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Old 08-17-2006, 12:58 PM   #1
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interracial adoption

came across this fascinating article in the NYT today. i encourage everyone to read the whole thing, but this part of it struck me as particularly interesting:



[q]Rhetoric around the issue has softened considerably since the National Association of Black Social Workers, in 1972, likened whites adopting black children to “cultural genocide.” The group removed the genocide reference from its policy statement in 1994, but it still recommends same-race placements. And organizations like the Child Welfare League have argued in recent years that while race need not be the primary consideration in placements, it should not be disregarded.

Many blacks still worry that white families cannot equip black children to navigate the country’s complicated racial landscape.

“Adoption, like everything else in this country, gets filtered through the lens of race,” said Joseph Crumbley, a black social worker in Philadelphia and a consultant on transracial adoptions. “For blacks, it is about how comfortable can whites be in dealing with the issue of race when their race is in conflict with the race of the child.”

At the same time, some blacks view international adoptions by whites as a slight to black children in need of permanent and stable homes. “I can’t help but wonder why Angelina and Brad can’t adopt an African-American baby here with so many in need,” said Ishia Granger, 36, a black friend of Ms. Brockway.

More than 45,000 black children were waiting to be adopted from foster care in 2004. There are no reliable national figures for private adoptions.

Advocates of black adoption criticize adoption agencies as not doing enough to recruit black families. But one strategy agencies use, in part, to recruit black families — reducing fees for African-American adoptions — seems to some critics like a literal devaluing of black children. And while current adoption laws impose penalties on federally financed agencies that discriminate, there are no penalties for failure to identify black adoptive families.

Both black and white families, at times, feel discriminated against. Charlene White, a black adoptive mother in Richmond, Va., said that when she and her husband, Malachi, began the process in 1997, a counselor asked them about drug and criminal records — questions a white couple they knew who were also adopting were not asked.

“It was definitely because we were black,” Ms. White said.

A white judge initially denied Nick and Emily Mebruer’s petition to adopt a black child, ruling that the Mebruers, a white couple who live in rural Lebanon, Mo., were “uniquely unqualified” to parent a black child because of their limited interaction with black people and culture. The ruling was overturned, and their daughter, Maggie, is now 3.

“We felt like it was an indictment of us and our entire community,” said Mrs. Mebruer, a family doctor, as Maggie played with a black doll in the center of the living room and danced to the Australian children’s group the Wiggles. “It was assuming that we didn’t have the desire or the capacity to learn.”

The Mebruers did not explicitly set out to adopt a black child. But when the Kansas City office of Catholic Charities called one spring afternoon to say that an infant was available and that they needed the couple’s decision within hours, the race of the child, Mr. Mebruer said, was secondary.

White families adopting black children are increasingly learning that the “love is enough” approach to adoption that families bring to the process is often met with skepticism.

Psychologists, researchers and adoptees themselves say many children adopted transracially in past decades suffered from philosophies focused on assimilation, with little or no acknowledgment of racial and cultural conflict.

Robert O’Connor, 39, who was raised by a white family in Rush City, Minn., recalled his struggles growing up in a small town with few other blacks. Throughout his youth, he said, he felt awkward around other blacks. He did not understand black trends in fashion or music or little things like playing the dozens, the oral tradition of dueling insults.

“I always felt like I had this ‘A’ on my forehead, this adoptee, that people could see from a far distance that I was different,” said Mr. O’Connor, who now researches transracial adoptions as assistant professor of social work at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.

Today, some agencies are working to avoid mistakes of the past. Ms. Brockway and Mr. Timble are adopting through the Cradle, a Chicago agency that gives transracial adoptive parents extensive counseling as well as a course on “conspicuous families.”

One exercise meant to assess parents’ comfort level in confronting racial issues lists a roster of stereotypes including, “lazy,” “passive” and “athletic,” and asks parents to assign them to the race or ethnic group to which they are often applied.

Judy Stigger, a counselor at the Cradle and herself a white adoptive mother of two black children, now adults, makes the issues tangible to prospective parents by relating personal stories. She tells about the time when her son, then a teenager, reached into her purse at a McDonald’s and a clerk called security; and the time when her daughter began crying while looking through congratulatory cards sent by family and friends when they took her home.

