Negative Outcomes of Interethnic Adoption of Mexican American Children

By Bausch, Robert S.; Serpe, Richard T. | Social Work, March 1997 | Go to article overview

Negative Outcomes of Interethnic Adoption of Mexican American Children


Bausch, Robert S., Serpe, Richard T., Social Work


Placing children of color with white parents and the resulting concern over loss of cultural heritage and racial identity remain at the forefront of the debate over interracial adoption. Empirical studies of the outcomes of interracial adoption continue to proffer both favorable and critical assessments. The continued interest in this debate is evident in the amount of research focusing on identity loss, loss of cultural-racial traditions, and developmental outcomes (Andujo, 1988; Feigelman & Silverman, 1984; Grow & Shapiro, 1974; Johnson, Shireman, & Watson, 1987; Kim, 1978; McCoy, Zurcher, Lauderdale, & Anderson, 1984; Simon & Altstein, 1992). Most of the attention has been directed at the adoption of African American or Native American children by white parents.

Resistance to interracial adoption from both Native Americans and African Americans has resulted in a greater concern about adoption in the fields of social work and sociology. Similar resistance from Mexican American groups has not been publicized. However, these issues might become more salient with the inception of the Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 (P.L. 104-88), which is intended to reduce the amount of time children of color wait for adoptive placement.

Interracial adoption is one approach to reducing the number of children awaiting placement; other approaches have focused on adoption agency practices and advocated the development of more appropriate recruitment strategies to increase same-race adoptions among people of color (Bausch & Serpe, 1995; Day, 1979; Hairston & Williams, 1989; Rodriguez & Meyer, 1990; Rosenthal, Groze, & Curiel, 1990; Washington, 1987). Surprisingly, few empirical studies have assessed attitudes toward interracial or interethnic adoption from the perspective of people of color. The two studies that addressed the topic (Howard, Royse, & Skerl, 1977; Simon, 1978) focused only on African Americans.

The research in this article addresses the Multiethnic Placement Act and the incidence of Mexican American children placed in non-Mexican American homes. The passage of the act will affect all children of color, with the result being an increase in interracial and interethnic placements. In addition, data from the California Department of Social Services (personal communication, November 1995) indicate that a sizable percentage of Hispanic children placed through independent or private adoptions were placed with white families between 1993 and 1994. The concurrence of these two phenomena signals the need for research examining attitudes among Mexican Americans toward interethnic adoption.

Literature Review

Placement and Outcomes

Interfacial adoption is statistically rare in the United States (Bachrach, Adams, Sambrano, & London, 1990), yet it continues to garner the attention of social work professionals and, to some extent, the general public. Although the practice has been in existence for decades, resistance to interracial adoption appears to rise and fall. During the early 1970s, the National Association of Black Social Workers objected to the practice of placing black children with white families. The number of placements involving black children and white parents decreased because of this resistance. Concurrently, similar concern arose about the placement of Native American children with white parents. However, although concerns were raised about both practices, legislation limiting the placement only of Native American children with non-Native American parents was enacted (Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, P.L. 95-608). The protection this act affords Native American children is stated in Section 105(a): "In any adoptive placement of an Indian child under State law, a preference shall be given, in the absence of good cause to the contrary, to a placement with (1) a member of the child's extended family; (2) other members of the Indian child's tribe; or (3) other Indian families" (United States Statutes at Large, 1978).

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