top of page

Transracial Adoption and Conspicuous Families

A conspicuous family is an adoption term that refers to families that do not pass in society as biologically related when a child is a different race than their adoptive family. This is also known as a transracial adoption which creates a multi-racial family.

As you consider to adopt a embryo that does not match your family’s ethnicity or race you will need to ask yourself a few questions: do you live in a racially diverse area? Will you be able to manage being very visible every time you are out in public with your child? You do not have any idea of how invisible you are normally until you are no longer invisible. Transracial families do not always ‘blend in’; they can be remembered and they can be unforgettable. You will need to examine and observe your community and imagine your child growing up there, attending school, extracurricular activities, places of worship, etc. Will they ‘fit in’? Will you feel uncomfortable being asked questions about your child? Transracial adoptive families are often approached by complete strangers and need to create an arsenal of responses to deflect curiosity and invasive, sometimes inappropriate personal questions. Transracial donor embryo adoption can be a beautiful, meaningful and enriching experience for both the adoptive family and adopted child, but it is important to mind that specific issues related to differences in race may arise throughout the child’s life which will need to be addressed in a sensitive and caring way. More specifically, transracially adopted children face specific challenges in coping with being “different;” and as a result they may struggle to develop a positive racial/ethnic identity. You child does not want to feel the need to choose between their racial identity and their identity as a member of your family.

Parents who opt for embryo donation adoption of a different race often believe because they are color blind their child will pretty much go unnoticed within their circle of family and friends and often do not feel it necessary to point out their ethnic differences. Being color blind is not helpful to your child but being color aware is. A young child who looks different than their family becomes aware that they are viewed in a different way than a child who matches the ethnicity of their family. They will experience curiosity, questions, looks and prejudice simply because of what they look like. Parents must be aware of what their child will encounter and they need to prepare their children by starting at home educating them and giving them tools necessary to navigate through a world that notices color before they notice the person. Generally most families who consider a transracial child do not consider that their family will be conspicuous because of their racial differences because they believe that not being racist means not “seeing” race but that is not true. Color blindness is dismissive and insulting. Not addressing race implies that the child’s race is unmentionable and a flaw to overcome. It suggests that racism can be solved by pretending it does not exist instead of facing our own prejudices as well as those in society. Parents must also consider certain transracial embryo adoption risks. For instance, the children can face a lot of bias and prejudice demonstrated by comments like “he’s going to be a great football or basketball player” (Black), “she’s going to be a wonderful mathematician” (Asian), “she will be a great gymnast” (Russian), etc. The hope for our children is for them to live in a world where society recognizes, appreciates and respects all racial identities. Parents need to prepare their children for the world where that is not the norm.

During the course of your child’s life they will need to be exposed to others who look like them; not only classmates, teachers, doctors, or dentists, but also family friends. Racial identity is vitally important to your child as they develop; this will continue well into their adult years especially in a culture that is aware of racial diversity. They need a healthy foundation to develop a health sense of self. When Caucasian families adopt a child of color they cannot raise that child as though they were their Caucasian birth child. Parents need to have complete embryo information and must be aware of what their child will need in order to live in the world successfully as a transracially adopted person; that means they need to adjust the culture within their family of origin because love is not enough. They can join churches, attend cultural and social events and have information reflecting their child’s race and cultural represented within the home by learning their history, traditions, celebrations, holidays and foods to name a few. If this is not done their child may have issues with their racial identity; however, often with the proper support their child will be comfortable within their own skin. Families who adopt generally accept that race is important and that it does matter in how they raise their children and prepare themselves and seek support in raising children of color. Parents who go for a transracial IVF embryo transfer have an important responsibility to ensure their child never has to feel a need to choose between racial identity and their identity as a family member. In order to achieve a balance for your child, it is important to expose yourself to your child’s racial culture. To maintain your child’s culture, it is vital to become educated about it and incorporate it into your family’s culture. Often parents consider sending their child to a culture camp, which can be a wonderful experience and an appropriate way to increase exposure to other children they look like as well as adults; however, this needs to be done in your day to day lives as well. Ethnic religious services or professional clubs may be opportunities that your family will benefit from. Learning about and celebrating holidays, cooking ethnic foods, reading books, watching movies, etc. that are about or include your child’s ethnicity and culture is important to incorporate into your family.

Transracial IVF embryo adoption is part of contemporary American life. For the past forty years, international adoption as well as foster care adoptions helped create millions of multiracial families. In the majority of these adoptions both domestic and international Caucasian parents adopted children of color. This has greatly impacted society and how we look at a family today is very different than how a family was looked at several years ago. Although the numbers of conspicuous families are huge, very little is known about how this societal change effects Asian, Hispanic and African-American children. They need to develop a sense of racial identity while being raised by Caucasian parents in a predominately Caucasian community, understand being adopted as a child who does not resemble their family, cope with stereotyping, and what they need to develop a healthy sense of self. Below are resources available for families to help navigate their journey in raising a conspicuous family.


Inside Transracial Adoption by Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall: This book provides creative, confident and pro-active guidance on how to build close, loving, and very real families consisting of individuals who are proud and culturally competent members of differing races. Drawing on research and personal experience, Steinberg and Hall offer detailed, step-by-step, get-real guidance and embryo information for families about tough issues they have to face relating to race and adoption in domestic or international transracial adoptions: What’s “normal”? Where do we live and go to school? Does class have an influence? How do children develop racial identity? What kind of impact does being raised by white parents have on a black child? Combining humor with empathy and hard truths, this book is an established classic guide to living Inside Transracial Adoption.

