Why Cultural Competence Matters in Adoption

Why Cultural Competence Matters in Adoption

With so many controversial things taking place in our country today, social media has been a firestorm of conversations about race – both good and unproductive. It can be difficult to muddle through all the negativity and truly understand how to effect change.

The thing about change is that it happens slowly. One person at a time. It starts by evaluating some of the negative stereotypes and perceptions we’ve had about people of color, no matter how small.

Many parents seeking adoption are open to transracial adoption. With hopeful hearts and open minds, they think that love is all they need for a successful adoption story.

Unfortunately, that isn’t enough. Parenting children of color requires more than just love – it requires a bit of digging deep and moving past biases that are fed to us through the media (or even family).

What is cultural competence? It is being aware of your own cultural identity and being sensitive to the view, attitudes, beliefs & practices of those who are different from you.

Here are a few tips to help you become more culturally competent while you are considering transracial adoption (or are currently in a multiracial family):

When you have conversations about race with your children, listen to what their experiences are. Validate their feelings. For example, “I can understand how people making comments about your hair would make you feel uncomfortable.” Instead of, ” You shouldn’t care what people think about you!”

It’s easy to want to “fix” the situation for our children. We want to validate who they are as people. But in order to truly do that, we must validate their hurt and teach them how to move past the hurt.

Remember that your perception “lens” is covered in privilege. Keep in mind that your perception of when race is an issue is going to be different than a person of color’s experience. If you haven’t ever experienced being discriminated against because of your skin color, religion or culture, it can be difficult (and uncomfortable) to fathom that this happens regularly for people of color.

Don’t discount a situation and blame it on “they keep calling the race card.” Listen with empathetic ears and be open to others experiences.


Know that you won’t always have the right words. When tragedy strikes, we often feel compelled to explain the why. Sometimes we don’t know the why. We know that people make poor choices that affect other people. We can’t always explain greed, hatred & prejudice, especially when it isn’t flowing from our hearts. Sometimes, keeping the explanation simple and age-appropriate is enough. It doesn’t make you a bad parent if you don’t know how to express your feelings eloquently. Sometimes, your presence is enough.

Ignoring social issues of today doesn’t make them disappear. Talking about race, profiling, poverty and other social issues are tough, but that doesn’t mean we should shy away from tough things.

The mindset that prejudice and profiling are isolated incidences is dangerous thinking because the world will not see your child as white, even if they were raised by two loving white parents.

Know that if your kids can’t relate to you, that doesn’t make you a bad parent. Children of color need to see positive reflections of themselves if they don’t see it at home. Don’t you feel excited when you meet someone from your hometown or travel to a different country and encounter someone who communicates in English? There are some things that you just can’t relate to if you haven’t experienced, even if you are operating with an empathetic heart. Be open to getting a mentor, or surrounding your child with other people of color to help them form a healthy identity.

The work of cultural competence is a never-ending  story. There is always something to learn. In order to truly combat racism, oppression and stereotypes, we have to examine the misinformation and stereotypes we carry about people. Facing our own biases on a regular basis set the stage for cultural competence.

Written By
Diedre Anthony

Diedre Anthony is a full-time school counselor, mother, and wife.  In her blog Are Those Your Kids? , she focuses on her experiences of raising her biracial girls in an interracial marriage.  Her posts are filled with helpful tips about raising children, diversity, curly hair as well as entertaining stories, and anecdotes.  She has been published by the Huffington Post, Babble & Red Tricycle. You can follow Diedre on Facebook and Instagram.