“It’s Much Bigger Than Hair”

Support in Transracial Adoption

ACI meets with many prospective adoptive parents who are considering adopting a child of another race, ethnicity, or culture. However, before families commit to pursuing a transracial adoption, it is important that they have realistic expectations as to the challenges and responsibilities that come along with being a transracial family. This allows them time to determine whether it is a good fit for their family and, if so, to become educated on how to best support their children. Although many of us were taught to be colorblind in school, race DOES matter. It matters very much – especially for children who look different than the rest of their family (“conspicuous families”) and who will ultimately be treated differently because of it.

Children raised in transracial families deserve parents who understand that love and good intentions, while important, are not enough. They deserve parents who recognize that their children will have different perspectives and life experiences than they will. Parents must be willing to go out of their way to support their child’s self-identity in the context of race (and culture, ethnicity, etc.) and to prepare their child for what they will encounter out in the world. Additionally, this is not an issue that ends with pre-adoption education. Rather, adoptive parents will have to make conscious, lifelong efforts to help continuing educating themselves and empowering their children.

Embracing and Supporting Your Child’s Racial Identity

While transracial adoption is a complex issue, today we want to highlight just one way that ACI parents are successfully embracing and supporting their child’s racial identity. Although it may not come to mind for many people considering adopting a black or biracial child, haircare is very important.  As such, ACI has been partnering with Styles 4 Kidz to hold workshops teaching non-black parents about hair and skincare for their black or biracial children. We were so excited when CNN’s Great Big Story wanted to film one of these classes at ACI and are even more excited to share this video with you: Teaching Transracial Adoptive Parents to Care for Their Kid’s Natural Hair.

Watch ACI parents learn how to groom their children’s hair and hear Tamekia Swint, Founder and Executive Director of Styles 4 Kidz share her insights! Tamekia provides that “black hair is everything in our community and it’s a huge part of our identity. It’s to be embraced as part of your kid’s culture. Sometimes transracial families don’t understand how important hair is. It’s much bigger than hair. It’s really about the care and confidence that we’re giving to the child through the hairstyle… What it does for the self esteem and confidence of the kids is just unbelievable.” Tamekia’s statements clearly display the incredible impact a parent’s support of their child’s racial identity can have on a child and why embracing it is so important.

Looking for More ACI Courses on Transracial Adoption?

Many adoptive and prospective adoptive families seek out opportunities to connect with individuals with personal experience with transracial adoption. ACI formed the Race and Adoption: A Panel Discussion class to provide a platform for families to learn from adult adoptee and adoptive parent panelists directly. Panelists share insights about their own experiences, provide recommendations on how to address the issue of race, and respond to questions from the audience. The class focuses on the cross-cultural issues that sometimes arise in transracial adoptions and things that parents can do to support their children to form a positive self-identity. ACI’s next Race and Adoption panel class is on May 17 from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm – Sign Up!

Additional Resources


Books Recommendations from ACI Transracial Families:

Contact Pam Brown, pbrown@adoptillinois.org with any questions or for more resources.