The Audacity to Adopt

The recent tragedy in Haiti has no doubt seized our attention while simultaneously tugging at our heart and purse strings. And rightfully so. As I watched the news reports and looked at the devastation I began to wonder … what will happen to the Black children who have lost all they have ever known … including their parents?  

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Well, is it just me or is anyone else noticing the apparent absence of Black couples adopting these displaced Haitian children? I figure that most of these children and adoption cases were already in the pipeline and the conditions since the earthquake have helped expedite things but … DAYUM! They make it seem like you can just go to the store, sign a paper and they will deliver your little Haitian child “within 7-10 business days or if you are an Amazon Prime customer you can get him or her overnight”! Of course I’m being facetious and the issue is indeed a serious one but if my eyes (and the media) aren’t deceiving me a few questions for us all to ponder rush to mind:

1) Why aren’t any Black folk shown adopting these Haitian children?

2) Why are White folk so quick to adopt these Haitian children?

3) Why aren’t more folk from any group adopting the Black children from the foster care system right here in America?

Each question begets yet another but to be fair this issue of adoption has been around for decades and Black children right here in America could use some love.

Note to Reader:  This writer sees the issue of Race in just about everything. Of course I am aware of and recognize all people of color but my default is Black & White. Over the years that has been the most volatile and contentious relationship. And if we get that one right, the others will be a piece of cake. In fact, whenever I am accused of “playing the Race Card “, I always let folk know that I didn’t deal the hand. It has been my experience that if you ask “why?” long enough eventually it will come down to Race.  And if it is between or amongst people of the same color, Class becomes the issue. But we can argue about that in another post at another time.

It would seem that White folk are comfortable as can be adopting children of any color, from anywhere – Asia, India, Haiti … hell, even Africa (Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Madonna come to mind most immediately). But what’s wrong with the Black children that grew up right here in America; the little Black children born here in our cities; the little Black children who live in group homes that none of us seem to want in our neighborhoods; with parents who were born here … but for whatever reason couldn’t handle raising such a gift?

With instances such as these it’s tough to holler “RACE” because Black folk make it easy for White folk to say, “Forget it”.  I have heard Black folk say, “Who do they think they are? How are White folks going to raise Black children? They have no idea what it’s like to be Black”! And maybe they don’t … but they don’t know what it’s like to be Asian, Indian, Haitian or African either. And wouldn’t a better question be centered on whether or not the adopters were emotionally, physically and financially able to provide a loving home for the adoptees? Or another question is why aren’t the people asking adopting? Some have gone so far as to compare this scenario of White folk adopting Black children as sort of a soft genocide, if you will. For the record, this writer happens to find that declaration a wee bit dramatic though I understand the thinking that brings the opponents to this conclusion.

In its 1994 position paper entitled, Preserving Families of African Ancestry, The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) makes the following assertion:

“transracial adoption of an African-American child should only be considered after documented evidence of unsuccessful same race placements has been reviewed and supported by appropriate representatives of the African-American community”.  

Proponents of transracial adoption believe this represents a somewhat softer point of view, claiming that the NABSWs 1972 stance came closer to the soft genocide statement. Nevertheless the point is the NABSW suggests that Black children adjust/develop/respond better with Black families. That sounds sound. But let’s look at some numbers in an article from :

“Opponents of race matching contend that the numbers now seem stacked against the possibility of same-race adoptions. Of the estimated 500,000 children in the U.S. foster home system, more than half are minorities. Of those available for adoption, 40 percent are black, although blacks represent only about 13 percent of the general population. What is more, according to the National Adoption Center, which keeps track of so-called hard-to-place children, about 67 percent of such children are black and 26 percent are white, while 67 percent of the waiting families are white and 31 percent are black.”

Now I am sure there will be those who will read this and say, “My family adopts … in fact, they adopted me!” and they will go down a list that reads like that fifth chapter of Genesis in the Bible inserting “adopt” for every “begat”. And while that is good for that particular family, that family and those like it are the exception and not the rule. So if you are among those who feel I am “preaching to the choir”, based on the aforementioned numbers, I humbly submit that the choir ain’t singin’! In the passage quoted above it would appear that we will soon have far more Black children needing to be adopted right here in America and not enough Black families to adopt them all. So who picks up the slack? Is it better for them to grow up devoid of many cultural customs or do we leave them to languish until they age out of a troubled foster care system feeling more and more unworthy as years go by?  Or am I oversimplifying?

Beyond the issues already discussed I am sure there are economic factors to consider as well. Adopting is an intense, expensive endeavor and the legal process is as lengthy as it is costly. I have often wondered about adoption. Could I make a difference? Sure. Could I handle it financially? Less sure. But perhaps somebody out there is ready and this is just the catalyst they need to begin to get the process started. Maybe there are those out there who don’t have kids or for whatever reason are unable to conceive. Maybe you have enough love, energy and desire stored up in your home. Go ahead … make a difference … I dare ya!

