Reexamining Interracial Adoption In A Woke Culture

Interracial adoption

In a quest to “[become] an anti-racist organization,” Bethany Christian Services is raising questions of about whether being “woke” to racial injustices is a positive or a negative. Bethany favors a drastic revision of the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA), which mandates that the race of foster children and their prospective adoptive parents must not factor into their adoption cases.

In a recent Newsweek article, Naomi Schaefer Riley describes the MEPA law, noting that it “bars racial discrimination in placing a child into an adoptive family.” Thus, black children, for example, may be adopted by white families, and any other combinations of the races of children and their adopting families are allowed. Such a law may seem to represent progress toward equality in America’s race relations. However, Bethany, one of the country’s largest adoption organizations, questions the benefits of the law. As Riley reports, Bethany’s stance is “that allowing white families to adopt Black children from the foster care system ‘can cause a lot of harm to children of color.’ As a result, the agency favors ‘overhauling’ the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act.”

One point to consider in this issue is that Black children have been disadvantaged by the adoption system for many years. They are removed from their families more frequently than white children, and Black foster children outnumber Black adopting families, which often translates to more children of color in foster care for a longer period of time. That situation is far from ideal. An argument can be made that the MEPA law is necessary so that families of any race can adopt Black children, and children of all races, into loving homes. Indeed, a 2017 survey by the Dave Thomas Foundation noted that nearly half of adoptive families have no preference when it comes to the race of their adoptive children, according to Riley.

But another important factor to consider is that Black children adopted by non-Black parents may have trouble adjusting to a culture that is not their own. By that rationale, another argument can be made that perhaps, in the long run, Black children will be happier placed with Black families. And, Bethany asserts that the plight of Black children in the adoption system has not improved under MEPA. Bethany claims that the law has not “achieve[d] its stated intent since a disproportionate number of children of color continue to linger in foster care."

Riley rejects this reasoning: “The point of [MEPA] was to ensure that Black children in the foster care system have the same chance to be adopted as white children, not to fix all of the first-order problems (like family structure, which is highly correlated with child abuse) that have led to a disproportionate number of Black children being placed in foster care.” This distinction constitutes MEPA’s success, according to Riley.

Furthermore, a study by economists Mark Montgomery and Irene Powell determined, “Empirical evidence on transracial adoption suggests strongly that Black children adopted into white families suffer no more developmental or adjustment problems than Black adoptees in Black families."

While the merits of each argument continue to be debated, Riley worries about the effect on foster children, as well as the larger implications of Bethany’s position. She contends, “It bodes ill for the tens of thousands of children of all races who need permanent homes and…it demonstrates just how quickly our understanding of discrimination has shifted in recent years.”