Father says love is not enough in multiracial adoptive families


Siobhan Rowe
Focus on Adoption magazine

Tell me about your family.
After 10 years of infertility, my partner and I decided to adopt a child. The race of the child was not an issue for us, we simply wanted to be parents. Looking back on it, I admit that we were naive.

We have two sons - *Jake 12, and *Matt 10. They have the same birth mother—with whom we enjoy a very open relationship. Jake’s adoption happened much more quickly than we expected. Six weeks after our homestudy was completed—bar a few formalities—our agency social worker called with this message, “I know it’s a bit early but I showed your home-study to a young woman I am working with and she has chosen you to be the parents of her child. Please call.”

The birth mom was due in six weeks. After talking to us she confirmed that she wanted us to parent her child. Just six days later she gave birth to Jake! I remember going to the hospital and looking into the nursery. It was full of pale-skinned children and when they wheeled our son past us it really hit me that he was a black child—not in a negative way—but it certainly hit me that our child would grow up conceived as a black person.” Two years later we were able to adopt Matt, Jake’s birth sibling.

What were your early experiences of being a multiracial family?
We quickly realized that we had become a minority family and that we would be conspicuous in the predominantly white community in which we lived. This was clearly illustrated when Jake was one-month-old and the police turned up at our house! A dark-skinned, female infant had been abducted in Coquitlam and the RCMP were searching for her. Though we were, at the time, living on the Sunshine Coast, a knock came at our door. I explained to the officer that we had a son. He obviously needed to check, so I rolled down Jake’s extremely full diaper and gave him all the evidence he needed. He nearly fell down the stairs in his haste to escape!”

A couple of years later we decided to attend a group for multiracial adoptive families in New Westminster. A woman panelist challenged the white parents, “Why do you want to raise our children?” This really took us aback. She made us keenly aware that there would be issues that would come up that we hadn’t thought of. We decided then and there to make a commitment to ACAN [Afro-Canadian Adoption Network]. It has been wonderful and absolutely necessary. For the boys it's been a godsend. They have met lots of black friends, they have formed friendships with several wonderful Afro-Canadian young adults who have been great mentors and role models. They go to summer camp. It’s wonderful to see these children in a majority situation.

How important is making those cultural connections for your children and yourself?
It’s absolutely essential to be involved with something like ACAN. Our children must know that we as parents have a deep understanding of issues that they face, of black culture and racism. If you don’t get involved you are missing out on so much. You’ll be able to offer your children so much more if you do.

If you do something inappropriate in dealing with a racist incident in front of your child—even with the best of intentions—they will not only notice it, but it will seriously undermine your relationship with them. The more I understand what my sons are going to be exposed to, the more I can support them and help them deal with it.

It’s not enough just to do the traditional dad things like soccer or hockey, or to leave all the other issues up to your partner. Multiracial families can’t blend into the woodwork. Fathers need to take an active role. I would go as far as to say, if you are not prepared to get involved in the cultural part, don’t adopt a child of a different race. Loving isn’t enough. We live in a racist world and it’ll come up in so many different ways and it’ll blindside you. White people have no idea of the level of white privilege. Ignoring the cultural part is just a way of pretending that a child is not black and denying the richness of their cultural heritage—that’s cultural abandonment.”

Being involved in ACAN has expanded the horizons of our world. We have met wonderful people and we have learned so much. It has made us stronger as individuals and as a family.

*Names have been changed.