The hidden factors of the transracial adoption debate

Why do black babies cost less to adopt in America than white babies?

Children’s minister Tim Loughton has started a debate regarding transracial adoption, specifically he wants white parents in the UK to be allowed to adopt non white children; however what is often left out of these debates are some disturbing facts regarding transracial adoption in the first place.

Children’s minister Tim Loughton has spoken about new government guidelines which will allow white parents to adopt non white children in the UK. Loughton said that ethnic minority children have to wait three times as longer than white children to get adopted and some remain in social care permanently.

He said that common sense should take precedence over racial and cultural factors, and where white couples are willing to provide stable homes social workers should allow these adoptions.

The new government guidelines will state that race and cultural background should no longer be a barrier to adoption.

The Daily Mail online report (Daniel Martin: November 2, 2010) which covers this story mentions how BBC executive Gavin Allen and his wife Teresa adopted a Chinese baby girl after struggling against the British adoption system for years. Despite the couple telling authorities that they were willing to take a child from a different race, according to the report they were met with suspicion and out of desperation went online and found a Chinese child abroad.

The great concern about this story is that the report mentions the couple were willing to adopt a non white child because “…there are fewer white children available to adopt.” Does this mean that non white children will become second best or last resort adoptions? The report can certainly be interpreted in this way.

Before I move on to the hidden racial factors regarding transracial adoptions take note that according to an Observer online report, in 2005 there was around 65,000 children in care in the UK, and over 20 percent of that number were children of black and ethnic minority ethnicity. (Observer: McVeigh: 6 July, 2008) Overall, the majority of children waiting adoption in the UK are black, mixed-race or Asian, however the majority of adopters are white.

These statistics obviously point to a pressing need to address this problems, common sense should always take precedence over racial politics but there are significant factors not properly explored in this debate which casts a shadow on transracial adoptions.

For example in the Daily Mail report Hugh Thornbery, director of The charity Action for Children, an adoption agency which finds parents from ethnic minorities in the UK who want to adopt, said that research indicates children placed with parents who understand their background are better off. Thornbery said that the charity had done very well due to considerable efforts by the staff. The question must be asked if this charity can find parents from ethnic minority backgrounds for children, why is it local authorities seem to have a problem?

The loss of racial, cultural and religious identity with transracial adoptions

According to the Observer report social workers who did not want to be named from local authorities around the UK said that they would feel uncomfortable to place a child of black or ethnic minority ethnicity with white parents, even at the expense of the child staying in foster care.

One social worker said, “I have little confidence white people really can ever understand racism – now there’s a pretty big matter right there. Unless you bring me a utopia when everyone is colour blind, then I’m sorry but deep down I think we as a society are nowhere near ready to have successful interracial adoptions.”

The concerns of some British social workers that white parents cannot understand racism and are therefore inadequate to raise black and ethnic minority children seem to have some validation, and considering that there is a lack of white children to adopt this government policy can lead to second choice adoptions of non white children by white parents desperate to start a family at any cost. This will cause more problems than it will solve them.

Dr Perlita Harris carried out research based on the experiences of 57 transracially adopted people, for a book titled “In Search of Belonging: Reflections by transracially adopted people.”

She said that, “Too many transracially adopted adults report feeling alienated, displaced and disconnected from their community of origin, unable to speak the language of birth relatives when they do trace them, of internalising the negative racist messages in society, of struggling to understand who they are. The narratives of transracially adopted adults demonstrate unequivocally that love, alone, is simply not enough.”

A study based on transracial adoption of African-American children by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, in May 2008 found that: “…there is a higher rate of problems in minority foster children adopted transracially than in race. Also, when children have issues, there is evidence that they have a stronger association with problematic parent-child relationships among transracial adoptions than in same-race adoptions.” (Rosenthal & Groze, 1992; Howard & Smith, 2003).

The world is divided based on religion, race, culture, gender and sexuality etc., and while there is certainly an argument that this reality should not encourage segregation or ignorance, it should encourage a realistic approach to issues such as transracial adoption.

Different groups in society have unique experiences that only they can understand through their own eyes, and it can be argued that the issue of transracial adoption is racially biased.

The Daily Mail report and the government initiatives is clearly aimed at catering for white parents. If black and Asian families wanted to adopt white children it would be interesting to see what the government’s response would be.

Bargain Black Babies

According to Roberto Santiago, a writer for the Miami Herald news, the average adoption of a healthy Caucasian baby from a private adoption agency in America can cost up to $40,000 and take years to complete according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In comparison a mixed- race child takes only a few months and costs between $10,000 and $18,000. It reveals that in America white parents are adopting mixed-race babies because they are cheaper and less hassle to adopt and not because they are their ideal choice.

Hope Services is an adoption agency in Abbotsford, British Columbia, which works with private adoption agencies in the United States.

According to Lorne Welwood, Hope Services’ director, “Canadians prefer black babies because the adoption process is quicker, easier and less expensive than if they were opting for a child from China, Guatemala or Eastern Europe.”

