When my husband and I decided to adopt, we knew we were becoming a transracial family. During the lengthy wait to be matched with our Liberian son I joined educational groups to learn how to appropriately care for African hair and skin. I read books about being a transracial family and the experience of transracial adoptees. I bought brown dolls and African music and storybooks that had brown kids as the main character. I collected African recipes to try. We knew that we could never duplicate the experience of growing up inside his own culture with people who looked like him, but we wanted to do the best we could to embrace his history and his people. We wanted him to know that we valued his culture and that we wanted him to value it, too.

While we were already a transracial family when we became foster parents, we were still a little blindsided when we took our first foster placement. We got the call about a baby who needed a home and for very important legal reasons (ICWA) it was immediately disclosed to us that this baby was Native American. All of the months I had in the adoption process to prepare to add an African to our family and now we were just a weekend away from adding a child with a totally different culture and history from either ours or or son’s. And I was totally unprepared.

It has been a crash course for us in learning what it means to be Native American and value Native American culture. We now care about issues we had no concept of before. We’re interested in a new history, we buy new kinds of books, cook new kinds of foods, and talk about current events in our son’s tribe. I watch documentaries on Native American issues and reservation life with a new passion because this stuff matters to my family. 

In the years since the placement of our Lakota son we have also fostered and adopted a child with Mexican heritage and a biracial daughter (African American/Caucasian). We have become educated in new ways, learned new cultures, and we are doing our best to help our children value who they are and their history.

But that will never be the same as growing up inside their own culture. We realize this is a loss to them and we can’t make up for that loss by claiming that “we don’t see color.” The degree to which we love isn’t impacted by color, but culture and heritage matter to the kids and families we’re working with. We have to understand that our own desire to not acknowledge race won’t keep race from having an impact on our children.


All photos by Rebecca Tredway Photography  www.tredways.org

I believe raising a child from a culture that isn’t your own is a commitment to an educational process. You have to be a humble student as you seek to understand a new worldview and embrace a new identity for your family. This is no small task and I have failed many times over, which is why I believe foster parents need to feel comfortable asking about the race of any potential placements.

We often think about the ages of kids we could care for or the medical needs we could handle, but we rarely think about the needs for racial sensitivity and understanding we encounter when we foster a child. As much as we want to be “colorblind” in accepting whatever child needs us, we have to acknowledge our own abilities, strengths and weaknesses when it comes to understanding a child’s racial experience.

Do you speak a second language? It’s okay to have a preference for a child who could benefit from that skill. Do you have racist relatives? Please don’t expose an already traumatized child to that. You have to make the decision to cut those people out of your life, or else don’t take the placement of children who could be hurt by them. Are you willing to be educated about a new culture? Are you willing to go outside what seems comfortable to you to go to the Powwows, the Mexican dance festival, the African restaurants, the barbershop where you obviously don’t fit in? Are you ready to have some difficult conversations about racism in your local school? Are you going to be an advocate for your child even if their experience is different than what you anticipated? These questions need an honest answer no matter how difficult or uncomfortable that seems.

Not asking about a child’s race prior to saying “yes” to that placement doesn’t help anybody. Information is good and important. Don’t feel like you are being judged if you ask. To not ask is to say that race doesn’t matter. While it may not matter to your ability to love a child, it DOES matter. Finding out a child’s race doesn’t mean you are automatically going to say yes or no to that child, it only means that you have more information to know if you are the best placement option and to begin the educational process. In our experience, an agency won’t always tell you that information upfront, so you may have to be aggressive in asking. That’s okay. You have different needs than the agency does. You are looking at the longterm picture for this child, not just about getting a kid in a bed. Don’t let your feelings of discomfort about bringing up race keep you from the important information you need.

While we had months to prepare for the international adoption of our African son, foster parents are rarely given much time to deal with the idea of becoming a transracial family. A call can come and within hours your family takes on an entirely new racial makeup. You may not be prepared for it at all, or you may work hard to prepare for it and it never comes. In a state like Nebraska, most of our foster children have the same make-up as the rest of our population– primarily Caucasian– but there is an overrepresentation of minorities in foster care. We need to think seriously and deeply about our ability to meet the unique needs of those children and their families.

For more information about becoming a foster parent in Nebraska, please visit Christian Heritage

Steinbrinks1-320x250 (2)

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

You should also check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids. Four were adopted (one internationally, three through foster care) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.

3 Things We Learned While Waiting For Our Adopted Child

In: Adoption
3 Things We Learned While Waiting For Our Adopted Child www.herviewfromhome.com

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage. Remember that old nursery rhyme? I can still hear it playing in my head. Growing up, I had always assumed that would be my story. The love and marriage part certainly happened for me in an amazing, storybook ending kind of way. However, the baby in the baby carriage didn’t come as quickly for my husband and me. As a few years passed, we began to feel a little restless and disheartened. However, God opened up His perfect plan for our family by leading us to...

