Yesha Callahan

No Child Left Behind: Color Consciousness in Adopting

In 6th grade I had a very close friend named Parminder, I think we both got along because we were quiet and kept to ourselves. The one thing that always intrigued me about Parminder, was the contrast between her skin tone and hair. She had the blackest hair I had ever seen, and her skin was the color of copper. It was rare occurrence for Parminder and I to see each other outside of school, but one day she invited me over to her house. When I walked into her house, I expected to see parents that looked just like her, but I saw two very blond hair and blue eyed people and that’s when it dawned on me that Parminder was adopted. Being the nosey kid I was, when I asked her about it, she told me she was from India and was adopted when she was 2 yrs old. I didn’t think anything about it until I was listening to the news these past couple of days.

In recent news, The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) has been questioned in regards to trans-racial adopting practices and procedures. Basically the MEPA prohibits race from being considered a factor in most decisions about adoption from foster care. Whether you’re black or white, you’ll go through the same adoption training as someone who wants to adopt a child from their own race. Statistics show that there is a larger number of minority children in the foster care system compared to white children.
Personally, I believe that it shouldn’t matter who adopts these children, as long as they’re given a chance to get out of the ‘system’, but I do feel that if a white couple does venture out to adopt a minority child, there should be some type of ‘ethnic’ & cultural sensitivity training involved. I think these children should be able to live in an environment that provides the child an opportunity to participate in positive experiences with their culture, religion, and language. A child should be able to interact with parents who have an understanding what it feels like for the child to look different from their parent and also to have a parent that has knowledge of special dietary, skin, hair, and health care needs. Although there are private organizations who take part in similar trainings, I think this should be mandatory and State funded initiatives.
One incident in particular that I remember was how Parminder would always lotion herself up through out the day at school and she would never want to play outside when it was really sunny. When I asked her why, she always said she didn’t want to become darker and since the lotion was white, she would hope that it would change her to a lighter color, so that she could match her family. When I look back at the years of friendship I had with Parminder, I can see where her parents failed her. She wasn’t taught anything about her Indian culture, she thought because her skin was darker than her parents and siblings that something was wrong. It wasn’t until we attended college at Rutgers University, which has a large Indian population, that she was able to learn and appreciate her culture and embrace it. I would hope that children that are involved in trans-racial adoptions are taught their history, culture & the ability to embrace their differences and to be proud of who they are.

  1. May 28, 2008 - Reply

    Wow, how a child’s mind/eyes rationalizes things definitely makes you stop and think. The white lotion and avoiding the sun was deep.

  2. May 28, 2008 - Reply

    1. This reminds me of Losing Isaiah. When the older sister puts his hand next to hers and she’s like, do you see a difference and he’s like… Yeah, yours is big and mine is little. *Sigh*

    2. I agree with what you say here. I was watching this PBS documentary “Daddy and Papa” is what I think it was called about gay men who adopt the children no one wants (usually black children) and they were talking about how important it was to them to make sure their children knew black people, interacted with black people, etc.

  3. May 31, 2008 - Reply

    This reminds me of a lady on youtube I watch all the time. I was literally shocked the first time I saw her I was in awe. This white women does tutorials on how to care for black hair. She has two adopted daughters who are african american. I was literally shocked when I stumbled upon the video.

    She was doing stuff I didn’t know how to do, in one of the videos she explained during the adoption process they took all these classes so that they could relate to their adoptive daughters and give them a part of their culture. I really think that is important to do. So many children in the system are African American.

    From what I understand while people here tend to not want black children, even black people (when the few black people adopt, many times they prefer biracial and lighter skinned kids, crazy I know), people from Europe come over here to adopt. I find that just so crazy.

  4. April 28, 2010 - Reply

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by LadyGlock, Jasmin Coates. Jasmin Coates said: RT @fungkeblakchik: New Post : "No Child Left Behind: Color Consciousness in Adopting"- […]

  5. April 28, 2010 - Reply

    Wow, yea I definitely think there should be some form of educational training for parents wanting to adopt children of other races, but not just races (although there are a lot more inter-racial differnces).

