Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Activists Seek Black Families to Accept Adoption Role

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Activists Seek Black Families to Accept Adoption Role

Article excerpt

The green loose-leaf binder that sits atop Ruth Amerson's desk is a forlorn commentary on the status of America's children.

The book is called the Photo Adoption Listing Service - PALS for short - and in it are page after page of photographs and vignettes, the stories of youngsters who have no homes.

In almost every photograph, the face is black.

Antonio "is an active, sociable child with expressive eyes," the book reports. His brother, Ta'Quan, "is very affectionate, once he warms up to you." The book lists the boys' ages as 6 and 5. In fact, they are 8 and 7; they have spent more than two years hoping for new parents.

Dewanna, 11, "has a great deal of love to share." Chris, no age listed, "enjoys reading, watching TV and playing outdoors."

Amerson's mission is to find families for these modern orphans. Here, in a small city of 18,000 about an hour south of Raleigh, she wages her campaign from an aging yellow wood-frame house with not much more than a phone, a fax, a copier and an 800 number. But not just any families will do.

Amerson wants black families. Black families for black children.

Her fledgling adoption agency, Another Choice for Black Children, is one of a small corps of minority-run agencies scattered across the country dedicated to the premise that black children belong with black parents. Their work has taken on a new urgency of late. The political winds in Washington have been shifting.

Last year, in the wake of several highly publicized stories about white families who were denied requests to adopt their black foster children, Congress passed the Multiethnic Placement Act, intended to facilitate what are known in child welfare circles as "trans-racial adoptions."

The law will reverse longstanding practices in many states, whereby social workers relied on race in deciding who could adopt a child. Under rules drafted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, any county child welfare department that delays or denies an adoption based on race will lose its federal funding. A second bill before Congress would go even further, saying that race may not be considered at all.

The measures are designed to speed up the adoptions of tens of thousands of children like Antonio and Ta'Quan. …

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