20 April 2011

the afro Issues: interracial adoption from the child's perspective

this is a repost
I first posted this June 2010, after reading this recent post via coco & creme
I decided to repost my perspective for those who missed it the first time round.
also check out the book precious by Precious Williams for more about the effects of private adoption in the uk

Today's  issue is a little off topic, as you know i like to keep things light and breezy and not get wrapped up in the news and current affairs. however sometimes things touch me so i have to speak out.

the last few years there has been an influx of white celebrity's adopting underprivilaged children of colour, children from africa and around the world, amongst these stars are Angelina jolie and brad pitt, Madonna, Steven spielberg, Hugh jackman, Michelle phiffer, tom cruise and most recently Sandra bullock.

first of all let me say anyone who  chooses to give a home, love and a family  to a child of any race is fantastic. there is so much finger pointing in the media about the reasons behind these adoptions,  i think we forget that one child taken from the hardship of growing up with out the benefits of clean water, a loving family or education is better than none. i'm almost certain that Angelina doesn't rate her children like her birken bag's in order of colour and which shoes they will match so to say that her or any other celebrity are are jumping on a band wagon or being less than genuine is a little hypocritical  seen as the statistics for adoption within the black community is low.
however we focus so much on the the celebrity or the adoptive parent we lose focus on the child and the effects that being adopted into a white family has on them?

"Race rules say they can only be adopted by adults of the same ethnic background. The guidance claims ethnic minority children suffer mental health difficulties if brought up by white parents." 

from first hand experience i can tell you that it is not easy. at 11 months old i was left by my Nigerian mother, with white private foster parents, private fostering is were a parent agrees to leave there child in the care a registered child carer/foster parent for a fixed period of time. it's not quite being fostered but also it is not quite being left with a neighbour for 6 months either. this was in 1984  laws have now changed in the UK were foster children must be placed within a family of the same ethnic background.*
like many at this time my mother did not return for me at the agreed time she was M.I.A and i was fortunately left  with a good family. after three years of searching for my birth mother my foster parents decided to file for adoption. as they were in there 50's they could not adopt me but gain custody of my untill i was 18 years old. at 7 years old i changed my name and official became a member of the only family i had ever know. i was brought up well in a loving family, my late foster mother especially gave me many wonderful memories and  is and intergeral part of the woman i am today. (feisty and feirce had to come from somewhere)
but there were definitely challenges to being brought up within a family that do not look like you. when i was very young i would wonder my hair did not flow long like my elder sisters. i would turn my palms up side down and ask my mother if i was turning white now. thankfully my parents always put me straight and told me i was different from them and i should embrace that.

but when you are very young you want to fit in and be like everyone else. things got better when i started school things got better, as grew up in south london i went to a predominately black school. however school was hard  parents evening was always interesting! and remember pretending that i would go home a listen to r&b instead of dusty Springfield (growing up with older parents!). growing up is hard when you want to be liked and kids can be cruel, i remeber being told i thought i was white, that i could hang out with the girl at my school because i would understand them, so many silly things that isolate a child in those important school years. (eventually you come into your own ad surround your self with friends that like you for you)
the biggest drama was my hair!! my mother could not do my hair i remember putting Vaseline on my scalp and brylcreem!! my sister (who was a kind of ghetto for a white girl) learned to cornrow (loosely) and would give me big giant doo doo plaits! or i'd be sent to the various black family friends and neigbours who would press my hair, cornrow it too tightly and braid my hair with in and inch of my life and mine as i was once hospitalized because my braids were too tight!!!
at seven years old i decided to learn how to do my own hair, i learned to braid  and like most of my young life a learned to be "black". what i was really trying to do was to find a connection with my heritage and my roots and who i was, rather than how the world saw me. i was lucky my parents made a concious effort to keep me connected to my roots as best they could, i remember countless black barbies, story books with only images of my likeness, my mothers jollof rice was second to none! [but that being said I didn't taste real Jollof until I was like 16!]
children growing up in this special situation need alot of guidance in there early years, its not just about being in a loving family roots do matter. were we come from makes up who we are, and all children need to know that. you can teach someone how to be black, African, Jamaican, Indian or any other cultural background.
do i think i missed out on my African heritage growing up? yes i do.
but i am who i am, my mother looked like jayne mansfeild not Mrs huckstable. i don't have a problem defining myself as a black woman and the most important thing is being loved. love is love after all no matter who is giving it!

i advocate anyone who opens there home to children in need, the only gripe i have is celebritys and privilaged people ignoring the the plight in there own back yard. there are so many children and young people who need homes in the US and the UK. to many black children are in the system in the uk alone the amount of foster children to foster parents does not collate. if you have time and capibility to foster or adopt a strongly suggest you do so check out the BAAF.

i personally do not no if i will adopt at some point. many foster children and adopted children say the same thing i guess its to do with wanting to set up tracable root and having a family of our own. adoption is something we need to consider in our comunity but only for the right reasons.

these are my personal expierences with adoption/fostering i thought long and hard about sharing this story and i hope it was insightful and gave my followers who wish to learn more about me what they wanted.




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