“Was I supposed to have been white?” her daughter, then in the third grade, asked. Ms. Stigger had never noticed that the children on all of the cards were white.

“It’s about getting people to realize that they should not be thinking about being, as one 8-year-old put it to me, ‘a white family with a weird child,’ but a multiracial family,” Ms. Stigger said. “The way most white people use the term ‘colorblind’ is just silly. We want to create color aware families, not colorblind families.”
[/q]


so what do we think?

are we putting a child at a disadvantage to be in a mixed-race household? or is there something about the black/white dichotomy that makes these kinds of adoptions particularly difficult? do black families ever adopt white children?

is a blended-race family really such a concern? what other factors regarding family construction should be considered concerns as well? is this enough to deny potential parents the right to be considered for adoption?
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Old 08-17-2006, 01:24 PM   #2
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Ideally, race shouldn't matter. But we don't live in an ideal society, we live in a human one. That's what makes this difficult. I don't know, does it put a black child at a disadvantage to be adopted by a white couple? After all, that white couple doesn't have to know how to fight racism first hand. This doesn't mean they can't learn this. I think they should be able to adopt the black child if they are loving and accepting people. Obviously this couple isn't racist or anything. Why not?
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Old 08-17-2006, 01:27 PM   #3
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A coworker of mine has a cousin who married an older, white professor at Stanford. They both wanted to have children, and bought a huge (I mean huuuge, the people are loaded) house in Palo Alto only to have a lot of trouble conceiving. After several failed IVF treatments, they went to China to adopt a girl. At the orphanage in Shanghai, they were matched with a 9 month old girl they fell in love with and then as they were leaving after visiting her for the first time, another girl in a crib by the door was standing up and she waved at them as they passed her and they couldn't imagine leaving her behind, so they adopted both girls.

Six months after returning to CA, she became pregnant with twins (!), both girls, and they have a wonderful family right now. I am not sure how it will be later on when the kids grow older and so on, but so far, they are completely well adjusted, happy, etc.

Lots of people are adopting children overseas, it's no longer just a black/white issue, because if anything, more adoptions are happening in east Asia than anywhere else.

We have family friends who adopted a daughter (black) in South America. She was my brother's age, and the couple was Croatian, so she actually spoke Croatian fluently later, and they also had a Spanish tutor for her. I've never met a happier, more productive child. She was bright, super educated and understood where she came from. But you know in Canada, we don't have this deep, historical black/white divide that exists in the US, so perhaps this experience would not be exactly the same had they adopted her into, say, the deep south?
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Old 08-17-2006, 01:54 PM   #4
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Interesting, I know a couple who went through a similar experience (adopting overseas, returning home and conceiving) with a girl from Russia.

Given the growth in international adoptions, it does seem that this is an issue steeped in black/white relations in the US.

What strikes me is the idea of preserving a racial culture, or as noted by Robert O’Connor in the article, the idea of being equipped to move between racial cultures.
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Old 08-17-2006, 02:07 PM   #5
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I guess I can't see how someone's personal qualms about the role of race would get in the way with giving an innocent child a stable home and often saving his or her life. Bethany is a huge adoption organization and was started here in my city, so every other family I know has adopted through them. I know kids from Romania, Guatemala, Russia, China, Ethiopia, Korea, India, Bangladesh, and white and African-American Americans. Yes, it was difficult for my friends to deal with issues of race and identity, but none of them have ever said they wished they weren't adopted, or were adopted by families of their own color. I think that parents who adopt a child of another race would not be good parents if they ignored the race issue, but I think it's a great if they embrace it and use it as a way to educate their children and families. My two closest cousins are South Korean and on their "arrival days" they visit authentic Korean restaurants and learn about Korea. The little girl accross the street is from China and even though she's only 8, her mom took her to China for a long vacation to teach her about Chinese culture. It's not something you can ignore by saying "well we all love each other and are equal so we can pretend it doesn't matter", but it can be a great way for families to learn about cultures they may have never cared about.
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Old 08-17-2006, 03:41 PM   #6
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I don't think race, religion, sexuality should ever be a factor in giving a child a loving home.

But every adopted parent should do their best to educate their child about the culture from which they come from.

In a way I do understand this concern, I think for the most part in America black culture is much more defined and celebrated, whereas white culture seems much more watered down. I know there are many exceptions strong Irish, Italian, etc...

