigating in different worlds simultaneously, this book gives me and hopefully all adoptees of color raised by white parents, permission to value ourselves more authentically as well as to celebrate our strength and freedom in our dual existence.
Rhonda M. Roorda, adoptee and coauthor of the Landmark Trilogy on Transracial Adoption-In Their Own Voices, In Their Parents’ Voices