It's Time to Remove All Barriers to Adoption across Racial Lines What Counts Is the Commitment of the Parent and the Need of the Child

Article excerpt

ON Aug. 13, 1984, a little girl with dark brown skin and sad brown eyes was carried off a Southwest Airlines flight in Dallas. She was 4 years old and weighed 12 pounds. Very few people had expected her to live long enough to reach Dallas from the Nicaraguan refugee camp in Honduras where she had been found. The child, though, was a survivor. She was determined to live. A white woman who had watched her televised arrival asked to adopt her. While it was to be a private adoption, attempts were first made to find black, black/Hispanic, or Nicaraguan adoptive parents. But no one expressed interest in a child who was fragile, older, and had special needs, except for the white woman who had almost instantly developed a strong rapport with her. The adoption was approved. Was it wrong for that woman to adopt a brown child? Is transracial adoption wrong in today's society? I think not. The philosophy of the National Association of Black Social Workers is that it is the right of every child to find a permanent home with a family of the same race. This has brought about a decrease of 90 percent in the adoption of black children, according to the Rev. Paul Engel in an address to the North American Council on Adoptive Children. By the late 1980s, lawsuits were being filed claiming that minority children were denied equal protection under the law because placements were delayed while same-race families were sought. The belief of many black social workers was that a white parent, no matter how skilled or loving, could not avoid doing irreparable harm to the self-esteem of a black child. Love erases differences For many of us who have adopted black or brown children, our love for them transcends color, handicap, or national origin. We believe in the humanistic message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that one day people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. We are anxious to help our sons and daughters be proud of their black or brown heritage, so we seek to change environments in order to create positive attitudes. Many of us choose to live in integrated areas so our children will have same-race, as well as white, friends. We buy black or brown dolls along with white ones and point out positive black and brown role models. Our children's books have sensitive stories and appropriate pictures. We create opportunities for our children to feel safe and comfortable and to acknowledge and respect their blackness or brownness. We seek to help them believe in themselves and their ability to contribute positively to the world, despite its craziness as regards color. In the 1980s, Ruth McRoy, associate professor of the School of Social Work at the University of Texas, Austin, did a study of children adopted transracially and those placed with parents of their own race. She found no difference in overall self-esteem between the two groups of children, so long as special efforts were made by white adoptive parents to make environmental changes conducive to their child's positive racial development. …