Academic journal article Family Relations

Predicting Non-African American Lesbian and Heterosexual Preadoptive Couples' Openness to Adopting an African American Child

Academic journal article Family Relations

Predicting Non-African American Lesbian and Heterosexual Preadoptive Couples' Openness to Adopting an African American Child

Article excerpt

Despite increases in transracial adoption, African American children remain the least likely to be adopted. No research has examined the factors that predict prospective adopters' willingness to adopt an African American child. This study used multilevel modeling to examine predictors of willingness to adopt an African American child in a sample of 48 lesbian couples and 65 heterosexual couples. Individuals pursuing public adoption were more willing than those pursuing private domestic adoption, and heterosexuals pursuing international adoption were more willing than heterosexuals pursuing private domestic adoption. In addition, younger persons, White persons (rather than non-African American racial minorities), lesbians, and individuals who perceived their neighborhoods as more diverse were more likely to be willing to adopt an African American child.

Key Words: adoption, African American, lesbian, multilevel modeling, race, transracial adoption.

Transracial adoption has been the subject of debate in the United States since the 1960s (Smith, McRoy, Freundlich, & Kroll, 2008). A central concern is whether White parents can socialize racial minority children to develop healthy racial identities and to cope with racism effectively. The National Association of Black Social Workers has taken a stand against the placement of African American children, in particular, in White homes (Smith et al.). From their perspective, the socialization needs of African American children are notably different from those of White children, in that they must be taught coping strategies for dealing with institutionalized racism. Another perspective, however, is that with training, White parents may be able to develop the skills needed to provide such socialization (Smith et al.). Although many child welfare associations agree that race-matching in adoption is often ideal, they acknowledge that this ideal cannot always be realized, given that the number of racial minority children in foster care exceeds the number of racial minority adopters, and African American children are less likely to be adopted than children of other races (Barth, 1997). Indeed, although African American children represented 16% of the population under 18 in 2003, they represented 36% of the foster care population, whereas White children represented 61% of the population and 38% of children in foster care (USDHHS, 2004).

Alarm over the overrepresentation of African American children in foster care and concern that race-matching policies unfairly limit White adopters' ability to adopt transracially influenced the enactment of the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) of 1994, which prohibits the denial of a child's adoptive placement on the basis of race, color, or national origin. MEPA has been criticized for mandating "an unyielding colorblindness that is counter to the best interest of children" (Smith et al., 2008, p. 7). Thus, the role of race in adoptive placements continues to be debated.

Such debates continue alongside upward trends in transracial adoption by White parents, the largest pool of adopters (Brodzinsky & Pinderhughes, 2002). Although White parents tend to prefer to adopt inracially, a decline in adoptable White infants over the past 25 years has led many parents to consider adopting transracially (Brodzinsky & Pinderhughes). Yet not all adopters have accommodated by adopting across racial lines. Some maintain a strong desire to adopt inracially, believing it is easier for both the child and the parents (Goldberg, 2009). Others are open to adopting transracially, but only children of specific races, which tend not to include African American. Indeed, White heterosexual couples are often more open to adopting Asian, Latino, and multiracial children than "fully" African American children (Brooks, James, & Barth, 2002).

Racial Hierarchies and Racial Preferences

The overrepresentation of African American children in the child welfare system is both a reflection and consequence of societal racial hierarchies. …

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