The earthquake in Haiti has put a spotlight on international and interracial adoption, especially in light of the bizarre attempt by a church group to illegally transport children out of Haiti. In this article in Newsweek, the author airs a number of concerns she has about white families adopting children of other ethnicities from abroad.
Adopting a child, no matter where that child is from, presents unique challenges. The same is true for having a mixed-race family, whether that family is the result of adoption or of interracial marriage. The author is right in suggesting that people considering adoption should not take these issues lightly—and most don’t.
However, I do take issue with the author’s concerns that white families who adopt children of other ethnicities are less able to celebrate that child’s culture, or that families looking to adopt would do better to adopt American children first. With regards to interracial adoption, it is again certainly true that interracial families face challenges that other families don’t. However, skin color is not necessarily the same as culture. A white child from Berlin does not have the same culture as a white ranch family in Montana; a Black Christian family in Virginia does not have the same culture as a Black Muslim child from West Africa. Both of these families would face the same challenge (or opportunity!) as a white family adopting a Haitian child in terms of learning about and celebrating their child’s culture.
As to whether it is better to adopt at home or internationally, I can only say that all children need and deserve to have loving families and sufficient resources. It is a tragedy that not all children do have these things, regardless of where they are. When the author suggests that it would be better to adopt at home than from abroad, she falls into the exact mindset that she is critiquing—that adopting children are status symbols, signs of a parent’s virtue, and adopting children from the U.S. is of higher virtue than adopting from abroad. The fact is, for most parents, adoption is not about doing the most good. It is about growing a loving family, in a way that works for them.
International adoption and interracial adoption are complicated issues, and opinions on them range widely—as do the backgrounds of those who express opinions. However, among the responses to these articles, I have seen few comments from people who have been in the position of being adopted by a family of another nationality and ethnicity. Because I believe that this perspective is important to informing how we think about this issue, I have asked Nicole Schultz to contribute a guest post on this issue. Nicole was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, placed in an orphanage by her biological father, and adopted by a white American family. Her post is below. If you have any questions about her experience, please post them in the comments and I will relay them to her.
Who Am I?
I was born Marie-Nicole Clermont. However, after I was adopted from Haiti by white Americans, I was renamed. Nicole Schultz. Apparently their oldest daughter's middle name was Marie, therefore they took that away. Am I bitter about that? Hmm, yes a little bit. I never understood how her middle name had anything to do with my first name. Yeah, pretty much that whole fiasco never made a whole lot of sense to me. When I was in second grade, I got everyone including my teachers to call me Marie. Eventually, I just accepted that I was Nicole. Am I bitter that I probably will never get to see my biological family, or anyone biologically related to me? Yes, it is an ache that I constantly battle, something that will never go away. Did I grow up thinking it was strange that they were white and I wasn't? No. There never were racial barriers between my family and me. The only barriers were inflicted by the outside world: people thinking that white parents could never adopt someone from another race. Well, they're wrong, because I and thousands others are proof. The only thing that causes barriers with white people adopting children from other races are the people judging them, the ones who have no experience of the matter and insist on making damaging opinions regardless. In simple terms, they pass judgment on things they know not of. But if you were to ask me if I ever would take it back, the life I now live, for the life I once I lived in Haiti, the answer would be no. I wouldn't trade the world, the parents, and the family I have now. Sure, there are some struggles I face, that I wouldn't have had if I were an American adopted by another American. However, that is neither here nor there. I was put up for adoption by my biological father, because he wanted a better life for me. Who is it to deny him the opportunity to give his child a better life, when the opportunity is available?!
My American parents adopted me out of love. They weren't crazed celebrities trying to add me as a good looking accessory to show off to their aristocratic society. Nor were they some religious fanatics trying to save my soul for judgment day. No, they were simple people, who wanted to have another child. Well, and that child was me. Nicole Kristine Schultz, born in Haiti, raised in America. And I am still ever bit 100% Haitian, and no one will ever be able to take that from me.