Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Our guest today wants to help you embrace the beauty and challenges of transracial adoption. Brittany Salmon will join us to tell her story and give help and hope to adoptive parents or future adoptive parents.
If you go to moodybooks.org, you'll see our featured resource, Brittany's book, It Takes More Than Love. Gary, I know you're a big proponent of adoption, but there are struggles and difficulties you face with any good thing you choose to do, right? Absolutely, Chris, and you know my background is cultural anthropology and anytime you bring two people of different cultures together, whatever the relationship, there's going to be different perceptions of reality, different ideas about almost everything. So certainly the topic for today, discussing cross-cultural adoption, is a really key topic and I am excited about talking with Brittany about this today. Well, let's meet her. Brittany Salmon is a professor, writer, and Bible teacher. She has an MA in intercultural studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an MA in teaching from North Carolina State University, and she's currently pursuing her doctorate from Southeastern Seminary where she's doing research on racial representation in Christian children's literature. She lives in Abilene, Texas with her husband Ben and their four children right now. They're moving to North Carolina into your neck of the woods, Gary, and she's written the book, It Takes More Than Love, a Christian guide to navigating the complexities of cross-cultural adoption.
You can find out more at moodybooks.org. Well, Brittany, first of all, welcome to North Carolina. I understand you're going to be moving here shortly, so that's great. We'll be neighbors. It may be a four-hour drive, but still neighbors. So welcome to Building Relationships today. Thank you so much. I'm glad to be here. Now, you say that you have a love-hate relationship with adoption.
What do you mean by that? Well, as an adoptive parent, I'll start with the easy one. I love it because I'm so grateful for the opportunity to parent my kids. We have four kids. Two joined our family through biology. I was pregnant with them.
They were twins. And then the other two joined our family through adoption. I love adoption because it's an absolute honor.
It's a privilege. It's something I don't take for granted to be able to love on our two kids who joined our family through adoption. However, the flip side of that is I actually am so grieved that adoption even has to exist because I get to parent my kids because something really bad happened to them at some point in their life. I get to be a parent to my kids because their story was birth and brokenness. So I have a love-hate relationship with adoption because it's not all roses.
It's not all about the joy that I get about being a mom. It's also that I love my kids so much. I also see what adoption has done to them. I see the brokenness that was birthed in the beginning of their stories, the lasting impacts that that has. And so although I'm so grateful and I love being my kids' parents, I'm also so burdened and grieved and sad that brokenness exists in our world.
Yeah. I think any parent who has adopted across cultural lines is identified with what you're saying. Well, let's talk about the title, It Takes More Than Love.
Why does it take more than love? There was a narrative in adoption spaces about 20 years ago that all it takes is love. You love a kid, you just give them some love and they're going to grow and be happy and thrive. And even in parenting biological children, all parents know it takes a lot more than love to get your kids across that finish line and to be healthy and thriving and Lord willing walking with the Lord if you're a believer. And so we know that when it comes to adoption, because of the trauma, because of the brokenness of the story that brought them to our families, it's going to take more than just love. Whenever you've adopted a child, it's going to take love and counseling and making sure that you're equipped to handle some of the heartaches, the unique heartaches that adoptees will face even when they're placed in a loving home.
And so I tell my friends who are thinking about adoption or asking about adoption all the time, listen, it's not just bring a child into your house and give them some love. It's a lot more than love. Love will get you there. Love is the tool that you need. It's the thing that will be a catalyst that sustains your family during difficult seasons. But it takes more than just love whenever you're adopting a child and walking them into your home.
Yeah. Well, Brittany, tell us about your story. You know, why did you become interested in this whole issue? What led you to adopt across cultural lines? And what led you to tackle the whole the whole concept?
Sure. Well, I, my husband and I, we've been married for almost 12 years. And I entered into our marriage thinking that we wouldn't be able to have biological children.
And I'd known that since from the time I was a teenager. And so when we started talking seriously about marriage, Ben is my husband's name, and I sat him down and just said, Hey, I just need you to know this. There's a there's a good chance I won't be able to have children. But I'm okay with adopting. But if this is something that you're that is a make or break it issue for you, you know, I want to bring this to the table now. And he quickly said, absolutely, you know, absolutely not. I've not thought about it before. But this is I think that I don't care how we have children, whether we adopt, whether we foster, whether we don't do any of it, he's like, that's okay.
