Our Adoption Story: Celebrating Diversity and Educating Others

“Mom, how many ‘Asian boxes’ do I check off? There are so many! And what am I first: African-American or Asian?”

Ah, the time has come — the first college application. Another opportunity to celebrate the ethnic diversity that makes up my love, my joy, my precious Asian-African-American (or is it African-American-Asian?) daughter, Jolie.

At 21 days old, my baby girl was placed in my arms. She had gorgeous brown eyes, soft black hair and bronze skin that took my breath away. How can anyone be more beautiful, I wondered? My love for her was instant. Fate, destiny and the Barker Adoption Foundation brought us together, and it was then I became a mom.

 

According to the Child Welfare League of America, transracial or transcultural adoption means “placing a child who is of one race or ethnic group with adoptive parents of another race or ethnic group.” In the United States, this typically refers to the placement of children of color or from another country with Caucasian adoptive parents.  

As an adoptive mother of a transracial child, traveling the road of adoption, hand-in-hand with my daughter has been magnificent, heart-warming and surprising at times. Words cannot describe the joy and gratitude I have for this precious soul I was entrusted with.

When my family and I embarked on our transracial adoption journey, The Barker Adoption Foundation was a fundamental part of helping us pave our way. The foundation is a licensed, non-profit adoption agency serving Washington, Maryland and Virginia since 1945. The education and support they provided was invaluable. Beginning with the pre-adoption phase and all the way through the rest of our lives, Barker has been and will continue to be there for us all.

Had we not been given specialized training, we wouldn’t have been able to appropriately respond to the questions we have had to navigate for the past 17 years, such as “What is she?” “What is her father?,” and, “Is she a family friend?” The foundation taught us to rejoice in the opportunities to educate others about race and ethnicity. Sure, standing in line at the grocery store and having a personal question fired at us can catch us off guard. But rather than get defensive, we see it as a learning opportunity. We get to teach those around us that all races and ethnicities are a beautiful part of this grand world of ours.

So back to that college application – as my daughter checked off the various “ethnicity boxes,” I told her, “Don’t forget to check the ‘other’ box, too, Honey.”

“Other? What do you mean, Mommy”?

“You know the box where you describe who you are most of all — my sweet girl, my beautiful daughter, my precious baby, Jolie!”

Laura Kowalczyk, M.Ed, is the proud mother of four, owner of Party Pals! Children’s Entertainment Company, and author of the children’s book Guess Who’s Adopted? For more information: www.partypals.us & www.guesswhoadopted.com

Guess Who’s Adopted? By Laura Kowalczyk

 

If you or someone you know has adopted a child, you will absolutely love Guess Who’s Adopted? by local author and adoptive mother, Laura Kowalczyk. Nurturing her own adopted daughter’s curiosity through a verbal game of “Guess Who’s Adopted,” Kowalczyk was inspired to develop this childhood game into a book. 

A collection of quotes, facts and trivia, Guess Who’s Adopted? highlights the lives and accomplishments of famous adoptees, including her daughter’s personal favorite, Faith Hill. Though I have been blessed with my own biological children, my husband and I would not have hesitated to adopt, which made reading the quotes particularly endearing. My favorite quote was, “Adoption means you grew in your mommy’s heart instead of her tummy.”

What makes this book especially appealing is the option to create a personalized copy. Families can contact the author on her website, www.guesswhoadopted.com, and she will gather information about the adoptee and create a unique page just for them. The book retails for $14.95, with personalization costing an additional $19.99. An advocate for adoption, Kowalczyk is often a guest speaker at adoption events and donates a portion of the book’s proceeds to the Freddie Mac Foundation’s Wednesday’s Child Program. A former elementary teacher, Kowalczyk embraces diversity and hopes to deliver a message of acceptance. She is pursuing other topics for a Guess Who’s series and runs a family business hosting children’s birthday parties.

Wendy McGraw is the mother of two boys, ages 2 and 4. An elementary educator turned stay-at-home mom, she has enjoyed teaching and coaching at the elementary level for 15 years. She is an art instructor at Abrakadoodle and tutor at Educational Connections, and resides in Fairfax, VA.

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