ON Aug. 13, 1984, a little girl with dark brown skin and sad brown
eyes was carried off a Southwest Airlines flight in Dallas. She was
4 years old and weighed 12 pounds. Very few people had expected her
to live long enough to reach Dallas from the Nicaraguan refugee
camp in Honduras where she had been found. The child, though, was a
survivor. She was determined to live.
A white woman who had watched her televised arrival asked to adopt
her. While it was to be a private adoption, attempts were first
made to find black, black/Hispanic, or Nicaraguan adoptive parents.
But no one expressed interest in a child who was fragile, older,
and had special needs, except for the white woman who had almost
instantly developed a strong rapport with her. The adoption was
Was it wrong for that woman to adopt a brown child? Is transracial
adoption wrong in today's society? I think not.
The philosophy of the National Association of Black Social Workers
is that it is the right of every child to find a permanent home
with a family of the same race. This has brought about a decrease
of 90 percent in the adoption of black children, according to the
Rev. Paul Engel in an address to the North American Council on
Adoptive Children. By the late 1980s, lawsuits were being filed
claiming that minority children were denied equal protection under
the law because placements were delayed while same-race families
were sought. The belief of many black social workers was that a
white parent, no matter how skilled or loving, could not avoid
doing irreparable harm to the self-esteem of a black child.
Love erases differences
For many of us who have adopted black or brown children, our love
for them transcends color, handicap, or national origin. We believe
in the humanistic message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that one
day people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by
the content of their character. We are anxious to help our sons and
daughters be proud of their black or brown heritage, so we seek to
change environments in order to create positive attitudes.
Many of us choose to live in integrated areas so our children will
have same-race, as well as white, friends. We buy black or brown
dolls along with white ones and point out positive black and brown
role models. Our children's books have sensitive stories and
We create opportunities for our children to feel safe and
comfortable and to acknowledge and respect their blackness or
brownness. We seek to help them believe in themselves and their
ability to contribute positively to the world, despite its
craziness as regards color.
In the 1980s, Ruth McRoy, associate professor of the School of
Social Work at the University of Texas, Austin, did a study of
children adopted transracially and those placed with parents of
their own race. She found no difference in overall self-esteem
between the two groups of children, so long as special efforts were
made by white adoptive parents to make environmental changes
conducive to their child's positive racial development. …