We celebrate transracial adoption. But child welfare cannot ignore race


In April, Bethany Christian Services released a first of its kind study on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable children and families in the United States. Among other things, our data found that black and multiracial children enter foster care at higher rates than the national average and are the population of children least likely to be reunited with their families. The pandemic has only made matters worse. We hope everyone can agree that the current performance for children of color in the child welfare system is poor. We desperately need reform, before more children are hurt.

The trends Bethany found were consistent with national predictions that fewer children would be placed in foster care during the pandemic and that children of color in foster care – already disproportionately represented – would still fare. very bad. For example, we saw a 9% decrease in the number of black children leaving foster care between 2019 and 2020 and a 37% increase in their length of stay in foster care.

Recognizing the overrepresentation of children of color in foster care is a good place to start, but it is not enough to reveal a problem without offering solutions. We therefore made policy and programmatic recommendations to lawmakers and child protection agencies. Our recommendations are rooted in solid data and the lived experiences of the children we serve, their birth parents, and parents who adopted a child of a different race – transracial adoptive parents.

The Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) of 1994, as amended by the Interethnic Placement Act of 1996, aimed to remove barriers to the adoption of children of color placed in foster care. It prohibited the race of a child or a family from being a placement factor. Although well intentioned, the MEPA failed to achieve its goal and caused further damage to children and families.

The MEPA prohibits specific training and support for transracial adoptive families. By law, all race training must be provided to all families, whether or not they adopt transracially. We came up with a solution: Child welfare agencies like Bethany should be required to provide training and support for families who may be well-meaning but not yet equipped for transracial parenting.

Families interested in transracial adoption should also be assessed on their ability to effectively raise a child of a different cultural, ethnic or racial background. MEPA prohibits this as well. A child protection agency cannot even consider how a non-white child may experience racism in a particular family – even if that family members belong to a white supremacist organization – for fear of violating the MEPA. It makes no sense and is dangerous for children.

A young man wearing a mask sits on his father’s shoulder in Central Park on May 24, 2020 in New York City. Government guidelines encourage wearing a mask in public with strong social distancing, as all 50 states in the United States have begun a gradual process to slowly reopen after weeks of stay-at-home measures to slow the spread of COVID -19.
Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images

A Newsweek the opinion piece titled “Vigilance has come for adoption.” It is the children who will suffer, ”grossly distorted and distorted the conclusions and recommendations of our report. The author suggests that the children we serve will suffer if our recommendations are implemented. These claims are false and dangerous.

According to the editorial, Bethany believes that “determining the most welcoming, stable and potentially permanent home for a child should involve matching their skin color with that of the adults involved.” This is not true. We celebrate transracial adoption, and we want adoption to be sustained, stable and permanent. As we noted in our report, we believe that a prospective foster or adoptive parent should be able to meet the needs of a child of a different racial background, as one of the many factors in placements. with foster and adoptive families. We do not believe that child welfare policy or practice should be color blind. In other words, white parents should be able to meet the unique needs of the children of color they adopt.

The claim that Bethany “announced that allowing white families to adopt black children from the foster care system” can do great harm to children of color “” is unequivocally false. The quote, taken out of context from an interview with the Associated press, how is it a color blind approach to child welfare –like the one pursued by the MEPA – harms children. Adopted people tell us time and time again that color blindness, or claiming that you “can’t see the color”, makes people of color feel invisible – since their race, culture and heritage are central to what it is. ‘they are. Nowhere in our recommendations to address racial disparities in the child welfare system do we state that white families should not adopt children of color. These blatant lies only perpetuate the harm done to foster children who need families, transracial adoptees, and transracial adoptive families.

Finally, the author states that Bethany recommends addressing the overrepresentation of children and families of color in the child welfare system by “ leaving[ing] children in abusive or neglectful homes ”or“ insist[ing] that they remain in the foster home until an adult with a matching shade arrives. “Again, this is absolutely wrong. Bethany urges more families– regardless of race – to consider fostering or adopting a vulnerable child. We encourage anyone interested in considering foster care or adoption at contact us and find out more.

When prospective transracial adoptive parents begin the adoption process, we want to serve them with excellence. That’s why one of our recommendations is to require organizations like Bethany to provide training and support. specific to families who adopt transracially, which the MEPA currently prohibits. This is essential to ensure that a child’s culture is recognized and celebrated. We have received a multitude of requests transracial adoptive parents who crave more support to better raise their children, whom they love deeply. At Bethany, we listen to the voices of the children and families we serve, and we answer to their expressed needs.

We believe it is harmful and irresponsible for policy makers, child welfare agencies and families to have a color blind approach to adoption. That is why we demand transracial adoption education for all families adopting foster families. Under the MEPA, demanding such training for all families is the only way we can demand it for families who are truly transracial adopters.

The distortion of our report only draws the critical work of the child welfare system into the polarizing world of tribal politics. Using children as political pawns will hurt them. We will continue to listen to the lived experiences of those we serve and above all stand up for their well-being.

Cheri Williams is the Senior Vice President of National Programs at Bethany Christian Services. Nathan Bult is the Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs at Bethany Christian Services.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.


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