According to United States Office of Health and Human Services, as reported by The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS Report #25 2018), there are over 442,000 children in the United States Adoption/Foster Care System. Of these, 123,437 are children without a place to call home, without a family of their own and are waiting to be adopted. A disturbing amount of children are sitting in the foster care system day by day wondering when their day will come and someone will want to adopt them. Nothing should deprive these forlorn children the opportunity of being enveloped by a loving family, not even race. Transracial adoptions should occur and should be encouraged, as long as the adoptive parents are aware of and plan for meeting the cultural needs of the child. Adopting children regardless of race will help to lessen the vast amount of children within the system, alleviate the damaging effects of kids waiting for a same-raced family, and can help to promote acceptance of diversity in society. Furthermore, if race is not the determining factor in adoption, but also is not completely neglected, interracial adoptions can be successful for both the child and their family.
As documented on the The AFCARS Report(2018), 44% of the 123,437 children waiting to be adopted were white. The other 56% of waiting adoptees were of other races/ethnicities, including African American/black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, Native Hawaiian/South Pacific, unknown race and a mix of two or more races. Sadly, with each year, brings a greater number of children coming into the foster care system with the hopes of being adopted, and unfortunately, for non-white children, the odds of finding a forever family are less than that of their white adoptee peers. Too many children languish in care because social workers hold out for “the perfect match” rather than deciding whether the would-be adoptive parents would provide a good home. The result, combined with the shortage of non-white couples wanting to adopt, is that ethnic minority children are over-represented among the young people in care who never find permanent homes. It takes an average of two years and seven months to adopt; black, Asian and mixed-race children wait three times longer than white children (Pidd 2010). Having a stable home environment, with loving supportive family member, is what every child wants, deserves, and needs to have a fulfilling and productive life. When a parent wants to adopt a child, race or ethnicity should never be the deciding factor as to whether or not a parent should or should not be allowed to love and raise the child. If a greater number of potential parents and agencies looked past the specific race or cultural background of the parent and/or child, this just may be the key that can unlock the door to many children walking into their new life long families. If transracial adoption happened more frequently, the number of children waiting to be adopted in the United States would decline.
Moreover, the longer a child waits to be adopted, the greater the negative impact it has on him/her. For instance, Dr. Susanne Babbel (2018) states that foster or group home children generally lack the childhood experiences that teach other children to trust authority figures. What can seem like a lack of emotion or attachment ability in these kids may often be a veiled protection mechanism: they may remain reserved within relationships in order to protect themselves from further hurt. The longer a child stays in foster care, the greater the chance that she or he will move from one foster home to another. Being bounced around between different foster homes is detrimental to the mental well being of children. Continually moving from home to home places the potential future adoptee at further risk of having negative effects on his or her psyche. Frequent moves mean that the child faces continuing disruption of relationships with friends, siblings and other relatives, coaches, teachers, classmates, religious leaders and other (Williams-Mbengue, 2016). Agencies should be be working diligently to foster relationships between adoptees and parents, regardless of race, so that the impact of being in the foster care system is lessened.
A benefit of transracial adoption is that it creates a unique family dynamic that can be helpful in promoting acceptance of diversity and can lead to more people having a deeper understanding and greater appreciation of those that are different than themselves. When children are adopted into a home that has different cultural backgrounds, it creates opportunities. It creates opportunities to learn, discuss, and to understand. It creates opportunity not only for the parent and child, but for others to travel past and expand the cultural horizon they have been so used to. The current research literature on psychological outcome, racial/ethnic identity development, and cultural socialization suggests that transracial adoptees—both domestic and international—are psychologically well adjusted, exhibit variability in their racial/ethnic identity development, and along with their parents, engage in a variety of cultural socialization strategies to overcome the transracial adoption paradox (Lee 2006).
Now it is not to say that adoptive parents should be color blind. This could be just as detrimental as the damaging effects of being bounced around in foster care year after year. Throughout our lives, identity development is central to the formation of a healthy sense of self (Fong and McRoy, 2016). Parents should be immersed in the cultural backgrounds of their new adoptive child well before the child arrives into their lives. They should be well educated on the history and challenges that their child’s ancestors, as well as they, face. The parents should live, in a culturally diverse area, have close friends and/or family members of the same race/ethnicity as their child, attend church, school and groups that encompass other children and adults that emulate that of their adoptee. Parents should also be able to naturally surround that child with impressive role models, that are of the same ethnic/racial backgrounds as the child. Being able to speak to their child honestly and openly about some really hard issues that they may face in their country because of the unfolding of American History and the reality of racism and intolerance because of it, is a critical component of successfully adopting transracially. Adoptive parents need to embrace who their child is and build upon that, sheathing them with rich cultural experiences, establishing authentic relationships as a natural way of living in a diverse family.
Some people believe that children should not be adopted transracially because the child will not have a sense of belonging if they are from a different cultural background. Unfortunately, whether a child is transracial or not, many adopted children feel similarly. One important way to help ease the feeling of not belonging is to expose the child to not only their own cultural background, but to the parent’s as well. Children should not be made to feel that everything about them is different. Their life will be on course to have to navigate through both cultures, and accepting and celebrating differences and likenesses will create a sense of belonging for both the parents and children. Yet others believe that whites that adopt black children cannot equip children with the tools necessary to survive in a racist society. It is important for prospective parents to be cognisant of the fact that the effects of race and ethnicity do exist. And so parents must understand it, and be ready to help their child work through it. Parents must be willing to take proactive and corrective measures that ensure the success of their children; otherwise, adoptions across the color line are nothing more than bodies occupying space (Smith 2011).
Parents considering transracial adoption should be first and foremost committed to improving the life of a child. With that commitment comes the responsibility of creating an environment that is empathetic as well as knowledgeable towards the cultural and ethnic needs of the child. Parents need to help that child build a sense of self-pride based on their own ethnicity. Denouncing transracial adoptions by no means will protect a child from intolerance. However, with the proper resources and training, parents can be the foundation their adoptive child will need to help them navigate as they develop their sense of racial heritage. As more transracial adoptions occur, more individuals may be enlightened and this can help to promote acceptance and unity in our society. Let us all work together to give these children a family and a home where they feel genuinely loved, truly valued and that they ultimately belong.