Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Transracial Adoption Debate: Counseling and Legal Implications. (Practice & Theory)

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Transracial Adoption Debate: Counseling and Legal Implications. (Practice & Theory)

Article excerpt

Adoption is often seen as a viable alternative to ensure that children who have been permanently placed in foster care will have a stable home of their own. Moreover, numerous scholars have noted that the numbers of children nationwide in need of permanent homes were projected to reach 900,000 by the beginning of the new millennium (see Curtis, 1996; Taylor & Thornton, 1996). It is well documented that African American children are disproportionately represented among populations of children who have been separated from their families and placed in foster care (Curtis, 1996; Grow & Shapiro, 1974). Factors such as poverty and the lack of understanding on the part of agency personnel regarding the disciplinary practices of African American mothers and fathers have contributed to the overrepresentation of African American families in the child welfare system (Bradley, 2000; Denby & Alford, 1996; McRoy, Olgesby, & Grape, 1997).

The disciplinary styles of African American parents have been the subject of considerable debate and commentary among social scientists. The basis of this discussion is largely derived from comparative studies in which disciplinary practices of African American parents were compared with disciplinary practices of White American middle-class parents (Bartz & Levine, 1978; Kamii & Radin, 1967; Portes, Dunham, &Williams, 1986). Consequently, when contrasted with White American norms (i.e., middle-class norms), the disciplinary practices of African American parents have been characterized as strict, rigid, and in some cases "abusive" by some social service agency personnel (Bradley, 1998; Denby & Alford, 1996). Furthermore, due to what seems to be cultural bias, many African American children remain in foster care twice as long as White American children, and there is considerable evidence that some foster care workers are more likely to arrange visitation between White American parents and their children who are in foster care than they are for African American families in this situation (McRoy et al., 1997). Moreover, because of a shortage of African American adoptive families and fewer White American infants and toddlers available for adoptive placement, some African American children have been permanently placed with White American families. This interracial placement is a process referred to as "transracial adoption" (Grow & Shapiro, 1974).

Over the last 30 years, the practice of transracial adoption has been steeped in controversy (Alexander & Curtis, 1996; Grow & Shapiro, 1974; Shireman & Johnson, 1986). Most of the contention has focused on whether African American children are able to develop healthy racial and cultural identities within White American families (Curtis, 1996). Although most of the opinions and research on transracial adoption have been published in social work literature, the dissemination of such information into the counseling literature has remained relatively rare. The overarching theme of this article is to present and clarify issues pertaining to the adoption of African American children by White American parents. More specifically, the purposes of this article are to (a) review relevant literature and research regarding the transracial adoption debate, (b) explain the legal aspects and practice of transracial adoption, and (c) discuss the implications for counseling practice and potential legal implications or concerns for counselors.

TRANSRACIAL ADOPTIONS AND RELATED RESEARCH

The question of whether White American parents should adopt African American children has been the subject of considerable debate and commentary both in the social work literature and in a segment of child development literature. The basis for much of this discussion is attributed to a position paper (Simon & Alstein, 1977) drafted by the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) that "vehemently opposed" (p. …

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