The topic of child welfare is quite a broad one. There are numerous programs and policies that have been put in place to protect children. One of these policies is that of Adoption. Adoption was put into place to provide alternate care for children who cannot live with their biological families for various reasons.
One of the more controversial issues surrounding adoption is that of Transracial adoption. Transracial Adoption is the joining of racially different parents and children (Silverman, 1993).Adoption is as old as time itself, even if it wasn?t formally called that.
It has been spoken about in old Greek texts, and in the bible itself. However, not until the 1850?s was adoption legally sanctioned. At this point, adoption was usually a matter of financial circumstances. Children were given to farmers to help tend the land during Industrialization, because some families were unable to financially care for the children in their new lives in the city. As the need for adoption laws increased, Massachusetts instituted the first formal statute. These statutes however, did little to protect the child. Finally, in 1917, Minnesota required the state agency of child welfare to investigate these cases and make recommendations to the court.
In present day, now that racism prejudice and segregation is something that children learn about in history books, there is a new issue surrounding adoption. It is now considered controversial when a couple of one race wishes to adopt a child of another race. Transracial adoption is a topic that must be confronted and dealt with so that all children in need of a permanent home can get the best family possible. Although it does not state in Social Work Policy Statements that Transracial adoption is unacceptable, it does state, ?The social work profession stresses the importance of ethnic and cultural sensitivity.
An effort to maintain a child?s identity and his or her ethnic heritage should prevail in all services and placement actions that involve children in foster care and adoption programs (NASW 2000). This statement was made to ensure that we do not lose the importance of our children?s heritage. However, it also states that ?Barriers that are unsupported by tested experience, such as resistance to using single parents, foster parents (for adoption), and nontraditional family patterns. (NASW 2000)?. The relevant policies also states ?The recruitment of and placement with adoptive parents from each relevant ethnic or racial group should be available to meet the needs of children (NASW 2000).? This is geared more towards preventing racism against the adoptive parents. For instance, and African American adoptive parent is just as capable as a Caucasian or Asian in raising a child.
There are many laws that are in place to protect adoptive children and their families as well. One of these laws is the Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994, herein referred to as MEPA. MEPA prohibits an agency or entity that receives Federal assistance and is involved in adoptive or foster care placements from delaying or denying the placement of a child on the basis of race, color or national origin of the adoptive or foster parent, or the child involved. In addition to this, in 1996 congress amended MEPA, with the Interethnic Adoption Provisions (IEP). IEP prohibits agencies from denying or delaying a child?s placement solely because of race or national origin.
The provisions included removing misleading terminology. It was changed to ?discrimination is not to be tolerated?; this new terminology strengthens the enforcement of procedures. MEPA and its IEP also have some very specific intentions. First, its intention is to decrease the length of time that a child waits to be adopted.
It is also meant to facilitate the recruitment and retention of foster and adoptive parents that can meet the distinctive needs of children. Lastly, it intends to eliminate discrimination on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the child or the prospective parent. Many agencies are involved in adoption. These systems are involved on the micro, mezzo, and macro level. The systems that are the most involved on a micro level are the families and the children themselves. Adoption agencies are affected and involved at a macro level.
A practitioner has many roles when working within the adoption system. They must be able to mediate, agitate, broker, and advocate. A practitioner must do all these roles on the micro, mezzo, and macro level.
In order to mediate on a micro level, they must be able to mediate between the adoptive families-the children-and the families who have given up the child. On a mezzo level, they must mediate between agencies and families. A practitioner must also agitate the systems on all fronts. They must do this by working within the families to find the appropriate family for each individual family, and if none seem acceptable, they must stir up the need for better placements. They also must agitate the agency in which they work, so that their coworkers do not drop the ball, or leave a child in limbo for too long.
If a practitioner sees that there are problems within the policies and laws with adoption, they must take on the responsibility to agitate the government and show the need and initiative to make policy changes.Realistically speaking, a social worker that works in adoption has to be a broker. They have to provide the services that the child, and each family may need. If they cannot themselves do the follow up services, then they must refer the families and the children to the appropriate service agencies. As social work professionals constantly say, the client?s best interest is our top priority.
In the instance of adoption, the child is your number one priority. Therefore, a practitioner must advocate for the child. A child cannot take care of itself, so it is up to the practitioner to keep the child?s best interests in mind.It states clearly over and over again in Professional Social Work research that racism is unacceptable.
Continually, we read about Social Work competencies dealing with cultural diversity issues. We are expected as Social Workers to respect all family systems, even non-traditional ones. However, the National Association Of Black Social Workers (NABSW) made a policy statement in 1972 vehemently opposing Transracial adoption. More specifically, they claim that the future placement of black children with white families must cease immediately. The reasons for this are that raising a black child in a white family denies the blackness of the child. They cannot learn about their culture, ethnicity, or heritage appropriately from a white family.
