Should race be emphasized in trans-racial adoption?

Posted by Ria, 05 Jun 08

shannon.jpg Shannon Gibney once adopted by white parents said she longed for information she could not get from books

“Minority children in foster care are being ill-served by a federal law that plays down race and culture in adoptions᾿

According to a report released recently, white parents need preparation and training for special challenges that children adopted into white households face. However, this may not come easy because social workers fear litigation and rigid penalties under the law for even discussing race with adopting couples. This means, families adopting children from other races don’t get the counseling they need.

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The report says that trans-racial adoption itself does not produce psychological or other social problems in children. However, these children usually face major challenges of being the only person of color in an all-white environment, coping with being different. The report recommends that the Multiethnic Placement Act - which covers agencies receiving federal dollars and promotes a color-blind approach - be modified to allow agencies to consider race and culture as one of many factors when selecting parents for children from foster care. The Congress passed the Multiethnic Placement Act in 1994 after several white couples complained about having not been provided the opportunity to adopt minority children. The law prohibits delaying or denying a child’s foster care or adoptive placement on the basis of race or nationality.

“The idea of being color-blind is great, and we’d all like to get there,᾿ said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Adoption Institute. “But the reality is that we live in a very race-conscious society, and that needs to be addressed. We can’t simply pretend that the problem doesn’t exist and leave it up to the child to cope.᾿

Most trans-racial adoptees admit to have struggled to fit in with the families. Much as Shannon Gibney, 33, describes herself as biracial, says being provided books by black authors by the white couple that adopted her wasn’t enough … it was no substitute for actual experience. “When I had questions about even little things like how to wear my hair, there was no one around to help me with my questions.᾿

When she was informed of the study, she was glad that the study acknowledged “the fact that you just can’t say we’re all human or love will be enough.᾿

However Christine M. Calpin, associate commissioner at the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services, said she has seen what happens when race is put into consideration in adoption cases … children wait longer in foster care.

Clearly, the current law has led to an increase in trans-racial adoptions. But does it reflect the fact that race is still an issue? What is in the best interest of the child? Should the law allow for the inclusion of race discussions and counseling before a child is adopted?

19 responses to "Should race be emphasized in trans-racial adoption?"

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  1.   honeybee324 says:
    Posted: 27 Dec 08

    Very interesting thread and comments here. My major concern with adoption across ethnic and racial lines have to do with how and what these children are taught about their cultures. I worked with a French woman in NYC who adopted a Korean baby. She insisted that her baby would grow up knowing her "mother's heritage", learning her "mother's" culture and language. While I have no problem with my coworker teaching her daughter French culture and language, I find it problematic that she would not also include cultural immersion in her daughter's Korean background. This bothered me, as it did the Korean American coworker she shared this with. While most people would like to think that race and racism doesn't exist, the truth of the matter is, especially in the US, paradigms of racism and oppression still exist. This Korean child growing up with her French parents will come across a mirror one day and be very aware that she does not look like her parents, does not look like other children who have parents that resemble hers, and may not be surrounded by other children that look like her. How will she be able to reconcile that with her French/American sensibilities? How will she be able to deal with being recognized by Korean people who will assume that she speaks Korean or knows Korean culture? My own friends in mixed relationships are confronted with questions from their children as to why they look more like one parent over the other (the white parent) and on some occasions, experience a rejection of one parent's ethnicity in favor of the other, based on what they perceive are certain privileges (which have truth and merit). From my experience with colleagues, overseas adoption, despite how expensive it can be with airfare, village "dowries" and whatnot, find it less intrusive than adopting American children. The experience of adopting American children has been compared to buying house, having to lay out one's entire history and background only to risk being rejected. I don't believe that people should be barred from adopting children of other ethnicities, but I do feel that certain requirements to ensure cultural literacy be in place.

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  2.   Jade74 says:
    Posted: 20 Jul 08

    Good comments Jib, Maj & Vt...Its really sad when you see children here in the USA in the system and its all about money.Many family members take in children as their own or family friends children and "adopt" them formally or non-formally. Will be back with more later.....

