Thursday, January 26, 2012


Before we started our adoption process I had no idea how much privilege was involved. We started out with idealistic notions of giving a home to a child in need. We thought, "We don't have much, but we can share." We looked around at our not-so-big house and thought "We can make room."

We wrote detailed autobiographies and filled out parenting questionnaires. We made lists of friends and peers who we could ask to write references. We checked to make sure each room had a fire alarm, that the back deck had a safety rail, that the kitchen fire extinguisher was accessible.

We had our doctors fill out medical forms. Employers wrote letters verifying salaries. We were fingerprinted and had our criminal backgrounds checked. We gathered copies of birth and marriage certificates. Our social worker came to our home and looked in each room. She liked our bookshelves and our pets.
Our rain gutter bookshelves

Our homestudy (a document written by our social worker meant to prove our readiness to parent a child) reads like a love letter. When it landed in my inbox I had to read through it several times to make sure it was really talking about us. And then I had the wind knocked out of me as the full weight of my privilege scrolled before my eyes.

Because I am: white, able-bodied, cis-gender, married to a man, raised by my birth parents, employed, fiscally solvent and college educated. Of course I know I am all of these things --but never before has one process so thoroughly documented the extent of my privilege.

In order to be approved to parent YH I had to show that I was healthy (mentally and physically), appropriately aged (under 43), legally married, met the minimum income requirements, had adequate life insurance, had no criminal background, was within 30% of of "normal" BMI and could cover the costs of the adoption. I also had to navigate several bureaucratic processes and have a level of job security that allowed me to take time off to accomplish these tasks.

The great irony of it all is that this staggering level of privilege is likely to extend to two of my children--but not necessarily to YH.

YH is not white, he may not be able-bodied. It would be easy to forget that he will not always live within the protective shadow of my white privilege; to forget that one day he will be a man of color. That I will not always be there to shelter him from racial insults. To delude myself into thinking that just because "I get it" I could ever actually know what it is like to navigate life as a person of color. 

The great irony is that my impressive amount of privilege may actually be a burden to my sweet boy. I cannot allow my privilege to blind me to the realities of his experience. I cannot allow him to live only within the confines of my privilege. It is my duty to make sure he has access to people who share his culture, his adoptee status, his race, and his special needs. It is not enough to have colorfully diverse books lining our shelves. It is not enough to gather once or twice a year with other white adoptive parents of Asian children.

We need to do better. We need to do more.

We will do better. We will do more.



  1. I have these issues with Miss C. But you say it so much better than me. Thank you.

    1. Bethalhany: Miss C has the benefit of being raised by Mr. B too, and he is an invaluable and affirming resource for her. Not to mention you're pretty much the most kick-ass mama ever. But I so agree--kind of makes my throat close in panic at thought of what may happen in the future. And its not like our state of residence is know for its widespread acceptance...

  2. This is a great post! And can I say totally OT, but I love the rain gutter bookshelves!

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  4. whoa... I already feel inadequate to your parenting norm, please do not raise the bar any higher. :)