Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Role of Faith in Adoption: Achieving Positive Adoption Outcomes for African American Children

Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Role of Faith in Adoption: Achieving Positive Adoption Outcomes for African American Children

Article excerpt

African American children are overrepresented in foster care by more than twice their proportion in the population (U.S. Government Accountability Office [USGAO], 2007). Building upon research relating faith (religiosity) to positive health and mental health, this study utilized cognitive and religious coping theories to examine the influence of faith on choosing to adopt, achieving positive adoption outcomes, and reducing disproportionality. From Louisiana and Texas, 113 families who adopted 226 children, 48% African American, participated in a survey measuring children's behavior and parent distress (PSI-SF Difficult Child and Parent Distress Subscales) and religiosity (Hoge Intrinsic Religiosity Index). Of the respondents, 93% of the respondents belonged to a religious congregation, 86% attended church weekly. Controlling for child's behavior, religiosity predicted lower stress in adoptive parenting; church attendance was related to improvement in parental health since adopting. Faith was rated most frequently as essential in parents' decisions to adopt. The study concludes that faith may be an asset in increasing adoptions and improving adoption outcomes resulting in increased numbers of African American children adopted.

In 1996 the wife of a minister in rural East Texas felt spiritually called to adopt a child in need. She and her sister both attended the required training. Friends and family members learned of the need for adoptive families, and since 1998, members and friends of Bennett Chapel Missionary Baptist Church have adopted 69 African American children and one biracial child. The families were not recruited by the public child welfare agency, but self-referred. They drove 60 miles roundtrip for six weeks to obtain the necessary training to adopt. When 23 more families self-recruited, adoption classes were held at Bennett Chapel (Madigan, 2001).

Information about these families has been obtained to date informally. The pastor and his wife have been interviewed by the media a number of times including appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and CBS' 48 Hours. They consistently explain their reasons for adopting as religious, a call from God (Hollandsworth, 2001; Madigan, 2001). In addition, they explain their ability to maintain the adoptions as religious-based. According to one adoptive mother on a particularly stressful day "If it weren't for the Lord ... I would have nutted up" (p. 3), while the pastor's wife describes her faith as a support: "To me it's a daily walk. I just continue to lift it up to God. They're here, but they're not healed. We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go" (p. 8). Visits to Bennett Chapel reveal quiet and happy children, even during church services that last more than three hours. Parents informally have discussed how their children's behavior has improved since adoption, that many medications have been reduced, but that children (and parents) still have their greatest difficulty with school. Parents have also discussed their satisfaction with the adoptions (Hollandsworth, 2001; Madigan, 2001). The families of Bennett Chapel were the inspiration for this study.

On September 30, 2005, there were 513,000 children in foster care, with 114,000 children waiting for adoption (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2006b). While 40% of waiting children were white and 36% African American, the percentages of waiting children were disproportionate to the racial representation in the child population. According to Hill (2006), "Disproportionality refers to the differences in the percentage of children of a certain racial or ethnic group in the country as compared to the percentage of the children of the same group in the child welfare system" (p. 3). In 2004 African American children were overrepresented nationally in foster care at more than twice their rate in the child population (USGAO, 2007, p. 8).

However, racial disproportionality in child welfare is not a new dilemma. …

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