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  3.   JIB says:
    Posted: 20 Jul 08

    I was always taught that "charity began at home." Having said that, it hurts me that a child of ANY nation, color, creed, or of any kind suffers because their parents can't or won' take care of them. Some people are afraid to adopt "from the system" because of the perception that these kids are "damaged." This is regardless of color but the truth is that there are a disproportionate number of minority kids taken in by the state (and that's a completely different argument) so they are disproportionately affected. All of my kids are damaged in some way. One is chronically ill, one is developmentally delayed and has 47 "labels" of one kind or another. My twins are "crack babies." The only one that is "normal" was in the same room when his "dad" supposedly murdered his older brother (and was never prosecuted for it). These kids needed someone and that's the simple truth. I only pray that I can be the type of father they deserve and even now they are part of a "broken home." Until we start to take care of our kids as a society (and that DOESN'T mean GOVERNMENT) we will never be able to address some of our most pressing issues because broken kids too often grow up to be broken adults. Ken

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  4.   vt33 says:
    Posted: 20 Jul 08

    "quibbling that US Orphans should be adopted over african ones"? Wow, so in other words US Orphans aren't worth the time to be adopted (THERES THAT FAVORITE WORD YOU LIKE TO USE AND THE DEFINITION OF AN AMERICAN CHILD THAT YOU ARE BASICALLY SAYING REJECTION -ANY IMPERFECT ARTICLE; A SECOND)? Americans should adopt children from other countries, when there are children here who suffer and have nothing? Americans are rich, beyond compare, yet, we have families, with no healthcare, people who can't afford to feed their families, families who live in homeless shelters for months, years sometimes, because they can't afford to pay rent?(SECTION 8 SCROLLS, TAX BILL FOR ALL AMERICANS WHO WORK AND PAY A BOAT LOAD OF TAXES FOR SOCIAL PROGRAMS SUCH AS HEALTHCARE FOR THE POOR, US DEPT OF AGRICULTURE(FOODSTAMPPROGRAM)(oh this is not me this is documented on hard copy, called US life) Yet I am quibbling, because I rather have my country America, stand up and acknowledge the suffering of a child here on this soil invest in that child and create a productive citizen, elimante the chances of this child ending up, in the every so rich and popular prison system(guess Discovery Channel didn't tell you that our prison systm is big business,now watch NATGEO and A&E Channel they show several prison in the US and what happans when kids end up staying in Foster Care) ending up a permanent resident in a instiution, or worse, a young life ended. It is truly sad, how people who live oustide of America judge us. Pitiful that, Media, tells them this that and the other and they believe it. Wow! When in the real world, 85% of those countries, their leaders i.e government has raped, robbed, and stole from the people there. (EVERY NEWSPAPER ARTICLE, NOT ME). Oh and not to mention, your ever precious Canada, yet um, the british rule that once had control and maybe still has a little control, is responsible, for the dispair in a lot of those countries(HISTORY, NOT ME). I'm gonna leave this alone now, and do some serious prayer for our world, and the minds that live in it. I'm gonna wonder for the life of me, how people still devalue, afro american children, and skip over them and go to other countries to pick up other children and valadaite it, in text no doubt. Pity!

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  5.   thick_lover says:
    Posted: 20 Jul 08

    Far be it from me to use studies rather than your anecdotes, vt33. I'm not here to convince you. I merely point out that compared to most African countries, the US is rich. You can debate that there is poverty, but please, scraping by to rent a DVD? Half the world has never made a telephone call in their lives (Discovery Channel, not me). The poverty level is relative to the country it's in -- it's not uniform. I'm going to pass by all the other stuff you wrote which would normally rile me. Your criticism was this: why did Pitt & Madonna adopt children from African when there are children from US waiting...and it seems to imply that you are hinting that racism is at play. Given that both sets of children are black...maybe the real problem is not racism, but you personalizing the plight of the US orphan? I feel sorry for all orphans, but come on, you're quibbling that US orphans should be adopted over African ones?

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  6.   vt33 says:
    Posted: 19 Jul 08

