Monday, June 2, 2008

What Do You Think?

I'd love to know what everyone thinks about this. I know it's long, but, please, read it and leave a comment!! I'll let you know what I think in a few days. You might be surprised by what I think (apparently Mark was!).

Do Whites Need Training Before Parenting Black Children?

NEW YORK (AP) -- Several leading child welfare groups Tuesday urged an overhaul of federal laws dealing with transracial adoption, arguing that black children in foster care are ill-served by a "colorblind" approach meant to encourage their adoption by white families.

Recommendations for major changes in the much-debated policy were outlined in a report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

"Color consciousness -- not 'color blindness' -- should help to shape policy development," the report said.

Groups endorsing its proposals included the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the Child Welfare League of America, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the National Association of Black Social Workers.

At issue is the 1994 Multi-Ethnic Placement Act -- and revisions made to it in 1996 -- governing the adoption of children from foster care.

One part of the law directs state agencies to recruit more adoptive parents of the same race as the children. The new report says this provision hasn't been adequately enforced and calls for better funded efforts to recruit minority parents.

The more contentious part of the legislation prohibits race from being taken into consideration in most decisions about adoption from foster care. For example, white parents seeking to adopt a black child cannot be required to undergo race-oriented training that differs in any way from training that all prospective adoptive parents receive.

A key recommendation in the new report calls for amending the law so race could be considered as a factor in selecting parents for children from foster care. The change also would allow race-oriented pre-adoption training.

"We tried to assess what was working and what wasn't, and came to the conclusion that preparing parents who adopt transracially benefits everyone, especially the children," said Adam Pertman, the Donaldson Institute's executive director.

"The view that we can be colorblind is a wonderful, idealistic perspective, but we don't live there," Pertman said. "If we want to do the best for the kids, we have to look at their realities."

At the heart of the debate is the fact that the foster care system has a disproportionately high number of black children, and on average they languish there nine months longer than white children before moving to permanent homes. The latest federal figures showed that 32 percent of the 510,000 children in foster care were black in 2006, compared with 15 percent of all U.S. children.

Of the black children adopted out of foster care, about 20 percent are adopted by white families. The Donaldson report said current federal law, by stressing color blindness, deters child welfare agencies from assessing families' readiness to adopt transracially or preparing them for the distinctive challenges they might face.

"There is a higher rate of problems in minority foster children adopted transracially than in-race," said the report. "All children deserve to be raised in families that respect their cultural heritage."

Pertman stressed that his institute and its allies were not opposed to transracial adoption.
"We want to see more kids in foster care get permanent homes, and we want to see the parents who raise those children be prepared to do so," he said.

Professor Elizabeth Bartholet, who directs the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School, believes that the concept of striving for color blindness is sound. She foresees problems if race once again becomes a key determinant.

"Giving social workers the chance to do that produced very rigid race matching," she said, referring to pre-1994 policies. "That's one of the reasons to say race can't be used at all; there's no other way to be sure it doesn't become the overwhelming factor."

Current policy allows standardized pre-adoption training but wisely prohibits specific screening for parents seeking to adopt transracially, Bartholet said.

"What cannot be done is have a pass/fail test that turns on whether you give the politically correct answers," she said. "If social workers are allowed to use training to determine who can adopt, there's lots of experience showing they abuse that power."

She also questioned whether attempts to boost minority recruitment would succeed.
"Black people are significantly poorer than white people and less likely to be in a position to come forward," Bartholet said. "Recruitment efforts bump up against that fact."

The Donaldson recommendations were embraced as "long overdue" by Michelle Johnson, a black woman raised by white adoptive parents near Minneapolis. Johnson now works on child-welfare matters for the court system there.

Her parents "were not the norm," she said. "They were exceptional in what they did for me. ... They were very humble in what they didn't know. There was lots of communication."

Too many white adoptive parents, she said, underestimate the enduring presence of racism in America and don't get training that would help them raise a black child.

"As a social worker who used to place children, I know very few families are ready to do this," Johnson said. "When families fail to realize they need assistance, it's dangerous."

Regarding recruitment, Johnson said child welfare agencies should strive to find permanent homes for black children among their extended families before placing them in foster care.

John Mould and Margaret Geiger, an Ambler, Pennsylvania, couple, have two white biological children and five black adopted children, now aged 15 to 23. Mould said transracial adoption is unquestionably challenging, but he worries about any changes that might make training and screening requirements too rigid.

"There are so many kids who need homes," Mould said. "The idea of trying to find the perfect matches -- you're not going to find them."

His adopted children have encountered some difficulties over the years, Mould said, but he believes they've developed resiliency and maturity as a result.

His youngest son, Eric Jones, 15, said the family's makeup sometimes complicates his life, but he's convinced that transracial adoption can succeed.

"White or black doesn't matter," he said. "What counts is whether the parents are ready to take responsibility."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

8 comments:

bkah said...

I just noticed the article on CNN and saw your link. I am actually mortified that this is even an item of discussion by our society. In situations where sadly children are even in the foster care system to began with it is disgusting that this is what the focus is.

Two things I have to share are:

One, how obsurd to hold onto the fact that you didn’t know how to fix your hair when you were younger. My mother who is white and grew up in her own family - had curly hair that people used to refer to as ‘black’ hair, noone taught her how to fix it. They were poverty stricken and she instead focused on more important things - like caring for her siblings. In turn she didn’t teach my older sister how to fix her hair either. And I am sorry but I know little about my culture, but I am white myself so we just group them all together and it doesn’t really matter anyway to our society.

