Christine Rhyner

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The Transracially Adopted Children's Bill of Rights and Some Thoughts
Sunday, November 3, 2013 by Christine

  • Every child is entitled to love and full membership in his or her family.
  • Every child is entitled to have his or her heritage and culture embraced and valued.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who value individuality and enjoy complexity.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who understand that this is a race conscious society.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know that she will experience life differently than they do.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know that being a family doesn’t depend on “matching.”
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know that transracial adoption changes a family forever.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who have significant relationships with people of other races.
  • Every child is entitled to grow up with items in their home environment created for and by people of their own race or ethnicity.
  • Every child is entitled to be accepted by his or her extended family members.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know that if they are white they experience the benefits of racism because the country is organized that way.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know they cannot be the sole transmitter of the child’s culture when it is not their own.
  • Every child is entitled to have places available to make friends with people of his or her race or ethnicity.
  • Every child is entitled to have opportunities in his or her environment to participate in positive experiences with his or her birth culture.
  • Every child is entitled to opportunities to build racial pride within his or her own home, school and neighborhood.

From the “Transracially Adopted Children’s Bill of Rights”

While these may all sound like positive, even necessary rights for a transracially adopted child, not every single one is possible for every single internationally adopted child or mixed race family.

For instance, in geographical locations where there are few of these families, it may not become a reality for children to make friends with others of their own race or ethnicity. In my case, my two Asian children have not chosen to befriend others of their own races.

Some families may choose not to incorporate some of these rights into their child’s life but to rather assimilate him or her into their families passing on only their own traditions and ethnic experiences. I had a friend who told me that now her child was “Irish” just like the rest of her family. That’s when I told her that to ignore her son’s ethnicity was equivalent to denying him his birth right and culture. That is also when I lost this friend.

But I learned a great deal after my comment to her. In attempts to expose my own children to their culture and heritage I found that this was not entirely appreciated or desired by my son. He chooses not to be reminded about his adoption and all things Vietnamese. He says it makes him sad. Therefore, I respect his wishes and do not force racial pride or Asian friendships upon him.

And not every single extended family member will embrace a transracially adopted child either. I know it took some of my extended family a while to adjust to the idea of my children as part of the family, even to the extent that some made inappropriate comments or crude jokes about their ethnicities. That hurt. While they have grown to be fully accepted now, there are cases where some families do not experience the embrace and acceptance of the transracial child. You cannot change people’s perceptions and views on your child no matter how much you may desire to.

The main point is that every family is different and has their own unique experiences as to how they celebrate their child and his or her culture—or not. Some try harder than others. But we must also gauge our children’s interest in and desire in that celebration. For some children more is better and accepted. For others, it isn’t. We as parents must be sensitive to how we balance assimilation of transracially adopted children into our own families and culture and how we acknowledge theirs.

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