Since 1994, the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA), a bill meant to protect racial minorities from discrimination in the process of adoption, has taken a “colorblind” approach to trans-racial adoption. This has many implications, including one in specific: people looking to adopt cannot undergo race-specific training programs before the adoption process. Many child welfare groups are now calling for changes to MEPA, stressing that the “colorblind” policy is inappropriate; instead, they are advocating for a “color-consciousness” policy. What does this mean? First, it means that more money is spent recruiting minority adopters. Second, it means implementing race-based training in the case of interracial adoption from foster care. This training would attempt to educate potential transracial adopters in the cultural and racial heritage of the child that they are seeking to adopt and to aid in creating cross-racial understanding in these transracial families.
If you’ve read my columns in the past, you know that I am fond of one thing: reality. Idealism has a time and a place, but when making real decisions in the real world, a healthy dose of reality is the only correct approach. Here is no different; racial reality trumps racial idealism when dealing with something as important as finding families for children.
Racial colorblindness is idealistic to its very core. The idea that race — a force that has shaped 200 years of political and social policy in this country — should be ignored is a fallacious one. Social conceptions of race are prevalent in every aspect of life in the United States; Democratic Party presidential nomination process has clearly demonstrated this. Race exists, and it is here to stay.
According to federal statistics, 32 percent of children in the foster care system are black, and approximately 20 percent of black kids adopted out of foster care are adopted by white families. Some commentators say that the majority of problems reported by families or individuals adopting out of foster care come from cases of trans-racial adoption.
Whether or not we want to believe it, race is a social reality. There are differences among people that can stem from social categories created around race. It is not unrealistic to say that racial differences can cause problems in the process of adopting from foster care.
This is why a policy that accepts race and regards it as an important part of the adoption process is so important. I do not wish to imply that fewer transracial adoptions should occur, but instead that racial and social differences should be recognized as potential sources of problems in the process of transracial adoption out of the foster care system. These suggested changes to MEPA are intelligent, thought-out and truly progressive steps towards better racial policy regarding adoption.