Thursday, February 18, 2010

Black History Month: A time to Reevaluate Transracial Adoption Practices

"Bring up race and adoption, and watch people squirm," notes at The Root.

Yet: reported of a couple who: “got a price list [with prices of] $25,000 for a white baby, $12,500 for an Asian baby and $5,000 for a black one.”

The Institute of the Black World 21st Century's Black Family Summit, under the leadership of Leonard Dunston, president emeritus of the National Association of Black Social Workers, has formed a National Task Force (Black Task Force Offers Help in Haiti) to help address the growing crisis of orphaned children in Haiti.
The deep racial politics of adoption are mired in centuries of colonialism, as well as white paternalism over domestic minority groups and developing countries. The result: They have left scars as deep as forced adoption of American Indian children into white families in the mid-20th century—and fresh ones from the campaign to convert Muslim Indonesian orphans to Christianity after the 2004 tsunami. 
The concern of making people uncomfortable fortunately has not stopped  research on multiracial adoption from questioning current practices. The Feb 11 issues of Family Process (Vol. 49, Issue 1, Pages 26-42) contains a study entitled Building Kinship and Community: Relational Processes of Bicultural Identity Among Adult Multiracial Adoptees by Dr. Gina Miranda Samuels.
While many people who are adopted by members of another race still identify as black or mixed race, many lack the community and cultural connections with others who share those same identities. Samuels' research suggests that adopted children of mixed race need early and ongoing experiences within the cultural communities of their origin, and with other multiracial adopted persons, to help them to build healthy cultural identities.

The Samuel's study consisted of interviews with 25 adult multiracial adoptees produced 4 patterns in their bicultural identity formation: (1) claiming whiteness culturally but not racially, (2) learning to "be Black"—peers as agents of enculturation, (3) biological pathways to authentic Black kinship, and (4) bicultural kinship beyond Black and White. Conceptualizing race as an ascribed extended kinship network and using notions of "groundedness" from bicultural identity literature, the relational aspects of participants' identity development are highlighted. Culturally relevant concepts of bicultural identity are proposed for practice with multiracial adoptees who have multiple cultures of origin and for whom White mainstream culture is transmitted intrafamilially as a first culture. 

The cultural issues of transracial adoption are not just black and white s reported recently in the Chicago Tribune:
"Tricky questions of ethnic identity are surfacing as the babies who arrived in the U.S. during the peak of Chinese adoption are entering grade school. The attendance at the New Year's events shows that experts and parents continue to move away from the old model of downplaying foreign culture so their children don't feel different.

"But in a sign of how complicated these questions can be, there is growing worry that focusing on cultural symbols such as food and music can sometimes delude parents into thinking they do not need blunt conversations about the deeper implications of race and culture. Children should know that differences aren't always celebrated and often lead to prejudice, experts say."
Adoption is also classist, exploiting powerless that results from war, natural disaster and poverty. It exploits these times of crisis, adding to the hardship by taking children from living kin to fill the desires of rich white Europeans and Americans in what some call a form of modern colonialism. PBS reports:
The U.S. government can accept children with living parents as orphans if parental rights have been voluntarily terminated. These children are often called “economic orphans.”
However the definition of "voluntary" becomes questionable when parents are injured, desperate or lied to by people offering adoption services. 

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