A Hyde Park couple’s journey through transracial adoption

Staff Writer

Raising a child is never easy; it takes preparation, education and lots of time to get it right. For adoptive parents, raising a child has a whole different set of preparation and education, especially if the child is of a different race.

According to The Cradle, an adoption agency in Illinois, for their FY2015 “13 of the 25 African American or biracial babies placed with our families were boys. Furthermore, 52 percent of those babies were adopted by white families.”

Hyde Park residents Matt and Katie Smith went through The Cradle to adopt their 3 and a half year old son, Dylan. Dylan is an African-American child while the Smiths are Caucasian, but Matt Smith said that transracial adoption has always been on their minds.

“My brother was adopted in 1983 and my parents tried to do a transracial adoption but weren’t allowed to,” he said. “When Katie and I got married and started talking about having a family, adoption was definitely something we wanted to do.”

The Smiths explained that process of getting ready to have an adoptive child was very different than the preparation of having a biological child, especially if the child is of a different race.

“We had very intentional conversations from talking about family history, to how our families will respond to raising the child, doing research on possible schools the child could go to,” Katie Smith said. “We had to choose a cultural consultant, which is someone your child can go to that is of your child’s race that they can ask questions to.”

The Smiths said they knew a transracial adoption would be a different scenario, but that through The Cradle’s program, they were able to think about how to deal with certain situations that may come up, and how to possibly navigate those situations with their future child.

“We have been really deliberate about living in Hyde Park…this is a liberal city and a liberal community that is welcoming to all types of families,” Matt Smith said. “But we have to think about where we take our vacation trips or where we go to church…there certainly has been other places in the U.S. where we get glances.”

They both said that one of the misunderstandings about transracial adoption is that people assume you treat your child the same, but Katie Smith said there are going to be conversations down the road that they will have to have with Dylan.

“There is a tendency to focus on feeling like you need to have all the answers, but it’s about being comfortable sitting in the midst of tough questions around race and around equality,” she said.

Matt Smith said that although the state of transracial adoption is not the same as it was for his parents in 1983, there is still a long ways to go.

“Race is still something that our country is dealing with,” he said. “We have to be color aware as opposed to color blind.”