Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Z. Anderson

Second Advisor

Dr. Joseph R. Morris

Third Advisor

Dr. Mark Orbe


Transracial adoption, emerging adulthood, Black adoptees, race and adoption, interracial adoption, Black and White adoption


The current study provides a rich description of experiences and understandings related to race for transracially adopted Black emerging adults who were raised in Michigan or Ohio by White parents. Current adoption policy requires that race not be considered as a factor in foster and adoptive placements, and there is no required multicultural, race-focused training for White adoptive parents of children of color. This study begins a new line of research looking closely at the stories of transracial adoptees of a specific age group, racial identity, and geographical location of upbringing. The intention is to gain a better understanding of the experiences and understandings related to race for transracial adoptees, the racial socialization that is given to adoptees by White parents, and the influence of childhood and adolescent conditions on the development of racial understandings and identity for adoptees.

This study is a hermeneutic phenomenology, focused on the stories of nine participants told through in-depth interviews and digital journal entries. A focus on maintaining participant voices throughout the project was paramount, and true to the hermeneutic phenomenological research method. The lens of the white racial frame was applied to results in order to give context to racialized experiences for transracial adoptees. Nine participants contributed their stories to this study through journal entries, in-depth interviews, and member checking interviews. Participants were between the ages of 18 and 28, identified as Black/African American or Biracial with Black parentage, were adopted and raised by White parents, and were raised in Michigan or Ohio. Seven themes emerged from the data: (a) Memories and Reflections: The Uniqueness of Growing up Transracially Adopted, (b) Race Mattered (Identity), (c)Between Two Worlds, (d) Growth in Black Identity, (e) Views of Family Related to Race, (f)The Political is Personal, and (g) This Is Me. Each theme is expanded upon by two to three subthemes.

The phenomenon of experiences and understandings of race for transracially adopted emerging adults reflects and expands previous research on transracial adoption, addressing common TRA topics like self-esteem, adjustment, and racial identity, and also adding information about group identity development and the relevance of racial politics for participants. Results of the current study provide personal narratives of adoptees that show the salience of race throughout childhood and into emerging adulthood. The richness of the description of participant experiences and understandings of race offer information that informs adoptive practice, training, and policy, as well as transracial adoptive parenting. Results also inspire implications for research and counseling psychology practice related to transracial adoption. This narrowly-focused study brings the voices of a specific group of Black transracially adopted emerging adults into the TRA research conversation, and shows the importance of participant-driven narratives. Moving forward, such narratives will ideally become influential guideposts in adoption policy and practice.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access