–see I Samuel 16:7
I have a number of good friends who have adopted one or more children from a different ethnic background (three couples adopted internationally, two domestically). These children will never by any stretch of the imagination be mistaken for their biological children. And all of them are loved and cared for, well-adjusted and happy. I’ve never heard a disparaging remark about any of these families.
But according to the Evan B. Donaldson Institute’s Benchmark Adoption Survey published in 1997, half of Americans that year felt that adopting a baby “is not quite as good as having one’s own child.”
Plus, social workers and psychologists continue to vascillate over whether it’s wise to allow interracial adoption, fretting over issues of discrimination, racial tension, and loss of the child’s own ethnic heritage, although
“Across a wide range of studies on domestic and international adoption, the research demonstrates that trans-racial adoption itself does not necessarily place a child at higher risk for emotional and behavioral problems. Specifically, approximately 70% to 80% of trans-racial adoptees had few serious behavioral and emotional problems, a rate that was comparable to same-race adopted and non-adopted children.” (see NIH, “The Transracial Adoption Paradox”)
I’ve been reading about transracial adoption recently. Our theatre company is producing The Family Nobody Wanted, based on the real lives of Carl and Helen Doss, who adopted twelve multi-ethnic children between 1942 and 1952. At the time, these kids languished in orphanages because they were considered “unadoptable.” If a boy’s mother was from Mexico and his father from Japan, neither a Mexican nor a Japanese family would take him.
Transracial adoption would actually become something of a “fad” a few years later, and international adoptions are not uncommon here in the States today. But in the 1940s, when the Dosses first discovered they were infertile, adopting a child of another race or ethnicity was virtually unheard of.
Helen Doss, in her memoir (also titled The Family Nobody Wanted), explains that their first son, Donny, came through a normal adoption–which was really a fluke, since Carl was in seminary and didn’t make enough money for the couple to be considered good candidates for adoption.When Helen–who wanted a large family–approached the agencies again, she was told that they could not adopt any more.
Somehow the “gray market” came to the Doss’ attention. Soon, orphanages were contacting them. They did some foster care work, but mostly–they just kept adopting children, some babies and some older. The nationalities represented included Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Burmese, Mexican, French, Spanish and Malaysian.
Yes, the Dosses conceded, there would inevitably be people who, out of ignorance or hate, would try to treat their children badly. Racism was present, and dangerous, in the 1950s. But Helen contended,
“If you could see our children working, playing, sharing together, dark hair against fair, black eyes laughing into blue, I’m sure you would feel as we do: when there is love and understanding and a common level of culture, artificial barriers of race or nationality disappear. Actually, we are more than an “international family.” Our home, with its strong ties of mutual understanding and love, is symbolic of that most inclusive family of all, God’s family.”
–Helen Doss, “Our International Family”, Reader’s Digest August 1949
I keep thinking about that quote, how God’s family is the “most inclusive family of all”…what a great way of looking at the Truth of God’s love for His creation. Christianity contends with charges of exclusivism all the time–and if “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6) is an exclusivist statement by Jesus, then I guess they’re right.
But God, who created race and color in the first place, is the most “color-blind” parent of all, isn’t He?
“Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.'” (Acts 10:34-35)
Are the Dosses–and all my friends today–simple-minded idealists, ignoring the barriers which will make their children’s lives difficult? Or are they focusing on the heart of the matter, which is unconditional love? Is it possible BOTH to inclusively love one another, seeing the beauty within, AND to celebrate our external differences as beautiful, too?