‘Doing the right thing’: transracial adoption in the USA

‘Doing the right thing’: transracial adoption in the USA

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 36, Issue 8 (August 2013)
Special Issue: Mothering Across Racialised Boundaries
pages 1273-1291
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2013.776698

Ravinder Barn, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work
Royal Holloway, University of London

Racial/cultural identity and parental cultural competence in transracial adoption (TRA) are subjects of fierce debate and discussion in contemporary western societies. The ongoing practice of TRA has led to a polarization that either supports or berates the suitability of the environment provided in such homes. The external scrutiny invariably creates doubt among white adoptive parents as to whether they are ‘doing the right thing’. By drawing upon extant literature and original qualitative research carried out in New York, this paper explores adoptive mothers’ conceptualization and understanding of racial/ethnic socialisation (RES). The paper puts forward three discursive approaches. It is argued that the ways in which white adoptive mothers understand and experience diversity influences their approach to RES, which in turn is mediated through family and community networks and societal discourses on race, power and hierarchy.

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