Thanks to my friend P.E.W. for calling my attention to an excellent article in today’s Chicago Tribune about a new report from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute that says minority children in foster care are being ill-served by a federal law that plays down race and culture in adoptions.
“The law muzzled any agency that received federal aid from considering race at all—or risk a large fine,” writes the Trib’s Bonnie Miller Rubin. “That meant that organizations could not advertise for African-Americans or ask white parents about the demographics of their communities. They could not offer special training to racially mixed families unless it was offered to all adoptive parents. Social workers have sometimes taken black children to foster homes without mentioning race, only to have the child refused at the door.”
In a more nuts-and-bolts article in The New York Times, Jae Ran Kim, a Minnesota social worker, bemoans the limitations placed upon social service agencies by the “colorblind” adoption laws that are currently on the books. “If you talk to parents about racial and cultural issues they are likely to face,” says Kim, “you risk violating the law, and if you try to recruit families through minority organizations, even that can look like you are using race.”
According to the Trib, the Donaldson study has been endorsed by a wide array of child-welfare groups. It “calls for the ‘colorblind’ legislation to be amended, permitting race to be a factor—though not the sole factor—in matching families and preparing parents.”
“The status quo isn’t working,” said Adam Pertman, executive director of the New York-based non-profit institute. “And if we’re going to be child-centered, we need to recognize reality and not what our ideal may be.”
Adds Jae Ran Kim in The New York Times:
“The law does need to reflect that fact that race is an issue in our society, and prospective white parents need to realize that this goes beyond whether you can love your child or even whether you live in a diverse neighborhood. This is about what is in the best interest of the child, not the parent.”
So much to ponder. What are your thoughts? Should adoption agencies be allowed to bring racial considerations into the adoption process? For many, this might seem like a no-brainer–“Of course they should!” But as the Trib article observes, the laws were originally instituted “to remove barriers and improve the prospects of finding permanent, loving homes for minority children.” As usual, there are no easy answers.