But he's like, I'm okay with this. And so we slowly started exploring the process of adoption. And a few years into our marriage, the Lord blessed our family with surprise twins.
We weren't trying to have children. But I became pregnant with the twins. And there were two of them. So lots of surprises all the way around. And we were so grateful. And we loved, I'm so grateful that I've been blessed to be able to have children biologically and through adoption.
But it was a complete shocker and surprise. But we still felt after we even knew that I could have children biologically, we still felt very called to adoption. It was something that the Lord had laid on our hearts early on and that we talked about. And we saw the need and said, hey, our family, we can do this.
And so we started the adoption process a few years after the twins were born. And I'm a researcher by nature. I love school. I love learning.
I love books. And so I was scouring our libraries, the internet, for resources that would equip families like ours to adopt cross-culturally. Part of our story was we were going to pursue international adoption because a lot of people in our church community had done that. But we had a friend, a close friend who adopted domestically via infant adoption. And that agency at the time had a shortage of families who were unwilling to take children who did not match their ethnicity.
And specifically, they had a ton of white families who were unwilling to take children of color. And so when we heard about the crisis and this agency and how they were at the time desperately needing families to say, hey, we'll take a child regardless of their ethnicity. And we will commit to learning about that ethnicity and becoming a multicultural family. We said, hey, we can do that. We were thinking about doing this internationally anyways. We can step into this space.
And the Lord quickly softened our hearts towards it. But what we found was we didn't have a lot of resources. There weren't a lot of books written on saying this is what you should do or hey, warning, here are some roadblocks ahead that you might have to navigate and some hardships. There was a lot of literature out there that said adoption is awesome, you should do it. Adoption is awesome. This is how we mirror the heart of God.
But there was not a lot of tangible resources out there on training on what to do. And so whenever I was asked to write this book, Trillia Newbell, she became an acquisitions editor at Moody, and she called me and said, hey, you've written on this for a couple of articles and blogs and things of that nature. What about a book? And once we started talking about that, I thought, yes, this is something that our family can do to help other families and not just prospective adoptive families, but then also church communities and friend groups that are supporting adoptive families.
And so as soon as she said it, I prayed about it for a couple of days and I was like, yes, I'm in. This is Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller "The 5 Love Languages" . Find more simple ways to strengthen relationships at fivelovelanguages.com. Plus take a free assessment of your love language right there at fivelovelanguages.com. Well, Brittany, let me say this at this point in our conversation.
I'm glad you made the decision to write this book, because I think it's going to help a lot of people. So now, just remind our audience and remind me, your first two children were twins, boys or girls? They're girls. They're girls, and they're almost 10 years old, and they are truly identical.
I mean, grandparents have a hard time telling them apart. They are true, identical twins. Now, the two children that you adopted, boys or girls? They're boys.
Yes, they're boys. And so one of them is six and the other is two. Six and two.
All right. When you adopted these two, your girls would have been how old? Let's see, when Jude, who was our six year old, when he joined our family, the girls were four, or almost four. And then when Zeke, our youngest, joined our family, our girls were eight, and Jude was almost four as well.
Just shy of four, so. Yeah, okay. We're actually in the process again for baby number five, so we're waiting on that time. So we're waiting on baby number five, so who knows when that'll happen. All right, all right. Well, we'll stay tuned, okay? For those of our audience who are rather unfamiliar with adoption, can you give us an overview of the different types of adoption that is available today?
Absolutely. Now, our language and adoption spaces, it's always changing. But there are multiple different ways you can pursue adoption. You can pursue international adoption, which just means that you're adopting a child from a different country. And that's a different process than if you adopt domestically.
So a domestic adoption is where you adopt a child from the same country, but at the same time, within those two major categories, there's also a variety of different types of adoptions. So we've used the term transracial adoption or cross-cultural adoption. A transracial adoption is where you adopt a child who's of a different ethnicity than you.
