Adoption: Do Your Research - Interview with Rachel Garlinghouse

I recently had the joy of sharing a bit on Rachel Garlinghouse's space, White Sugar Brown Sugar.

Now we get to hear from her. In this interview, we talk about adoption ethics and adopting outside of your race.

Rachel is a mom of four by transracial, domestic, infant adoption.  She’s the author of five books.  Her experiences have appeared on CNN, CBS, MSNBC, Huff Post Live, and NPR, as well as in hundreds of articles. Connect with Rachel via her blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.   


NB: A big topic in the adoption community and those on the fringe of the adoption community is adoption ethics.  What would you say to someone who says the entire system regarding adoption is corrupted? How would you respond to someone who says they don’t want to adopt because they question, “who is getting all of that money”?

RG: Ethics is something that’s very, very important to me.  Above all, a parent should be able to look at his or her child in the eyes and say, honestly, “I did everything in my power to make ethical decisions.”    I know the word “ethics” can confuse people, so I boil it down to this simple description:  doing the right thing every time.   And I’ve found that with most decisions in adoption, the right choice is usually obvious.  Then the hopeful parent has to have the courage and conviction to make the right decision.   

The truth is that many adoption agencies have turned adoption into a big business:  the product is the baby and the consumers are hopeful parents (who are very baby hungry) and expectant (birth) parents.   Both the hopeful and expectant (or birth) parents are desperate, and agencies know this.   Thus, we’ve seen agency fees increase dramatically, hopeful parents scrambling to fundraise while also succumbing to the pressure of paying expectant parent living expenses, and then expectant parents caught in a web of needing the financial assistance while trying ot make the best choice for his or her child.   Meanwhile, who profits?  The adoption agency.   

My advice to anyone hoping to adopt: do your research.   Do not assume an agency that has “Christian” in its title is ethical.  Ask the right questions:  how do you treat expectant mothers who choose to parent?  How do you support us if the adoption fails?  How do you handle the rights of the biological father?   Instead, too many hopeful parents ask:  How quickly can I get a baby?  

NB: If you could sit down with a hopeful adoptive parent in the wait, one who is open to different races but hasn’t done much research or put much more thought into it than, “Sure, I’d be open to a different race,” what would you tell them? What are the three most pressing things you would want them to know/do?

RG: I see many who are new to adoption say, “I don’t care what color my child is.”  This always makes me cringe.  Because a person of color cannot ignore their race (nor should they).   Race should be acknowledged and celebrated, never ignored.

I could write a book on transracial adoption (in fact, I literally did), but if I could offer your readers a few key points (elaborated on in my book), they would be:

-Love isn’t enough.  It’s a necessary foundation, but it’s a START not a beginning and ending.  

-Colorblindness doesn’t exist, nor should it.   Race should be celebrated and acknowledged, never ignored.  

-There are many valid reasons to NOT adopt transracially.  And there are many valid reasons why it’s a healthy decision for a family.   

-Do your research.  Don’t enter into transracial adoption blindly.  

NB: You and your daughter wrote and published a book of poems. Would you share a bit about that process, the bonding that happened, and the excitement of seeing it in print?

My oldest two girls inspired every poem in the book Poems for the Smart, Spunky, and Sensational Black Girl.   We took things that happened in their everyday lives, as well as some Black history and Black Santa (a tradition in our home), and I wrote twenty poems perfect for girls ages 6-9.  Then Sharee Miller, who is such a fabulous artist (@CoilyandCute), complimented the poems with her bold, diverse artwork.  The book celebrates Black girls, and poem topics include natural hair, getting a new sibling, going to church, having a slumber party, facing a bully, skin tone diversity, and much more.  It’s just a happy, beautiful, one-of-a-kind book, one the girls and I are very, very proud of!    

NB: Is there anything else you would like to share about regarding adoption on Natalie Brenner Writes?

Adopting my children has been my life’s greatest joy.   And my passion is to take our experiences and education and share those with others.   After a decade in the adoption community, I truly feel that I was born to be a mother.  I’m honored to have been chosen by my children’s first families to be my children’s mom, and I’m thankful God has granted me the ability to inspire others.

Four years ago, my first book Come Rain or Come Shine:  A White Parent’s Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children was published.  It was the book that I needed when we started our adoption journey.  In it, I offer numerous resources, research, discussion questions, and practical application exercises. It’s not a textbook. It’s a practical, no-nonsense guide.  Some adoption agencies require their hopeful parents to read it! Transracial adoption is not a decision any hopeful parent should take lightly.