But adopting does require an added responsibility of teaching that child something they themselves may have to educate themselves on.
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Old 08-17-2006, 04:14 PM   #7
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I think one of the keys to making interracial adoptions work is a willingness on the part of the adoptive family to acknowledge the race of the adopted child and help educate the child about their own culture and history. I have a Native Canadian friend who was adopted by white parents who didn't really teach him anything about his birth culture or really prepare him in any way for the prejudices and stereotypes that he still faces. He told me once that he "feels white on the inside, but looks native on the outside" and it creates a lot of confusion for him.

Ultimately, I agree that a stable loving home should come first, no matter what the race of the child or parents is. I just think since, as others have pointed out, we don't live in a world without racial prejudice and stereotyping, it is important for adoptive families to acknowledge and celebrate the differences rather than pretending they don't exist.
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Old 08-18-2006, 12:59 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Shaliz
Ultimately, I agree that a stable loving home should come first, no matter what the race of the child or parents is. I just think since, as others have pointed out, we don't live in a world without racial prejudice and stereotyping, it is important for adoptive families to acknowledge and celebrate the differences rather than pretending they don't exist.


I think most of these issues probably overlap with ones that interracial couples must contend with, too (both as couples and as parents). It's probably easier to be "naive" about the future challenges when you're talking about an infant, but I think education and support networks for the adoptive parents, such as those described in the article, can go a long way towards addressing that. What really needs to be addressed is prejudice and the related influence of continued sociocultural segregation (e.g., the adopted man from Minnesota's story), anyhow--it's not like racial subcultures are inherited, though I think it's fair and good to recommend that white parents adopting nonwhite children make an extra effort to ensure these children don't grow up in a subcultural bubble, and to be extra-sensitive to things like the effects of media representations on the child, etc.
Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
do black families ever adopt white children?
I would be interested in seeing the relevant stats here as well (which I guess would include what proportions of up-for-adoption children are black/white, respectively).
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Old 08-18-2006, 01:25 AM   #9
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In my limited experience with interracial adoptions, I've found it is not the family who are the ones we need to worry about, but the rest of us in society at large. We all sit here comfortably discussing it, but the issue, where it lay, is with the community which the child and family live. The number of ways people can have an issue with this is staggering. The number of ways people can be offensive and ignorant is unbelievable. And they'll always deny they have a problem. They're just 'curious, and asking out of interest' [poke, prod, place sample in petrie dish].

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Old 08-18-2006, 01:31 AM   #10
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Very thoughtful and intelligent responses to this thread! I was all prepared to get riled up but the blood pressure quickly resumed it's normal level as I read.

This area strikes home for me I guess because my wife is white and I'm black (I'm actually multiracial--Chinese grandmother, with some Scottish, black, and others thrown in. My mom and her siblings all married into different ethnic groups so I have Lebanese, "regular" American Caucasion, Filipino aunts, uncles, and cousins. My brown skinned siblings and I are actually the minority on my mom's side of the family. My dad's side of the mily is traditional "African American" but my parents split when I was young and I don't know his side of the family very well). While we intend to have our own children, the issues Irvine raised affect us too.

We received negative responses from both blacks and whites when we decided to get married--often from the people we least expected. One guy who I'd always respected (until he said this) sighed and said, "Well, as long as you don't have kids."

The big issue is "will the kid know what they are?" and my response is, "Yeah. A human being." That said, I agree with the responses I've heard so far. The first priority is to get kids into a loving home, and once that happens it's important to be aware of how issues of race and culture will affect your kids.

That said, I wouldn't deny that there are problems a multiracial child will encounter. Their lives will be harder. Mine was. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. While I grew up often feeling black on the outside, and white on the inside (My white friend would often make jokes about blacks, and then say "but we don't mean you. You're not REALLY black), in the long run these challenges benefited me and helped me grow.

