Academic journal article Family Relations

Race-Conscious Adoption Choices, Multiraciality, and Color-Blind Racial Ideology

Academic journal article Family Relations

Race-Conscious Adoption Choices, Multiraciality, and Color-Blind Racial Ideology

Article excerpt

Analysis of interview data illustrates how White adoptive parents rationalize choices regarding adoptee race. Parents who were willing to adopt children of color stressed unwillingness to adopt Black children. The preference for adopting multiracial children goes against the prevalent method of racial classification, hypodescent, by defining multiracial as distinct from Black, assuming that multiracial children would not experience racism. Those who adopted children of color also relied on racial classifications of hypodescent and challenged color-blind ideology by recognizing the importance of race. They also defined race in terms of perceived race versus birth parent racial identity. Findings have implications for how agencies, social workers, and counselors portray various groups as well as prepare, counsel, and support adoptive and multiracial families.

Key Words: adoption, color-blind ideology, hypodescent, multiracial, race.

In the case of adoption, parents must specify which children they are and are not willing to adopt (Ishizawa, Kenney, Kubo, & Stevens, 2006). These choices are made within a racialized system (Quiroz, 2007a) given particular structural constraints of adoptive parent characteristics - such as socioeconomic status, race, marital status, and sexual orientation - as this affects the characteristics of the children available to adopt (e.g., their gender, race, and nationality, and if they have special needs; Feigelman & Silverman, 1997; Stolley, 1993). Adoptive parents make and rationalize decisions in a society where the dominant color-blind racial ideology dictates that race should not be used to identify people, there is equal access to opportunity, and any existing racial inequity is due to lack of values or effort, or both (BonillaSilva, 2003; Perry, 1993-1994). Studying parents who adopt provides a unique dynamic to help further understand how adoptive parents make sense of their decisions to adopt a child of a certain race versus another within this racialized system. Much of past work has focused on the experiences of transracial adopted children and families (Freundlich & Lieberthal, 2000; Samuels, 2009), the legal history and morality of transracial adoption (Fogg-Davis, 2002), and the influence or actions of agencies (Melosh, 2002; Quiroz, 2007a). Although there is research on the intersections of race and adoption, few studies have examined this topic from the point of view of adoptive parents.

This study uses data from 15 in-depth interviews with White adoptive parents to comprehend how parents rationalize their choices to adopt children of certain racial groups over others. Insight into how adoptive parents explain their choices has implications for adoption policies and the ways that agencies portray various groups. Having this information will help researchers understand the complexity of race and may assist agencies, counselors, and social workers educate and prepare parents to raise children of color, particularly multiracial children.

Adoption Choices

Agencies, regulations and restrictions, birth parents, and adoptive parent choices all shape the adoption process (Feigelman and Silverman, 1997; Stolley, 1993). For instance, although international adoption is expensive, domestic public adoption through the foster care system is free regardless of child age or other characteristics (Maldonado, 2006). For international adoption, each country also has regulations for characteristics like age, marital status, and health, limiting adoption options in particular for older, single, and gay and lesbian adoptors (Office of Children's Issues, n.d.).

Agencies, Regulations, and Race Matching

Ideas about race inform each stage of the adoption process, from which children are available to time until adopted to placement (Quiroz, 2007a). In this article, race refers to perceived hereditary commonalities based on phenotype (Winant, 2000). Although race and ethnicity are often conflated, ethnicity refers to shared cultural identity, which may or may not be tied to racial identity (Waters, 1990). …

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