Loving, involved parents better
We can understand the thinking behind the call Tuesday, May 27, for more consideration of the race of parents and children to be adopted out of foster care.
The groups -- the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the Child Welfare League of America, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the National Association of Black Social Workers -- certainly know the issues involved.
The 1994 Multi-Ethnic placement Act, and 1996 revisions, while it does direct state agencies to recruit more adoptive parents of the same race as the children, but also prohibits race from being taken into consideration in most decisions about adoption from foster care.
For example, white parents seeking to adopt a black child cannot be required to undergo race-oriented training that differs in any way from training that all prospective adoptive parents receive.
In their new report, the groups call for amending the law so race can again be considered as a factor in selecting parents for children from foster care. It also would all race-oriented pre-adoption training.
They're probably right in that, ideally, adoptive parents should know the racial issues their children will face.
But how realistic is it to find qualified foster or adoptive parents in states like Nebraska? According to the 2000 U.S. Census, while 16 percent of the children in out-of-home care are black, only 4 percent of the population is black. What is the hope for the other 12 percent? And, that doesn't take likely economic conditions into account.
"What cannot be done is have a pass/fail test that turns on whether you give the politically correct answers," said Professor Elizabeth Bartholet, director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School. "If social workers are allowed to use training to determine who can adopt, there's lots of experience showing they abuse that power."
There are also more practical considerations, such as economics. "Black people are significantly poorer than white people and less likely to be in a position to come forward," Bartholet said.
Yes, perhaps it is true that adoptive parents for black children ideally would be black. But as a practical matter, any adoption involving loving, involved parents of any race is better than temporary foster care.