I hear often whenever the subject of adoption comes up that white people adopt Black children because African American couples will not, and sure, there is some truth to that statement: though Black children make up 15 percent of the U.S. population, they account for almost 30 percent of kids in foster care, and the kids in that group are less likely to be adopted, especially by people who look like them.

Still, this is not my story.

My truth: I am the child of an African American couple that has loved me a lifetime, despite that I do not share their blood. They did not choose me because it was trendy to do so. They did not choose me out of some great need to make a point or prove the statistics wrong. Their truth: having had two foster children—both boys—in their care, my parents decided sometime in 1968 that they wanted a girl. And so they went searching for one.

They found me.

Details about how my parents came to adopt me are, to this day, scarce. My mother went to her grave not knowing that I knew, and I do not talk about it much with my father because it is still an uneasy conversation to have. After all, he and my mom have always been exceptionally private—because they are from a generation that keeps secrets, because they are old school, southern black folk who keep their mouths shut about such things. And so I’ve taken care to respect this. Plus, I don’t want my daddy to think for even a second that I have some kind of grand scheme to go searching for my birth parents. Because really, I don’t. I’ve said it before and I will say it again and again:
Bettye Millner is my mother and James Millner is my father and it is what it is and that’s that. The Heavens made this so. I see absolutely no reason to change the order of this thing.

Still, it is important for me to honor my parents by thanking them for choosing me, and to let people know that yes, there are Black people who build their families through adoption and do so with a great deal of love and commitment to the children who may not carry their blood, but certainly fill their hearts. I am living proof. And so when MyBrownBaby was tapped by Wells Fargo to tell the untold stories of our lives here in America as part of sharing news of The Kinsey Collection and its “Untold Stories: Our Inspired History” exhibit with the MyBrownBaby audience, the first thing I thought to do for my video was to pay homage to the African American couple that found me and raised me and disciplined me and cared for me and loved me beyond measure. Who still do.

James and Bettye Millner are my heroes. Because they are my parents. Because they are incredible human beings. Because they are well-rounded African Americans who don’t fit into the square boxes created for Black stereotypes and statistics. Because they are strong and beautiful and human. Because their story deserves to be—needs to be—told.

I invite you to press play on this, our “Untold Story.” After you watch, if you’re so inclined, leave a comment telling your own “Untold Story,” or share one on your own blog and spread the word on Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram and Pinterest with the #KinseyUntold hashtag.

I encourage you, too, to visit The Kinsey Collection, a world-class exhibit of art and artifacts sponsored, in part, by Wells Fargo, chronicling African American history and culture dating to the 1600s, including an early copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, works by Romare Bearden, William H. Johnson, Elizabeth Catlett, Henry O. Tanner and many more artists of the African diaspora, historical documents from the seventeenth century and artifacts by Frederick Douglass, poet Phyllis Wheatley, philosopher Alain Locke and activist Malcolm X. The exhibit is at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Art + Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina, through September 14 and at Baltimore’s Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture from November 1 to January 10, 2014. Also, check out the incredible website, videos and lectures chronicling the works amassed by Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, and click here to view more #KinseyUntold stories from other African American bloggers. Take your kids, to the exhibits and let them watch the videos, too. They deserve to see this. We all do.

This post is sponsored by Wells Fargo. As always, thank you for reading our blog and supporting our sponsors.

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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. I adopted my son as a single Black mother as have several friends of mine and the entire cohort of women I went through home study classes with. It’s all anecdotal but I have no idea what people are talking about when they say Black people do not adopt.

  2. Denene thanks for sharing your powerful story. I have decided last year that I will be adopting a child and I have already started a book to help my child understand when I decided to be their mother and what went into my decision

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I love hearing your stories about adoption. It really does keep the idea in my head. I plan on staying connected with the Kinsey Collection

  4. I too am a single African American adoptive parent. I am the proud mother of two sons. I am also fostering a baby I am hoping will stay. Black people do adopt but not in the numbers needed. I have been told by social workers that I was pretty rare. I went into it looking to adopt. They had black foster families that were willing to take some of the most challenging children but weren’t willing to adopt. Until very recently i had not met anyone in similar circumstances to mine. My former adoption worker is working on a project trying to recruit more families of color to adopt in my state. Coincidently the person who gave me the contact information for The Dept. of Children and Families in my state was a Caucasian woman who transracially adopted.

  5. my parents, in their 60s at the time and having already raised their biological
    child (me! and i’m old enough to be these boys’ mom), adopted 3 boys (brothers) out of foster care 11 years ago. the system did everything in its power to keep them from adopting, but they persevered. my 3 little brothers–small children when they first came to live
    with my parents (4 years before they were adopted)–are all nearly grown now. don’t know from black folks not adopting; all the people i know personally who have adopted have been black. only non-black folks i know about are celebs, and only then because their fame gets their every move publicized.

  6. Thank-you sharing this story as I’m going through the adoption process now it is very inspirational!

  7. My former spouse and I adopted our HBI (healthy black infant) at birth! Even though the marriage has ended raising our son was and continues to be the a privilege and the highlight of my lifetime!

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