Greetings from New York City! I'm really enjoying the adoption conference! I saw lots of really great presentations, and Wendy and I did our workshop this afternoon, and I think it went well. I'm pretty worn out, but I'll give you a quick rundown of the first session, a panel discussion of Racial Politics and the “Business” of Domestic Private Adoption. The panel was quite distinguished -- Beth Hall from Pact, an Adoption Alliance; Joe Kroll from the North American Council on Adoptable Children, and Dr. Ruth McRoy from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work.
They talked about the history of transracial adoption, about fee schedules that charge less for the adoption of African-American infants, and about the barriers to African-Americans adopting (I found that part particularly interesting in light of this cartoon).
The panel showed a number of adoption agency websites that discussed disparate fee schedules -- $14,000 for African-American children, $22,000 for Caucasian children, for example. The websites often grouped Asian & Latino children with Caucasian children, reserving their special fee category for African-American children. How offensive to devalue African-American children in this way! Even when the intention is good -- to make it more attractive to adopt "hard-to-place" children -- this two-tier fee schedule perpetuates racist value systems. It harks back to the ugly period of slavery in American history -- commodification based on race.
Agency websites are almost exclusively geared to white adoptive parents. They'll talk about their "traditional" adoption program and their African-American/Bi-racial children program; placing white children with white families is "traditional," placing African-American children with white families is something else, and where, then, does placing African-American children with African-American parents fit?
In discussing barriers to African-American families adopting, the panel noted that economic disparities across racial lines made it difficult for African-Americans to adopt -- even at the reduced rates. There are agencies that serve African-American families, and they fund-raise so they charge no fees, and have no trouble placing children with African-American families. African-American families can also be leery of white agencies, which frequently don't even have staff of color, fearing that involvement might lead to loss of the children they are already parenting. African-American families can also be disadvantaged by inflexible standards that have a disparate impact -- like restrictions on family size, weight requirements, expectations of nuclear family as exclusive caretakers, and the like. And while we sometimes justify transracial adoption on the assumption that African-Americans won't adopt, agencies do very little recruitment of African-American families.
White privilege explains the persistence of the myth that African-Americans won't adopt. It allows white parents to have complete access to children of color to adopt. When same race placements are made of African-American children, white parents feel discriminated against. It is likely the first time that they've been told that their race is a disadvantage to them.
A very thought-provoking program this morning, and great stuff afterwards, too! More about that later!