Blending In Crisscrossing The Lines Of Race, Religion, Family And Adoption by Barbara Gowan: Where do I belong? Barbara Gowan sought to answer this question as she searched for the real meaning of family. The product of an interracial relationship in the 1960s, she lived in foster care before her embryo donation adoption by loving—and complex—parents. In this candid account, she faces her long-standing inner conflicts with race, religion, and identity as she searches for her birth parents and her life’s purpose. Gowan’s emotional and inspirational story deals with overcoming abuse, loss, codependency, and rejection. She demonstrates how important the multifaceted concepts of faith, family, and love are in all human relationships, and how they form our sense of self. She shares not only her personal insights and revelations but also concrete strategies from other adoptees and respected professionals.

Cross-Cultural Adoption: How To Answer Questions From Family, Friends, and Community by Amy Coughlin and Caryn Abramowitz: Cross-Cultural Adoption is a refreshing book for all adoptive parents who are often confronted wherever they go with “the” questions. “Who are her real parents? Where is she from?” If adults aren’t careful, the answers can have devastating effects; if they are careful, the answers lay a solid foundation for fostering love, enriched families, and relationships.

Does Anyone Else Look Like Me? A Parent’s Guide To Raising Multiracial Children by Donna Jackson Nakazawa: A great book for helping ethnically-mixed kids to develop an understanding of their individuality and build self-esteem. “Am I black or white or am I American?” Does Anyone Else Look Like Me? includes professional commentary as well as scripts and stories that will become an invaluable reference for both adoptive and birth parents of mixed race children as they rear their children in an evolving world.

In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories by Rita J. Simon and Rhonda M. Roorda: How did being adopted transracially affect their lives through childhood and into adulthood? How did their family experiences influence their racial and social identities, their choice of friends and marital partners, and the embryo adoption risks? In Their Own Voices collects the results of interviews conducted with black and biracial young adults who were adopted as children by white parents.

In Their Parent’s Voices: Reflections On Raising Transracial Adoptees by Rita J. Simon, Rhonda M. Roorda:These candid interviews shed light on the issues these parents encountered, what part race played during thirty plus years of parenting, what they learned about themselves, and whether they would recommend transracial donor embryo adoption to others. Combining trenchant historical and political data with absorbing firsthand accounts, Simon and Roorda once more bring an academic and human dimension to the literature on transracial adoption.

Loving Across The Color Line: A White Adoptive Mother Learns About Race by Sharon Rush: What more could a liberal, white, civil rights law professor learn about the experiences of African Americans? Plenty. In this moving, heartfelt memoir of a mother and daughter’s loving relationship, the author describes how her eyes were opened to the harsh realities of the American racial divide. Only by living with her daughter through day-to-day encounters did she learn that racism is far more devastating to blacks than most whites can ever imagine.

Transracial Adoption: Children And Parents Speak by Constance Pohl and Kathy Harris: The embryo donation adoption of a child of one race by parents of another race is a complex, controversial issue. The authors explore the issue of transracial adoption through discussions with families.

Weaving A Family: Untangling Race And Adoption by Barbara Rothman: Weaving together the sociological, the historical, and the personal, Barbara Katz Rothman looks at the contemporary American family through the lens of race, race through the lens of adoption, and all-race, family, and adoption-within the context of the changing meanings of motherhood.

White Parents, Black Children: Experiencing Transracial Adoption by Darron Smith, Cardell Jacobson and Brenda Juarez: This book looks at the difficult issue of race in transracial IVF embryo adoptions–particularly the adoption by white parents of children from different racial and ethnic groups. Black children raised in white homes are not exempt from racism, and white parents are often naive about the experiences their children encounter. This book aims to bring to light racial issues that are often difficult for families to talk about, focusing on the racial socialization white parents provide for their transracially adopted children about what it means to be black in contemporary American society. Blending the stories of adoptees and their parents with extensive research, the authors discuss trends in transracial adoptions, challenge the concept of “colorblind” America, and offer suggestions to help adoptees develop a healthy sense of self.

Outsiders Within: Writing On Transracial Adoption Edited by Jane Jeong Trenka, Julia Chinyere Oparah and Sun Yung Shin

In thirty essays, fiction pieces and poems, adult adoptees bring their unique perspectives to the psychological ramifications of an institution that’s long only been explore through the narrow lens of the adoptive parent.

The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee by Susan Harris O’Connor

Originally conceived as autobiographical monologues, the author, a social worker and transracial adoptee, serves up five laser sharp explorations


Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity in Adoption.pdf Evan B. Donaldson Institute, November 2009

Empowering Adopted Children of Color in the Face of Racism and Discrimination Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology, October 2017

Race and Identity in Transracial Adoption: Suggestions for Adoptive Parents .pdf Adoption Advocate No. 38, National Council for Adoption, August 2011

Seven Tasks for Parents: Developing Positive Racial Identity North American Council on Adoptable Children; Article written by Dr. Joseph Crumbley.

Talking About Race and Racism Adoptive Families, June 2015; Article written by Joemy Ito-Gates and Wei Ming Dariotis

The Realities of Raising A Kid Of A Different Race

T Parenting: Article written by Karen Valby:

He Even Has Your Eyes; 2017

When French-African couple Paul and Sali discover the longed for baby they are about to adopt is white, family chaos and confrontation ensue.

White Parents, Black Children: These Popular On-Screen Depictions Show The Struggle Of Transracial Adoption

Black, White & Us: Explores racism in America through the lives of four white families who adopt African-American children and must overcome their own inherent biases to become advocates. Is there a way to fix our country’s racial divide? These transracial adoptive families just might provide the answer


bottom of page