They could be from the same country. For example, my son Jude, he is an African American male. And so we did what is called a domestic infant open transracial adoption. And what that means is simply as we were from the same country, so it's a domestic adoption, it's an infant, which means I adopted him as an infant.
Open means we have an open relationship with his first family in which we communicate and see each other and have each other's contact information. And then transracial adoption just means that we have different skin tones. In the book, I use the term cross-cultural adoption because a cross-cultural adoption could be a transracial adoption where we have different skin tones, or it could be you adopt a child from a different country.
Maybe let's say I'm a white American. So what if we adopted a white Romanian child? That wouldn't be a transracial adoption. It'd be a transcultural adoption.
And so we call that a cross-cultural adoption. It's a lot. It's a lot.
I know it's a lot. There's a lot of different types of phrases, even within those, but the two major things our book talks about is international adoption, domestic adoption, and then you can adopt through foster care as well. And the book applies to that as well. You mentioned open adoption where the adopted parents do have a relationship with the biological parents. Is that becoming more common in our culture?
It is. You know, as research and adoption has grown, what they've discovered is one really helpful thing if both sets of parents, the adoptive parents and the biological parents or parents or family members, if they are both open to a relationship and are both committed to loving a child and helping them form into the person, the best version of themselves that they can be, it really helps the child have access to knowing where they came from. So it helps in identity growth and identity development, whether that's racial identity, whether it's just familial, who's my biological family?
Where do I come from? Having both sets and having an open, healthy relationship there when possible, they said really does serve the child. So as adoption experts have grown and learned and done more research, they're realizing that if both sets of families are open to that, this could be a really good thing. That was my impression just in talking with parents who have adopted and I can see the value of that. Obviously, sometimes that's not possible because the biological parent may not be open to that or sometimes maybe for certain reasons, the adoptive parents may not be open to that as well.
Yeah. In our own lives, I can attest to what a blessing it's been for our kids, but then also for me. Having an open adoption with both of our son's parents, which is two separate, they're not from the same set of biological parents. And so we have two birth moms who we have gotten to know and love on them and welcome them into our families. And I remember whenever I first started my adoption journey, I was a little nervous about that relationship. I was a little apprehensive of what is that going to look like?
I'm not really sure. But as we've grown in relationship with them, I can say it's been a huge blessing to our kids, but it's also been a blessing to me. They're phenomenal people. Birth moms who choose adoption for their kids, especially in this culture, are phenomenal, brave women who love their kids and want what's best for them. And so I've been nothing but grateful for my experiences in getting to know them. One of the points you make in the book is that it doesn't come natural necessarily to adopt someone of a different culture, a different race.
Why would that be true? Well, you know, I think every parent has their own journey in stepping into motherhood and fatherhood. And for some people it comes more naturally than others, just parenting in general. But we all know if you're a parent, you know, parenting's hard. It's really difficult.
But one of the things that does not come naturally about transracial adoption is I am a white woman and my husband is a white father. So I don't naturally have a tool set of when my son comes to me and says, I experienced this at school. I have had to work and rely on my community to learn to say, oh, that's just somebody being mean or no, actually, this is somebody, this is, this has racial bias to it.
So how do we navigate that? It doesn't come naturally to me because I didn't experience that growing up. I didn't experience that in our culture. And so there are certain cultural things that my son will experience and my sons will experience that's coming from different ethnicities that I, I don't have that upbringing in that I've had to rely on our Christian community, our church friends, people in our lives to say, oh, well, you know, this happened to me when I was a kid, let me say this, or you should tell Jude this. But it's been one of the things that I've had to learn is as a mom, as a white woman who is raising nonwhite children, I have had to rely on other resources because I cannot bridge that gap for my children, but I can't provide resources for them to bridge that gap when they're ready, if that makes sense. And so when it comes to racial identity development or experiencing things uniquely as an embodied human walking around in our physical bodies in the context of the United States of America, where we are at the current point in time, there are certain things that I just don't have in my tool belt. And that's okay to acknowledge that as a parent.
Yeah. And I think in our culture, of course, racial tensions are high. Some of us have been around a long time and remember, you know, when integration, school integration took place way back in the sixties.
