The Truth About Single Black Women and Adoption.

Nefertiti Austin is an author and single adoptive mother.

I am not the first or only single non-famous Black woman to adopt in America, and yet it seems that way.

In 2006, I had no clue how hard it would be to wrestle against cultural norms by adopting a baby. Nor did I have guidance on how to handle reactions from Black men who questioned my motives for wanting to mother a boy. I adopted for a multitude of reasons, the least of which included waging a one-woman campaign to inform other Black women about adopting. But, here I am, six years later, responding to emails and returning phone calls from women I do not know. They heard that I adopted and wanted to know who, what, when, where and how much it cost.

Though emotionally prepared to solo parent, I did not foresee coming up short when seeking information about single woman of color that adopt. After all, the Black Venus did it in the 1940s and 1950s. With her self-described “Rainbow Tribe”, Josephine Baker adopted 12 children and Actress Robin Givens adopted her oldest son in the 1990s. My angst about not finding adoptive mothers who look like me seems silly now, given the heavy promotion of OWN’s Raising Whitley, comedienne/actress Kym Whitley’s reality series about her unplanned adoption of a baby boy. And Google results for producer/director/writer extraordinaire Shonda Rhimes, who lovingly adopted two girls, are just clicks away. How I wish their stories were around when the desire to adopt crawled into my shadow.

thenandnow
Single black adoption, then and now. Left: Josephine Baker and her “rainbow tribe.” Right: Kym Whitley, her son, and the cast of her reality show, Raising Whitley

But in the old days, like 2006, the myth of the Black adoption, where relatives come to stay and never leave, prevailed. Sort of like a Black divorce, a Black adoption skips the legal portion of the process. Parts two and three of said myth are that we adopt nieces, nephews, cousins or long-term foster youth in our care. We do not adopt outside our family. Newsflash to Black people: we do adopt kids we do not know. And when we do, there are few, if any, cameras to witness these random acts of humanity.

Even though I did not see myself in adoption testimonials, memoirs, books or on the cover of People magazine, I didn’t stop looking. I even went to the end of the Internet and read articles about how-to adopt, artificial insemination, egg transplantation and sperm donors targeted at and written for affluent couples, gay and lesbian couples, women with fertility issues, time-clock issues, professional conflicts and single white female starlets.

I fit into none of these boxes and finally drew my own map to adoption.

Under the best circumstances, adoption is as joyous as it is stressful. There are incompetent social workers, less than enthused family members, financial fears and negative articles like “Single Black women choosing to adopt” by John Clark, which allege that single Black women adopt as a substitute for a man. Really. With press like that, no wonder single women of color send up prayers for the motherless, get another degree, buy a home, take extravagant vacations but do not adopt for fear of proving “them” right.

Meanwhile Black children, boys in particular, languish in the system until Academy Award winners Sandra Bullock and Charlize Theron ride in to save the day. While their adoption chronicles receive lots of airtime and gigabytes, “…our journey in motherhood and middle-class angst and bliss [is not] told in cutesy books or on network sitcoms about modern family. The white experience (motherhood or otherwise) is viewed as universal,” writes Kimberly Seals Allers in her New York Times Blog, “Hollywood to Black Mothers: Stay Home”. The absence of our adoption stories remains palpable and does the 510,000 children in foster care a disservice. It also perpetuates negative suppositions that the Black family is a relic of the past, incapable of healing itself from within.

While parenting challenges – potty training, homework, finding affordable daycare – are universal, adoption for single women of color is not. We must overcome our own fears and steady the people around us who call us (to our faces) crazy for adopting a “crack” baby. We must stand our ground with the men in our village who are opposed to our adoption of a man-child, and then not lose sight of our goal of motherhood via adoption. At least that was my experience.

I could be wrong but I doubt that white women, especially celebrities, feel pressured to carry a list of explanations as to why they want to adopt in their purses. As open as this community is to the practice of adoption, the revelation of my son’s domestic adoption casts me as simultaneous outlier and brethren among my Caucasian brothers and sisters. Newsflash to white people: Black people do adopt, but when we do, there are few, if any, cameras to witness these random acts of humanity.

Maybe the core issue isn’t race but class. Whatever it is, single motherhood, not white motherhood or black motherhood, via adoption is a choice made with much soul-searching and deserves recognition in all communities.

For funnsies, I randomly check the shelves at the library and do online reconnaissance for books about Black women who adopt. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and find a feature in Essence magazine or advertisement in Jet or a parenting blog. Admittedly a smidgen better than the pickings in 2006, this black hole in the parenting sphere reaffirms the obvious: if I want to read about single women of color who experience motherhood through adoption, I’ll have to write a book about it.

