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Biracial Adoption and Its Controversies


Racial adoptions, racial partnerships and racial marriages are increasingly being accepted as a way of life and a necessity in the development of an increasingly multicultural society in addition to promoting family diversity. However, most families still ideally nurture racial homogeneity which is rooted in the belief of biologism that dictates that the strength of a family is a result of genetic relatedness. Moreover such a belief also dictates the existence of socially designed factors that affect the acceptance of biracial families in the community. It is because of this that many neighborhoods still view a family structure as a biologically resembling entity that is racially exclusive. This paper offers a concise exposition on the controversies inherent in biracial adoption with reference to legislative anti discrimination statutes and the prevalent negative societal inhibitions of racial and cultural prejudices and how they are used to determine who the prospective adoptive parents should be in relation to equipping the child with coping strategies in a predominantly racist environment.

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Impelled to adopt by the fertility crisis and the chronic scarcity of adoptable children, many parents are willing to espouse transracial and transcultural options inside the country as well as outside the country (international adoptions). Despite an acceptance of biracial adoptions, biracial partnerships and biracial marriages, most families still ideally nurture racial homogeneity. Such an idea is bed-rocked in the belief of biologism that dictates that the strength of a family is a result of genetic relatedness. It is this insistence coupled with a number of environmentally designed factors that affect the acceptance of transracial families as many neighborhoods still view a family structure as a biologically resembling entity that is racially exclusive. However, things are changing and the enactment of non discrimination statutes is just an initial step towards the society’s acceptance of biracial adoptions as a favorable alternative.

In total transracial and transcultural adoptions constitute approximately 14% of adoptions in the United States of America and these numbers are on a steady increase (Urdang 2002; Ellin 1994). Studies of international adoptions indicate that adopted children generally adapt well with respect to their new families. Ideally, they have a comparatively high degree of satisfaction and adjustment. This is attributable to the lack of information on the parents especially in countries such as china where the one child statute prevents parents from identifying themselves with extra children hence such children are usually abandoned and end up in orphanages. Such cases of parental anonymity prevents the gathering and compilation of genetic information and birth histories of abandoned children hence family histories become completely eliminated from the development of the child.

Despite successes in adjustment and satisfaction, international, transcultural and transracial adoptions have remained controversial even in the face of increasing shift towards such adoptions. In cases of international adoptions, critics have been quick to argue that children originating from other countries to the United States only propagate the despoiling of such countries of future indigenous human resources which are necessary for economic growth and development. Moreover, such adoptions only stimulate the exploitation and victimization of such countries through colonialism as well as preventing them from finding internal solutions to internal problems. Children from other cultures may also be subjected to discrimination. When this happens for a long time difficulties in integrating a culturally alien infant to the adoptive parents racial and cultural identity becomes a problem (Urdang 2002).

Many adoptive parents are adopting structures that attempt to erase the effects of transcultural or transracial adoptions through fostering cultural pride in these children. Additionally, specific measures that promote the identification and espousal of cultural identities. Such measures include joining groups that are constituted of transracial and transcultural adoptive families. In cases where the parental lineage is known, adoptive parents facilitate the visiting of the countries of origin.

Discrimination is not only expressed towards the child but American or European parents who had hitherto been free from discrimination may experience discriminative gestures because of their relation to the child. However, adoption remains a better alternative when compared to lifetime institutionalization of abandoned infant because of its favorable outcome. Moreover, it has not convincing to posit that institutions offer a better home for abandoned infants since such children are not immune to discrimination even if they were to be maintained in the institutions foe the whole of their lives.

Controversies in Biracial Adoptions

Biracial adoption is a form of an interracial adoption which has remained controversial due to pertinent issues surrounding racial integration or separation. While many are of the opinion that interracial adoptions are ideally compatible with the existence and development of an increasingly multicultural society in addition to promoting family diversity, others oppose it due to problems in developing a cultural or racial identity. It is constitutionally testified that neither the race nor gender possesses a significant impact on adoption disruption. However, this is not true as race generally possess a strong influence in the adoption marketplace. It is a bald fact that in such a marketplace whites generally cost more that their black counterparts (Urdang, 2002).

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In Carville, Katrina and Shmitzes decided to settle down and start a family. However, their focus was not on having their own but adopting those in foster care. The young couple was not interested in gender neither were they interested in the race of the child they were to adopt. All they wanted was a family and they adopted five biracial (Black American) boys. While some people view them as noble parents out to help out with the foster care problem, they view themselves as just another normal family in the face of biracial adoption controversy (Ellin, 1994). Without any knowledge of raising the children to acquire racial identity and pride and oblivious of the challenges they were about to face they believed that love and care would be sufficient to raise the boys up.

