written by Jenni Hutchins
When Kobi Redman’s now teenage daughter was 5, her brown-skinned girl looked up at her and asked “When will my skin turn white like yours, Mommy?” Kobi and her husband, James, became a CPO adoptive family 18 years ago when there was not a long list for adopting a non-Caucasian child. “We believed God gave us this gift of these babies, so we wanted to accept whomever God gave us,” explains Kobi. Their first two girls are Caucasian; their third and fourth are African American.
Today, the number of families open to adopting any race has greatly increased. Rhonda Fisher adopted her daughter of mixed descent five years ago and says, “Adoption has changed so much over the years. There is no longer a clear expectation of how a family has to look.”
Along with the other unknowns of adoption, transracial adoption comes with its own list of unique concerns: How will having different color skinned parents or siblings affect my child at school? Will our extended family accept a child of a different race? How will I manage hair that is a different texture than my own? Kobi’s family deals with these concerns like all families do: one at a time and as they naturally arise. “Raising children comes with challenges no matter your skin color,“ says Kobi. “When race issues arise, we discuss them open and honestly with our teenagers and look for resources that in turn help us all.”
Preserving the child’s cultural heritage is important to transracial families. CPO adoptive parents can look to birth parents, siblings and their extended families as relationship opportunities through which their children learn to appreciate the color of their own skin. These relationships also serve as safe, valuable resources for the parents to ask questions about hair, history and culture. “Having a wonderful relationship with my daughter’s African American birth mom has been an amazing resource for me. I get her perspective and assistance on so many topics,” says Kobi.
Adoptive parents also look for mentors at church, at school and in their social group to help their children see a reflection of their skin color in others around them. Maddie McCoy, who is Caucasian and adopted her African American daughter three years ago says, “We work to create diversity in our daughter’s life through her birth family, church, books, dolls, and toys. We moved to a more diverse neighborhood so we would be in a more diverse school district. She is too young to notice the color difference yet, but I want diversity set up in her life so she grows up surrounded by different colors.”
More than anything, Rhonda says, “I want my daughter to appreciate all the shades, and believe not one shade is superior.” When her daughter began asking questions about her skin color difference, Rhonda explained the science of melanin and how its quantity determines the color of your skin. She reads books to her daughter and shows her photos of women with similar melanin levels explaining, “You are always going to be this beautiful color you are.”
These parents are navigating the issues society has created revolving around skin color. Sometimes they get looks or questions, but these families spend the majority of their days not noticing their color differences, but instead, laughing, loving, and caring for each other.
Rhonda simplifies her transracial adoption this way, “A child doesn’t have to look like you for you to be their parent.”