Like a lot of people, Tiffany and Darin Freeman moved here for the school district. Though they previously lived on the South Side, their children went to Beverly Heights Preschool, and that was enough to convince them to relocate to Mt. Lebanon. But the move to our predominantly white suburb didn’t come without some anxiety, because their children are not white. They adopted Nolan, 5, from Uganda in 2015 and Sienna, 3, from India the following year.
“I try to expect the best,” Tiffany says. “I think that anyone, regardless of color, is going to run into people who are not nice and will judge them. I try not to look at it through that lens. I try not to make my kids paranoid or give them this preconception that they’re going to be judged. When and if it happens, we’ll deal with it.”
Thankfully, Tiffany says their children have largely been accepted with open arms here in Mt. Lebanon. “We love it,” she says. “So far, it’s been great. Nolan has been in preschool for two years, and Sienna four months. It’s been neat, although there definitely have been kids that have asked silly questions.”
For instance, Nolan was once washing his hands in school, and a classmate wondered why the water wasn’t turning brown as it washed off his skin color. Both children have been asked if they’re sun burned.
Neither the children nor their parents mind the inquiries. “It’s cool. We’re happy when people ask why don’t they look the same.” Tiffany says. “We consider it an opportunity to not only model for our children how to respond to such questions but also to bring to light that adoption is a blessing and something to celebrate, not something to be ashamed of or that is taboo.”
Tiffany says she’s always encouraged when a spotlight gets turned onto Mt. Lebanon’s minority population and was excited when she saw this column would spend at least the next year telling stories of local diversity. She and Darin, who live in Mission Hills, belong to LifeStone Church on the South Side, where Tiffany is a pastor. Both have served as missionaries, traveling to Africa and India regularly, and they plan more trips abroad with the family. They want to keep their children connected to their heritage.
The adoptions went smoothly for the Freemans. “Sometimes people hear horror stories, but we’ve had nothing but positive experiences with our children,” Tiffany says. “I think those who have the ability to provide a home for a child who would never have those opportunities should do so if they can and if it’s something they genuinely want to do.”
She would love to see Mt. Lebanon’s minority population grow even larger. “We get excited when we drive down the street and someone who is Asian or African American,” she says. I was excited to look up and see that Washington [in their neighborhood] is the elementary school with the greatest percentage of minorities. It’s like two percent, but that’s okay! Maybe we’ll make it three percent.”
The Mt. Lebanon Community Relations Board is an advisory board to the municipal Commission that serves as a resource for anyone who has experienced discrimination or whose civil rights may have been violated. Residents are invited to observe or to speak at the board’s monthly meeting at 6 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month in the municipal building. Or residents may speak confidentially with a board member, who can offer advice or help arrange a mediation. To be put in touch with a board member, email staff liaison, email@example.com.
Caption: Tiffany and Darin Freeman adopted Nolan, right, 5, from Uganda and Sienna, 3, from India. They welcome questions about their unique family, as it gives them a chance to show people that adoption is something to celebrate. They say the children have largely been accepted here with open arms.