Being a multiracial forever family of four


Terry and Paul Rudderham
Focus on Adoption magazine

Once we decided that we’d create our family through adoption, we were overwhelmed with the many avenues we could pursue. It was after seeing a Christmas picture of the ACAN group, that we finally decided to adopt internationally, with the Open Door Agency in Georgia. The journey that led us to become a multiracial family had begun.

Once the process was underway, we read books to familiarize ourselves with the issues of white parents raising children of African heritage.

In the first four years, when the children were infants and toddlers, our focus, other than parenting as sleep-deprived adults, was on adoption. We wanted the children to know their stories, and to have them secure with the fact that we are a forever family.

As they grew older, we discovered how hard it was to give them models of African heritage in our small northern community.

We decided to attend Rainbow Camp 2, run by the Afro-Canadian Adoption Network (ACAN), to give the children the experience of meeting other adoptive children living in multiracial families. We thought we were attending for Luke and Saul, but soon came to realize that we were getting as much, if not more, from the camp. The people we met were so supportive and knowledgeable. We realized how invaluable sharing our story was, with other transracial families, who had their own unique adoption experiences. We have always received enthusiastic support from our families and friends throughout our adoption journey. Just as we hear, share and celebrate their birth stories, on some level we can’t understand what it’s like and vice-versa for them. We haven’t walked in each other’s shoes. Perhaps that’s why we were overwhelmed with our Rainbow Camp experience. We felt like we had come home.

They say that the best, and the worst things, about living in a small town, is that everyone knows who you are. When Luke first came home it was a daily occurrence to have strangers who knew who we were, coming up to us and congratulating us. At first we felt the need to explain our family when we were approached. We don’t feel that need anymore. We find we are most aware of questioning looks when we are travelling out of town.

Regardless of where a family is living, we feel raising a multiracial family requires certain commitments. We need to educate ourselves about racism, and plan how we will deal with it when it occurs. We once read that our children will remember how we respond to issues such as racism or adoption, rather than what we say. We need to give our children words to stand up for themselves, their race and their families. We think it is important for multiracial families to connect with other families. For us that is presently our biggest challenge. We’d love our children to have older role models in our community. That’s not possible, but perhaps our children will be positive role models for the three younger boys being raised in multiracial adoptive families in our town. We need to seize the opportunity when we are presented with a teachable moment. In our family we don’t discuss adoption or race everyday, it’s not necessary. But given the birth of a friend’s child, a story in the news or the children’s birthdays - these can all lead to a discussion.

The absolute best decision that we, as a married couple made, was to adopt our children. It was a lot of work and there were many hoops to jump through (and good people to help us jump), but it was so worth it. We are a family - a forever family of four - and to love our children and to be loved by them is, in the end, is all that really matters.