    I'm not totally clear on the school system in your neck of the woods. Yet definition of fear is anticipation of misfortune or pain. the state of being afraid. 2. Somthing dreaded 3. anxiety. Rejection-throw away as useless;disregard 2. refuse to accept; decline.3. ANY IMPERFECT ARTICLE A SECOND. Sounds like both words are similar in each respect. Yet you point out rejection, "ANY IMPERFECT ARTICLE; A SECOND", I wonder how you choose the word rejection. (hint) If you are going to disagree, find the right words for disagreement. Next you are Canadian, you don't even have a clue as to how bad the foster care system is in the US Urban Areas, next there are a lot of people white, and black who want to take on these children, yet I state the point again, they must work to make ends meet. The state will not continue to support the health care portion or at least a percentage of these fees for these children once the adoption is finalized. Maybe in Canada, they give your people healthcare at a fair price, it is not cheap in the US. Senegal, now you're reaching, I like the idea of how you dont' acknowledge that there are more poor people in the US than other countries in the world. We do have people who live below the poverty level. Next time you come thru New York , check City Harvest, see how many people.... working people, who go to food pantries and kitchens to eat. Next time you come into the US see how many children are going into stores stealing food, because they don't get enough to eat at home. Tell me Thick whens the last time you came to the US and saw a child stealing food? I see it quite a bit, I have went up to them after they stole it, took them to the register and paid for it, and told them next time if you hungry, just ask, you'll be surprised who will buy you somthing to eat. What Thick, you think white, and black america isn't clued into the wrongs in the system, we are. So you don't confuse it, I have seen whites, and spanish people show the same jesture as I have done many times. America is rich, think you need to check the welfare scrolls, and see what rich is in the USA check and see who is living below the poverty level it might schock the hell out of you. My point is, these Stars made their money off the backs of poor people, poor people, who try to make their kids happy by taking them to see a Brad Pitt movie, or buy the dvd or rent the DVD. Parents, who's kids have so little but, scrape together a little more money from the food budget to by, a Madonna CD, isn't ironic.... don't you think. I'm gonna leave it at this before you start pulling out, studies, and notes. The reality still remains, people fear rejection..lol again those two words you try to seperate when both are very similar. Keep in mind Thick your opinion sounds like more a acceptance of another culture that is within the same race, yet again it seems insiders as well as outsiders DEVALUE , black americans, and thats what you just did. Patheic actually, but you just showed the clear meaning of racism, how dare you use JIB name in the text, he's one of the few who isn't afraid to take a black american child and raise as his own, he is one of the few who hasn't reached beyond our boards to take a child in need, when there are children in need in his own backyard that need support and hope. For the record, that was an attempt to slam Majestic and myself, you just not....well...! I pray for the world people, because we got a lot of work to do in it. sheeesh

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  7.   thick_lover says:
    Posted: 19 Jul 08

    Hmm...I have a problem with Maj's & VT33's posts. Maj says "if there are soo many kids here in the U.S. that need homes.. why do so many affluent ppl go overseas to adopt?" VT33 says "fear" and goes to say it's why non-affluent (aka poor & middleclass) white folks do not adopt black people. That maybe one reason, but it is way too simple, in my view. first, the affluent - sometimes less strings attached in African countries (sometimes more, Senegal, for example, insists that you be a citizen) - contrary to Maj & VT33's assertions although all children are deserving, it can be debated whether children from Africa are worse off than children from the US -- unlike the US, there are few rich African countries, and thus, much less opportunity. Do American orphans share pencils in school? In Senegal they do. The two countries are NOT equal. - whether nice or not, an attraction to an African country adoption is that there is little chance for there to be interference back in the US from the adoption country. I would bet that there is much more ongoing red tape in the US. next, the non-affluent / poor white not adopting black kids - people want to adopt people that look like them. To many, it does not matter, such as Ken. It is the same as the reason why most people have children themselves than adopt. That's today. Maybe tomorrow it will be different. - racism is still there. It lessens each year. That's not fear, VT33, that's rejection. Finally, I'd like to know what is the proof behind this: "but guess what, i WOULD be told i can not adopt a non-black baby because i am considered african american and nothing more. " Is it illegal for black US citizens to adopt white US orphans? Or is this the writer's own sense of victimization talking? (and this is no slam of VT33 & Maj, just respectful disagreement)

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  8.   vt33 says:
    Posted: 19 Jul 08

    lol...JIB what you been doing. You're doing, or have done, somthing white america won't do. Not live in fear and step out in faith. (trust me, your place in heaven is reserved) That's really what this blog is about, It's American Blacks, not Blacks from different countries. Madonna, Jolie, have adopted children from Ethopia and Malawai. Now lets look at how many black children are in foster homes, in urban areas, tons. No Movie Star, or Pop Star coming to save them, from poverty, dispair, or a questionable life. It's like this, it seems as black americans we are devalued in so many ways. It's like the hands of time has stood still, as slaves, we where only good enough to work the fields, the lighter you were the house was your place, and or a "a bed wench" our children were good enough for working the fields, tending horses, a house child, a playmate for the masters child. In a era where we can be proud, of our culture and of those who fought for our place in society. It's all be smashed. Its a shame if you are black american you aren't acceptable, but when you are black from another country you are acceptable. JIB, I don't think anyone can really say why, black adoptions in America for Black American youth isn't up. Just I get the strongest feeling, it's sort of like guilty by association. I know a few mentors, men and women, and they do a lot of work with foster children in the inner city. I've asked them why people won't adopt these children, a lot of time it's been said, it's behaviorial problems, the state won't continually provide pysychological care after the adoption is final. Kids born to HIV mothers, Drug addicted mothers, sexual abuse, and have been expose to drug use and things associated with it. There 's a lot of healthcare involved, and a lot of people have jobs, these children are difficult, you can't work because these kids need almost 24 hour attention and care. What can you do JIB? Well you have already done it, you made a difference, you didn't break the system, the system broke itself. Yet innocents get lost in it. Black Americas future is threatend indeed, when I was growng up, the blacks in my community, placed the future in my hands, now how do I pass the torch to in my community, if they haven't been raised in a community i.e villge. It's like this, you see those commercials on tv about hungry children in other countries, sleeping on pieces of plastic, drinking contaminated water, hungry. Always you see a star talking about save the children, Laurie Metcalf is doing the honors, Sally Struthers did it for a while. Yet, they don't seem interested in saving the children in America. I think that seems to be the sentiment all the way around! Damn..over did it again. NO JIBBERISH PLEASE, THIS IS JUST A THOUGHT Ciao

