What is Transracial Adoption?

Transracial adoption, or adopting a child of a different racial background, could be the right choice for your family. Still, some background knowledge and general advice should help you develop a better understanding.

Transracial adoption, or interracial adoption, describes any situation in which a family adopts a child of a different race. With changes in cultural norms, transracial adoption has become more and more common over the years, as many adoptive parents no longer feel the need to adopt a child who “looks like them,” whether that child is born domestically or internationally.

If you are pregnant and hoping to find the perfect adoptive family for your baby, you can click here to view adoptive family profiles of waiting families.

People Who May Consider Transracial Adoption

Families who pursue transracial adoption are varied and include:

  • Families who want to add to their family regardless of race or physical similarities
  • Families who want to create a multicultural household
  • People wanting to adopt internationally for various reasons

Any kind of adoption – domestic infant adoption, foster care adoption, stepchild adoption, special needs adoption, and so on – can be considered transracial. Depending on where you are adopting your child, there may be differences in the process.

Domestic Transracial Adoption

There are many different situations in which domestic transracial adoptions occur, but this includes any transracial adoption in which the adoptive family and the child are from the same country. For example, interracial marriages may also include a stepchild adoption; a foster family may get the chance to provide a permanent home for a child of a different race; and an adoptive family may be matched with a birth mother of another race.

International Transracial Adoption

Many, but not all, international adoptions are also interracial. In these cases, you will need to understand the requirements to adopt in the country that you choose. Depending on the age of your child, you will also need to consider the differences in language and cultural upbringing.

Transracial Adoption Requirements and Process

In most cases, the race of a child does not change the requirements or the steps necessary to complete an adoption. However, the laws of a particular country must be adhered to if you are adopting internationally. In domestic adoptions, the primary exception to this is in the adoption of Native American children, who are protected under ICWA.

International Adoption Laws

If your transracial adoption occurs over international borders, then you must follow the necessary process, which differs in ways from domestic adoption. To learn more about this, read our section on international adoption. You will also need to contact an adoption professional who can help you complete an adoption out of the country.


The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) recognizes Native American land as separate from the United States when it comes to adoption; this means that to adopt a Native American child, the child’s tribe must also consent to the adoption. If this applies to your situation, you can learn more about ICWA compliance from your adoption professional and from our website.

Advice for Adoptive Parents

Your child’s race certainly does not change your family bond, but it will have an impact on his or her life. Take a look at some of the following suggestions for raising a child of a different race:

  • Learn about your child’s race and culture, and incorporate aspects of them into his or her life. Tell traditional stories, celebrate holidays, and teach your child about his or her country of origin.
  • People of different races can have different physical and health needs; one common example is hair care for African American children. Make sure to address the specific needs for your child.
  • Understand how to talk with your child about racism and the effects it can have. Do not ignore racial differences or pretend that racism does not exist.
  • Surround your child with diversity as much as possible. Interact with people of your child’s race and other races in your neighborhood, school district or church community.
  • Instill a sense of belonging in the family very early on, especially when you are adopting an older child; children can understand differences between people from an early age, and you want to ensure that your child does not feel isolated.
  • You may receive unwelcomed questions because of the lack of physical resemblance between you and your child. Be prepared to answer these questions in a light-hearted manner, explaining in a positive way his or her adoption story.

Final Thoughts

Transracial adoption is one of many ways in which families are created, and if you choose to pursue this path, be prepared to talk openly and often with your child about race and diversity. To learn more about transracial adoption and the dynamics of interracial families, speak with your adoption specialist.

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