Furthermore, this belief is supported by research that states, ?Agencies do not intentionally seek to be culturally destructive but rather lack the capacity to help minority clients or communities. (Cross 1988)? Our Code of Ethics states that we must have certain competencies. Within these competencies are competencies dealing with cultural issues. Cultural competence is paramount for all adoption issues. If we cannot understand the client?s culture that we represent, we cannot represent our client. Our cultural competencies state, ?Social workers shall use appropriate methodological approaches, skills, and techniques that reflect the workers’ understanding of the role of culture in the helping process. More specifically they must assess the meaning of culture for individual clients and client groups, encourage open discussion of differences, and respond to culturally biased cues (NASW 2001)?.
Understanding a culture is still different then being completely aware of that culture. A practitioner must be able to find the appropriate fit for the adoptive child within their adoptive family. For some children, they would rather just have a family, for other children, they may want to wait for a family from their national origins.
When children are older, they can express their preferences, however, as social workers we do not want to deny an infant of their heritage. In order to know the full effect of Transracial adoption, longitudinal studies must be done. Fortunately, these studies began in the Sixties and Seventies, so the research results are available to us now. There have been nearly a dozen studies to research the effect Transracial adoption has had on preadolescent and younger children.
The results are conclusive, that nearly 75% of transracially adopted children adjust well in their adoptive homes (Silverman 1993). It shows us that Transracial adoption is a viable means of providing stable homes for waiting children. In 1995 a study was performed, and Transracial adoption was shown not to be detrimental for the adoptee in terms of adjustment. Furthermore, these terms include self-esteem, academic achievement, peer relationships, parental, and adult relationships. What does this all mean? Some say that the main issue isn?t racial matching policies, but the need to address the reasons why there are so many more black children that go into foster care than other races. Black women adopt the most frequently in the United States, however, there are no where near as many adoptive parents that could racially match the children waiting for a home.
This is very disturbing, there should not be hundreds of thousands more of one race than another in adoption systems. This shows that there is a problem within the system. The root of this problem may be that adoption agencies are encouraged, one way or another, to be racist. There are fewer restrictions for whites to adopt a child of color internationally than domestically (Smith 1996).
In fact, many agencies will not allow white parents to adopt U.S. born black or biracial black children.Ever since the NABSW made their claim in 1972 that it was completely unacceptable for black children to be adopted by white families, there has been a halt in the progression of transracial adoption acceptance. The NABSW reaffirmed its opposition in the 1980?s. However, the adoptive children in the United States are primarily black children. If they are not allowed to be adopted by white parents, than more and more black children will clog the child welfare agencies.
Perhaps more black children are removed from their biological homes for reasons such as poverty, lack of housing, or lack of jobs. However, research and studies show that whites are just as poor as blacks are. This means that child welfare workers are targeting black families, and that whites live in more rural areas, where they are less likely to be singled out by a welfare agency. This blatant discrimination needs to stop.
Solutions to this ghastly problem are occurring few and far between. The NABSW will continue their strong opposition to transracial adoption, regardless of what the studies show. As social workers, we must continue to become culturally competent. We must realize the worth and dignity of every ethnicity, national origin, race, and cultural heritage.
This includes the fact that the NABSW must realize that white families can indeed provide a wonderful home for black children. The practitioner?s role would be to continually follow up the adoption, and broker services to help the white parents understand and expose themselves and their children to the child?s diverse and rich cultural heritage. Reverse racism is a terrible way to raise our children. Black children should not be prevented from finding a stable and permanent home because the family that is the best fit for them is a white family. The NABSW is being very protective of their children, which is quite respectable, however, their perspective is limiting the possibility for black children to find good homes. There is a plea for tolerance, and it is coming from the children.
The older children get within adoption agencies the less ?adoptable? they become. It is our responsibility as professionals to provide the best possible care for our clients. It?s about time we start doing that for our racial minority childrenBibliography:ReferencesHollingsworth, Leslie Doty (2000) Issues From The Field-Sociodemographic Influences in the Prediction of Attitudes Toward Transracial Adoption. Families in Society: the journal of contemporary human services. 81, no. 1, 92 (10 pages)NASW (2000) Social Work Speaks 5th edition. Washington D.
C. NASW PressNASW (2001) Code of Ethics. Cultural Competencies. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on April 9, 2002 at http://www.
(1993). Outcomes of Transracial Adoption. The Future of Children, 3(1), 104-118Smith, J.F. (1996).
Analyzing Ethical Conflict in the Transracial Adoption Debate: Three Conflicts Involving Community. Hypatia, 11, no. 2, 1