Keep Reading

I Chose Adoption For My Baby, But I Didn’t Let Go

In: Adoption
I Chose Adoption For My Baby, But I didn't Let Go www.herviewfromhome.com

  I am often asked, when people find out I am a birth mother, “Why did you decide on adoption? Didn’t you want her?” In the tidy nutshell version of my response it was the logistical factors of being pregnant at just 16-years-old that was my why. Being a junior in high school when I saw those two pink lines in October of 2004, I still needed to graduate, plus I wanted to attend college. I did not have a job to support us. In fact, I did not have my driver’s license or even the few dollars it took...

Keep Reading

Dear Mama Reading This Right Now, You Are Amazing

In: Adoption, Child Loss, Miscarriage, Motherhood
Dear Mama Reading This Right Now, You Are Amazing www.herviewfromhome.com

To the one with healthy children in your lap, YOU are a great mom. Whether you work full-time or stay at home, you are amazing and deserve to be celebrated every day, but especially today. You sacrificed your body and your own well-being over and over again and I know you don’t regret any of it. You are enough and you are appreciated even when you don’t feel it. To the one holding a child someone else carried inside of her body, YOU are a great mom. Whether you faced infertility, surrogacy, chose to adopt, or have biological and adopted children,...

Keep Reading

4 Things a Birth Mom Wants Adoptive Families To Know

In: Adoption, Journal
4 Things a Birth Mom Wants Adoptive Families To Know www.herviewfromhome.com

The minutes on the hospital clock dwindled as I swaddled my infant daughter one last time before she was permanently placed in the arms of her adoptive family. In those final moments, I thought my heart might shatter into a thousand slivers without any hope of being mended. I was broken. Scarred. Devastated. When I left the hospital without my baby, it felt like someone was pounding on my chest with both fists and I couldn’t catch my breath. The emptiness that followed was inconceivable. A piece of me, my daughter, was gone. I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of my...

Keep Reading

No Matter Life’s Season, God Provides What We Need

In: Adoption, Faith
No Matter Life's Season, God Provides What We Need www.herviewfromhome.com

When my husband and I adopted our older daughter Lilly 15 years ago, she was nine-months-old and weighed about 17 pounds. That might not seem like much, but she was a chunk of a little girl—so much so that people we met in elevators and restaurants in China often mistook her for a two-year-old. I had worked on my cardiovascular fitness in the months leading up to our adoption trip, and my regular runs on the treadmill prepared me to traverse the Great Wall with relative ease. My upper body strength, however, was a different story entirely. My arms and...

Keep Reading

Acknowledging the Loss in Adoption

In: Adoption
Acknowledging the Loss in Adoption www.herviewfromhome.com

  “Don’t do it! Adoption is the worst!” His voice echoed through my entire body, his words hitting every unprepared bone, and I clutched the full glass of ice water ready to plunge it in his direction. There were hundreds of people in the darkened bar room, on dates mostly, sitting in the crowd enjoying the comedy show. My insides twisted and lurched, I heard nothing but the reverberations of laughter, and my mind kept envisioning myself walking over to him and punching his face in. When the comedian began working adoption into her show, my body began tingling and...

Keep Reading

Adoption Is Love

In: Adoption, Journal
Adoption Is Love www.herviewfromhome.com

  I pull around in the car line and scan the group of kids for my daughter. Usually, I can find her easily, chatting it up with her friends as she waits for me to pick her up from school. Today, though, I don’t see her. I look again and I finally spot her. She is slumped on the curb, her head in her hands and her eyes downcast. My momma radar instantly goes off as I watch her slowly get up and drag her feet to the car and I can tell that something is wrong. She slides into...

Keep Reading

The Ache While We Wait to Adopt

In: Adoption, Faith
The Ache While We Wait to Adopt www.herviewfromhome.com

  There’s a persistent ache, but sometimes I can ignore it. I can turn up the volume of what’s around me and drown it out for a bit. I play hostess and invite the noise to come in: come fill up my heart, come fill up this empty nursery, come fill up this planner. I’ve got two kids, and they are experts at noise, so my days are full of it, and it works. The noise narcotizes the ache, making it manageable, day by noisy day.  In my former life as a teacher, I used to make my students write...

Keep Reading

How Being Adopted Made My Husband a Better Father

In: Adoption, Journal
How Being Adopted Made My Husband a Better Father www.herviewfromhome.com

My husband’s earliest memories of his adoptive mother are as blurry as the black and white photos he has taped inside a leather-bound family album. He recalls the gentle hands that tucked him into bed each night and the smell of her lavender scented soap, but these memories are intertwined with the last and most painful of all: sitting on the cold hospital steps, muffled whispers in the hallway, and the tight grip of his adoptive father’s hand as they made their way back to the car without his mother. Death was an abstract concept that he was unable to...

Keep Reading

Adoption Has Made Me a Better Mama

In: Adoption, Journal
Adoption Has Made Me a Better Mama www.herviewfromhome.com

I remember etching our family plans into a napkin at our two-year anniversary dinner. We were eating at Rio in Sisters, Oregon and I couldn’t wait to get back to the little cabin we had rented to watch Harry Potter and dream about babies. Weird combo? Probably. First we would conceive and carry a miracle baby in my actual womb. Then after a bit of time had passed, after we got “the easy one” birthed, we would enter into the adoption world. I think back to my barely 20-year-old self and think about how naive she was—I still only have...

Keep Reading