Magazine article Insight on the News

No: Lower Barriers to Black Adoptive Families

Magazine article Insight on the News

No: Lower Barriers to Black Adoptive Families

Article excerpt

Congress is debating a bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, designed to prohibit any delays in adoptive placements in order to seek a same-race adoptive family. This legislation, as well as the Metzenbaum bill of 1994 and recently passed state statutes that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, were influenced by the growing number of court cases in which white foster families are seeking to adopt black children for whom they have cared since infancy. The elimination of race-matching policies is touted as a so-called remedy for the many children of color languishing in foster care since white families would be free to adopt these children.

But let's examine the reasons leading to the growing numbers of children of color in need of permanent homes and the proposed solution: transracial adoption. In 1991, child-protection agencies received reports on an estimated 2.7 million children in need of state intervention. Just under 50 percent were reported as cases of neglect, 25 percent physical abuse, 14 percent sexual abuse and 6 percent emotional abuse. Economic stress, substance abuse and inability to fulfill parenting responsibilities were identified as causes of abuse and neglect. Many of these children were removed from their families and placed in foster care.

Neglect often is correlated with poverty; since minority populations are disproportionately poor, minority children are put disproportionately in out-of-home care or placed for adoption. In 1991, about 429,000 children nationwide were in out-of-home care; by 1992, the number had grown to 450,000. Should this trend continue, there may be as many as 900,000 children in out-of-home care by the year 2000. Although accurate statistics on children needing placements are unavailable, experts estimate that there may be as many as 85,000 children who need adoption services. Children of color are overrepresented in these statistics. In New Jersey, Maryland and Louisiana, more than 50 percent of the children in foster care are African-American. More than half of the children waiting for adoption nationwide are children of color, and this population is increasing rapidly in most states.

Since in many states the number of African-American children in foster care far exceeds the number of African-American foster families, African-American children often are placed in transracial foster care. Many of these children will remain with white foster families, often separated from their siblings and with limited contact with their parents or extended families, for several years before they either are returned to their families or freed for adoption. The children and families become attached and in a few cases, the foster parents will seek to adopt a child in their care. Unfortunately, it is after these close bonds have formed that agencies then seek to place the child with a same-race adoptive family.

Although the policy of encouraging same-race placement frequently is cited as the reason black children remain in foster care longer than white children, research data reveal that adoption-agency workers may be less active in seeking permanent homes for minority children. Black children enter care at an average age of 7 and spend an average of almost two years in care. They may experience several caseworkers and school changes and generally move at least twice while in care.

When adoption planning is needed for a child of color, many agencies find that they have a short supply of African-American families seeking to adopt. Some assume that black families are not interested in adopting. The fact is that black families generally adopt at much higher rates than whites. According to J. Mason and C.W Williams, contributors to the 1985 bookadoption of Children With Special Needs, the black inracial adoption rate is 18 per 10,000 families, more than four times the rate for whites. The Urban League's 1980 Black Pulse Survey showed that there were 3 million African-American households interested in adopting. …

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