For today’s RaiseAChild.US Huffington Post Gay Voices “Let Love Define Family®” series installment, contributing writer David Humiston shares the story of a family from Austin, Texas, that has the unique ability to see beyond their differences.
Chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. That’s the thought-image that popped into my head when Amy Ford, author of Brown Babies, Pink Parents, told me that her upbringing was strictly “vanilla.” Nothing in her small, southern Mississippi town life prepared her for raising an African American child, let alone three, but she and her wife Kim found love and purpose in fostering and adoption. Neapolitan in color tone, and now metropolitan in lifestyle, this Austin, Texas, family has charted its struggles for you and gladly shares lessons learned regarding white privilege, prejudice — even personal hygiene — and how such things affect parenting across the color line.
In Amy’s book, she discusses topics like determining whether transracial parenting is the right choice for you, perspectives on white privilege, choosing role models and even hair and skin care. She notes that 30% of the 123,000 children needing adoption in the US are African American (AFCARS, 2008), so fostering and adopting parents are increasingly likely to have the opportunity to raise a child from a race different than their own. Having stumbled through all the tripping points themselves, large and small, Amy and Kim have assembled their collected personal experiences and lengthy research in an easy-to-read and helpful resource book for those adopting across race lines. Their stories and advice are practical and they underscore the importance of honoring racial perspectives on cultural traditions, holidays, art, food and literature.
It was actually Kim’s idea to adopt, an idea that lit unknown, but welcoming, lights in Amy’s head. Kim comes from a family with adopted siblings herself. She knows firsthand that love is not simply a function of biology, and she finds that reaffirmed in the relationship she and Amy have with their children. Further, Amy and Kim say that, as same-sex parents, their feelings of love and their expressions of courage are especially strong because they view having their own children as a blessed gift, albeit one with untraditional pitfalls owing to both race and sex. Both mothers told me that the adoption process takes dedication and time, but not more than they think any parent would give or should give. The staff at Child Protective Services was very helpful, and both moms say that there are “great people there who can help.”
The children, always resilient, don’t seem to notice the pitfalls as much. In fact, they may not notice anything different at all, as Kim relays. Their oldest child, Madison, complained one day about something she didn’t particularly like, using the expression, “That’s so gay!” Kim explained that she found that offensive and derogatory. “I’m gay!” she said, somewhat exasperated. Maddie looked her square in the face and said with a laugh, “No you’re not!” Well, what’s a mother (a gay mother at that) to do? She asked her daughter to think for a minute about who her other parent was, and left scratching her head as to where she may have “gone wrong,” she noted to me with a laugh.
Madison is a reflective, sensitive child though. When she was very young, she endured the stares and comments of others by reaching for her attending mother’s hand. Watching her squirm and fidget is still a painful remembrance for Kim. More painful, and upsetting, were the times people asked inappropriate questions. This included one incident where a stranger asked to touch her daughter’s hair. These are the somewhat unexpected experiences for transracial parenting. I imagine that they surprise even the most experienced of us when we experience them for the first time.
Despite the stumbles and occasional confusion, Amy and Kim couldn’t be happier with their house full of beautiful, brown children, and Amy is considering writing a second book, with some trepidation, that chronicles the teen years they are about to wade carefully through. More helpful hints on love, life and personal hygiene are likely to reveal themselves to this ice cream social experiment of a family and, with any luck, Amy and Kim will share a bite with you.
Have you ever thought of building a family through fostering, adopting, or weekend hosting? RaiseAChild.US is the nationwide leader in the recruitment and support of LGBT and all prospective parents interested in building families through fostering and adoption to meet the needs of the 415,000 children in the foster care system of the United States. RaiseAChild.US recruits, educates and nurtures supportive relationships equally with all prospective foster and adoptive parents while partnering with agencies to improve the process of advancing foster children to safe, loving and permanent homes. Take the next step to parenthood at www.RaiseAChild.US.
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