So white Canadian parents seem to be basing their adoption choices on financial and bureaucratic ease rather than a genuine desire to look after the cultural and racial needs of black and minority ethnic children.

Are these the kind of racial commodified adoptions which are going to take place in Britain? It seems so with the government’s new guidelines.

Transracial adoption will be painted by the media and the government as a common sense policy, placing children in loving homes, but behind the grins are the ugly hidden racial factors which will never be publicly debated.

For further research:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1325775/Rules-stop-white-couples-adopting-black-children-facing-axe.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/jul/06/children.communities1

http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2008_05_MEPA_Executive_Summary.pdf

http://www.amren.com/mtnews/archives/2004/12/growing_number.php


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3 Responses to The hidden factors of the transracial adoption debate

  1. Beckett Franklin Gray says:

    This perspective is very interesting and insightful. As an trans-racial adoptive parent and author on trans-racial adoptive issues it assists me greatly to understand how the culture is viewed from the outside by minorities. The reason for this is, of course, I am obviously raising a minority child and consider it my highest concern to prepare said child for a social existence beyond our majority home. It is helpful for me to understand what the actual fears are for minority races in majority community settings so that they can be addressed. I am simply assuming that the same questions will be posed internally.

    From an adoptive parent perspective and an authoring professional, I will add that reasons for adoption are by in large altruistic in my community. We live in an environment where it’s simply makes sense to include a child who is living in local foster care or an international orphanage into their fold. For some people it’s religious and for others it’s simply a way of giving back for a life that is plentiful. There is very little consideration of money when it comes to human suffering.

    Whether it is right is probably another question. That would be complicated to answer and probably is very individual per adoptee and family. Inclusion of the culture of adoptive origin is standard well-being practice. Liberal association with other minority individuals is also a very desired outcome.

    I leave the debate open, as all good conversations should be.

  2. shirley says:

    I am so glad that the debate has opened up on this ‘elephant in the room’. After hearing the report I am concerned, to say the least, about these developments. Transracial adoption (and identity) is a highly complex issue that can have lasting traumatic results. As a society, we can still barely have a sensible debate on race and culture and yet we think we are ready to open the floodgates on transracial adoption. I question the motives of white people wanting to adopt a child of a different race. I believe that it is at best naive and at worst, maybe even subconsciously, it is something altogether more insidious. I am scared for the future of these children. In a perfect world, interracial adoption would not be an issue. This is not a perfect world and I am scared that our children and our communities will bear the brunt of this.

  3. Alex says:

    I have realised now how much I regret being adopted. Throughout my childhood and on, I have been looked at differently and felt isolated. I have realised the reasons for my problems with socialising, relationships or lack of, is because I had no confidence in my self, and overall unhappiness. I’m South Indian and it is hard for me to relate with any of my race through language and culture. I can learn the culture faster than the language, but they will always see me as a person who has been exposed to caucasian culture for the past 18 years and look at me differently.

    My recent girlfriend and the first person I can relate to on every level tried to open my eyes, but I was too blind to see that she was right and defended my parents, saying that they tried. She has left me and I have since realised she was 100% right. Only recently have I heard of these transracial adoption articles and I can relate and agree 100%, though it is too late to correct my actions with the one person that I could relate to on every level and that has made me happier then I have ever been in my life.

    I realise now why I defended my parents. It is because I have felt loved and was overshadowed by a feeling of comfort and being spoilt, I was too blind to see the facts. I agree with the statement, “Love is not enough to adopt a foreign child.”

    It is now at this point that I regret being adopted, after going through this comfortable Western life of feeling confused, unhappy, isolation, rejection and alone. My characteristics has changed through each stage of my life and shaped me into a person that I don’t like.

    This girl I felt was the one for me, we shared many happy moments and we were happy and in love. She now feels that I’m just another one of those Westernised adopted people. This is the worst feeling I have felt in my entire life it hurts so much that life has no meaning for me. I am unhappy and wish truly I was not adopted.

    Adopted agencies should take more care as to where and with whom they place a child. I was put in Canada, the most multicultural place in the world. Yet they chose to place me with white parents situated in a community with zero minority, with no ethnic cultural background. I grew up as the only ethnic minority, in the valley of all places. I conformed very quickly as I was only 7 and had no regular contact with any one of my race.

    No matter how much love and a few of my cultural aspects my adopted parents tried to share with me tt was not enough.

    I blame the organisation in not taking care of their research and though I still care for my parents I still put them at fault for not pushing their limits of effort, even as I was losing my interest and aspects of my race.

    Does this make me a bad and immoral person for thinking this? I don’t really think so. Yes, they gave me all the necessities for a bright future and comfortable living environment. Though, like I have said for all the feelings I have gone through I have lost something very dear too me. Adoption was not worth it, at least where I was placed.

    So it really comes down to the Western government and the adoption organisations for not informing and applying enough research on transracial and transcultural adoption and the effects of ethnic and cultural loss on an adopted child for potential adoptee parents.

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