And so we've come a long ways, I think, but there's still a lot of racial tension. And what I hear you saying is that your adopted children may be experiencing things in school or interfacing with people in other contexts that you never faced. And so, you know, how do you help them process what they're running into? Exactly.
And how did they, and it's one of those things where how do they step into their own? And we know that, you know, one of the things that we believe is that, you know, God made, God made everyone in the image of God, all humans in the image of God, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, all humans are made in the image of God. And so we acknowledge that, that our identity necessarily first and foremost reflects Him. But we also, when we are doing that, we're not neglecting or having a colorblind approach to recognizing that me, a female, a white woman in the United States of America has a different perspective than a white male in the United States of America than a, my black son in the United States of America. We're going to experience our context differently.
And so we don't want to make that in the sense like this is the only thing we're focusing on, but we also don't want to ignore it either. So we want to raise our kids to say, my, my daughters, I'm like, listen, you are, you are smart and you are kind and you are beautiful, regardless of the lies culture might say, tell you one day, this is who you are. And so we do the same things with our kids of different ethnicities.
I tell my son all the time, you are smart, you are beautiful, you are kind, you are made in the image of God. And regardless of what society says about us, we cling to those biblical truths. And we don't do that with a blind eye of neglecting culture. Rather, we open our arms and say, man, we serve a diverse God and in His goodness, He created different ethnicities and we're going to celebrate those in our home. Yeah. So we're not trying to make our adopted children into our culture and our race. We're trying to help them be the person God made them to be, right?
Exactly. Now, you talk a lot about holding space in your heart or your mind, both for joy and sorrow in a home when you're raising children of a different culture. Can you give us a practical example of what that looks like in your own family?
Sure. I'll tell you this story. When, when I first, during our first adoption, we went to, it was a hospital birth. And so my husband and I got to be there, not for the birth, but for the days after. And we met our son's birth mom and got to spend some time with her. And then we went into her son's hospital room and we all spent time there and she eventually left and went to her hospital room. And I can remember this weird feeling where I was so overjoyed at meeting our son.
I mean, thrilled, just absolutely in love. At the same time, my heart was breaking because just down the hall, there was a woman who loved her son, who birthed him and being pregnant and birthing a life is no small feat. She went through all that effort to carry a baby and to deliver a baby and then to ensure that this baby is going to go to a safe and loving home. But at the same time, she's in a hospital room with empty arms and it broke my heart.
And when we left to go home with a baby in our arms, and I knew there was another woman who was leaving a hospital empty armed, it was one of those things where I was feeling two conflicting emotions at the same time. And it almost felt like the first time, well, if I celebrate too much, I am not honoring her loss and his loss. If I'm only focusing on loss, well, I'm not honoring the celebration of what it is to bring in a child into our family. And so what we had to learn how to do is just to make space for both to exist because they have to, because adoption is incomplete if you only focus on the good or if you even only focus on the sorrow, you're not telling the whole story. And so we've had to learn that on birthdays, on Mother's Day, certain holidays, on Mother's Day, we celebrate motherhood. We also go ahead and intentionally create room to say, hey, do you miss your birth mom today? Do we need to call her? And we go ahead and intentionally make space for that to exist so that when our kids, as they grow up, some days my son's like, no, I don't miss her. I'm okay. And some days it's like, yeah, can we call her?
There's already language there and there's also already the freedom in our family to feel whatever way you're feeling about the situation at the time. And so if you are both happy and sad, great. If you're just happy today, that's okay. That's great. Wonderful. If you're sad today, that's totally fine. And we want our kids to be able to process their adoption without having to feel like they have to be happy for our sake.
Yeah, yeah. You know, the whole concept again that we talked about earlier of open adoption where you and the adopted child has contact with the birth mother and an elf and the birth father as well, I think is so healthy because I've encountered in my counseling through the years that when adopted children do not know their biological parent, there comes a time in their life and it can come as late as 25 and 30 years old, but many times it comes much earlier than that, in which there's something inside of them that really wants to know and meet their biological parents. And sometimes they go on a journey that takes sometimes years to find their adoptive parents. So you feel strongly about that as well?