The case of this family thwarts opinions to the fact that white families only want espouse biracial adoption because there are not enough white infants in foster care to adopt or that they are infertile. Moreover, the beliefs that the missionary mentality of rescue fantasies presents biracial adoption as a action that only happens because it is believed that the foster care system is not fit for the children is partly true as adoption simply removes children from less favorable conditions to a home where they may be able to undergo normal development. On the other hand such a belief is false for parents who adopt on the basis of an objective of starting a family and nothing else.

The choice of adoption of a biracial child is a choice often misunderstood. It has never been accepted that white families chose to adopt black infants simply because they need them in their families. However, other factors such as declining birth rate, greater acceptance of out of wedlock childbirth and legalization of abortion has necessitated the shift towards biracial adoption as white babies are comparatively less available (Maupin 1985). Gary and Beverly Miller chose adoption as an alternative since Beverly had brain tumor which meant that she had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation. On the basis of medical advice against pregnancy, she chose adoption as a means to having a family of her own. At the point of that decision the objective of a good home was more dominant as opposed to the child’s skin color. The family adopted a biracial child Angie and followed with Jason because they believed that there was no reason why they could not love a black kid anymore than they could love a white kid. The rejection and racist slurs from trusted family members poured in but they remained positive and the controversy became a success story despite all the huddles they had to go through (Maupin, 1985).

Although not a single social services agency that receives federal funding will discriminate against an individual on the basis of ethnicity in biracial adoption due to policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or racial background, their staff still maintain clear indifference to such non-discrimination statutes. This is manifested in the type of questions you may be subjected to. Such questions seek to establish your neighborhood and your ability as a parent to nurture cultural identity. Acceptance levels are therefore linked to attitudes of people which are determined by where they reside. Biracial adoptions call for a flexibility no only on the parents who have decided to acquire an abandoned infant but whole family and the neighborhood at large. This goes a long way to obviate the possibility of discrimination while promoting racial integration and the development of racial identity since a child ought to be reared in an environment where they not only feel accepted, loved and respected but where they also feel a sense of belonging.

The NABSW policy was that black children could only be raised black parents. This policy was guided by the belief that it is only in such an instance that a positive racial identity could be developed to help the child cope effectively with the challenges inherent in a racist society. While this view was embraced and seconded by many others, the resultant effect it had on the social services agencies was undesirable. The number of black children who could otherwise been adopted by white parents increased in the institutions as no family with a black ethnic background could be located to adopt the children (Beauvis-Godwin 2005).The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) was one of the major institutions that came strongly against the institution of non discriminative statutes on transracial adoption. They believe that if such forms of transracial adoptions were to continue then there was the possibility of wiping out the black cultural identity. They categorically inferred that the placing of children of black ethnicity into white parentage was nothing but a form of cultural and racial genocide (Urdang 2002).

Whether argument is in tandem with the best interests in the child’s growth and development is another matter, what is certain is that there cannot be enough biracial adoptions to wipe out the black cultural identity. Moreover, such an insistence is against the child’s best interests as it places more importance on the cultural interest while relegating the child’s interest to a much lower cadre. As Peter Hayes posits, it is a compromise to a child’s welfare when such arguments are heeded to because when cultural interests prevail a child’s welfare interests especially if such a cultural benefit is nothing but non existent. Additionally, it defeats the purpose of placement on one hand place and the best interest standard as mandated by law on the other (Beauvis-Godwin, 2005).

Many parents accept that until they adopted the biracial children, their understanding of racism and discrimination was limited and therefore their ability to equip such a child with coping strategies in the face of racial prejudice was largely non existent. The reaction in the neighborhoods to people of color becomes such a big surprise and as parents they begin to realize the implications of their actions and the effect of racial slurs on child development (Rabin 1995).

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Race based assumptions are still grounded on the belief that certain races belong together and therefore biracial adoptions should be shunned. Such beliefs run deep into the social ontology of the American populace. Biracial adoptions are a direct threat to the normative weight of the social ontology that prescribes the same race family structure. This assumption is further buttressed with another flawed assumption that meaningful and strong family structures require a genetic linkage. Supporters of biracial adoptions reiterate that cases of race matching policies by social departments or agencies violate the rights enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment. This amendment prohibits adopters from being a subject of state sponsored racial discrimination (Fogg-Davis 2002).