Nefertiti Austin is the proud single adoptive mother of a delightful six-year old boy, with plans to adopt another man-child later this year. She is also a published author, currently writing a memoir about adopting as a single woman of color. In February, she began training prospective adoptive parents for the County of Los Angeles and keeps the lights on as an adjunct history instructor at a couple of community colleges in Los Angeles.
Nefertiti infrequently blogs at www.mommiejonesing.com.
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14 thoughts on “The Truth About Single Black Women and Adoption.

  1. Thank you for writing this. Funny how I found this article by googling for single black woman adoptions. I’m a single woman in the medical field so I put off family ideas while going through school. I have thought about adoption the past few years as a single parent and am now taking the steps towards getting started. The agency I’m working with was glad to hear I was an AA woman looking for an AA child because so many of our children are cast aside for the perfect Caucasian little girl (where the wait can be over two years compared to an avg of 15 months for my choice). I was raised by a single mother so I know there will be ups and downs, but I’m ready for this next step in life. I do not need a man in my life to be a mother and to give a child a loving and supportive home.

  2. I’m so pleased to read your blog post. I’m a single black woman who is in the process of adopting. I have scoured the internet, the library and the shelves of brick and mortar book stores looking for accounts of black women who have adopted. I have searched Amazon.com for a children’s book which focuses on adoption by a single black woman.

    If you are seriously considering authoring a book, I would love to chat with you. I’ve been kicking that very idea around myself. Actually, I’m thinking of two books; one that explores the legalities as well as the marketing/advertising aspect of adoption; and a children’s book.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

  3. I too am a single adoptive parent of two sons and the foster parent of another boy. I am so glad I found your blog.

  4. While using Google to search ‘Single Black Adoptive Moms’ I came across your Blog. Thank you for posting this article . I am single (adoptive) mom and in process of adopting a second child. International adoption is also an option available option. I would encourage single women to consider this route when children in your preference are NOT available for adoption in the US, or when foster parenting is the only option to adopt under school aged children.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article. As I prepare to welcome my 1-year old son home as a single adoptive parent and first time mom at age 49 it was so nice to discover support and encouragement for single adoptive parents of color. Maybe we can form an online discussion group? I created a group on social networking site several weeks ago but so far I’m the lone member LOL. Well, thank you again for a terrific article.

    1. Hello LisaBLisa

      I am in a very similar situation, I’m in the process of welcoming an 1 year old into my home and i’m 46 single woman of color. I’ve also discovered that it is equally hard to find articles for new moms of color over 40. Where is you discussion group located?

  6. My husband and I are in the process of adoption and we are African Americans seeking an African American boy. We were surprised that our agency allows couples to express all kinds of preferences in terms of transracial options, drug use of the parents, etc. but will not allow us to choose gender. We believe this is a sign that adoption agencies, mostly lead by white female social workers, have not educated themselves in black history and black family culture. We feel there is some advocacy work that needs to be done here.

  7. I am beginning my journey to adopt and would love to connect with other African American single adoptive parents. There are so many kids who need loving homes and this article was very encouraging. Please let me know if anyone finds an online discussion group.

  8. I would also like to meet a network of single black women who are adopting…i run into some challenges that i would love to hear from others that have been through the same…most of the support groups that i have found are mostly white couples and their journey is a bit different then mine.

  9. Thank you, Thank you… finally i am reading about someone else who is or was in my shoes…as a single adopting woman of color (waiting to be matched with a BM) trying to find news, articles or information on my journey or even a support group of women i can relate to is nearly impossible…i also feel that if i need to see more about other women like myself i have to write about it myself. i look forward to reading more on your blog and your experiences with adopting as a single woman of color.

  10. I am so happy to ready these comments by me being a young black mother who is looking for adoption woman or parents for my unborn baby girl. I jus can’t afford another child because I’m already a single parent and it’s so hard for me…if u are interest u many contact me.

  11. I adopted in 2002 as a single mother. I found a private group through the national organization “Single Mothers by Choice”, but no one else in my group was a woman of color, but they supported me through the whole process and to this day. That group gave me the courage to pursue my dream. The adoption process I went through was private and extremely fast. The home study was barely finished and I was contacted by a birth mother. It has been a very lonely journey as far as finding other women of color to connect with around this issue. I am so glad that I fought the stereotypes and pressure that tell you as a middle class woman you are shameful if you have a child when you are not married. Why isn’t giving our children homes more important than social status? Why is it okay to get pregnant by accident but not okay to make a conscious choice to adopt a child? This needs to change. We have to value our children more.

    1. Hi,

      Thanks so much for your post. I would like to adopt as well and live in NJ. I just read about single mother’s by choice and was considering joining. I will join!
      Curious, which agency did you adopt your child from?

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