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Adopting a Child of Another Race: Part 1

Imagine if you had the chance to make a choice between two paths that would change your family's life forever. Would you choose Option 1, which is different from what you had always pictured for your family, but you could pursue it right away at an affordable cost; or would you go after Option 2, which is more like what you envisioned, but you would have to wait an undetermined amount of time, pay numerous fees and still have no guarantee that you'd ever receive it?

To an extent, that's the decision faced by people—including my wife and me—who are looking at adopting a child in the United States. Our options are either adopting a child who isn't of our ethnicity or race fairly quickly or waiting for years to adopt a child who shares our background. It appears most parents, like my wife and I, are choosing to expand their families right away, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that shows nearly 75 percent of U.S. adopted children of color go to white parents.

The growing trend toward transracial adoptions started with World War II and the Korean Conflict. Good-hearted people heard stories of war orphans and brought them into their families in the United States. In the late 1960s and early '70s, about 50,000 black children were adopted into white families. That concerned the National Association of Black Social Workers, to the point that the group issued a formal statement expressing worries the children would lose their culture and identity. The NABSW reversed that decision more than 20 years later and came out in favor of white couples adopting black children, as long as there was "a documented failure to find a home with black parents."

Families who insist on only adopting white children may wait years, pay tens of thousands of dollars and end up empty-handed. They may have to work through a private agency or hope to be chosen by a birth mother who will probably ask for additional expenses over and above any agency fees.

While a few children of color are adopted through agencies, most are connected with families through the foster care system, nicknamed "fost-adopt." In a lot of cases, including twice in our family, parents adopt children whose birth parents had their parental rights terminated. This happens either through a court order or voluntarily by the birth parents. The HHS study shows nearly two-thirds of minority children adopted through foster care are raised by white parents. The total number of adopted children of color with white parents is 71 percent, and nearly every child adopted from another country goes to a white family.

Most adoptive parents of children of color, like us, don't feel the need to use either qualifier. Once the child or children become part of the family, Mom and Dad don't see color or a bloodline that's not theirs. They see their son or daughter and are happy to leave it there.

Also in this series

Adopting a Child of Another Race, Part 2: Half-Black, Half-White, All Ours

Adopting a Child of Another Race, Part 3: Finding a sense of belonging in a different culture