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Transracial Adoption – a Brief History



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    Nora Long author of “Transracial Adoption” defines transracial adoption as: “the practice if placing infants and children into families who are of a different race than child’s birth family” (1/3). After World War II transracial began to be practiced placing children (Vietnamese, Korean and European) from war torn countries with white families in the United States. The focus was on placing a child(ren) with loving parents. In later years it was discovered that just as many ethnic minority children (African American, Native American and Hispanic) in the United States were without homes.

    Domestic adoption agencies began placing these children with white families also. Between 1968 and 1972, approximately 50,000 black and biracial children were adopted by white adoptive parents. At the time, adoption of black children by white families was thought necessary due to the increasing number of black children in foster care and the seeming lack of black adoptive families. In the early 1970s, transracial adoptions gained in popularity as the number of available white infants declined and the number of prospective adoptive parents continued to grow.

    In 1968 The National Association of Black Social Workers Inc was formed. NABSW’s goal was to take a stance on many issues including transracial adoption. The practice of transracial adoption was severely challenged in 1972. At the national conference of the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) issued a formal position opposing transracial adoption, citing concerns that such placements compromised the child’s racial and cultural identity, amounting to a form of cultural genocide.

    The NABSW expressed concern that black children raised in white homes would fail to develop effective coping strategies to deal with racism and discrimination, and would experience subsequent identity conflicts, as they grew older. The NABSW also challenged traditional adoption practices and raised questions about institutionalized racism within the adoption profession.

    They brought forward existing evaluation criteria for prospective adoptive couples that routinely prevented black families from qualifying, and stated that even though prospective black adoptive families did exist, adoption agencies were failing to recruit them and were, in fact, passing them over in favor of white couples. Transracial adoption has also affected the Native American community, but under a different set of circumstances. Before 1978, it was estimated that in ertain states, between 25 to 35% of Native American children were taken from their homes, with 90% of these children being placed in white families. Failing to understand traditional Native American culture and child-rearing practices, officials and social workers from public and private agencies claimed that the removal of Native American children from their families was in the “best interest of the child. ” These children were sometimes taken through fraudulent means, and parents were often misled or relinquished their children under duress.

    The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act of 1994, authored by Senator Howard Metzenbaum, mandated that adoption agencies receiving federal funds cannot deny or delay adoptions based solely on racial difference. This was partly written in response to the growing number of children in foster care, but because the language was subject to interpretation, Congress enacted the Inter-Ethnic Adoption Provisions in 1996, which prohibited federally funded agencies from denying or delaying adoptions solely on the basis of race or national origin.

    Both laws are designed to decrease the length of time a child has to wait before being adopted and eliminate racial discrimination. These laws have been controversial, however and have not diminished the debate surrounding transracial adoption. Many people feel that transracial adoptees are emotionally scarred by their experience; others strongly disagree and suggest that the long-term outcome for transracial adoptees is very positive. Some suggest that the number of children in need of foster care or adoption will always exceed the number of available families within a particular racial group.

    Others believe that current adoption practices are rife with racial discrimination and other barriers, and that greater efforts should be made to remove them. Still others advocate for more systemic support of families who struggle against economic and social disadvantage in order to keep these families together and decrease the need for foster and adoptive placements. And finally, there are those who think that adoption into a White family is preferable to the impermanence and instability of foster care.

    The Pro’s – The Parents and Social Workers. Parents of transracially adopted children feel that their children can have the best of both worlds. They feel that their support system is strong enough to provide their child(ren) with the skills (dealing with racism, culture, identity) necessary to survive in society. Social workers do attempt to place child(ren) with potential parents (no matter what the race is) but because of pressure from co-workers and their administration they are forced to attempt to place the child(ren) with a family of the same race as the child first.

    Because of the tedious screening process a lot of African-Americans who may want to adopt a child shy away. According to members of the National Advisory committee of the African American leadership group forty percent of the children waiting adoption are black they believe that transracial adoption should be encouraged to provide stable homes for black children in foster care. They believe that what is in the best interest of the black child is the right to become part of a family that will provide stability.

    Tara Wall author of “Transcending Ideals About Trans-Racial Adoptions” states that as we extend ourselves globally as a nation we should transcend our way of thinking regarding transracial adoption. She feels that it is wrong to disregard the hopes of willing families (White, Hispanic and Asian) to adopt children of a different race or a different culture.

    The Con’s – The Social Workers and Experts. The National Association of Black Social Workers strongly believes that the placement of black children should be with black families and not with white families. It is believed that placement with a white family will cause serious social and psychological problems with the adopted individual. Psychologists believe that a child(ren)’s development could be affected by placement in an interracial family environment (unable to identify with themselves because of the difference in color and culture).

    Transracial Adoption – a Brief History. (2017, Feb 22). Retrieved from

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