Question: Should Congress Facilitate Transracial Adoptions? Yes: End the Foster-Care Ordeal for Black Children

By Kennedy, Darlene Addie | Insight on the News, June 5, 1995 | Go to article overview

Question: Should Congress Facilitate Transracial Adoptions? Yes: End the Foster-Care Ordeal for Black Children


Kennedy, Darlene Addie, Insight on the News


As an adopted child, I long believed that adoption agencies placed the "best interests of the child" above all other considerations. But you'd be surprised how antiquated this commonsense view really is. Today, black children are sinking in bureaucratic quicksand while many of the families best prepared to adopt them are denied the right because, frankly, they have insufficient amounts of melanin in their skin. Children are pawns in a racially charged, politically correct battle over who is qualified to be a parent. And the list of casualties is growing.

In the racially enlightened 1960s, adoption agencies ended restrictions based on race and whites became eligible to adopt minority children. The enlightenment was short-lived, however. In 1972 the National Association of Black Social Workers, or NABSW, helped discredit transracial adoptions, calling them tantamount to cultural genocide and arguing that, without exception, only black parents should raise black children. That stance was restated in a NABSW position paper in April 1991: "African-American children should not be placed with white parents under any circumstances." A more recent paper allows for transracial adoption only after all efforts to reunite the child's family or to obtain adoption within the same race have been exhausted.

NABSW and other opponents of transracial adoption charge that white parents are less qualified than African-American parents to care for minority children or prepare them for the pressures of growing up in a hostile society. They also claim that the parental eligibility standards for most black applicants are too rigorous and discriminate against low-income families who want to adopt. In many cases, they say, such policies have "destroyed" black families.

Contrary to their claim that less-affluent black families are discouraged by the system from participating in adoptions, eligibility standards in fact have been systematically lowered to increase the pool of qualified black applicants. Public agencies accept applicants from the welfare rolls. Whites of similar means are deemed ineligible. Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet cites a 1986 study showing that half of all minority adoptive families earned below $20,000, compared with only 14 percent of white adoptive families; one-fifth of all minority adoptive families had incomes below $10,000, compared with only 2 percent of adoptive white families. Federally funded agencies offer subsidies to families who adopt minority children by authority of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. The same largess is not available to whites, who must care for their adopted children without a government handout. The NABSW is correct in saying the system is racist. Any program that gives preferential treatment to black families while holding whites to a higher standard is discriminatory.

NABSW would have us believe that transracial adoptions destroy the black family. This claim ignores the bitter reality that a mother or family forced to give up a child already is irreparably damaged. Adoption becomes the child's last hope for a quality life. Relegating the child to years of foster care merely extends the tragedy to another generation. If you don't think the stakes in this debate are high, take a closer look. A New York study in the early 1990s concluded that 70 percent of male prison inmates between the ages of 19 and 23 came from a foster-care system that never placed them with permanent adoptive parents. Families do matter.

Because of absent fathers, drug-addicted mothers and exploding rates of teen pregnancy, nearly 460,000 children are in foster care. CBS News cited a report recently that up to two-thirds of all children needing adoption are black, whereas nearly two-thirds of families applying to adopt are white. There are more minority children than minority families able to take them. Black kids wait more than twice as long as white kids to find parents. …

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