Adoption Triad: Loss of Culture Within the Child Welfare System 

May 2024

Connections to culture give children and youth a sense of belonging and help them better understand their identity. Through their culture, children learn core values and rituals, and culture influences how a young person views their role in their family, in society, and in their interactions with others.  

Having a strong cultural identity contributes to overall well-being and is linked to resilience, higher levels of social well-being, and improved coping skills, among other benefits. When children or youth enter foster care or are adopted, they may lose connections to their cultural identity that could act as a protective factor to help them handle adverse experiences and challenging transitions. Separation from their family of origin and community can disrupt cultural traditions and customs, and adapting to new homes with different cultural backgrounds can be challenging, resulting in a sense of disconnection.  

There are several ways adoption professionals and others can help preserve children's cultural identity--from asking about their needs to sharing a familiar meal. Every decision and action should be made with the best interests of the child in mind. Those working with children and youth should utilize child-centered, culturally responsive approaches to reaffirm and promote connections to cultural identity. Creating an environment that embraces diversity and inclusivity reinforces the importance of cultural identity. Many cultural responsiveness tools and trainings are available for adoption, child welfare, and related professionals. Training can equip you with the knowledge you need to understand and respect the cultural identities of children and youth from all families.  

Adoption and foster care professionals can also help families understand the importance of culture and discuss the following ways to help their child maintain those connections:  

  • Acknowledge, respect, and value their child's culture and actively support their connection to their heritage. 
  • Ask children questions about their culture and listen to and learn from their answers. 
  • Incorporate their child's cultural practices and traditions into the family's established practices and traditions (these may involve food, holidays and celebrations, music, clothing, books, movies, and more). 
  • Maintain connections with their child's family of origin, relatives, or others in the community who share their cultural background. 

Creating an environment that embraces diversity and inclusivity reinforces the importance of cultural identity.


Explore these resources for more information and strategies to incorporate into your everyday practice: 

 Advice to Parents Adopting a Child of Another Race



Culture as a Protective Factor

Child Welfare Information Gateway


Family Finding for ICWA Youth to Result in Timely Permanency Within Their Kin, Culture, and Community

AdoptUSKids Minority Professional Leadership Development Program