Interim Senior Communications Advisor
“I had a loving, nurturing family that gave me a wonderful upbringing, but I didn’t look like my family and that represented a great lacking in my life,” an adult adoptee told the audience at a panel discussion event held by the Association for Transracially Adopted People in June 2000.
Adoption workers from across Ontario have heard from adult adoptees who say that being placed in families with different cultural backgrounds created a disconnect in their lives and made it challenging for them to “fit into” their new families.
Race, culture and ethnicity play a significant part in a child’s development.These influences help define who they are, create a sense of belonging and shape their values and beliefs.
“We want children to see their adoptive parents as role models that they can relate to, and often that someone needs to look like them,” says Elaine Forrester, Adoption Supervisor for CCAS. That is why matching children of the same race, culture or background with adoptive families is an important consideration for adoption workers at Children’s Aid Societies.
Elaine Forrester says that adoption workers are committed to finding a cultural match for children in need of a forever home. “It’s one of the significant factors we consider when matching families with children,” she says.
Other factors are the parents’ skills and parenting capacity, their understanding of adoption issues, social history, capacity to meet a child’s special needs, and the findings of personal interviews, assessments and the home-study.
Because of the many Black biracial children waiting for adoption, the Peel, Toronto and Toronto Catholic Children’s Aid Societies (CASs) have launched an Adoption Awareness Campaign with the aim of finding Black biracial families interested in adopting.
As part of the campaign’s development, CASs held focus groups with Black biracial adoptive parents to learn about their adoption process in order to gain a better of understanding of Black biracial cultural differences that can play a role in the adoption matching process.
In families where diversity is the norm, children of mixed cultural backgrounds are more likely to adjust to their new families. For that reason, CASs consider prospective multi-cultural adoptive families a great asset because there’s a greater chance of matching them with the children of mixed cultural backgrounds.
Such was the case for Michelle Anderson and her husband, Troy, who are in the process of adopting a 21-month old biracial girl named Janelle from CCAS. “The family’s diverse Jamaican, Canadian and Italian background made them a great potential match for a Black biracial child,” says Elaine Forrester.
Michelle and Troy were looking to adopt a Black biracial child under the age of five, but were not specific about gender. Within eight months of attending the adoption orientation session, the Anderson’s completed all the necessary training and assessments and were approved as adoptive parents.
A few months later, the couple met Janelle for the first time for an introductory visit at her foster home.
“The first time we met, it felt like I already knew her,” says Michelle. “The second visit was just as organic,” says Troy. “She ran right into our arms the minute she saw us.”
The Anderson’s strong ties to their extended family members was also seen as important, especially since the adoption would make them first-time parents, possibly requiring additional support. “Troy and I have eight siblings, all of whom live within five minutes of our home. Our siblings have already offered to provide parental relief, which is great!” says Michelle.
Janelle went to live with the Andersons in March 2008 for the mandatory six-month probation period. Michelle says Janelle’s introduction to the family has been seamless. She is comfortable with extended family members and has developed bonds with her cousins, all of whom are biracial. The adoption will be finalized in October.
“What’s great about the racial match is that Janelle will feel like she’s a part of me…and our family,” says Michelle.
To learn more about Black biracial adoptions visit us online at: www.torontoccas.org.