Blending race, biology balancing act for parents

Brad and Angelina, meet the Remillards and the Sears. They don’t have your millions, or your chateau in France, but their families represent a delicious palette, just like yours. They’re among the parents who are mixing “born-to” c

Brad and Angelina, meet the Remillards and the Sears.

They don’t have your millions or your chateau in France, but their families represent a delicious palette just like yours. They’re among the parents who are mixing “born-to” children with transracial adoption, changing the face of the American family.

Combining race and color, biology and adoption offers the promise of great rewards, along with complex and lifelong challenges for parents and kids alike.

Among them: embracing birth cultures, fostering healthy self-identities, dealing with issues of isolation and abandonment, addressing perceived favoritism within the family and preparing for sometimes rude intrusions from outside the family.

Bill Sears of rural Otega, N.Y., and his wife, Teresa, have four children— the oldest a biological daughter, followed by a son from the Philippines, another from Ecuador and a daughter from Russia.

“Some of the reason that our three adopted children have fit in as well as they have and feel that they fit in as well as they do is attributable to the acceptance that our daughter gave them,” Sears said.

Their oldest, now 18, was in kindergarten when they expanded their family through international adoption. They involved her in every step of the process, from weeks of paperwork and visits by a social worker to traveling and caring for the new arrivals.

In addition to birthdays, there are adoption days to be celebrated and holidays related to birth cultures, and the occasional rude question when they’re out and about in their predominantly white town.

“I don’t go out of my way to go farther than I have to in answering a person’s question,” Sears said. “I don’t feel the obligation to point out the reason for all of our differences.”

Within the family, experts advise parents to acknowledge and embrace those differences. Beth Hall, who co-founded the Oakland, Calif.-based Pact, a national adoption alliance dedicated to adopted children of color, cringes when she hears parents who are raising blended families discuss “sameness.”

While connected as a family, acknowledging differences builds security and self-esteem, said Hall, who has an adopted sister and is the mother of two adopted kids, one Latina and one African American.

The number of children adopted internationally has totaled roughly 20,000 a year so far this decade— more than half transracially, according to the latest federal figures. About 20 percent of the Black children adopted out of foster care are adopted by white families.

In Falmouth, Mass., on Cape Cod, James and Maureen Remillard have eight kids—four biological, two from Ethiopia and two from South Korea.

The oldest is now 27, and the youngest two are both 9.

“Everybody assumes the Asian kids are adopted, but they always assume the Black kids are foster kids,” Maureen Remillard said. “Cape Cod is not exactly a rainbow. We’re just very open about it. It’s our little United Nations.” But questions of identity can nag even into adulthood.

John Raible and Lisa Gordon are grown-ups now, both raised by parents of a different race. With their “born-to” siblings, they’re part of a blend created through biology and transracial adoption.

AP

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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