I do. I feel strongly that, you know, if you have a closed adoption and meaning that you don't have contact with the child's first family, I think always holding space for their curiosity, for their grief, for their, I wish I knew this, where I got this from, or I wish I knew this. I think as an adoptive parent, it's really important that we encourage that and make space for it rather than to shut it down or take it as like a critique of our parenting as if we're not enough, if that makes sense. You know, you hear all sorts of, you know, in the adoption circles, you were learning from adoptees, we're learning from birth mothers and fathers, but we're also learning from adoptive parents and you kind of hear the spectrum of it. And what I've heard, and I won't speak on adoptees behalf, but when I've listened in, I've heard some of them share stories about how they didn't feel the freedom to explore their first culture or their first family because they were afraid to hurt the feelings of their adoptive parents.
And in our family, that's the last thing I want. I want my kids to know that they can explore, they can ask questions. If our next adoption is a closed one, that if they want to go on this journey, great, I'm going to be in their corner, cheering them on, doing whatever I can to support them in whatever ways they need. Thanks for joining us today for Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. Find more simple ways to strengthen relationships at FiveLoveLanguages.com. We have some great resources, a tool to assess your love language. You can hear a podcast of the program and more.
Go to FiveLoveLanguages.com. Our guest is Brittany Salmon, author of It Takes More Than Love, a Christian guide to navigating the complexities of cross-cultural adoption. Find out about that at moodybooks.org.
That's moodybooks.org. Well, Brittany, I'm sure that our audience is tuned in to what we're talking about today on this whole adoption process. And particularly, we're specifically talking about adopting children in a cross-cultural adoption. What does race-conscious parenting look like for the adoptive family? You know, I love this question, and I'm so glad that you asked it, because I do think we have to take into consideration every family's unique context. So what city they live in, what state they live in, are they in rural parts, are they in urban parts, are they somewhere in between? But the truth is, I think a lot of times people think, well, I live out here in this area, and it's a monocultural area, so I don't know what race-conscious parenting will look like.
I don't know if I can do it. And what I want to say is, it doesn't matter of your location. Race-conscious parenting can happen regardless of where you're at. Maybe it might be easier in some places, but I want to go ahead and give the listeners today just a few tools in their tool belt to practice race-conscious parenting.
And what that means, and again, we've talked about this a little bit, is right now in our current context, any conversations around race, I think people are on edge. And so I want to encourage folks today to set any political division or even like some cultural divisiveness aside, and we can say that 100%, if you believe in adoption, if you believe in becoming a transracial adoptive family, you cannot live a monocultural life if you want to be a multicultural family. And so some basic things that you can do, we have three levels that I've encouraged adoptive families to start with.
And you start with level one, and you build up to kind of like a level three, and really you need all three. But if you've not done any of it before, I'd say the first thing you can do is you need to make sure that you have racial representation and just the artifacts in your home. And what I mean by artifacts is we're talking about books, and toys, and pictures, and artwork. So the things, the home that you're bringing a child to, they can see themselves in, they can see pictures of themselves, they can see themselves represented, and they're not a child, let's say you adopt a Chinese child, and maybe you're a Hispanic family. And so it's not just, you don't just have Hispanic culture on your walls, but you've decided not only are we going to celebrate our Hispanic culture, we're also going to, we're going to celebrate this Asian culture, and we're going to have Asian artwork, and toys, and dolls, and books. So our kid can feel represented by the things in their home. And that is the, you know, the bare minimum start level.
And you can do that if, you know, by ordering things off of Amazon, or Google, or whatever place you like to shop online. Even if you're in a rural environment, this is something you can do. And so that's probably level number one for race conscious parenting. But for level two, the thing I would encourage parents to consider is finding representation in the voices and the people who they're listening to. And so that can be your doctor, it can be your pastors, it can be teachers, coaches, lawyers, who you, your insurance guy, find people who mirror your child's ethnicity in your community, and say, you know what we're going to do, we're going to go and listen and support and submit ourselves to the leadership of these voices. If you live in a rural environment, let's think about some of the maybe sermons or books you could listen to online, the music you could listen to in your home, the television shows that you watch, the people who have authority in your life speaking over your family, let's make sure that there's representation there, and that your child can see themselves in that level. And then the third, and what I would say is the most important level of race conscious parenting would be that you have representation in your physical community.
