Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Role Models

Experts in transracial adoption frequently tell adoptive parents that one of the most important things they can do is to surround their children with people from their same racial heritage. We are told to find role models, so that our children are not growing up completely separated from their birth culture.

I want this for both of my children, as I agree it is very important. However, recently I was speaking with a friend about how to exactly go about doing this, especially in our town which is predominantly white. We both admitted that it feels somehow “wrong” to be actively searching out Asian people to befriend based on their race. My friend said that she understood completely that her daughter needs Chinese people in her life, but she still felt uncomfortable with the thought of walking up to a stranger simply because they are Asian and saying, “hi, do you want to be my friend?”

So my question for those of you who have successfully done this is HOW did you do it? Were there local resources you used to help find mentors? Were the people you approached understanding about what you were hoping for? Have you used college communities to search for role models? Thanks for any and all advice you can share.



  1. Actually one of my other favorite charities, ChinaCare, has a program in certain areas where they help adoptive families with this.

    But otherwise, I'm very curious about the answer to this question too.

  2. I have felt like that also ("Hello, want to be my friend")...and have generally found that unless the LORD opens a door, it doesn't really happen.
    We have found that the thing that is working best for us is friendships with other adoptive families.
    Also, in our home we talk about our children's race. Just yesterday my African daughter and my Asian son were talking about how they are different and I said "well, do you think she is funny because she looks different than you" and my son laughed and said "of course not, we are part of the same family and we are part of God's family so we are all made in His image. You're silly, mom. ha-ha". I will ask those questions on purpose to make sure that they are enjoying the differences but not "judging" in any way. It just seems "natural" to them that a family and other families would have differences (in color, etc.) So I have decided to focus more on the "culture" of God and teaching and talking about the cultures they came from.
    I'm not being blind to the fact that some day they will come up against racism and am praying about when/how to help them with that.
    Any way, those are some things we do....
    What a great question and can't wait to read what other families are doing.

  3. We've had the best success simply by immersing ourselves as much as we can within the Chinese-American community. We attend a Chinese church at least once a month (it's a bit of a drive, so we go to a local church the other weeks). We also take the Tongginator to a weekly Mandarin class - her two teachers are Chinese-American. Lately I've been looking for a Chinese cooking class, but have been unsuccessful in my attempts. Attending non-FCC Chinese cultural events is also a GREAT idea. We attend our city's yearly Dragon Boat Races and the CNY celebration as well. We don't forge strong friendships at those type of seasonal events, but at least our daughter gets to experience life as part of the majority once in awhile.

  4. We asked our local FCC group a few years ago, and they didn't have a lot of great suggestions. We happened to send our daughter to a Chinese Culture Camp one summer (coordinated by a Chinese language teacher). She hired Chinese/American teenagers to help with the kids in the various areas of the camp. The teenagers really loved being with the kids, and when camp was over, they really missed seeing the kids. Lo and behold, a couple of years later, two of those teenagers decided to start a Big Sister/Big Brother group (with their extended families' enthusiasm in being involved as well). The teenagers get together now about once a month with the kids, and they have a blast! The families get to go to some of the events (e.g., Chinese tea party, picnics, Chinese New Year event, etc.). It has been a true blessing!

  5. I have mixed feelings on this because I think we can become too worried about them having Chinese cultural influence. Americans have all come from different countries, and while I think it's fun to expose our kids' to their cultures, I don't want it to make them feel even MORE different--as opposed to just being Americans. Right now, my kids think it's fun to "do Chinese stuff" but I want to be sensitive to the day--possibly in their teen years--where they might just want to be like everyone else.

    That being said, we do love Chinese 'stuff.' :) Probably the most positive thing for our kids is to be with other families who have adopted from China. It lets them see that there are other families out there who like like ours.

    I agree with Shonni that unless God orchastrates a relationship, it may not go anywhere. At one point, we lived near a university with a 'Befriend a Student' program. We signed up, and over the years, we had several students who came to our home and did family activities with us. I highly recommend befriending a student if that is available in your community. We had a blast with them and we taught each other many things. Our kids loved hanging out with them and of course, they spoiled our kids rotten!

  6. If you don't think that exposing your kids to their birth culture is important, read some adult transracial adoptees blogs. It's bad enough to be ripped from your country, your language, and your culture. Being isolated in a white community without the opportunity to meet adults of your ethnicity is the last straw for most adoptees.

    Culture camps are important. Also approaching others and striking up conversations with them. Time to develop some thick skin. It will come in handy later on when your child is feeling grief and anger over what they have lost.

  7. I just made the decision to start attending the local Chinese Church once a month. I was going to post this idea and saw Tongu Momma already did. She is always a few steps ahead of me. I know there are college kids who run playgroups for adopted children, also. That is something I want to investigate with our local colleges and universities.

  8. These are all great ideas. Thanks for sharing them - hubby and I are still formulating how to do all this. We are blessed to have quite a few families from our agency living very nearby and that facilitates good friendships with peers. Not a lot of "mentoring" except from those experienced moms to me but at some points, those girls will be great resources for Li'l Empress. And our agency is a great resource in itself. We're so grateful for their support!