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  9.   JIB says:
    Posted: 19 Jul 08

    Hey vt...whadda I do??? LOL

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  10.   vt33 says:
    Posted: 18 Jul 08

    Look, Ria lets cut to the chase, you can put every study from Harvard to Oxford to local community colleges, on studys of trans racial adoptions. Truth of the matter if you are trying to get a answer to why whites don't adopt black children, fear! Plain and simple FEAR! Fear of the questions from others, fear of their peers, fear of the looks, fear of the child asking questions of why, I look this way and why you look that way. Every orthodox study will say this or that, it doesn't prove a thing. ACEEPTANCE, that is the key word in this, you see more white parents, with chinese children in the USA today now. Look at the stats, no one dare says anything about it, but when you take a black child and place them with a white family, its issue. Ria I actually watched Rosie O'Donnells, cruise, one day on HBO,I was bored but, I saw somthing I had never seen before, a white couple who adopted three..yes 3 black children. Another couple(white) adopted sibling children all spanish total 4. Another couple adopted a mixed girl, the where white. Look at this key, Rosie O'Donnell is MO all day, and everyone on that cruise were Gay! Yet we ridicule and make fun of gays, but they are not afraid to take somthing on because they live the life of NON ACCEPTANCE, and they will not FEAR the world. You can't pull out a study and ask how come homosexuals adopt children of different hues! They have no fear of the world. As far as Mrs. Gibney is concerned, I dig the whole confusion thing, once a child has a understanding things are a little diffuclt to grasp in this matter. Her parents could have invited a black woman in to help her answer the whats and why's, how to do this and understanding her hair, skin ,body shape. Would that have eased the anxiety within, I don't know, but it would have gave some clarity to who she is. Its a difficult world, Foster Care, I had several family members raised within it. Difficult as it was, the foster care system makes it difficult for relatives to get children out of the system, but makes it easy to leave them there. You wonder how come children are left in foster care till adulthood, because Big Brother makes money, gives them a reason to keep taxes high. Instead of fixing a problem that will result in negative adults later. You can't solve every case, but by god, you can take a child out and give him or her to someone that wants a chance to spread love, does it matter if they are black, white, gay or straight HELL NAW. People need to come to a understanding in the world, this isn't about color sexual prefrence, its about, being a village and raising a child. JIBBERISH STAY AWAY! Each one Teach one ! OUT!

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  11.   fkoi says:
    Posted: 12 Jun 08

    There is no doubt that adopted children of a different "race" than their adoptive parents face challenges that matching the race of parent and child would overcome. The comment in the article by Ms. Gibney about styling her hair is a case in point. Certainly a number of these issues can be addressed by raising the awareness of the adopting couples. The alternative of spending more time in the State foster care system seems less appealing over all. All that said, I know of a guy, who identifies as a Black man, who spent a number of years living in an adoptive white house. He may end up spending the next four years or so in THE White House. It seems to have worked out.

