Being a foster or adoptive parent to a child from a different culture or country requires a focus on the past as well as the future. The history of the child is important but so is the future within the new family. Caregivers must exhibit sensitivity toward the child and be willing to grow as parents. Some families are both multinational and multicultural, adding to the dynamics.
The new children try to fit in at home, school, and with friends. They often reject attempts to help them learn more about their culture. Caregivers want the children to embrace their culture but also do not want to shove it down their throat. A good way to approach the situation is to allow foster or adopted children to assume the lead role in learning their life story.
Children are usually only able to learn about their culture in small doses. The same question posed by children of different ages often means different things. It is very easy for an adult to misunderstand what a child wants to know and provide too much detail. Caregivers should ask the children what they want to know and use that as a guide.
Adoption of a child of another culture often requires the family to make changes. Books, music, and artwork within the home should reflect a multi-cultural perspective. These adjustments should be made before bringing the child home. When all cultures are embraced, children view each as equally important.
Foster care and adoption bring their own set of issues. There is no reason to complicate these with cultural challenges. At the same time, caregivers should realize that no matter what they do, they can’t prevent children from being subjected to prejudice. However, they can help create a sense of self-image and help the child feel stronger in the face of such treatment.