However, opponents of biracial adoptions point out that race matching is permissible constitutionally as it promotes group preservation. Even though both arguments carry some weight and have persistently influenced biracial adoption, none of the arguments defends the Fourteenth Amendment which enlists the rights of prospective adoptive infants. When the law is applied with equal respect for both the adoptive parent and the adoptive child, then an equal law that protects all can be discerned and hence children can be selected and adopted without prejudice and racial bias. A comprehensive application of the law would mean that prospective adoptive parents do not select children from social agencies based on racial classification (Fogg-Davis, 2002). Such an application can be referred to as racial randomization. If applied it has the ability to erase moral intuitions of racial discrimination.

The Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) of 1994, prohibited agencies that receive federal funding from racially classifying adopters and using that classification as a means of rejecting or accepting placement. However, both the adopters and social agency should not lose cognizance of ethnic identity as a determining factor on how the child would be treated in the community. The idea is that while MEPA comes out as a non discriminative statute, it does not melt away racial sensitivity. In fact it makes it permissible with respect to the public exhibition of racial discrimination (Fogg-Davis, 2002).

The crux of the controversy lies in the prospective adoptive parents. Questions are asked as to their motive of accepting biracial adoption when the contrast (child of their racial origin) is plausible. Do they engage in biracial adoption as a means of expressing their humanitarian desires while divorced from the social consequences of biracial adoption? Such questions should be analyzed before biracial adoption becomes a reality. This is to prevent the rejection of then child by family and friends who may even condemn them for taking such a move without prior consultations. Ideally, such cases should be prevented because they work against the normal development of the child.

Adoption as an alternative to institutionalization of an abandoned child for life is only favorable if the environment in which the child is reared is free from discrimination, abundant of love and appreciation and promoting of the child’s ethnic identity (Simon et al,  2002). There have been cases where an adoptive family is subjected to negative societal traits exhibited towards blacks. Such traits as insults, ostracism and racial slurs may transform the family into a traitor, do-gooders, nigger-lovers, rebels in the face of an unforgiving racially abusive community. Is such concerns that modeled the NABSW opinion and hence its prescription so as to safeguard against such occurrences and consequent effects of the growth and development of the adopted black infant.

A case is told of one Pat Valerino who together with his wife adopted a biracial son; Daniel. At first everything was alright as the act of adoption seemed to fit well with the Pat objective of making a family. Moreover, they had no intentions of waiting for several years to locate a white infant neither did they want to make a political statement that racial harmony could be advanced. As years trudged on and transracial adoptions became the norm reaching its peak in 1971, the political correctness of the equation unfolded with the NABSW declaration and ever since the controversy still brews on. The insistence is still ton place a black kid with a black parent unless as a last resort will a black kid be placed with a white adoptive parent (Rabin, 1995).

With the intense scrutiny on transracial placement, there is a possibility that a time may advance when the large number of African American children remain forfeit to languish in foster care while many prospective adoptive parents remain reluctant to circumvent the NABSW directive as well as the legal directives. This reluctance explains why prospective adopters prefer to deal directly with the mothers of such infants hence avoiding adoption agencies. Transracial adoption controversies explain the proportion of blacks in foster care. For instance out of the total 400,000 children, Blacks constitute approximately 40%, Whites 39% and Hispanics 12%. As controversies rage and better reforms are stymied, children suffer for not being at home (Rabin 1995; Ellin, 1994).


The issue of biracial adoptions can only be resolved when statutes are put in place that recognize that children have to be facilitated to live in homes and not the foster care system. Such statutes will not only preserve and respect individual rights of the adopted child but also that of the adoptive parents. Cultural identity will continue to determine who adopts a child from the social services agencies because the benefit in the growth and development of the child can only be extrapolated with reference to the underlying race and cultural relations in the United States of America.

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  1. Beauvis-Godwin, Laura. (2005). The Complete Adoption Book: Everything You Need to Know to Adopt a Child. Adams Media. p. 300
  2. Ellin, Harlene. (1994). It is not all Black and White: The Controversy Surrounding Transracial Adoption. State Journal Register. Springfield, Ill.: 1994. pg. 17
  3. Fogg-Davis, G. Hawley. (2002). The Ethics of Transracial Adoption. Cornell University Press. p. 74-80
  4. Maupin, Elizabeth. (1985). Biracial Adoption: A Family Choice in Love and Controversy, the Home is What Matters. Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, Fla.: 1985. pg. F. 1
  5. Rabin, Roni. (1995). Adoption in Black and White. Can Black Children Raises by White Parents Develop a Positive Sense of Self and a Strong Racial Identity? Newsday. Long Island, N.Y.: 1995. p. B. 04
  6. Simon, J. Rita, Altstein, H. (2002). Adoption, Race, & Identity: From Infancy to Young Adulthood. Transaction Publishers. p. 15-17
  7. Urdang, Ester. (2002). Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Interweaving the Inner and Outer Worlds. Horwarth Press. p. 226-230

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