The Case for Transracial Adoption

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(This is summarized from a book review by Thornwald Ebenson that appeared in the June July, 1994 issue of Interrace magazine and also in the Oct./ Dec. 1995 The Children's Voice.)

Adopting children costs money. In 1990 a U.S. agency published these "placement fees" (not including maternity service fees): white infant, $7,500; biracial baby, $3,800; black baby, $2,200. Apparently, supply and demand accounts for these differences. Four factors seem to be at work here and, in turn, are affecting the rates of transracial and intercountry adoptions in this country. These factors are: a declining birthrate; a steady rate of infertility; the availability of abortions; and a changed social attitude toward unwed mothers who choose to parent their children.

Reviewer's question: To what extent are infants being classified as black, according to the one-drop rule? Originally thought up by a white society determined to preserve its "racial purity," this rule stipulates that if you have even one drop of "black blood" in your veins, then you are black. Ironically, this racist concept has been embraced by African American groups that want to enlarge their political base.

Intercountry adoptions can cost too, some as much as those of the U.S. born white infants. In November 1991, Time magazine estimates that costs for intercountry ranged from $5,000 to $20,000.

Adoption agencies are tremendously powerful because of the difference paid by the courts to the presumed expertise of these agencies. Moreover, many of their practices have low visibility and are therefore, difficult to drag into the light of day. "For example," say the authors, in one of the states that prohibits the denial of adoption on the basis of race, there is anecdotal evidence that agency social workers have refused to take applications from white couples seeking to adopt black or mixed-race children-a dear violation of the law.

In most states, adoption laws permit a greater emphasis on race than would normally be permissible under our Constitution. Only three states - Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin - flatly prohibit consideration of race in adoption.

Although the courts condemn the use of race as "the sole reason" to make or change an adoption placement, they are very willing to allow "race" to be considered in adoptions.

The authors devote an entire chapter to arguments used by opponents of transracial adoption. Among the negative allegations are these:

(a) even with the best of intentions, white families cannot teach black children to cope successfully with a white racist society;

(b) black children raised by white families will grow up to be "oreos" - black on the outside but white on the inside;

(c) transracial adoptions are a plot by whites to steal black children;

(d) transracial adoption is a form of genocide for blacks and other racial groups.

The authors then turn to the task of responding to these assertions. They point out that no scientific studies support the dire warnings of the critics. Without exception, the research data paint a very different kind of picture. The inescapable conclusion, say the authors, is that transracial adoption can serve a child's best interests. "Transracial adoptees do not lose their racial identities-they do not display negative or indifferent racial attitudes about themselves, and their families have as high a success rate as all other adoptees and their families.

Furthermore, the authors remind us, "when given the opportunity to express their views on transracial adoption," most people - black and. white - support it. For example, in January 1991, CBS This Morning reported the results of a poll it conducted that asked 975 adults the question, "Should race be a factor in adoption?" Seventy percent of white American said no, and 71 percent of African Americans said no.

The authors end their book with a summary of the Simon-Altstein 20-year study of transracial adoption. They conclude their account with this plea: "Move the thousands of children who are available for adoption out of the institutions and out of their temporary foster placements and into permanent homes! Apply the standard 'best interest of the child' as the first and foremost criterion in child placement! Make the move without regard to race!"

Credits: Rita Simon, Howard Altstein & Marygold Melli

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