Monday, February 21, 2011

More on TRA in Britain (and the U.S.)

I posted about the new proposals for guidelines on transracial placements in Britain.  At Social [Over]Worker (gotta love that blog title!), a British social worker responds:
Ministers Tell Social Workers Not To Bar Inter-Racial Adoptions

I didn’t realise we were. Thanks for pointing this out to us. I’m so glad that we have ministers speaking out about things which they clearly have no idea about. When was the last time one of them tried to find an adoptive placement for a child on a waiting list?


It is wonderful that they are trying to bring more awareness about the delays which children face, particularly ethnic minority who wait 3 times longer, but they are simplifying down a very complex topic.

* * *

I know that the agencies I work with will always try and identify suitable matches for a child, no matter what the ethnic background of the adopters. We have a chronic shortage of ethnic minority adopters, which means that ethnic minority children are already being placed with white british couples.

I feel that the government ministers, as I said before, are speaking out on sensationalist topics which they have very little understanding or insight into. Quite frankly, it’s hard enough getting children adopted as it is without throwing even more complication into it.
So what do you think?  It seems to me that Britain is having the same debate about transracial adoption that we had in the '80s and '90s.  Since the late '80s I haven't seen any reluctance of American social workers in placing children transracially.  By the time the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) was passed in 1994, most agencies were on board for its basic message -- an agency that receives federal funds cannot deny or delay an adoptive placement because of the race of the child or the prospective adoptive parents.

One of the TRA cases we study in my Adoption Law case is about white foster parents want to adopt their black foster child.  When screened to be foster parents, the mom said she didn't want to take in any black children because "she did not want people to think she or her [adult] daughter were sleeping with a black man."  Later, she said she gave this reason because she was reluctant to give her real reason, that she wouldn't know how to take care of a black child.  Later, they took as foster parents 3 black and 2 black/biracial children.  When they petitioned to adopt Dante, the parents told a psychologist who interviewed them that race had "no impact" on developing a child's identity and self-esteem, that addressing racial issues was not important in raising a minority child, that they would not prepare Dante to deal with racial discrimination but rather would address the problem if and when it occurred.  The psychologist also noted that the family had no friends and no contacts in the minority community; in fact, the mom said that she would "not manufacture black friends."

The state denied their adoption petition;  since that point, the foster parents showed more realization of the importance of the issues and were willing to undertake any course of action recommended by the state to prepare them to meet the needs of a black child. They expressed a willingness to grow and learn.  They, on their own, located and were prepared to participate in a support group for transracial adoptive families.  FYI, the family lived in Pennsylvania.

So what would you do as the social worker in this case?  MEPA says we can't consider race in making adoptive placements -- can we consider racial attitudes?  Does MEPA require us to place a black child with a member of the KKK if they ask to adopt him? This is a pretty typical case, with all the complexities the Social [Over]Worker is talking about.

I'm always amused by adoptive parents who insist that social workers won't allow transracial adoption in the U.S.  Sometimes it's more about the reluctance of the parents to adopt African-American children or to adopt children from foster care, not any reluctance of social workers to place African-American children with white adoptive parents. It's white adoptive parents who are afraid someone will think they're sleeping with a black man!

I do think transracial adoption presents more issues for children -- forming positive racial identity, being conspicuously adopted, dealing with race and racism without parents as role models with lived experience.  At the very least, adoptive parents need to be screened about racial attitudes and need to have good education about these issues.  I still hear about agencies who think that they aren't ALLOWED to screen or educate about race because of MEPA, which is a complete misreading of the Act.

It's pretty easy to scapegoat social workers when minority chilren spend far more time in foster care before being adopted than do white children.  I certainly think agencies and social workers need to do a better job of recruiting minority adoptive parents.  But we can't scapegoat them for the lack of transracial placements without considering current racial attitudes that make some adoptive parents reluctant to adopt minority children.

1 comment:

Claudia said...

I live in the UK so I've been following developments on thi new recommendation with interest! It's certainly complicated. I think that social (over)worker makes really good points. I've got a TRA family myself (international adoption), so I'm obviously not anti TRA. But it does worry me a bit that this guidance seems to be really pushing the 'race doesn't matter' line, which I totally disagree with.The longer I parent my kids, the more I think 'thsi should have been HARDER to be approved for, not easier'.