The Audacity to Adopt © 2010 by Wendell F. Phillips

6 thoughts on “The Audacity to Adopt

  1. Very thoughtful entry. My husband and I had decided to adopt a child from our state, via the “system”. We were blessed with a 2 year old bi-racial child. For those people who adopt transracially, I believe that most try to understand the racial issues and history of their children. My husband and I are all too aware that we cannot understand what it is to be black. All we can do is make sure he has many friends of all races and that we expose him to his history as much as we can. It is not a perfect solution, I agree. However, would it be better for him to remain in the foster care system for years, waiting for a bi-racial couple to come along and adopt him? My hope is that in the future, at least for his generation, all these “race” issues are obsolete! Optimistic? Maybe. But I’m still hopeful. Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!

  2. Thanks so much for your comments. And thank you for making a difference in your child’s life. I am of the same opinion as you … I think love and the desire to provide all that you can to enrich and encourage your is better then languishing in a foster care/home system that certainly needs to be looked at if not overhauled. Your dedication speaks volumes.

    I don’t know you but I know your spirit and I pray for good things for you and your family. I think the Race is here to stay what I hope is that the way we choose to deal (or not deal) with it changes. You never know … we’ve got a biracial President who was raised by a single mom

    We need to bear in mind (and those who don’t know need to learn) that a difference is not a deficit.

    Take care and God bless,

  3. Wendell Phillips – My dear friend. This is a wonderful blog and thoughtful as all heck. I see you are doing well so i don’t need to wish you that. Keep it up and look forward to your book!!!

    Cheryl Benton

  4. Wendell,

    Thank you for expressing many of the anomalies I have observed over the years with adoption. I myself come from a multi-racial family – Anglo-Chinese-Latino, so my views have been influenced by the fortunate experiences that my parents and relatives provided me and my sibling. That includes what I consider a major emphasis on integrity, education, giving to those less fortunate, and unconditional love.

    Nearly 16 years ago, a single gay male friend of mine announced that he was going to adopt a child. The system being as it was, he had no choice but to adopt a child from abroad. Because of his life experience, he adopted a new born from Peru. A few years later, he was contacted by the DC adoption agency, where he had been wait-listed for several years. They had a new born baby girl, Black, potentially infected with HIV, whose parents (HIV+ and still addicted to intravenous drugs) did not want the child. No one else on the wait list, White or Black, was willing to take this child. My friend did. His daughter is now a beautiful, healthy pre-teen. Just 2 years ago, my friend was contacted by the LA County adoption agency (where he now resides) with an opportunity for him to adopt an unwanted Latino baby boy. Without hesitation, he said yes.

    My friend is far from affluent. He works as an event planner, is single and raising 3 beautiful children, and is challenged the same way any other parent is with adolescence, day care, money. Yet he is providing these children with a home, unconditional love, an education, and a network of friends and family that do care.

    I have never understood why the Black or any ethnicity resists adopting those children who have been cast aside by their birth parents. I personally advocate trans racial or any kind of adoption, to provide these children with a home, love, and an education. Certainly it would be nice for every child to have the cultural and social experiences of their own ethnicity, but in the end, those experiences cannot measure up to being wanted, sheltered, and provided an opportunity for a better life.

    Let us hope all races recognize the needs of children here in the USA and consider adoption. Besides, the ultimate mixing of the gene pools will result in smarter and better individuals – that’s my opinion coming from a multi-racial family.

    Keep your thoughts coming. These are matters that merit open discussion.

    Michael Kremin

  5. As a social worker of 17 years (I think I just dated myself) some of my saddest and most rewarding work has been in foster care and adoption. My first job out of school was in treatment foster care (for children with emotional and physical disabilities) and for the past 10 years I have been a consultant for an adoption agency. In my spare time as one of my jobs I conduct home studies for families seeking to adopt and then follow-up with those families once they have the child placed in their home and move towards finalizing the adoption. For 6 months I will monitor the adoption and make recommendations to the courts regarding the progress of those children and if the adoption should be finalized.

    Let me start by saying that domestic adoption for white families is a lengthy process. There are not enough healthy white children waiting for adoption. For all parents- If parents are specific about things such as gender or in utero drug exposure and prenatal care they limit themselves even more and then are not even considered. For example if a family says no in utero drug exposure and a mother smokes marijuana at 3 months but then stopped when she realized she was pregnant that couple would be excluded. Secondly the big push these days is for open adoption. Which means you have to be open to at the very least allowing a social worker to share photos of your child with their birth mother yearly. Gone are the days of closed adoption and not telling your child they are adopted. This means from day one they have a Life book and you start with mommy did not grow you in her belly but in her heart and their story includes info about their birth mother/family. At the agency where I consult we have profiles in a book for birthmother’s to review and they are able to select the potential family their child is placed with if their circumstances fit the families choices for placement. Often these days birth mothers want visits or you may be faced with a teenager who wants to go in search of and forge a relationship with their birth mother later. It takes a special and secure parent in my opinion to open their hearts and their homes in this way. The chances of this happening in an international adoption are nil to none which appeals to many people.

