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Friday, February 25, 2011

The unhappy politics of interracial adoption (1989)

[SOURCE: U.S. News & World Report, November 13, 1989]

“…Unfortunately, the world of interracial adoption is governed by a tangle of emotions and public policies that defy simple logic. The adoption community today is haunted by a bitter debate over whether interracial adoptions rob children of their cultural heritage, sowing identify crises and low self-esteem. A small but vocal group, led by the National Association of Black Social Workers, goes so far as to assert that interracial adoptions are “cultural genocide” and that only a black family can equip a black child with the psychological armor needed to fight racial prejudice.

“No one disputes that, everything else being equal, matching the racial and ethnic backgrounds of children to their adoptive families would be preferable. But due to the decreasing stigma of bearing children out of wedlock and a surfeit of Third World orphans, the number of non-white babies available for adoption has soared in recent years.

“Of the 60,000 children adopted by U.S. families in 1988, about 20,000 were minority children and about 10,000 of them were from abroad, estimates William Pierce, president of the national Committee for Adoption, a research and lobbying group. But while there are a hundred applicants for every healthy white infant in the United States, thousands of black, Hispanic and Third World babies still are going homeless. With such a statistical mismatch to contend with, social-service agencies’ traditional notions of what constitutes a “model” adoption are increasingly impractical.

“…For Native American children, a longstanding dispute over interracial adoption was resolved legislatively, but some troubling issues persist. The children fall under the jurisdiction of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, passed into law because tribes felt they were being used as baby breeders by child-welfare agencies and state courts. The law generally gives tribal courts exclusive power to make custody and foster-care decisions for children considered legal residents of a reservation. But critics, including Pierce of the National Committee for Adoption, have raised questions about whether the law’s application in thousands of custody cases best serves the interests of Indian children or merely gives tribes extra clout in their quest to remain independent and self-governing.

[I will be publishing more of my research (since 2004) in coming days on this blog...Trace]

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Today, we look at recent effort to undo laws put in place to protect Native American children and families. All children deserve to be raised by loving families and communities. In the 1970s, Congress realized that state agencies and courts were disproportionately removing American Indian and Alaska Native children from their families. Often these devastating removals were due to an inability or unwillingness to understand Native cultures, where family is defined broadly and raising children is a shared responsibility. To stop these destructive practices, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

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where were you adopted?

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To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.