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  12. Posted: 09 Jun 08

    very interesting article. JIB... good to know you are helping where you can to make a difference. but there is something i never understood in general when it comes to the adoption process. if there are soo many kids here in the U.S. that need homes.. why do so many affluent ppl go overseas to adopt? when i lived in Maryland, i was on the train one day crossing the line into D.C. and i saw several caucasian families with an adopted baby from foreign countries and even talking about where to go overseas to adopt. one couple had an russian baby and talked about how she needed certain medical procedures and was learning english, another time, i saw a couple with a asian baby that they bragged about who is learning how to play the piano and violin and learning english and where they got her like she was a toy. i saw a gay caucasian couple with a baby from like thailand or philipines it was hard to tell but i knew he was not an american baby after talking to one of the men in the relationship. and this puzzled me. i am like.. you are steps away from foster care and adoptoin agencies in your own backyard and i know for a fact there are a lot of homeless kids of all races steps away from the nations captial yet you go out of the country, like Madonna, Angeline JoLee, to adopt a baby. the children here suffer just about the same as those in other countries. if i made enough and was stable, i would adopt those in need here AND abroad. its called balance. but guess what, i WOULD be told i can not adopt a non-black baby because i am considered african american and nothing more. this is something that is sad in the U.S. and abroad, the human RACE needs to change. we need to stop defining each other by color and calling people of various ethinic backgrounds.. DIFFERENT RACES because the distinction is distorted. there is segregation of the species and should not be among the human race as a whole. next we need to look at the persons intelligence and then answer this question, "on whose athority can we say is the best fit to adopt someone from a different ethnic background". years ago, it was argued that how can a caucasian family know anything about China if they are not chinese? so how can they teach the child his or her culture? but now its basically a card that is played to say someone of color is less qualified to adopt a child outside of his or her ethnic background. now, we need to question a lot of things. and look at whats important, the child and will he or she be loved?

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  13.   JIB says:
    Posted: 07 Jun 08

    Thanks, thick!

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  14.   thick_lover says:
    Posted: 07 Jun 08

    Thanks for the article, Ria. The article also had: --- Rita Simon, a sociologist at American University who has written several books on transracial adoption and helped get the Mulitethnic Placement Act passed. Ms. Simon said her 20 years of research did not show that white parents lack the ability to properly prepare children to deal with discrimination. --- I also noticed a slight changing of the words -- and meaning -- of a sentence of the article. It said: --- Many transracial adoptees say they struggle to fit in among their own family members. --- not most. And the NYT columnist did not say if the report indicated this, or if it was the columnist's perception, or to what degree this struggle was. I don't know, but I found that 16,000 adoptions is GREAT! also that the number is increasing. That means a lot less children in orphanages. black or white, that's a positive. And attaboy Ken!

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  15. Posted: 07 Jun 08

    I am very interested to read that social workers fear litigation for discussing race with potential adoptive parents. I am a social worker in the UK, and I do point out that fostering and adoption is not my area of expertise, but I am well aware that we have a duty to promote the cultural and racial needs of children when placing them for fostering an adoption. Research has highlighted the problems faced by many children who have been adopted by parents from a different culture/colour. I am aware that many black children languish in the care system due to a shortage of adoptive parents from their own culture, as there is a reluctance to place them with white parents. Thanks Ria for your post, I am going to look into the differences in the adoption system here and in the USA.

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  16.   Nandi says:
    Posted: 06 Jun 08

    JB...I am with you...One of the reasons racism is such a hot topic is because it has no resolve and we give it to much power than it truly deserves... I have no ideal was "transracial adoptions means" and there are plenty of adoption with white and asian children...And there is no big bow-wow needed.. You only need to be loving and nurturing to raise any child...

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  17.   JIB says:
    Posted: 06 Jun 08

    I have adopted 5 black children and never was my race brought up. These children were adopted from the District of Columbia's system and I suspect the number of children in the system had an impact. They have so few foster parents/adoptive parent for the number of children. Their Mom does feel as though she faced racial issues when she tried to get non-black foster kids but that was before our getting together. As long as we let race affect decisions then there will be racism. The question should NOT be about the skin color differences but about the care and rearing of the child. I love and care for my 5 adopted kids the same way I love and care(d) for my three grown daughters (who are all white). I see this as being a way of keeping people divided although that isn't (I hope!!) the goal. It's all a matter of perception. I have gotten many a strange look when going in for a parent-teacher conference with a new teacher. They come in and look for a black guy and there is only this big, old white guy there to see them. It has its funny moments!! Children will be taunted for being different whether it be being smarter, dumber, shorter, taller, skinnier, fatter, lighter, darker or having a parent that's "different." Ken

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  18.   Ria says:
    Posted: 06 Jun 08

    Hi thick_lover, Here is the column. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/27/us/27adopt.html?em& Ria

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  19.   thick_lover says:
    Posted: 06 Jun 08

    >Most trans-racial adoptees admit to have struggled to fit in with the families. From what source did this come from? The report? The columnist's perception? BTW, where are black couples adopting white children? It must happen, no? This column seems a tad unbalanced. Although I must say, a great idea for a column!

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