And so what that looks like, and this can be a difficult transition for some families, but even in a monocultural environment, I would say if you look at the actual demographics of your county and the counties near you, surrounding your county, I would almost guarantee that most parts of the country, you can find some levels of diversity. And so what I would encourage you to do is then consider what sport teams are you going to put your kids into or extracurriculars? Where are we going to school? Where are we going to church? Where are we spending our time and money?
What restaurants are we eating at? And while we're out doing those things, make friends along the way. And so that's one thing that we have loved. We moved out to West Texas six years ago, and everyone told us, oh, it's a pretty monoculture out there. And I was like, I don't think so. And the more we got involved in putting our kids in YMCA sports, our city sports leagues, versus some more of the private ones, I started meeting people and thinking, no, this isn't monocultural. There's a rich culture out here, a vast amount of ethnicities represented, and just started meeting people on the soccer fields, meeting people at the baseball fields. And we celebrated one of our kids' birthdays this year.
And I looked around at the people singing at our kids' birthdays, babysitters, friends from church, people in the community. And I thought, wow, thank you God for the diversity that you have provided for our kids, but also for us and how we've learned and loved and grown as humans just by being friends with these people. And so I think race conscious parenting is basically parenting with an awareness that race matters. It's not taking a colorblind approach and saying, you know, we're going to adopt a child of a different ethnicity, but we're going to basically pretend they're just of our ethnicity. That race conscious parenting is saying, no, we're a multicultural family, so we're going to live a multicultural life.
Yeah. As you describe those three levels, Brittany, I'm sitting here thinking, wow, that is so helpful, so practical. And anyone who's thinking about adopting cross-cultural and racial lines, this book is going to be super, super helpful for them. It's just because what you're laying out is the things that are doable, but they may not enter the mind of a person who hasn't had a lot of cross-cultural experience in their own life.
So, man, thanks for sharing those things. Let me ask you this. If you could go back in time and give yourself any piece of advice before adopting, what do you think it would be?
That's a great question. I think the one thing I would tell myself is that it's okay to make mistakes. Like you don't have to do this perfectly.
I think I set out on adoption going, I need to do this just so and get it all right so I don't mess up my kids. But one of the things that I have loved, there's a Maya Angela quote that I've used throughout the book, but also it's kind of been my journey as a doctor parent, and it's do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. And I think that that has been something like, there's just grace for this journey in parenting, whether it's, oh, I didn't know that and then feeling shame about that saying, no, I'm not going to feel shame about that. What I'm going to do is when we feel conviction about that and I'm going to change because I didn't know that five years ago, but I know it now. So I can act on it now. And so if I could go back in time and give myself a piece of advice and say, hey, you're not going to get it right.
And that's okay. But once you know better, do better. And just start along that path. If you were talking to a group of prospective adoptive parents, they're thinking about this. And I'm sure you do that a lot for groups and individuals. What one piece of advice really jumps to the front in your mind? The first thing that I typically tell prospective adoptive parents, I ask them a question, I say, what voices are you listening to? And then I encourage them to make sure that they're listening to not just adoptive parents like me, but that they're listening to the voices of adoptees and birth parents as well.
Because I do think whenever we're looking to get our training and education, I think there's a value in listening to people who are in our kind of our same situation in life. But when it comes to adoption, we need to be listening to first families, and adoptees, and letting their experiences and testimonies transform the way we parent. And so I would say if you're going to be a doctor parent, you have to, have to, have to, have to invest in resources by adoptees and first families just as much as you do adoptive parents. This book is designed for adoptive parents. That is, that's the primary audience to which you're writing this book. But you also include a chapter specifically for family, extended family and friends and churches who are supportive of adoptive families.
What's your hope for those individuals? You know, when we started our adoption process, one of the things that we wanted to do was include our families and our friends. And our support system was large and wide, and everyone was like, what can we do to help? What do we need to learn about?
