Precinct 333

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Black-White Adoptions

Several years ago, before my wife became ill, we sought to adopt children through Texas Child Protective Services. We attended the first meeting on a Saturday morning, and at the first break stopped to speak with one of the social workers about the process. She looked at us and told us that we had already been “selected out of the process.” Upon further inquiry, it was explained the state gets so few white newborns in its foster/adopt system that we were being excluded from consideration because “that’s all folks like you always want.”

We were floored. We both taught at large, multi-racial high schools. We were looking to adopt a sibling group (two or more related children) of any race or ethnic group, and we were even willing to consider children with special needs. When we told her this, we were informed that we really weren’t suitable for such an adoption. Before we had even turned in our information sheet, we were ruled out of consideration. Calls to the local supervisor and the agency headquarters in Austin brought only denials that this was agency policy and implicit accusations that we were liars. The final blow was the “suggestion” that we might want to consider some other avenue for pursuing adoption if we were “uncomfortable” with the social workers in the Houston office.

That’s why Larry Elder’s current column resonates with me so.

For decades, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) and others called transracial adoptions "cultural genocide." In 1992, the NABSW issued a paper condemning "transracial" black-white adoptions between Americans, warning against "transculturation . . . when one dominant culture overpowers and forces another culture to accept a foreign form of existence," and stated that "children need to be with those who are most familiar with their culture, heritage and family system." I attempted to determine whether NABSW still maintains its official status against "transracial adoptions," but as of final editing of this article, no one from the organization returned a phone call or e-mail.

Responding to the opposition of organizations like the NABSW, adoption agencies pulled back. After all, who could understand the dramatically different "culture" of blacks better than black social workers?

Finally, in 1994 -- concerned about the alarming number of black children waiting for adoption -- Congress passed the Multiethnic Placement Act, which prohibits delay or denial of any adoption due to the race, color or national origin of the child or adoptive parents. Still, after the Act, the number of transracial adoptions failed to significantly increase. Why? According to the National Adoption Center, government still allows agencies to use variables to calculate "the best interest of the child." For instance, take a 9-year-old black child who has never lived with a white family. An adoption agency could argue that it's not in the "best interest of the child" to be adopted by a white family -- even when a white family wants the child!

Even now, when adoption seems out of the question for us, I still agonize over that door being slammed in our faces. Not because I feel unfulfilled because I don’t have children – I’ve got 160 of them in my classes, and countless others who I interact with and try to love in the hallways and cafeteria at my school. But I wonder if there are children out there – maybe black, maybe Hispanic, maybe Asian, maybe white – who could be, should be, in our home rather than foster care.

And I wonder how many others have been denied a home based upon the racist policy suggestions propagated by racialist organization of the NABSW.


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