Beyond colour-blindness: Enhancing cultural and racial identity for adopted and fostered children in cross-cultural and transracial families
Keywords:Adoption, Fostering, Transracial, Transcultural, Parenting, Culture, Race
INTRODUCTION: Cross-cultural and transracial adoption or fostering is a common experience in adoptive and foster family formation yet few adoptive or foster parents are truly competent to address the cultural needs of children who join their families in this way. Few parents comprehend the full extent of cultural and, or, racial identity knowledge that their newly adopted children bring with them. Parents also struggle to answer the cultural, and, or, racial identity questions that their adopted children ask them. Likewise, human service professionals, when helping families, sometimes struggle to provide culturally competent knowledge and training.
METHODS: A review of literature nationally and internationally to ascertain best practice models and strategies to help families and professionals move beyond colour-blind approaches and meet the cultural needs of adopted or fostered children.
FINDINGS: There are useful models of cultural and bicultural competency that parents and human service professionals can use to enable improved support for families formed through transracial and cross-cultural adoption and fostering.
CONCLUSIONS: A colour-blind approach to cross-cultural or transracial parenting is unlikely to help children view their ethnic background and heritage positively. Rather, a culturally competent approach will help children develop positive racial and cultural identities.
Barn, R., & Kirton, D. (2012). Transracial adoption in Britain: Politics, ideology and reality. Adoption & Fostering, 36(3&4), 25–37.
Compton, R. J. (2016). Adoption beyond borders. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Connolly, M., De Haan, I., & Crawford, J. (2014). Focus on stability: A cohort of young children in statutory care in Aotearoa New Zealand. International Social Work, 60(1), 111-125.
Crolley-Simic, J., & Vonk, E. (2008). Racial socialization practices of white mothers of international transracial adoptees. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 17(3), 301–318.
Dance, C., Ouwejan D., Beecham, J., & Farmer, E. (2010). Linking and matching: A survey of adoption agency practice in England and Wales, London, UK: BAAF.
Donaldson Institute. (2016). Attitudes and perceptions among adoption professionals: Qualitative research report. Retrieved from http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/attitudes-perceptions-among-adoption-professionals-qualitative-research-report/
Eketone, A., & Walker, S. (2015). Bicultural practice: Beyond mere tokenism. In K. van-Heugten & A. Gibbs (Eds.), Social work for sociologists: Theory and practice (pp.103–119). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Evan B. Donaldson Institute. (2009). Beyond culture camp: Promoting healthy identity formation in adoption. Retrieved from http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/beyond-culture-camp-promoting-healthy-identity-formation-in-adoption/
Gibbs, A. (2015). Parenting adopted children from other cultures and supporting adoptive parents to meet the needs of adopted children. In N. Roman (Ed.), Parenting: Behaviors, cultural influences and impact on childhood health and wellbeing (pp. 99–122). New York, NY: NOVA.
Gibbs, A., & Scherman, R. (2013). Pathways to parenting in New Zealand: Issues in law, policy and practice. Kotuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online, 8(1-2), 13–26.
Goar, C., Davis, J., & Manago, B. (2017). Discursive entwinement: How white transracially adoptive parents navigate race. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 3(3), 338–354.
Haenga-Collins, M., & Gibbs, A. (2015). “Walking between worlds”: The experiences of New Zealand Māori cross-cultural adoptees. Adoption and Fostering, 39(1), 62–75.
Hall, B., & Steinburg, G. (2013). Inside transracial adoption. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley.
Heimsoth, D., & Laser, J. A. (2008). Transracial adoption: Expatriate parents living in China with their adopted Chinese children. International Social Work, 51(5), 651–668.
Huh, N. S., & Reid, W. J. (2008). Intercountry, transracial adoption and ethnic identity: A Korean example. International Social Work, 43(1), 75-87. –
LaFromboise, T., Coleman, H., & Gerton, J. (1993). Psychological impact of biculturalism: Evidence and theory. Psychological Bulletin, 114(3), 395–412.
Lee, J., Vonk, E., & Crolley-Simic, J. (2015). A model of factors related to cultural and racial socialization practices among international transracial adoptive parents. Families in Society, 96(2), 141–147.
