Transracial and International Adoptions: New Trends, But the Same Questions

Transracial and International Adoptions: New Trends, But the Same Questions

There's a growing trend in adoption: African-American children who are being adopted by European families. Reading recent stories in mainstream publications about this trend, as well as transracial adoption issues in North America, I see a lot of questions that never seem to get answered: How does race play into adoption decisions, by both potential adoptive parents and the agencies that work with them? Why adopt internationally when there are children available within your home country? Why are Asian and Eastern European children preferred over African-American children in North America? Are African-American children treated better when transracially adopted in European countries?

Credit Image: stevendepolo on Flickr

International Adoptions in North America

I am the product of a domestic adoption. I was born in the same country as my white adoptive parents and placed through a local agency. Everyone else I have met who went through the adoption process in Canada has adopted internationally. The expense of a domestic adoption is high, and compared to adopting children from Asia, the regulations can draw the process out for years. Someone recently told me that it took seven years to go through the domestic adoption process for their daughter, and they still have to pay for social worker visits for the next few years.

But international adoptions are declining in North America. While U.S. and Canadian families often cite China’s “one child” policy and the political conflicts in other countries such as Russia, as reasons to adopt overseas children, stringent new regulations are cutting down on these adoptions. In a series on the decline of international adoptions, CNN reports that China has implemented a number of strict criteria: Potential parents could be rejected based on their medical history, how long they have been married, their income, or even physical deformities. Russia has gone even further. In December 2012, Vladimir Putin signed a law completely banning the adoption of Russian children by American parents.

North Americans Prefer Non-Black Kids?

In a 2010 report by New York University, The London School of Economics, and the California Institute of Technology, North American adoptive parents prefer non-black children, including Latino children, over African-American children. Researchers found that a non-African-American baby is seven times more likely to "attract the interest and attention of potential adoptive parents than an African-American baby," said Leonardo Felli, professor at the London School of Economics. This difference, he added, "is not seen when comparing parents' preferences for Caucasian versus Hispanic babies—a finding that is somewhat surprising, given that the adoptive parents in the sample are all Caucasian.”

Racism and Transnational Adoptions

For decades, The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) have been very vocal about trying to keep African-American children from being adopted transculturally:

Children removed from their home, school, religious environment, physicians, friends, and families are disengaged from their cultural background. They are denied the opportunity for optimal development and functioning.

Even when African-American children are domestically adopted into white households, there’s concern about whether those kids will learn about their culture. Former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's family faced ire when it was reported that Romney’s adopted African-American grandson’s name Keiran means “Little Dark One” in Gaelic. Chances are that the Romney family did not do this maliciously, but it was enough to get eyebrows raised.

Other ethnic communities have also expressed concern about retaining an adopted child’s cultural heritage. The Indian Child Welfare Act is perhaps the most far-reaching of the efforts to keep adopted children within their communities. But that law failed to keep four-year-old “Baby Veronica” with her biological father’s Cherokee tribe. Last week, in the most publicized ICWA case, “Baby Veronica" was handed over to the custody of her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

African-American Children 'Cost' Less?

Despite the National Association of Black Social Worker’s goal to keep children within their cultural communities, a ‘sliding scale’ for adoption fees offered in some states may promote transracial adoption. According to a chart published in July on NPR’s Morning Edition website, African-American children cost less to adopt than biracial and Caucasian children. Biracial children with no African-American lineage cost more than biracial children mixed with one African-American parent. According to NPR, the reason for the differences in ‘price’ is to provide an incentive to adopt children who tend to languish in social services:

“(So) the cost is adjusted to provide an incentive for families that might otherwise be locked out of adoption due to cost, as well as "for families who really have to, maybe have a little bit of prodding to think about adopting across racial lines."

A New York Times article about the 2010 adoption study reports that researchers believe adoptive parents “fear dysfunctional social behavior in adopted children and perceive girls as ‘less risky’ than boys in that respect.”

Unfortunately, these pricing decisions reflect the cultural hegemony that exists in North American society. Black children and children from other ethno-cultures are deemed as not as intellectually, emotionally and yes, economically viable as white children. Blogger Kisses Goodnight,  a woman who is considering adoption with her husband, agrees:

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