What are all these things? And I would have them read some of the books that I was reading, but really from feedback from them, none of them gave them tangible steps on how to support adoptive families. And I think that there are a lot of grandparents, there are a lot of uncles and aunts out there and just church families and communities who want to say, hey, we are recognizing maybe in the process of learning that adoption isn't all rainbows and butterflies and beautiful all the time.
How can we support you? And I wanted to include a resource in here so that adoptive families could say, you know what I want you to do? You don't have to read this whole book, although if you want to, that'd be incredibly helpful. But could you read this chapter and then come back and talk with me? Let's talk about it.
Let's see what works for our families. But I wanted to give people who are willing to learn and step into this space with us a brief, small tool to assist them on their journey as well. This is Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" .
Brittany Salmon is our guest today. Her book is titled It Takes More Than Love, A Christian Guide to Navigating the Complexities of Cross-Cultural Adoption. Find it at moodybooks.org.
That's moodybooks.org. Brittany, when you were on my program, Chris Fabry Live, we had a caller after the program leave a message. And she was upset because you, during that conversation, had said, if let's say you have an African-American child, then find someone who's a mentor outside of the family who's African-American who can speak into that child's life. And her phrase was, I'm not trying to raise an African-American man.
I'm trying to raise a man. You know, it doesn't matter what color you are. Can you talk to that for the person who says, you know, it doesn't matter what color, what race, what ethnicity you are, just love the child. What do you say to that?
Well, first off, I'm really glad that she called and I'm sad that she didn't call while we were on air because I love it when people verbalize that. I think there's so much shame and heat whenever we talk about race and colorblindness, things that a lot of people are unwilling to say. Actually, I was raised with a colorblind approach and I'm really confused on why it's not helpful. I grew up with a family that never preached a colorblind approach, but I grew up in a time where colorblindness was very popular and it still is somewhat today. And I want to say that having the privilege of saying, I'm just trying to raise a son, not a black son or a Hispanic son is typically something that a lot of white people will come off saying because we've not had to have these conversations about race and racism.
I have never once experienced it personally against me. But what we're trying to say as adoptive parents is my children who are not white will experience living in America and their bodies as black men or Hispanic men. And they have to know how to navigate society, not just as a man, but as a black man.
My girls, they're going to have to navigate what it looks like to live in the United States of America as a female and as white women. And we can't neglect those things. We just have to address them head on because they're not something that we were ashamed of.
Because we believe that every ethnicity is good. It is something that God created mankind and all of us reflect him uniquely. And so rather than hiding or pretending like my son is just a man, he is just a man. And we're not saying that his blackness is his number one thing that we're focusing on.
What we're saying is we're just not neglecting it. And so we're teaching him how to live fully as a man in the United States of America who is black. And there are differences. There are things that I tell my son about what it means to be human in the United States that is different from my girls.
And we're not pretending like those differences don't exist. We're just embracing them, naming them, and we're actually looking at them through the lens of Scripture and saying, Hey, it's good. Who you are made to be is good.
Let's learn how to thrive and who God made you to be in this current space and time. And so I think what sometimes colorblind people and what I've tried to hear when I'm doing this, a lot of people, I had a friend one day and she was like, What I want to say is I don't think the color of skin should matter. And I say, great, me either, but it does, but it does.
And I think we're all honest with that. Because if you look at our schools, if you look at our state of society, you can see how the color of our skin does impact hiring, it impacts employment, it impacts housing. It has impacted a lot in our society over, you know, throughout our history. And so I think a lot of people are good intention and saying they don't want it to matter.
But what we're saying is it does. And so we are going to parent our kids in a way where they know who they are, who they are in Christ, who they are as humans, but also who they are and their unique ethnicities that God has given them. And we're going to celebrate that.
That is so, so powerful. Celebrate the differences rather than ignore the differences. Brittany, if you were talking to adoptive parents who their adopted children are getting older now, maybe they're on up into the 10s and 12s years of age, and they really have not encountered this book, It Takes More Than Love, what would you say to them? Well, you know, what I would want to say to them is really two things. The first thing is, again, that Maya Angelou quote, do the best you can until you know better than when you know better do better. If you are now kind of maybe in the middle towards the end of your parenting journey, and you're just now awakening to some of the things that we're talking about today, and you feel like, oh, my goodness, I wish I had done X, Y, or Z. What I want to say is, you did the best you could.