Two, my family adopted my sister from South Korea, so race if it is an issue needs to be addressed from all spectrums not just the white and black. My sister lacks the culture of her heritage as well - the only being or beings at fault for her loss of that knowledge are her biological parents. How obsurd to suggest that the adoptive parents are at fault for the lack of culture in the child’s life.

My parents aren’t Korean - obviously they know that - but they are willing to offer their love, their support, their home and their heart to care for a child that is in need of these things.

Now as my sister has grown, she’s blossomed into a beautiful person - she may have struggled at times to fit in LIKE EVERY CHILD DOES AT ONE POINT IN THEIR LIFE, but my parents have gone above and beyond to fill in for that fact, the fact that they aren’t Koren.

We have friends and family with others that have choosen to adopt children from Korea and/or Asia, we are apart of an organization that celebrates the asian history and tradition throughout the year, my sister took classes to learn the Korean language, the adoptive agency holds camps for the adoptive children as well to talk with one another - not about their race - but about their struggle from being adopted as a whole. You see every child lacks something depending on their perspective - even the children you bring into this world by birth.

My parents took my sister to Korea to learn more and meet her birth mother as well, we currently have a South Korean exchange student living in our house at the moment that is close in age to my sister. My parents know they aren’t Korean, they know they would never be able to give her what her biological parents could - like other families who adopt outside their race know they aren’t the same. However my parents offered her more then her biological parents did, they offered her a home, a family, love and support and encouragement and opportunity. The opportunity to be more, to be better, better then how she was unfortunately treated when she was a baby, abandoned. How incredibly absurd to make race a divide for people who are trying to care for the ones that need it the most.

And I won’t even get into what people might say about multi-racial couples who have children, like the fact that I am married to a man that is mexican and my daughter is half white and half mexican. Am I required to take a class?

Blueberry said...

it is an interesting issue isn't it?

all i can say is i'm impressed by the things you are doing for your child. i love that you are going out and trying to connect with moms and children of his race. you want him to know who he is and where he comes from and i think that shows how deeply you care for him.

it is a little sad that people would need to be told and required to do that. and very sad that a child wouldn't get to go to a loving home because the people who wanted to adopt him were of a different race.

i'm rambling, sorry, i think i need some sleep! :)

BECKY LYNN said...

Hmmmm.....Well, I have thought a lot about this in light of our foster care training and the possibility to adopt a child of a different race than ours. before our training, I would have thought that this article was absurd....but now I think a little differently. (and hear me out on this). I used to have the mindset that "love is all you need." I used to think that we could just take any child into our home and be happy and merry and live without any knowledge that they were a different color or of a different hertitage than we are. But, what I failed to realize and remember is that being African American (or Mexican or Bi-racial or whatever) is part of WHO THEY ARE. Now, that is not to say that white parents should not adopt black children, but I do agree that some training should be had....Now, like the article was saying, I think it would be an abuse to reject a parent based on a test if they were politically correct in their answers or not, but I think it MIGHT be a good idea to teach parents before adoption about their adoptive child's race, heritage and special needs, as well as some training on racism in general. I, for one, had no idea that it was taboo to cut a little black baby's hair before a year, or that their skin has different needs than our skin. I didn't think about the fact that children need to be around SOME children who look like them so they can get an idea that they are not the only ones in the world. This quote to me makes perfect sense: "All children deserve to be raised in families that respect their cultural heritage." I DO think you can respect another heritage other than your own and not be of the same heritage which is where my opinion differs from parts of that article. Anyway, those are my thoughts. I hope they made sense and didn't offend you in any way. I am open to learning as we are embarking on this same journey you are on!
-BECKY LYNN

Pam said...

I will have to give this more thought. My initial reaction to the article was that I *do* think it's a great idea for all adoptive parents to educate themselves on the original cultural heritage of their adopted children, but I do not think race should be a determining factor in placement. I can see the potential for all kinds of abuses of that power. Should classes be required AFTER placement? I don't know. Certainly encouraged.

I know there are all varieties of adoptive parents, but I would hope that most would be eager to learn about the heritage of their adopted children. I know I would.

And I know you do! You are a wonderful mom to your precious boy.

Chaz & Kari Dull said...

I had never really thought of this all before. I guess I think that soem of these issues may be valid BUT I believe that these children of whatever race need to be adopted and race alone should not determine if someone can adopt a child. What you are doing with Steven is wonderful and you are doing great too by going to that organization for black moms!! You are doing great!!

Megan said...

Wow. Some deep thoughts.

I definitely think it's an issue that needs to be thought about when adopting interracially. This should in NO WAY make it more difficult for people to adopt interracially as these children need homes regardless of the color of the adopting families. However, I do agree that families who chose to adopt interracially should seek to understand where their child is coming from and how an interracial adoption will affect their family and specifically their child. Did I make sense?

stephanie garcia said...

My answer is this: I believe that all adoptive parents SHOULD receive training prior to adopting, whether the adoption is same-race or transracial.

For the most part, I agree that parents adopting transracially SHOULD be willing to undergo race-oriented pre-adoption training - after all, this education can only benefit their future child.

However, I firmly believe that we SHOULD NOT be "amending the law so race could be considered as a factor in selecting parents for children from foster care."

No, we cannot be colorblind as transracial adoptive parents. We need to be aware of the challenges our children will face and be prepared to help them deal with those challenges appropriately. But what makes a good parent has nothing to with skin color and everything do with love - and, as Eric Jones so aptly said, being "ready to take responsibility."

stephanie garcia said...

Dorothy Bode and her husband have three biological children and have adopted six African American children. She has a blog - http://urbanservant.blogspot.com - and I just noticed that her May 27 post addresses this article. She also has a link to an NPR interview she did on transracial adoption, which was really good!