Interracial Adoption and Diverse Family Units – African American Studies
Adoption laws differ from state to state and even from country to country but one thing that remains is the benefits, happiness and joy it brings to families and children. The practice of adoption dates back at least
as far as the 18th century BC, but it wasn’t always a good experience as children were sold into black market. It wasn’t until Hammurabi, who took the corruption out of the process, wrote the first legal reference about adoption. After WWII, organizations attempted to place children within families of other ethnicities and designed programs such as “Operation Brown Baby”. During the civil rights movement, interracial adoption began to radically multiply. The family experience is more important than growing up in a same-race environment; orphaned children are better off received care and love from a family unit, regardless of skin color.
Throughout the decades, prejudice and racism has plagued this country by encompassing the minds of the each generation’s youth. Not until recently has people’s ideologies truly changed to begin accepting other cultures and the notion of interracial families. The Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act was instituted in 1994 which “prohibits an agency that receives Federal assistance and is involved in foster care and adoptive placements from delaying or denying the placement of a child based on race, color, or national origin of the child or adoptive foster parent or the child involved”(Wikipedia). In order to remove ambiguous language and any latent discrimination, this act was revised. The Interethnic Adoption Provisions, “forbid agencies from delaying or denying the placement of a child solely on the basis of race and national origin” (Wikipedia).
There are many pros and cons of adopting interracially, however this development provides more benefits than harm. Although it may be challenging for a child to learn their culture with a family who does not share the same background, many believe that these children are still able to grow up as healthy individuals. Same race adoption is falsely considered to make most sense, and to inflict the least disruption in a child’s life. However, by practicing only race-matching adoption, minority children are left in the system to wait; most never getting adopted. “Minority children made up 60% of those in foster care nationwide in 1994 and waited twice as long for permanent homes as did other foster children (www.gao.gov).” The longer children are in the foster care system, the less chance they have of leaving. When they age out of foster care, “27% of males and 10% of females were incarcerated within twelve to eighteen months. 50% of these children were unemployed and 37% had not finished high school”. (Adoption.com). The statistics show that it is crucial to provide these children with support and encouragement as they grow older and it would be a crime to deny them this merely because of skin their color.
Even if such issues such as culture and identity arise, the family can contribute to helping the child learn about it. Tips for raising a child of a different background include:
Become intensely invested in parenting; Tolerate no racially or ethnically biased remarks; Surround yourselves with supportive family and friends; Celebrate all cultures; Talk about race and culture; Expose your child to a variety of experiences so that he or she develops physical and intellectual skills that build self-esteem; and take your child to places where most of the people present are from his or her race or ethnic group (Adoption.com).
You should not allow your children to practice racially biased comments or others in your family network. By showing that it is unacceptable you are setting a boundary for your children. If you have a Hispanic child, take them to the Hispanic fair in your town. If you have a black child, buy her a black doll. Show that all cultures are unique, special, and should be celebrated and appreciated. Through discussion of other races and cultures, the child’s background will be rich in culture and diversity. Just by using some of these ideas, you can make having an interracial child a rewarding experience.
There are an abundance of horrifying stories in which children are neglected and abused in the foster care system and even in their own homes with their biological families. Two-year old Brianna Blackmond was shuffled back and forth between foster care and her neglectful biological mother. On December 22, 1999, the judge handling Brianna’s custody case ordered the District of Columbia Child and Family Services to return her to her mother’s home. There Brianna lived with her mother, her godmother, and twelve other children in a rat-infested, feces-stained home where the children went without food for days at a time. Two weeks later, Brianna died. Her godmother had beaten her with a belt and struck fatal blows to her head. (Swize)
Placing a child in a home based on the biological and or ethnic similarities just reflects a self serving interest. It reflects society’s agenda to control the fate of economically disadvantaged children. Brianna’s fate is shared with many others who have suffered as the result of a system that cares more about the color of their skin then their quality of life. Regardless of the ethnic similarities a child and parent have in common, this does not mean they are more capable of providing a nurturing environment than a person of a different ethnicity. How can anyone place cultural awareness over a child’s physical well being? The fact that Child and Family Services placed Brianna back into the custody of a parent who had a history of being unable to provide for her is a disgrace. The very agency that is supposed to ensure the safety of millions of children in the system issues death warrants every time they carelessly return or place a child into unsuitable conditions. The first time Brianna was removed from her biological mother’s home she was placed in a foster home with parents that were not black. The judge in her case openly stated that “the destruction of the black family (through trans-racial adoption) was driving her crazy”. This statement reflects the misguided focus and perception of those responsible for the placement of these children. It is obvious that they were anxious to take return her to an “unfit” mother for the sake of saving the “black family”.
Situations like Brianna’s reveal the contradictions in the debate over trans-racial adoption. Kids are discarded to be victims of the system. The reality is there are not enough black families to meet the staggering numbers of foster children who need parents. Why would one deny them access to a better life based on the color of their skin? The standard that determines a child’s fate should be based on the love and support a family is able to provide not the superficial image of what a family should look like.
People misconstrue the notion of interracial adoption as trying to obtain a color-blind society and erase the effects of past discrimination which society views as impossible. But this is truly not the case at all. The emotional and physical effects of growing up in the foster care system are far more traumatic than being raised in a trans-racial yet supportive family. Interracial adoption is not aiming at solving societal issues of prejudice but rather to benefit the quality of life of our children. This type environment encourages constructive exposure and identity to one’s race. Parents who have adopted children of another race may embrace their child’s culture and background by choosing to live in a more racially diverse neighborhood to ensure that their child is regularly exposed to families of the same race.
As with any life experience, obstacles will be encountered when adopting a child of a different background but there are ways that you may overcome these. With the amount of minority children in foster care, and the people who have the means of adopting, we should not place a limit. Statistics show that interracial adoption is becoming more common place and it is worse to leave these children in the foster care system rather than placing them in an adoptive home regardless of race. There are ways to integrate an interracial family together and to ensure that the child will not lose their racial identity. An attempt to incorporate a color-blind society in today’s world is not what interracial adoption is trying to accomplish. The only concern is for the welfare of the flood of children in the foster care system and not to solve deep rooted societal issues. It is imperative to keep an open mind on this topic in order to facilitate the excessive and unnecessary amounts of children in foster care. The importance lies with providing these children with stable, healthy homes so they will be given a fair opportunity to live a mindfully healthy and happy life.
1. “adoption.com.” Introduction to Transracial or Transcultural Adoption. 1995. 13 Oct 2006
2. “Answers.com.” Interracial Adoption. 2006. 13 Oct 2006
3. Horne, Charles. “The Code of Hammurabi.” Ancient History Source Book 1910 12, October 2006
4. “Implementation of the Multiethnic Placement Act Poses Difficult Challenges.” United States General Accounting Office GAO/HEHS-98-20409/2006 16, October 2006
5. “Interracial Adoption.” Wikipedia. 2006. 11 Oct 2006
6. Swize, Jennifer. “Transracial Adoption and the Unblinkable Difference:.” Virginia Law Review (2002): 1079 – 1118.
7. “The Adoption History Project.” African-American Adoptions. 2005. 16 Oct 2006