Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Stories of Aboriginal Transracial Adoption

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Stories of Aboriginal Transracial Adoption

Article excerpt

This research examines the life-stories of four Canadian Aboriginal (1) adults who as children were raised in non-Aboriginal families. The practice of transracial adoption gained prominence in the mid-to-latter part of the twentieth century and has subsequently garnered much interest within social science research (Hollingsworth, 1997; Kim 1990; Simon & Alstein, 2000; Triseliotis, 1993). This interest, however, has not extended to the study of Aboriginal transracial adoption, which remains under-research despite the immense number of adoptions that occurred through the second half of the twentieth century and continue to occur, though in fewer numbers, today.

Studies that examine the experiences of children raised in families outside of their racial and cultural heritage emphasize concerns regarding general psychological adjustment, racial identity development, and social competence in North America where race continues to be a divisive force within society (Feigelman, 2000; Friedlander, 1999; Hollingsworth 1997; Moe, 1998; Triseliotis, 1993). To date, this research has failed to provide clear evidence that transracial adoption is, in and of itself, detrimental to an adoptee's psychological health (Bagley, 1992; Feigelman; Friedlander; Hollingsworth; Simon & Alstein, 1992; Triseliotis, 1993). This corpus of research remains controversial, however, due to important questions regarding the development of racial identity among transracial adoptees and their accompanying sense of emotional security when faced with prejudice and discrimination (Bagley, 1993b; Feigelman, 2000; Friedlander, 1999; Hollingsworth, 1997; Weinberg, Waldman, van Dulmen, & Scarr, 2005). Findings that Black transracial adoptees adhere more to their parent's Americentric, versus Afrocentric, values (Deberry, Scarr, & Weinberg, 1996) and that increased incidents of racial discrimination among transracial adoptees is associated with greater incidents of adjustment difficulties (Feigelman), raise concern that identity difficulties may be problematic in at least some transracial adoptive situations. Unfortunately the effect that racial identity has on adjustment remains unclear for all racial groupings because the relationship between these two variables is typically not examined in transracial adoption studies (Lee, 2003). Though not backed by research, it has likewise been suggested that Aboriginal children raised in nonAboriginal families have very significant identity struggles, and that this stands in direct relation to experiences of racial and cultural oppression (Bagley, 1993a).

Certainly in Canada it is widely accepted that the Aboriginal population has faced discrimination and prejudice for centuries, and that such treatment remains pervasive within contemporary society (Frideres, 1983; Kirmayer, Brass, & Tait, 2000; McMillan, 1995; Milloy, 1999; Ward, 1984; York, 1990). Explanations for current and historical racism towards Aboriginal peoples implicate Canada's colonial legacy and its manifestation in many of the government's constitutional and legislative enactments (Frideres, 1983; Kirmayer, Brass, & Tait, 2000; McMillan, 1995; Milloy, 1999; Waldram, 1997; Ward, 1984; York, 1990), the most exacting of which include the residential school system and the Indian Act. Briefly stated, the residential school system involved the forced removal of Aboriginal children to be reared and educated in residential schools typically far from their home, where they were punished, often severely, for speaking their language and following their customs. The incidence of abuse, including sexual, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, was common, and has led to the intergenerational transmission of abuse within Canadian Aboriginal communities (Shepard, O'Neill, & Guenette, 2006). The Indian Act involved racist and paternalistic policies designed to strip Aboriginal people of their culture, land, and traditional ways of subsistence. …

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