Peter Likins is President Emeritus of the University of Arizona and the author of “A New American Family"   

Adoptive families are showing us the way to be multicultural Americans.  When you adopt a child of a different race, that child’s race quickly becomes irrelevant.

As the father of six adopted children –black, brown and white – I can testify from my heart’s experience: The race of your child has nothing to do with your love for that child.

            A family like ours is bound together by stories, not by racial heritage. We have shared both laughter and tears, but always our stories have strengthened the family bonds, through good times and bad. Though sorely tested, as parents Pat and I never gave up on our kids. Equally important, our kids never gave up on their parents, however we may have stretched their patience. When all of your children are teenagers simultaneously, as ours were, challenges multiply.

            Viewed from the other side, it’s not easy to be teenager either, and adoption creates new anxieties in any adolescent. Concerns about self are powerful in those years of budding adulthood, and if a youngster is not only adopted by also gay, or perhaps of a racial heritage, those concerns can be compounded.

            In the Likins family all of these complexities were present, just as they are within in our society at large. Perhaps in their abundance, they helped us all to see ourselves as “normal” and even typical of the American population as it is now emerging.

            On National Adoption Day, let us pause to reflect. We can preserve the proud legacy of the past and continue to be a great nation whose strengths are rooted in family values, but only if we develop a more inclusive appreciation of the precious word “family.”

            Adoption, and specifically interracial adoption, teaches us how to love this “new American family.”


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Pete and his wife Pat, married for over fifty-five years, raised an interracial family, including six adopted children.  They continue to make their home in Tucson, AZ.

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