Caucasian parents' experiences of adopting African-American/biracial children: A phenomenological exploration



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Texas Tech University


The transracial adoption of African-American and biracial children has been the subject of much criticism and debate. Many of the criticisms levied against transracial adoption rest upon concerns about Caucasian parents’ motives in adopting these children and their ability to parent minority children effectively (Hollingsworth, 1999). Despite these concerns, little research has been conducted that explored the motives and experiences of parents who had chosen to adopt African-American or biracial children. The small body of literature that explored the experience from the parents’ perspective is largely outdated (e.g., Falk, 1970; Feigelman & Silverman, 1983), defined transracial more heterogeneously (e.g., Dore, 1995; Flores de Kistler, 1995), or did not focus on the experiences of couples (e.g., Moosnick, 2001). Given the many changes in adoption policy and overall societal views that have taken place since this past research was conducted, as well as the particular challenges these children face in the adoption system, more current exploration of the topic was warranted. This study used a phenomenological methodology in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of a complex experience that has been the subject of much debate. The sample consisted of 6 heterosexual, Caucasian married couples (12 participants) who had adopted an African-American or biracial child. Participants had adopted a 2 year old or younger child within the past 5 years. A total of four interviews were conducted with each participant (2 couple interviews and 2 individual interviews). Participants were asked to describe the process of adopting their child and what it was like to become a father/mother through transracial adoption. Five categories emerged from their experiences, including: (1) making the decision to adopt transracially, (2) my child is African-American/biracial and a member of our family, (3) we are tuned into your perception of us, (4) the impact of transracial adoption on our lives, and (5) reflecting on our experience. In addition, themes that emerged as part of these categories are reported and discussed. Results were situated within the existing literature and the clinical, research, and policy implications, as well as limitations of the current study were discussed.



African American, Phenomenology, Transracial, Adoption