Relationships

I’m Black. My son is white. These are the ways people treat us.

Susy WulfMarch 1, 20225 mins read

Elvin, my husband, and I have nine kids: five biological, four adopted. As an only child, I was raised and wanted to be part of a larger family. We were able to grow our family and provide a loving and safe home for the children with special needs.

I’m black. My husband is Native American and white. He is white. Jay, our 14-year old adopted son, is white. Other adopted children are all black. People often ask me if I have a daycare center because of the variety in my family. People will ask Jay if he is my husband’s son from another marriage. He is usually my son, which I just answer. Sometimes, I will tell them Jay looks more like his father, but I am the one responsible for his thick, curly hair.

Jay was a foster kid with his siblings. Jay has many special needs, which would have made him unadoptable by the system’s standards. These include a traumatic brain Injury, cognitive and developmental delays, ADHD, PTSD, and speech difficulties. Because of his behavioral and medical problems, the family who adopted him would not consider him. His caseworker started talking with him about finding a new family and he insisted that he wanted us to stay.

I and the caseworker did not consider his ethnicity, but his guardian, a court-appointed individual to protect the child’s best interests, was against transracial permanence. He began to fear her and started having panic attacks when she showed up unannounced at school. His therapist finally filed to have her expelled from the case. We filed a complaint because she refused to end contact. She was fired.

“His ethnicity wasn’t a consideration for me, the caseworker, or for him, but it was for one his guardians who opposed transracial adoption.”

Jay’s best interest was my position. If Jay felt that a placement would be more beneficial, we should explore it. Jay’s best interests were always his goal. Jay was determined to stay, and would be very upset if anyone suggested he leave. Jay is still angry when someone asks him if he’s his mom. He will clench his fist and say “I said that this is my mother.” He is 14 years old chronologically, but is only 5-6 on good days. However, he is very specific about his family.

I believe that the children who were placed in our home weren’t chosen by chance. All children have the potential to achieve their full potential, regardless of their needs. Jay was going to prove difficult to place and would certainly be at risk if he was placed in an inappropriate placement. We decided to adopt him. Jay was just five years old when he arrived at us, and nine when we finalized the adoption.

One of the most annoying questions I received was from a pediatrician. He asked me if I was related or had met Jay’s biological parents before Jay was born. He asked me why I would adopt Jay after I had answered “no”. I was stunned! The man was supposed be a professional.

I made a complaint to the hospital’s patient advocate division. Jay was not seen by the same physician again after I received a written apology. When I received unreasonable pushback on reasonable requests, I wrote letters to the governor and legislators. The system is used to families not being willing to stand up against it. Jay’s school director told me that there aren’t many parents involved at Jay’s school as I am. I replied, “That’s unfortunate for other students.” Some people don’t like me because agencies are more concerned with dollars than the possible benefit for a child. However, my commitment is to advocate for my children and I’m okay if they don’t like it.

“I believe that the children who were placed with me weren’t chosen by chance. No matter what their needs may be, all children have the potential to achieve their full potential.

Jay is able to deal with strange looks and silly questions. We laugh about this one incident often. Our family enjoys thrift shopping. As we were going into a store, an older woman in white walked in. The strange look she gave me was quite interesting. She seemed to be looking at us from every aisle, and continued the stares. I started to laugh when I saw her around the corner again. Jay asked me what I was laughing about and I replied that she was returning towards us. I stopped her in front of me and made a fake introduction. I told her, “This is Jay, my son. Jay, this is. . . oh, that’s right! I don’t know who you are. You’re just a woman who follows us around the store without any reason.” Jay laughed.

Jay’s mom taught me patience, how to see the good in everything, and how to search for services that even child welfare agencies didn’t know existed. When I see how far he’s come, I smile.

Transracial adoption can be done with the knowledge that you have no preconceived notions. You should approach it with an open mind and be ready to accept a new norm for your family and your child. You can surround yourself with people who have been there, not just those who know the books. Celebrate every little accomplishment and find humor in the tough moments. Accept that you may feel overwhelmed and take care of your body.

Transracial adoption is very rewarding.

Susy Wulf
author

Susy Wulf is a journalist, copywriter, editor and journalist. She has a BA degree in English from Monmouth University, and a MA in Global Communications (American University of Paris).

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