{Ask the Adoptive Mom} Five Practical Ways Parents Can Prepare For Transracial Adoption

November is National Adoption Month and to advocate for and celebrate a family for every child, MyBrownBaby contributor Rachel Garlinghouse, adoptive mom of two brown babies, will be answering adoption questions. Have a question about adoption? Email Rachel at whitebrownsugar [at] hotmail [dot] com.


Q: What can adoptive parents do to prepare for a transracial adoption?
A: Adoptive parents are often unprepared for transracial adoption for several reasons, two of which include that adoption agencies generally do not push in-depth transracial adoption education and because it’s easier to believe the world is colorblind than to face the harsh realities of racial complexity. However, not preparing for a child of another race is an incredible disservice to the child who will, inevitably, face racial and adoption-related questions and comments from family members, peers, and strangers. People are naturally curious about adoption, and it’s the parents’ job to educate themselves, and then their adopted child, about adoption and race.

Here, my Top 5 practical steps adoptive parents can take to prepare for a transracial adoption:

  1. Communicate. Connect with other transracial adoptive families. Learn how they handle comments and questions, and how they have prepared their children for life as both an adoptee and a child of color.
  2. Read. There are many resources for adoptive families including books, articles, and blogs. Check out a list of my favorite adoption books. Parents can subscribe to Adoptive Families magazine and read popular, diversity-minded websites like MyBrownBaby. My husband Steve and I also purchased a subscription to Essence magazine to learn about hair styling tips and to stay aware of issues in black culture.
  3. Research. Depending on the race of the child you intend to adopt, you will want to research topics like skin and hair care, cultural norms, traditions, and holidays/celebrations.
  4. Ask. Do not be afraid to ask for help or advice. We have approached multiple strangers to ask questions about black hair. Transracial adoptive parents need to let go of their pride and by doing so, they will benefit from the wisdom and education of others.
  5. Purchase. When we adopted our first daughter, who is African American, we began purchasing books on adoption, diversity, and African American history. We sought black baby dolls and African American Santa ornaments. We created a small art gallery in our home featuring brown faces.

Rachel Garlinghouse is the proud mother of two brown babies. She is a freelance writer and college writing teacher. Read more about her family at White Sugar, Brown Sugar.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. We go tomorrow (11/8) to court to finalize our adoption! I had no idea it was National Adoption Month.

  2. Great advice! We’ve been so grateful for the lovely people at our local African American salon/barber shop. They’ve been so helpful and welcoming. Find them in your community!

  3. We became parents of a little brown baby girl yesterday!!! She is five months old & I admit the hair thing freaks me out a bit, but I’m ready. Bring it on! Our friends & family have been very supporting but they do ask a lot of questions & its better to give them the information – it helps them understand.

  4. Great article. We created a list of resource groups in our area; but our son is young so we haven’t attended yet. However, it would be good to incorporate images into his daily life. I would love to know where you found the African-American Santa ornaments.

  5. What a great article Rachel! Our brown “baby” is 2 years old but you’ve still inspired me! We have lots of black baby dolls but I didn’t even think of the black Santa and the art gallery of brown faces. Thanks for the great ideas!

  6. love love love this. thank you!!

    xoxo, adri

  7. I have a question about my friends child and how she reacted to an african american baby doll. She is african american and her mother is as well. B ut her mother was adopted and the child is always around white people. When i brought her a black baby doll she did not want any part of it. she has white baby dolls and she is fine with them… does anyone have any answers for me:?

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