Mohanty, J. (2014). International adoption: Policy and practice issues. In L. How Kee, J. Martin, & Ow, R. (Eds.), Cross-cultural social work (pp. 184–194). South Yarra, VIC: Palgrave Macmillan.
Morrison, A. (2004). Transracial adoption: The pros and cons and the parents’ perspective. Harvard Blackletter Law Journal, 20(2004), 163–202.
Oranga Tamariki. (2017). Caregiver and assessment approval policy. Retrieved from https://practice.mvcot.govt.nz/policy/caregiver-assessment-and-approval/index.html
Scherman, R. (2010). A theoretical look at biculturalism in intercountry adoption. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 19(2), 127–142.
Scherman, R., & Harré, N. (2004). Intercountry adoption of Eastern European children in New Zealand: Parents’ attitudes toward the importance of culture. Adoption & Fostering, 28(3), 62–72.
Scherman, R., & Harré, N. (2008). The ethnic identification of same-race children in intercountry adoption. Adoption Quarterly, 11(1), 45–65.
Selman, P. (2012). The global decline of intercountry adoption: What lies ahead? Social Policy and Society, 11(3), 381–397.
Selwyn, J., Quinton, D., Harris, P., Wijedasa, D., Nawaz, S., & Wood, M. (2010). Pathways to permanence for black, Asian and mixed ethnicity children. London, UK: BAAF.
Tanga, P., & Nyasha, K. (2017). Diverse perceptions of cross-racial adoption in South Africa. Research on Social Work Practice, 27(2), 231–238.
The Hague Convention. (1993). Protection of children and co-operation in respect of intercountry adoption. Retrieved from https://www.hcch.net/en/instruments/conventions/specialised-sections/intercountry-adoption
Thomas, K., & Tessler, R. (2007). Bicultural socialization among adoptive families: Where there is a will, there is a way. Journal of Family Issues, 28(9), 1189–1219.
Traver, A. (2012). Mothering Chineseness: Celebrating ethnicity with white American mothers of children adopted from China. In F. J. Latchford (Ed.), Adoption and mothering (pp. 103–118). Bradford, ONT: Demeter Press.
Vonk, E. (2001). Cultural competence for transracial adoptive parents. Social Work, 46(3), 246–255.
Wall, S. (2012). Ethics and the socio-political context of international adoption: Speaking from the eye of the storm. Ethics and Social Welfare, 6(4), 318–332.
Zion, S., & Kozleski, E. (2005). On point: Understanding culture. National Institute for Urban School Improvement. Retrieved from http://guide.swiftschools.org/resource/185/understanding-culture
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
By completing the online submission process, you confirm you accept this agreement. The following is the entire agreement between you and the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) and it may be modified only in writing.
You and any co-authors
If you are completing this agreement on behalf of co-authors, you confirm that you are acting on their behalf with their knowledge.
By submitting the work you are:
- granting the ANZASW the right of first publication of this work;
- confirming that the work is original; and
- confirming that the work has not been published in any other form.
Once published, you are free to use the final, accepted version in any way, as outlined below under Copyright.
You assign copyright in the final, accepted version of your article to the ANZASW. You and any co-authors of the article retain the right to be identified as authors of the work.
The ANZASW will publish the final, accepted manuscript under a Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY 4.0). This licence allows anyone – including you – to share, copy, distribute, transmit, adapt and make commercial use of the work without needing additional permission, provided appropriate attribution is made to the original author or source.
A human-readable summary of the licence is available from http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, which includes a link to the full licence text.
Under this licence you can use the final, published version of the article freely – such as depositing a copy in your institutional research repository, uploading a copy to your profile on an academic networking site or including it in a different publication, such as a collection of articles on a topic or in conference proceedings – provided that original publication in Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work is acknowledged.
This agreement has no effect on any pre-publication versions or elements, which remain entirely yours, and to which we claim no right.
Reviewers hold copyright in their own comments and should not be further copied in any way without their permission.
The copyright of others
If your article includes the copyright material of others (e.g. graphs, diagrams etc.), you confirm that your use either:
- falls within the limits of fair dealing for the purposes of criticism and review or fair use; OR
- that you have gained permission from the rights holder for publication in an open access journal.