tony hynes on interracial adoption & conflict in adoption

“Don’t Split the Baby!” Race, Sexual Orientation & Conflict in Adoption

Conflict in adoption serves no one. Not the adoptive parents, not the first parents, and certainly not the adoptee. Adoption can pit people against each other, create winners and losers, and present impossible-to-span rifts.

Who suffers most? The adoptee is the rope in any deliberate or accidental tug of war.

Tony Hynes, an interracial adoptee, was at the center of a case that reached the US Supreme Court in the 1990s. While his case was knocked down to a lower court, Tony Hynes’ adoption ended up in a rare arrangement – joint custody between his Black birth grandmother and his two white adoptive moms.

I felt uncomfortability around the idea of me
and who I belong to most,
who I could be most loyal to.

Tony Hynes in Ep 307 of Adoption: The Long View

Lots of intersectionality here, including race, sexual orientation, mental health, and an at-the-time 7 year old boy who loved all his people with his whole being. Tony was forced to choose either his biology or his biography, thereby turning some of his beloveds into “losers.”

Can you imagine the feeling of being the rope in a tug of war? Of being the wishbone at a Thanksgiving dinner? No matter how things turn out, you end up pulled and torn in two.

Tony Hynes as a wishbone with conflict in adoption

It was a lot for Tony.

Tony is now an educator at the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.), as well as a doctoral student. In Episode 307 of Adoption: The Long View, hearTony’s story and how it felt when the people he loved and who loved him, along with the system, ended up “splitting the baby “ – in the parlance of the King Solomon story.

Neither family was comfortable
interacting with the other.
That left me in a space where I have to be
comfortable interacting with both of you,
but I don’t get to share my families.

Tony Hynes in Ep 307 of Adoption: The Long View

Post Script from Tony Hynes

After our interview, Tony reached out with more he’d like to say to parents in interracial adoption:

It’s critical for interracial adoptive parents to explore their own cultural identities. When parents embrace and learn about their own cultural histories, they lessen the likelihood of their child feeling Othered as the only individual who is expected to learn and embrace their cultural/racial identities in the household.

When parents do that work it reminds their kids that it is OK for them to embrace the cultural histories tied to their parents’ identities. Doing so may increase a sense of belonging in their families and support them in any racial identity struggles they encounter as they begin to accept all of what their family culture represents.

Tony Hynes Educates to Reduce Conflict in Adoption

Tony Hynes was adopted by his parents, Mary and Janet, in the mid-1990s. He writes about his experiences growing up as both an interracial adoptee and in an LGBTQ-headed household in his memoir The Son With Two Moms, a text that has been cited in the family court system to highlight best practices.

Tony is an advocate for families like his, having served on the Board of Directors for organizations that highlight adoptive families from diverse upbringings. He has been invited to speak at conferences on adoption and foster care throughout the nation, and has a passion for speaking up for children and families touched by challenges in the adoption and foster care system.

It would have been really great
to be told “We love them
because they are also our family now.
We are all family to each other.”

Then I wouldn’t have to exist
in a space in between.

Tony Hynes in Ep 307 of Adoption: The Long View

Tony completed his masters thesis in Sociology on the psychology of children within same-sex-headed households, and is now completing his Ph.D. studies in Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. His dissertation focuses on social connectedness among adult, interracial adoptees.

As the Training Specialist at the Center for Adoption Support and Education, Tony Hynes has designed innovative training curricula that help families and professionals respond to evaluation and assessment tools that encapsulate holistic pictures of adoptees and foster youth.

Tony Hynes on interrracial adoption and conflict in adoption

Prefer to read? Here’s a transcript (but listening is so much better!).

Listen in to hear:

  • Why Tony prefers the term “interracial” to “transracial.”
  • What Tony wishes his birth family and adoptive family had done differently to not “split the baby.”
  • What did and didn’t matter to young Tony regarding race and sexual orientation and adoption.
  • The unforeseen challenges of living under Legal Guardianship
  • What Tony wishes adoption policy-makers and the legal system knew
  • The most important thing you need to know in your journey as an adoptive parent taking the long view.

The best scenario is when the adoptee
can interact with both birth family
and adoptive family and not feel
like either is minimized.

Tony Hynes in Ep 307 of Adoption: The Long View

Show Notes: More on Reducing Conflict in Adoption

How to Tune In Regularly

adoption the long view

You can find us on any podcast platform and on Adopting.com.

A new episode comes out the first Friday of the month. Thank you for sharing, subscribing, and rating this episode!

guide to living in open adoption

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a young adult daughter, writes from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

2 thoughts on ““Don’t Split the Baby!” Race, Sexual Orientation & Conflict in Adoption”

  1. I finally got around to listening to this episode it was superb in fact it was so moved by the content that I immediately sat out to listen to it a second time. There’s so much to parse in this episode thank you so much for being Tonys wisdom to the awareness of your listeners

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