Finding the Hidden Resiliencies: Racial Identity and Spiritual Meaning in Transracial Adoption

  • Brenda Rogers
  • Lindsey Nice
Part of the AFTA SpringerBriefs in Family Therapy book series (BRIEFSFAT)


Transracial adoption (TRA) has a long history of controversy centering around the question of whether White families, regardless of how well-intentioned, can prepare children of color to navigate a racist society. Religiously embedded messages of “we’re all God’s children” can unintentionally promote a “color blindness” that further exacerbates this inability to equip children of color. In this chapter, I will briefly review the history and contradictory research on TRA that has further polarized the debate about the long-term impact of placing children of color in White homes. Through case examples, I will introduce the complicated journey of adoption stories, involving birth families, foster and/or adoptive families, social workers, and other helpers. Interventions will focus on how to (1) counter destructive societal discourses on race, religion, and power; (2) increase parental cultural, spiritual, and racial competence; and (3) support racial, cultural, and spiritual identity development. The goal is to give therapists collaborative tools to recognize and expand upon the hidden strengths and resiliencies intertwined in adoption journeys.


Transracial adoption Christianity Religion TRA Racism Identity Adoption Family therapy 


  1. Barn, R. (2013). ‘Doing the right thing’: Transracial adoption in the USA. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36(8), 1273–1291. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Belanger, K., Copeland, S., & Cheung, M. (2008). The role of faith in adoption: Achieving positive adoption outcomes for African American children. Child Welfare, 87(2), 99–123.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Crolley-Simic, J., & Vonk, M. E. (2011). White international transracial adoptive mothers’ reflections on race. Child & Family Social Work, 16, 169–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Esmiol Wilson, E. (2018). From assessment to activism: Utilizing a justice-informed framework to guide spiritual and religious clinical interventions. In E. Esmiol Wilson & L. A. Nice (Eds.), Socially just religious and spiritual interventions: Ethical uses of therapeutic power, AFTA Springer Briefs. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.Google Scholar
  5. Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. (2008). Finding families for African American children: The role of race & law in adoption from foster care: Policy & practice perspective. New York: The Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute.Google Scholar
  6. Gillum, N., & O’Brien, M. (2010). Adoption satisfaction of Black adopted children. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 1656–1663. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hays, P. (2008). Addressing cultural complexities in practice. New York: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  8. Howell-Moroney, M. (2014). The empirical ties between religious motivation and altruism in foster parents: Implications for faith-based initiatives in foster care and adoption. Religions, 5, 720–737. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Huh, N. S., & Reid, W. J. (2000). Intercountry, transracial adoption and ethnic identity: A Korean example. International Social Work, 43(1), 75–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lee, J., Vonk, M. E., & Crolley-Simic, J. (2015). Religion and cultural and racial socialization among international transracial adoptive parents. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 24(1), 40–57. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Malott, K., & Schmidt, C. (2012). Counseling families formed by transracial adoption: Bridging the gap in the multicultural counseling competencies. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 20(4), 384–391. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Marr, E. (2011). “I’ll have the melting pot soup with a side of Black:” Transracial adoption and the racial-ethnic color line. Michigan Sociological Review, 25, 33–52.Google Scholar
  13. McRoy, R., & Griffin, A. (2012). Transracial adoption policies and practices: The US experience. Adoption & Fostering, 36(3–4), 38–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. National Association of Black Social Workers. (1972). National Association of Black Social Workers position statement on trans-racial adoptions. New York: National Association of Black Social Workers.Google Scholar
  15. Neito, L. (2010). Beyond inclusion, beyond empowerment: A developmental strategy to liberate everyone. Olympia, WA: Cuetzpalin.Google Scholar
  16. Padilla, J. B., Vargas, J. H., & Chavez, H. L. (2010). Influence of age on transracial foster adoptions and its relation to ethnic identity development. Adoption Quarterly, 13, 50–73. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Perry, S. (2014). Conservative Christians and support for transracial adoption as an alternative to abortion. Social Science Quarterly, 95(2), 380–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Raible, J. (2015). Introduction to the special issue: Race, religion, and rescue in adoption. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 24(1), 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Schultz, J. D., West, J. G., & MacLean, I. S. (1999). Encyclopedia of religion in American politics (Vol. 2). Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  20. Selman, P. (2009). The rise and fall of intercountry adoption in the 21st century. International Social Work, 52(5), 575–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© American Family Therapy Academy 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brenda Rogers
    • 1
  • Lindsey Nice
    • 2
  1. 1.Rogers Family CounselingFederal WayUSA
  2. 2.Marriage and Family Therapy ProgramPacific Lutheran UniversityTacomaUSA

Personalised recommendations