Book Review: Inside Transracial Adoption

Can a mother duck raise a swan to swim like a swan? By educating herself about swans, telling her child about swans? Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall would suggest that she cannot. What she can do very well, however, is teach the young swan all the important things about how to be a bird. She can love him, and she can be his real mother. But to have him be comfortable as a swan, ultimately she will have to let him spend time with and learn from swans.

Steinberg and Hall are the authors of Inside Transracial Adoption(c.2000,Perspectives Press). Steinberg has four grown children who are Korean/American Indian, African-American, biracial and white. Hall is raising a daughter who is Latina and a son who is African-American. Hall and Steinberg are both white. They are cofounders of Pact, An Adoption Alliance , which both links U.S.-born children of color to adoptive homes and provides training workshops, literature and mentoring programs for adoptive families.

Inside Transracial Adoption (click here to purchase) is a thorough book on many aspects of developmental stages, of developing racial identity, developing family identity, family dynamics, acknowledging differences, adoptive families’ relationships with communities of color, brief presentation of information specific to various cultures and religions, and an annotated reading list on these topics. The book is, on one hand, very “meaty”. Although written in easy-to-read language, it is packed with information and contains many ideas which may be new or challenging. On the other hand, every chapter contains many personal experience stories which are fascinating reading. They are from adoptive parents, adopted children of color, their white siblings, adopted adults, and birthparents.

The book includes sections on families with both birth and adopted children, on single-parent adoptive families, foster families, and transracially adopted children becoming adults and parents.

The topics covered are diverse, but Steinberg and Hall’s basic philosophy is that transracial adoption can work beautifully, as their own families show, and that children need solid connections with both their family and with adults and peers of their ethnicity. The book concludes with “A Transracially-Adopted Child’s Bill of Rights” (written by the author’s daughter) and “A Transracial Adoptive Parent’s Wish List”.

I found this book well worth reading. It affirmed some things I’m doing, challenged me to stretch myself a bit more, and hopefully prepared me a little better for what lies ahead as my children grow.

To read more about transracial adoption, visit the Adoption Blog here at and click on “Transracial Adoption”.

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About Pam Connell

Pam Connell is a mother of three by both birth and adoption. She has worked in education, child care, social services, ministry and journalism. She resides near Seattle with her husband Charles and their three children. Pam is currently primarily a Stay-at-Home-Mom to Patrick, age 8, who was born to her; Meg, age 6, and Regina, age 3, who are biological half-sisters adopted from Korea. She also teaches preschoolers twice a week and does some writing. Her activities include volunteer work at school, church, Cub Scouts and a local Birth to Three Early Intervention Program. Her hobbies include reading, writing, travel, camping, walking in the woods, swimming and scrapbooking. Pam is a graduate of Seattle University and Gonzaga University. Her fields of study included journalism, religious education/pastoral ministry, political science and management. She served as a writer and editor of the college weekly newspaper and has been Program Coordinator of a Family Resource Center and Family Literacy Program, Volunteer Coordinator at a church, Religion Teacher, Preschool Teacher, Youth Ministry Coordinator, Camp Counselor and Nanny. Pam is an avid reader and continuing student in the areas of education, child development, adoption and public policy. She is eager to share her experiences as a mother by birth and by international adoption, as a mother of three kids of different learning styles and personalities, as a mother of kids of different races, and most of all as a mom of three wonderful kids!