Now you know better. Let's start now. Let's start now. And what we want to do, the second thing is shame is a liar.
Shame, what shame wants to do is keep you focused on what went wrong, rather than using that kind of feeling or that intuition of, oh, I've got to change as a catalyst for change and for moving forward. And so we want to shed the shame and we want to hold on to conviction. And we want to go ahead and say, you know what, we did the best we could. But now we are going to have these conversations. We're going to start this now and it might look differently than what we'd expected. And there might be some more bumps in the road because we're starting a little late, but hey, we're glad you're here and let's keep going.
Let's lock arms and keep going. Toward the end of the book, you talk about having a holy imagination when it comes to the future of adoption. What do you mean by that? When it comes to holy imagination in the adoption spaces, what I'm trying to say is, if you've been in the adoption spaces for a while, like I said, we're just now having conversations about open adoption, about race conscious parenting. And there are a number of holes in the system where either we have a surplus of foster kids right now in the United States of America whose parental rights have been terminated and they are available for adoption. We are going to have to come up with a better imagination and with new ways of providing a safe and loving home for every child. But when we do that, it's not just about adoption. So what is the source of the problem? Why are children being removed from their families?
Why are there some kids who get adopted faster than other kids? And so what we need to do is look at these kind of holes or gaps or problem spots if you will. And I think what we're going to have to say is, hey, what we've done the last 50 years has been good, but some of it's not working anymore.
And so what if we're not, you know, tossing the whole thing out? What if we're still focusing on adoption and foster care? But what if we're also talking about meeting women where they're at and maybe even adoption prevention and family preservation and getting on the front end of these issues saying, okay, you know, maybe somebody in their 50s, 60s out there said, you know, I'm not, I don't want to foster. I don't want to adopt right now, but you know what I can do?
I can go to our local foster care agency and say, hey, are there any parents right now whose rights have been separated temporarily and they're working towards, you know, being reunited with their kids and they just need some mentorship? Can I meet with them weekly? Can I disciple them? Can I take them out for coffee?
Can I love on them? What needs do they have? When we're talking about our whole imagination is not just, we need to be child focused. Absolutely. But what if we just broaden our scope a little bit more and so we get to the front end of things and say, hey, we're going to be all in for adoption foster care, but we're also going to be all in to supporting single mothers, parent, their children. We're going to be all in as a church and wrap our arms around these women and say, hey, you can do this and we're going to, we're going to be with you every step of the way. What if we wrap our arms around families that have been separated and say, hey, your rights have been terminated, we're going to work hard on getting you stable and healthy so you can reunify with your children. One of the biggest blessings of my life was seeing one of our employees, her rights were terminated as a parent and she got to reunify with her kids and watching that happen changed the way I saw the whole system because I was rooting for her.
I was invested in her. I was in her corner praying for her and hoping and believing good things over her life because I knew deep down she wanted to be a good mom and that she could. And so I'm just wondering if some holy imagination and if we expand and broaden our reach to what that includes when it comes to adoption and orphan care, maybe we can make some dents in this issue and stop it on the front end, not just responding on the back end, if that makes sense.
Brittany, I love that concept of holy imagination and I think you're exactly right. Let's look for other things we can do back in the system that might be helpful. So again, let me thank you for being on the program today. Let me thank you for investing time and energy in the book and let me thank you for the two adopted children that you are now raising. And I know that this book is going to help anyone who has an interest in adopting children, especially those who may be thinking about adopting children of another culture or another race. So thanks again for being with us.
Thank you so much for having me. The title of our featured resource today is It Takes More Than Love, A Christian Guide to Navigating the Complexities of Cross-Cultural Adoption, written by Brittany Salmon. And you can find out more at moodybooks.org.
That's moodybooks.org. And next week, How to Heal the Racial Divide, One Friendship at a Time. Dr. Chapman's friend, Dr. Clarence Shuler, will join us. Well, a big thank you to our production team, Steve Wick and Janice Backing. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production on Moody Radio in Chicago, in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
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