  6. April 28, 2010 - Reply

    My only concern is exactly what you pointed out & that is cultural awareness.
    I know a couple who adopted a boy from South America (Honduras) & they have not tried to reach out to the Honduran community here to expose him to his native culture. That’s unfortunate to me.
    Yes, they give him love, but, his language is lost, his cultural traditions are lost, his people are lost. And no of this is benefiting him. A total disservice as far as I’m concerned.
    Like your friend Parminder, most cross culture adopted children will have to learn about themselves as an adult. But at lease she got to have her name (assuming) instead of being Anglicized!
    Thx for opening up this discussion.

  7. April 28, 2010 - Reply

    Is every page on your site this good? Thanks for blogging.

  8. May 2, 2010 - Reply

    “When I asked her why, she always said she didn’t want to become darker and since the lotion was white, she would hope that it would change her to a lighter color, so that she could match her family.”
    WOW, to say her parents failed her in the “ethnic diversity” department is an understatement…Im glad to hear she has gotten over that.

    • May 11, 2010 - Reply


      Her parents did fail her. Society has a way of doing that to BLACK kids. Making them feel they are worthless. Every chance you all get. Hug, kiss, and show compassion in front of your kids and let them know its okay to be who you are. Let them hear it from you, just how much you enjoy and love being black. Whether nappy or straight. Never compromise for anyone. Hell, they want to be like us, why change who you are. We are a dominant race aint nothing they or anyone can do about it.

  9. May 4, 2010 - Reply

    I don’t mind so much the adopting of other races… I think it should be mandatory that they take classes on how to do “said” child’s hair.
    I live in a pretty well to do area in Brooklyn. And I swear if I see one more well dressed white woman walking around with a nappy headed black kid.. I’m going to scream.
    At least have some basic understanding…of the “principals” of our hair. eg: No you can’t wash Onsunga’s hair every morning with Prell just because that’s what you do.
    You have to take a class before you get a driver’s license. I think the same principal should apply to your black child’s hair.

    • May 8, 2010 - Reply


      psstt….black kids have nappy hair regardless. i’m not sure if you’re using “nappy” as an insult or not, but black people tend to loathe seeing black hair when it hasn’t been manipulated.
      and god forbid, a white family not have the child’s head looking shellacked or like a horse’s mane…

  10. May 13, 2010 - Reply

    I don’t mind that black children are being adopted by whites and others, but sometimes I wonder??? I do think that need need to know how to care for their skin, hair, etc…..and be sure the children they have adopted realize their culture and history, and not set them up for let down later in life.

  11. June 13, 2010 - Reply

    You are so right on this. It’s wonderful that someone wants to open their home to a child that is not biological theirs, then love them and treat them as nothing less than a member of the family(which they are). There should be a course taught because I have met a mixed girl who was adopted and her hair was always matted up because her mother did not understand the texture and what it could and could not do. It wasn’t till she was older than she took it upon herself to seek out a stylist that could do her hair.
    Peace, Love and Chocolate

  12. June 22, 2010 - Reply

    Thanks for an interesting article. After looking through different websites I finally found something worth reading.

  13. June 23, 2010 - Reply

    I knew a girl in college who, along with her sister, were adopted by a White family. She was raised in an all-White neighborhood, went to a predominately White school and felt totally alienated. Her sister had no problems because she worked really hard to fit in with that community. But, the other girl was having problems being accepted and if something racial ever happened, the parents did not know how to handle it. She became super, pro-Black and anti-White because she felt that her White parents didn’t explain her heritage to her, mot make an effort for her and her sister to mingle with people who looked like them. Not all adopted Black kids have that experience, but in those cases, where the White parent cannot or will not deal with the issues of color and race, they are setting the stage for alienating themselves from their adopted Black child years down the road. I have nothing against trans-racial adoption, but I think that the parent needs to do their research and really understand the culture of the child they are adopting.

  14. October 6, 2010 - Reply

    well done!nice job!

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