Friday, August 18, 2006

Not a Black and White Issue

For a couple of days now I've been trying to figure out what it was that bugged me about this front page article in the New York Times. The headline is "Overcoming Adoption's Racial Barriers" and it focuses on white families adopting African-American children.

As I was scrubbing the coffee stains and cat hair off the stairs this morning, in preparation for house guest 2.0 (my much loved cousin and his adorable daughter, so I'm not really whining), I realized that this article seems to be suggesting that race is only about black and white. Interesting, because there are a whole lot of adult adoptees, mostly from Korea, who identify as trans-racial adoptees. Interesting, because I know that Guatebaby will be a transracial adoptee in our caucausian-jewish-with-a-big-dash-of-episcopalian family.

I also find that the article disturbingly seems to assume that "black baby" = "in foster care" even while focusing on families who adopted black infants not via the child welfare system. They write:
At the same time, some blacks view international adoptions by whites as a slight to black children in need of permanent and stable homes. “I can’t help but wonder why Angelina and Brad can’t adopt an African-American baby here with so many in need,” said Ishia Granger, 36, a black friend of Ms. Brockway. More than 45,000 black children were waiting to be adopted from foster care in 2004. There are no reliable national figures for private adoptions.



What do you think, my wise internet friends?

8 Comments:

Anonymous Nic said...

Wow, can't believe I am the first comment-er. I think that yes, the NYT was short sighted in not expanding the racial issue to include all nonwhites, not just blacks. The devil's advocate in me wonders if maybe the focus was on blacks b/c of a larger cultural divide (perceived or real) for blacks in the US versus other minorities? I find that hard to swallow since how could a cultural divide get any greater than if you were born in a country (i.e., China, Guatemala, etc etc) that speaks a different language, has different values, and so on. Maybe it has to do with the awful way that most African Americans' families were brought to this country? Maybe it has to do with the fact that most of the "adoptable" kids _in the US_ are black (I am basing this only on what I have read in the media)?

1:16 PM  
Blogger Co said...

I agree that the NYT was short-sighted. Of course it's about more than black and white.

Also, my blood now boils when people act as if there are just thousands of black children waiting to be adopted through foster care and all you have to do is want one. That hasn't been our friends' experience.

The child who they'd hoped to adopt through foster care and who they were told would probably become adoptable within a year is now preparing to go to live with her bio father. They love her and are currently focused on trying to see that she is transitioned effectively to her new home, for her sake. But they really wanted to adopt her.

I hate it when people think that adopting through foster care is so simple and that people are cruel for not doing so. It ain't easy to sever someone's parental rights, or for other relatives (grandparents, aunts, uncles, other siblings) to let go of children to whom they are related. And it ain't easy to be the wanna-be-adoptive-parents, wanting a child so bad it hurts, taking in a child and letting him/her into your heart knowing you might not get to keep them, no matter how many times the case workers reassure you that it's likely. It's not definite. It takes a special kind of person to assume that risk. And after our friends lose their foster daughter, they are going to adopt through an agency. They are still more than willing to take a black child, but they are not looking to go through that heartache again. I don't blame them.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Calliope said...

Well if the national adoption laws were inclusive maybe there would be more national adoptions. Angelina adopted as a single woman & there are very, very, very few options in the state available unless you come from what this nation declares a family.

sorry- that comment wasn't about race.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Oz said...

Don't hate me, but I think you're reading a bit too much into it. For one, I know that the NYT did an article in March about Chinese adoptees called "Adopted in China, Seeking Identity in America," which focused on the same issue of transracial adoption and these kids growing up without a sense of culture. Writing an article about ALL types of transracial adoption would be either A) so long as to be unreadable in newspaper format or B) so superficial as to say nothing at all. And race being what it is in America, there are special issues that go along with whites adopting African-American babies. Your second point about the article seeming to harp on the foster care numbers... well, I think that's just because there ARE foster care numbers. It's difficult to track private adoptions, and the waiting list of African-American kids is so compelling and obvious that it's very easy to use that to prove the point that these kids NEED homes, which then begets the question of which is better: white homes or no homes at all?

So I guess I didn't find fault with the article for the questions you raised.

8:18 PM  
Blogger JCM said...

I agree with oz; the piece had to have a limited scope to keep it readable. The issues with black/white transracial adoption are also a little different from international adoption, the history of the U.S. being what it is.

But the number they quoted of how many African-American children are waiting for adoption may be a little misleading, for the same reasons co brought up...how many of those have potential adoptive parents, but are waiting for the courts to decide about parental rights?

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Oz said...

Just wanted to add here that this comment from the article: "More than 45,000 black children were waiting to be adopted from foster care in 2004," most likely refers to "waiting children," and a "waiting child" is defined as one whose parental rights have already been terminated and are "free and clear" to be adopted.

In 1999, there were approx 127,000 "waiting children" and 60% of them were African-American. I found that info here . Of course, very few of these children (14%) were under 1 year of age, and many people who seek to adopt want infants....

9:43 PM  
Blogger Minnesota Nice said...

I finally got around to reading your archives and you have been on a wild journey these past months. And.....
- I like your and P's slippers
- the kitty pictures are adorable
- I love Dar Wiliams and have seen her in concert twice
- your list of Diabetes Pet Peeves was disgustingly right-on
-more than one of your posts made me hungry
-I also have a "celebratory treat" after my appointments - usually it's a lemon poppyseed scone at the clinic coffeeshop - but I hide it under a newspaper just in case Denise-the-nasty-nurse happens to cross the threshold
-you and P will make great parents and the kidlet will never be wanting for adventure
May there be good days ahead for you.
Kathy

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

I think that it was somewhat short-sighted. But I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong, that the majority of children in the foster care system are black. The part that truly drives me crazy, though, is when people assume that it's easy to adopt a child from foster care. Even when the parental rights have been terminated, there's no guarantee that the child you love and have raised for several years will become yours by adoption; there was a case where that happened in Pennsylvania earlier this year. http://talkback.lancasteronline.com/lofiversion/index.php/t28229.html And I can't even imagine how heartbreaking that would be for a parent, which is one reason we're not pursuing foster-care adoption. I couldn't deal with it, and I can't imagine explaining to P why his brother or sister was being taken away to live somewhere else. None of the people who talk about how many children there are in need of families in this country ever think about that issue. They seem to think it's purely a racial issue, which is ridiculous. If someone is adopting internationally, they are most likely adopting transracially. Clearly, for those families, race isn't important--having a child to love and raise is the important part. Non-adoptive families don't see these things in a lot of cases.

8:50 AM  

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