Minnesota Camp Bridges the Cultural Gap in Families of Mixed Races

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Umoja is the Swahili word for unity. It’s also the name of a Minnesota program for transracial adoptive families — parents who have adopted children of a different race.

Billing itself as a camp, Umoja MN is a weekend retreat program primarily aimed at white parents of black children, educators and others seeking to help families learn how to talk about race and their children’s experience as people of color.

Alexis Oberdorfer, executive director of adoption with Children’s Home and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, discussed the organization’s work offering transracial and transcultural education.

“I think culture and race can impact a child. And I think it’s one of multiple layers that needs to be considered in meeting a child’s needs and well-being,” Oberdorfer said.

She said that she thinks that cultural components should be addressed in every adoption because children move into new environments. Providing transracial and transcultural adoption education can get families thinking about their children’s experience in the home and community.

“We live in a racialized society, right?” Oberdorfer said. “And how can you, as a parent, be connected and be cognizant that your child might be having a different experience in the world than you have?”