Cerainly the challenges that may arise as a result of interracial adoption do not outweigh the benefits of a caring and loving home.
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Old 08-18-2006, 01:34 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram


We have family friends who adopted a daughter (black) in South America. She was my brother's age, and the couple was Croatian, so she actually spoke Croatian fluently later, and they also had a Spanish tutor for her. I've never met a happier, more productive child. She was bright, super educated and understood where she came from. But you know in Canada, we don't have this deep, historical black/white divide that exists in the US, so perhaps this experience would not be exactly the same had they adopted her into, say, the deep south?
I can say that the same thing happens here, in Colombia. Therms like "interracial" couples or "interracial" adoptions aren't used here, because, technically most of us are "interracial", you can find in the same family people with different skin colors

the last weekend we saw an european (and white) couple with two pretty black girls... my bf pointed to them and told me "that's how our kids will look like"

I have seen cases of colombian kids being adopted by parents from other countries and those seem to be very positive experiences. I think that a kid can appreciate the love and the protection of their parents even if they aren't their biological ones. As you said before we live in a world with prejudices and I think that children must know about where they come from and appreciate the difference as a good thing.

Lore.
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Old 08-18-2006, 10:58 AM   #12
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Here's a thought... if they are saying a child is better off with a family of their own race, does that also apply to custody battles?
For instance (using my aunt's family as an loose model here)..
Say a white mother and black father have brown-skinned children, and the parents get divorced. All other things being equal, would the children be better off with their father because he is black?

maycocksean's post reminds me of a story my cousin Akuah tells... she was invited to her friend's house for dinner in high school, and upon arriving realized her friend's parents were KKK members... their response was "well, we don't hate YOUR kind of black people."
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Old 08-18-2006, 10:59 AM   #13
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Old 08-18-2006, 11:40 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by maycocksean

We received negative responses from both blacks and whites when we decided to get married--often from the people we least expected. One guy who I'd always respected (until he said this) sighed and said, "Well, as long as you don't have kids."
The ridiculous ignorance and insensitivity of some people absolutely astounds me sometimes. I really don't understand this kind of attitude at all.

Quote:
The big issue is "will the kid know what they are?" and my response is, "Yeah. A human being." That said, I agree with the responses I've heard so far. The first priority is to get kids into a loving home, and once that happens it's important to be aware of how issues of race and culture will affect your kids.

That said, I wouldn't deny that there are problems a multiracial child will encounter. Their lives will be harder. Mine was. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. While I grew up often feeling black on the outside, and white on the inside (My white friend would often make jokes about blacks, and then say "but we don't mean you. You're not REALLY black), in the long run these challenges benefited me and helped me grow.
I completely agree with you here. The loving home is the most important thing in any adoption (interracial or otherwise).

I think what bothers me most in the case of my friend is that, instead of feeling proud or at least comfortable with who he is, he struggles with holding the same kinds of prejudices and stereotypes towards native people as others around him. He found that this made meeting his birth mother and brother harder for him than it might otherwise have been. This is where I think his adopted family has failed him to a certain extent. If there had been a support program available, like the one described in the article, I think some of this could have been avoided or at least brought out into the open and discussed.

Quote:
Cerainly the challenges that may arise as a result of interracial adoption do not outweigh the benefits of a caring and loving home.
I couldn't agree with you more on this, regardless of the struggles and issues that my friend has had to deal with.
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Old 08-19-2006, 11:01 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Kristie
Here's a thought... if they are saying a child is better off with a family of their own race, does that also apply to custody battles?
For instance (using my aunt's family as an loose model here)..
Say a white mother and black father have brown-skinned children, and the parents get divorced. All other things being equal, would the children be better off with their father because he is black?
I don't think race should have bearing on custody either. The philsophy is really a rationale for segragation. "Well, they're better off with their own kind."

Quote:
Originally posted by Kristie
maycocksean's post reminds me of a story my cousin Akuah tells... she was invited to her friend's house for dinner in high school, and upon arriving realized her friend's parents were KKK members... their response was "well, we don't hate YOUR kind of black people."
Yeah. The sad thing is that this kind of thinking is still quite prevelant today. It's the way many people are able to avoid thinking of themselves as (or being labeled as) racists. As long as you've got one "token" friend, the "credit to the race" the one who isn't like "all the rest of Those People" you're in the clear. As a kid (and still today) I talked with a "white" accent, liked white music, didn't hang out with other black people, wasn't too "loud" or opinionated, or "uppity" and so a lot of very racist people were more than happy to count me as a friend. Kinda makes me think of a certain Senator that's been getting a lot of attention on another thread recently.
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