Should race be emphasized in trans-racial adoption?
“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?
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