    Let’s move on to the black couple. First of all since I have been doing this in almost 11 years let me say that I can count the number of black couples I have had on one hand. The domestic wait for a black child is of course shorter and the list of waiting families is shorter. Often birth mothers of color do not chose adoption as a birth plan and the children end up with relatives on come into care b/c they are removed from the care of their mothers. This is just not a typical choice in our community as a plan for our children as infansts. The agency I work with does recruit at hospitals and in the community to educate women on options, but we are often not there. When a child enters into foster care the plan is almost always for them to return home initially…so the mother gets a chance to clean it up before her rights are terminated. Please note I have not said much about fathers b/c they are typically not present. Often they are unknown or absent and we have to place adds in the local papers to attempt to locate them before courts can proceed. Back to foster care…once the mother is given chances to get her life in order years may have gone by and children are now getting older in the system…gone are the cute babies without as much baggage or they are replaced with children who often times have emotional issues that need to be undone. After having visits with a dysfunctional mom who they think does not want them now the problem becomes an older child potentially with behavioral issues that no one wants to adopt. They either stay in long term foster care placements, end up in group homes or bounced from foster home to foster home or if lucky with a relative that kind of has it together.

    So finally all of this is often how white families end up over seas…well first the agency I work with does not promote trans racial adoption in he US unless at least one of the parents is of color ( I understand this but do not necessarily agree but as a private agency they can do this)…then the requirements to adopt are very strict…we get all in your business domestic or international. You have to have a social worker-like me- in your home for months asking personal questions about your upbringing, marriage, family and friends. We get copies of your pay stubs, W2s, review financial statements and you have to meet certain requirements such as this
    “An evaluation of the family’s financial situation verifies that the family income exceeds the State and Federal poverty guidelines by over 125% (VERIFIED). They reflect a total net worth of over $________ (VERIFIED). (See poverty guidelines)”
    You have to submit 3 references to include a school one if you have a school aged child- (who are also all interviewed) And both parents has to be under he age of 45 for domestic. If you are a single parent you have to have a back up person who is interviewed as well. Then you have to be fingerprinted, submit child support and child protective service clearance as well. – HIV and TB test, health/ sanitation and fire inspection of your home, medical reports and f/u with dr if you are on any long term meds or ever had mental health treatment- even if it is just counseling for a rough patch in life – you see where I am going (most of my reports are 15 pages!!!) This is just the tip of the iceberg of how in your business we get. The process can take 4-6 months and cost about $2,000. We are charged with the safe placement of a child and can be held liable so we take this very seriously and I am not risking my license or livelihood for nobody!! No matter how good their intentions may be. So even after all of that we still visit every 2 months for the next 6 months and review the placement for the courts to make sure the child is well adjusted before the judge allows you to proceed. And none of this is cheap…even with a sliding fee scale you are talking 5-25k (international is more b/c of travel)

    Back to overseas….fertility often brings people to the place of adoption. You have already been disappointed with not being able to get pregnant..gone thru several rounds of fertility treatment so to be told you have wait another 5 years (for white families)…well you tend to look other places.
    All countries have their own set of rules…see web site below for details

    Certain counties allow same sex couples and single parents to adopt, while others allow you to be over the age of 45. So for some families this is the only choice. I have families looking for certain ethnic groups..we will not allow skin hue to be a factor (light or dark) but if a family knows what would be acceptable to their extended family or community that is acceptable. In often have wondered if some families arrive at this place b/c is “easier” to educate a child about their Nigerian, Haitian, West Indian, etc.. background ..connecting them to community groups and cultural festivals vs. teaching them what it will be like to be Black in America…but I as any good social worker should do… break it down and tell them these children will be seen as Black no matter where they are from…they may be called nigger…girls may be teased about their hair..and boys will most likely be pulled over one day for riding home in their “white neighborhood” … and I ask how they are going to deal with that…they give an gets included in the report but they are not ready…hell I was not ready the first time I was called a nigger and my parents were post civil rights parents.

    I don’t know if I answered your questions but I wanted to add some food for thought…as you can tell I have thought about this a lot over the years in my work and it is an issue near and dear to my heart. I will say that there is nothing more rewarding them helping a child “come home” no matter what the circumstances may be. We all deserve a chance to be loved and safe. It is a happy time to work with families to complete their family, but it is still very challenging as you can see. But people do it and manage to make their dream of having a child come true and a happy safe child finding their forever home is the best ever to see!!!

    Thanks for your indulgence-

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