Adoption Triad: Building a Strong Foundation: Strategies for Fostering Identity in Multiracial Adoptees

April 2024

Building a Strong Foundation: Strategies for Fostering Identity in Multiracial Adoptees 

Race and ethnicity are integral to identity formation, influencing how children and youth perceive themselves and interact with the world. Supporting children and youth as they explore and develop their identity in relation to their culture, race, and ethnicity is complex on its own, and additional challenges can arise if a child or youth has a multiracial identity and has been adopted. Creating an environment where these children and youth can explore and connect with their multiple heritages in a meaningful, authentic way can help them develop a strong, positive sense of identity as well as provide an opportunity to create lifelong connections that can help strengthen their resilience.  

Multiracial children often grapple with intricate emotions about their backgrounds, sometimes valuing one heritage over the other or feeling inadequate in their racial or ethnic identity. Children with a multiracial background may encounter challenges regarding how others perceive them. Others' expectations and preconceptions about what it means to "look" or "act" a certain way based on race or ethnicity can be particularly impactful.  

It's crucial to acknowledge and validate these emotions while helping children and youth understand that identity is multifaceted and unique to each person. Emphasizing and celebrating the beauty in diversity within different racial and ethnic groups and helping children and youth understand that all their backgrounds are important and valuable can help them develop a positive self-image. This can involve celebrating the richness of their diverse heritage and dispelling misconceptions that may arise from outside views.  

Adoption professionals--as well as adoptive families and families of origin--can support children and youth in fostering a positive multiracial identity and developing confidence and pride in their diverse heritage by using the following strategies: 

  • Help children and youth meet role models from their racial or ethnic backgrounds--or other multiracial people--through participation in social activities, support groups, and community and cultural organizations. 
  • Encourage open discussions about race and ethnicity, creating a safe space for children and youth to express their feelings and ask questions. 
  • Emphasize that there is no "right" way to express one's identity, encouraging curiosity and exploration. 

Also, if they are not doing so already, families should strive to integrate diversity and a connection to culture into their everyday lives, friendships, and other important relationships.  

If adoptive parents share a cultural, racial, or ethnic identity with their child, adoption professionals can encourage them to talk to their child about strategies they have used to help mitigate pressures from societal oppression and stereotypical and biased assumptions. Staying connected to a child's family of origin can also provide opportunities for engaging with, learning about, and celebrating a child or youth's cultural, racial, or ethnic background. Adoption professionals can work with adoptive parents and families of origin to develop a plan that includes specific actions and activities to facilitate and support connections to all aspects of their heritage. 

Supporting multiracial children on their identity journey is a collective effort that involves understanding, empathy, and intentional actions. By embracing the richness of diverse heritages and fostering inclusivity, we contribute to building a future where every child and youth feels proud, confident, and secure in their unique identity. 

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