Empowering Identity: Nurturing Cultural and Family Ties in Adoption

January 2024

Culture, ethnicity, and heritage help shape our identities. Acknowledging and valuing these traits can provide an opportunity to promote family well-being and build resilience for children and youth who have been adopted. For those children and youth who experience adoption, maintaining ties with their families of origin is more than just a choice--it's a crucial aspect of their well-being. These connections can significantly impact a child or youth's emotional and psychological development, influencing their identity and overall well-being.

When adoptive families support connections to families of origin, they can create ties that help bridge the gap between adopted and biological worlds and contribute to a child or youth's sense of self. Knowing where they come from adds depth to their story and fosters a sense of belonging, enriching their life with diverse familial influences.

Prioritizing these connections is part of creating and supporting kin-first culture in child welfare. Kin-first culture recognizes the importance of involving kin from families of origin, prioritizes relative adoption, and provides meaningful supports to children, youth, and families to help them stay connected. This cultural shift also honors the valuable role of relatives, fictive kin, community elders, and others in a child's overall development--such as those who can help keep a child or youth connected to their culture.

There are a variety of tools and resources that families, children, youth, and caseworkers can use to support connections to kin and culture. Margarita Hughes, an AdoptUSKids Minority Professional Leadership Development program fellow, developed the Cultural Identity and Connection Plan as a part of her action research project, which focused on staff training regarding the importance of culture and learning strategies to help children and youth develop a strong sense of ethnic-racial identity. The tool facilitates open discussions and the creation of a cultural connection plan for the child or youth. The plan becomes a roadmap for building a strong sense of belonging and understanding by actively promoting connections with the family of origin. It includes worksheets for each member of the adoption triad, outlines concrete actions to take, and provides space for the young person and birth parent to share what they love about their culture, how they would like to stay connected, and who can support them in doing so.  Explore these tools and resources for more information and strategies to incorporate into your everyday practice.


"Maintaining connections with the family of origin is an investment in a child or youth's emotional resilience and overall well-being."

Helping Children and Youth Maintain Relationships with Birth Families

Latino Grandfamilies: Helping Latino Children Thrive THrough Connection to Culture and Family

Birth Family Connections and Openness