Friday, August 12, 2011

To Place or not to Place...

...that is the question in transracial adoption.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of racial tensions by placing a child of color with a white family permanently,
Or to take arms against this placement - to wait for a same-race family member or same-race adoptive family,
And by opposing the MultiEthnic Placement Act-Interethnic Placement Act of 1994/1996 end the troubles?

I hope that The Bard will forgive me for borrowing his words from Hamlet, but it seemed all too fitting as I read this interesting op-ed article here called "The Radicalization of Adoption Threatens Black Children". The writer Ryan Bomberger goes straight to the heart of this issue: what is best for the child - a permanent home or ethnic identity? He makes some good points, and being a transracial adoptee himself, disagrees openly with the stance taken by the National Association of Black Social Workers in 1972. He is speaking out against the many brown-skinned children who remain in foster care because of the inability to cross racial boundaries by admitting our own prejudices. He openly acknowledges that not all families can or should adopt, but he does believe that it is up to us to make this world a better place for our children - especially those without parents or permanent families.

And what do I think? I think that adoption across racial lines is a fine way to build a family with one important condition: that the adoptive family work together to continually educate themselves about their (adopted) child's culture AND to develop their own identity through self-examination and realization of their own biases, prejudices, and cultural lenses. While adoption advocates, agencies and organizations often talk about "what's best for the child", they must also include a support system that educates the parents and extended family members who may encounter the ugly side of racism for the first time.

The truth is we live in a world (particularly in the United States) where skin color does make a difference. The "color-blind" mindset does not hold because it ignores what makes us each unique. Sadly, with darker skin color comes greater responsibility: in a world where overt racism is illegal in most situations, microaggressions abound. If a family adopts a child with a darker skin color or with smaller, almond-shaped eyes, they need to be prepared to help that child when these microaggressions happen. And if they have never experienced these themselves, education and awareness is vital.

What do you think, readers? Can we put aside our racial biases and create a culture that accepts a family of many colors, breaking the hegemony of same-race families for the sake of permanent homes for many orphans? Or is it better to place these children with same-race families who can empathize with them when racial hardships come their way?

As always, I'll be waiting for your comments...


Margaret said...

I am the white mother of 2 multiracial children. Our famiy was created through 2 open adoptions. I am always surprised when the wishes of birthfamilies are left out of these discussions. Both of my children have white birthmothers (who themselves were adopted). If a woman chooses open adoption, shoudn't she, not the legal system or any professional association, choose the "right" parents for her child. It just seems to me that birthparents get left out of the conversation too often. In discussions about adoption, shouldn't the voices of all members of the adoption triangle be heard? Otherwise, I agree with you, Jenny. Thanks!

JBH said...

@Margaret: Yes! You're absolutely correct. Thank you for helping me see past my adoptee lens.

I just started reading the second edition of Adoption Nation by Adam Pertman. Within the first few pages, he tells some interesting birth mother stories (closed and open adoptions) which, sadly, I read AFTER publishing this blog post.

Thank you for illustrating my point: everyone (even me) needs to examine their biases - and continue to mature towards an understanding, loving and forgiving world.