Friday, October 15, 2010

Racial Politics and the Business of Adoption

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!


Von said...

Interesting post here and sounds like a worthwhile conference.Like the points made and will post a link if I may.Have a good weekend.

Sandy said...

I truly hope you will do indepth posts on all the sessions you attend. I just looked at the conference schedule and was thrilled to see so many really important subjects being discussed and the people who are present them won't simply fluff the issues away with 'love is enough'.

Waiting to hear the thoughts on closed records and if it is discussed on how the industry (minus of course the NCFA) can support changing them.

Anonymous said...

As much as you may wish and promote otherwise, domestic adoption of children (regardless of race) is a very small side show in a much larger social conflict in this country.

Money is the real politics at play here, not race.

Whites control the domestic adoption business, because it is a money making business, and they set their business practices based on their comfort zone, which is more about money then race. Though race is uncomfortable for most whites, money is more so.

They set their prices based on their clientele. White PAPs require financial incentive to consider children with special needs or different race. Which is why black children are available at reduced prices in the adoption process. But then, so are speical needs children, and there is no racial component in special needs. Rich Whites buy their white adopted children through the baby mills that are run by lawyers specializing in private placements in domestic adoptions.

So it's not so much about race as it is about monetary based priviledge, which transcends race for the most part. Though money is used by the "haves" to suppress the "have-nots" (of all races)

In the long run, race won't matter in this country as "whitey" will be a minority in another generation in this country and with that minority status will come a healthy dose of social retribution. This dawning of realization that whites will be marginalized as a minority in the future is at the heart of radical right wing extremism in this country today. Electing a black president sent them over the edge and we have a perpetual right wing avalanche now, which will in the long run hasten marginalization of whites.

In the end, the social conflict is over control of money, which drives control of power. But the white minority in the future will lose it's grasp even of this.

Precious Williams said...

This is a subject close to my heart! I'm a black woman (Nigerian and Sierra Leonean parentage) born and raised in the UK. Over here, unregistered white 'private foster parents' are able to foster black babies without going through the authorities. That's what happened to me. As a newborn baby, my birth mother advertised me in the classified pages of a magazine and elderly white woman who replied to the ad became my foster mother. I lived with my foster mother, in an all-white UK town, for my entire childhood, with my birth mother visiting just occasionally and paying the foster mother in cash. I've actually just published a book about my experiences and it's called 'Color Blind'.

I've also published an article about transracial adoption in the Guardian newspaper: