Adoption increasingly crosses racial, ethnic lines

An article by Sharon Jayson of USA Today, with remarks from our close friend Adam Pertman, regarding the impact of race on international adoption. Read the article below or follow the direct link: here.

CHICAGO – With 130,000 children adopted each year in the USA, researchers find growing numbers involve kids whose race is different from their parents’.

The latest data show that about 40% of adoptions in America involve such families. Among children from other countries adopted by American parents, 84% are trans-racial or trans-ethnic, says Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a non-profit research, policy and education organization.

Pertman shared the statistics as part of a panel on multiracial identities at a weekend meeting here of the Council on Contemporary Families, a non- profit group of family researchers, mental health practitioners and clinicians.

“When you form a family with kids of a different race or ethnicity, you become a multiracial, multiethnic family,” says Pertman, a father of two adopted teens.

The most common type of adoption in the USA is from foster care, which makes up 68% of adoptions, compared with 17% for infants adopted domestically and 15% from international adoption, Pertman says.

“The whole gamut of family issues is being influenced in a profound way by adoption,” says Pertman, who lives in New York. “There are Chinese cultural festivals in synagogues and African-American kids with Irish last names at St. Patrick’s Day parades.”

Pertman is the author of the newly revised Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution Is Transforming Our Families — and America. He says the revision was prompted by major developments in adoption since the first edition was published in 2000.

“An immense amount has changed in the last decade — intercountry adoption is plummeting, foster-care adoptions are soaring, a kid was ‘returned’ to Russia, the Haiti earthquake was an object lesson in how not to do adoptions, openness in infant adoptions really took hold, and on and on,” say Pertman, whose work focuses on the overall adoptive family.

Gina Samuels, an associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, has focused her research on identity development among trans-racial adoptees.

A multiracial adoptee who has worked in child welfare, Samuels has found the goal of being “colorblind,” which white parents often espouse, may not be the best approach for them to take with their kids of other races.

“Colorblindness actually creates discordance,” Samuels says, because parents set their children up to believe that race doesn’t matter — until the children find that often race is an issue in the real world and they aren’t prepared for it.

Her study of multiracial adoptees, “Being Raised by White People: Navigating Racial Difference Among Multiracial Adopted Adults,” was published in 2009 in the Journal of Family and Marriage. She found that “colorblind” parenting might actually be more harmful than helpful to children.

“Adapting and understanding of equality doesn’t require sameness, so for family members to be able to relate to one another, we don’t have to be the same,” says Samuels, who is part black; her adoptive mother was white. “We can be racially different and we can see the world and experience the world differently.”

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