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Essay/Term paper: Transracial adoption

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Transracial Adoption Many adoptions are being taken place in America today. These adoptions are not always of the same race, transracial adoption is very popular among eager couples who are willing to adopt. Transracial adoption is the adoption of a child of one race by a couple of another race. Adopting children from different races has brought up many controversies and the government has had to step in. There are mixed views on the case of transracial adoption, some believe it is culturally damaging to the child while others believe there is nothing wrong with it. The primary goal of adoption officials must be to place the child into a home as quickly as possible which will, in turn, minimize the effects that it will have on the child , whether it be a white or black family that it is adopted by. There is nothing wrong with transracial adoption a child can be loved by anyone who is willing to love it because love is colorblind.
There are many minority children who are without permanent homes in the United States, crossing the color bar is frowned upon by many people. The debate over transracial adoption is whether or not it is in the best interest of the child. The problem in today's society is that foster care is preferred over transracial adoption. The reason being the children and youth services would rather put a black child in foster homes of that race instead of letting a white couple adopt it because they are white. They believe that putting a black child in white family would culturally damage that child, that they would grow up not knowing their heritage. They believe that a parent of a different race is not as equipped to educate a child about issues of their racial identity(McNair 1). They do not realize putting a child through years of moving from foster home to foster home would damage them because they would have no sense of family or love. Letting the white couple who are willing to adopt the child would be in the best interest of the child because they would give it a home, family and love.
Transracial adoption has a long history with many controversies. Beginning in 1968, a law was passed permitting families to adopt outside of their race. In 1972, an almost unknown black nationalist group called the National Association of Black Social Workers became famous when they spoke out against the practice of transracial adoption. They branded this type of practice was "cultural genocide"(Republic 6). Even though the law passed in 1968 was never changed, in only one year the number of transracial adoptions was cut in half to 1,569. By 1975, it had been drastically cut down again to only 800 (6). Another law regarding transracial adoption was passed in 1980 stating that the Department of Health and Human Services is required to monitor adoptable foster care children every six, twelve, and eighteen months. However this practice is never enforced(6). We realize that the government has recognized that this is problem and in 1994 President Clinton passed the Multiethnic Placement Act(Multi 1).
The Multiethnic Placement Act(MEPA) was proposed by Senator Howard Metzenbaum, it was designed for many reasons. For one is was to prevent discrimination in the placement of children on the basis of race, color of natural origin(Multi 1). It stated that any agency that uses race as a factor in deciding adoptive placements would be denied federal financing(Republic 6). The major goal of the act was to increase the number of children adopted because too many children were waiting too long. A recent study revealed that in a three month period in New York City 262 children were legally adopted, out of those more than fifty percent had lived in foster care for at least six years(Christ 2). Many of those children were held back from being adopted because of racial considerations. How can one hold a child for that long in foster care when there are willing parents ready to adopt. Consider four couples who were willing to adopt four black children who have spent time in the foster care system: one a ten year old boy with severe learning disabilities, a two year old girl with fetal alcohol system, a mildly retarded three year old boy with cerebral palsy and a four year old boy who is one fourth black who was born drug affected and was sexually abused. Each of the four couples who were willing to adopt these children of their dreams were denied adoption permission because they were white(Christ 1). It doesn't matter if the parents are of a different race because studies have showed that children raised by parents of different race have had normal culturally aware lives. Sandra Illionga, a black woman who was adopted by a white family waited ten years before being adopted she states "What were they doing during those ten years growing my ideal black family from scratch"(Christ 2). So we see these children who wait are put through a lot of stress from moving around to foster homes. The government has realized that there was a problem that is why they passed the MEPA act. MEPA will help by preventing discrimination that can cause delays in or denial of adoptive placements due to race or color.
Today there is split opinion on the adoption of children by a couple of a different race. Many people are beginning to realize that color doesn't matter. There are many organizations out there that support transracial adoption and are helping with adoptions whether they are transracial or not. One organization Americans for African Adoption was started and is also run by Cheryl Shott. She herself is a mother of three adopted African children. As of 1992 her agency has placed eighteen children from Africa and one from Afghanistan with white families in the United States(Vogue 12). Along with these supportive agencies the communities and churches are give their support to transracial adoption. The younger generations are more apt to be willing to adopt out of race because they are the younger generation, they have experienced today's society where interracial couples are becoming more frequent. Less support is seen among the older generations than the younger ones.
The reason there are so many transracial adoptions today is because of the abundance of white couples seeking to adopt and their isn't enough white children for them to adopt. These couples are willing to adopt a child of different race since the abundance of minority children up for adoption is high. These white couples are seeking to adopt because of many reasons one being that they could have a fertility problem. Any couple in that situation would be grateful to adopt a child of a different race it would not stop them from loving it any differently. About half of the adoptable children in foster care are black(Republic 5). With not enough black families showing interest in adopting these children are left waiting for a family to adopt. Before the Multiethnic Placement Act was passed these black children would wait for however long it took for the adoption agency find them same race parents. Now after the act was passed these agencies have to if there is no suitable family of the same race willing to adopt the child allow the white couple to adopt.
Now we are back to the real controversy involving transracial adoption: does transracial adoption culturally damage the child? No. As a child of different race is adopted by a white couple it is essential that the child explore his or her own heritage and ethnic identity. There is a concern that if a child is adopted out of his culture that they are going to lose their cultural ties(Smith 1041). It is important that the ethnic identity of the child be preserved and that the child is able to develop an awareness of their heritage. Many of the children adopted by white couples are proud of their racial and ethnic backgrounds, both the biological and the cultural ones(St. John 152). In a study done by Mcroy and Zurcher, black children raised by white adoptive parents have the same high self esteem and good self concept as did a black child raised by black adoptive parents(Pohl 49). Self esteem is an important aspect for a child that is raised in a transracial family, and the studies all have shown that a child raised in a transracial family adjust as well as those adopted by a family of the same race.
The black children that are raised by white families on the majority has stated that they have a normal life and that their family has brought them up teaching them about their cultural background. One student responded to this by saying that her parents made a conscious effort not only to point out people of color who made positive role models, but also to help her be open to all cultures(St. John 152). A study done by American University concluded after analyzing 240 white families who adopted black children that it does not emotionally hurt the child to be adopted by a white family. They found that these black children who had were given white and black dolls did not think of the white dolls as any smarter, prettier or nicer than the black ones(Republic 7). Many children through a time of exploring their heritage and they get the best of both worlds. These adopted children believe that race is an unimportant factor. In one study the parents reported that racial identity is not a major problem with their children(Grow 234). Most of the children adopted transracially say that they would not have preferred to have been adopted by parents of the same racial background(Jackson 35). It also appears that they are more accepting of integration and mixed race marriages.
Some people do not like transracial adoption and won't stand for it but it happens to be that white families are more apt to adopt older and disabled black children then to be adopted by a black family(Republic 8). Black couples don't appear to come forth as much as white couples in the interest of adoption(Vogue 32). When black couples don't show as much interest in adopting there still is the same amount of black children up for adoption out there. These children have the right to have a family, they need love. If a white family is willing to adopt them and give them love and life then no one should prevent that from happening because the studies show that these children do not suffer anything that they wouldn't suffer from be adopted by a family of their race.
From compelling this paper I have discovered an enormous quantity of information concerning the practice of transracial adoption and its effects on the adopted children and the adopting families. Prior to writing this paper and doing the research I had the impression that transracial adoptions should not be a problem as long as the child was brought up in loving and caring environment. As long as the child was raised correctly there should not have been any problems with the psychological welfare of the child. Now that I have finished researching this topic I feel even more strongly towards how transracial adoptions will not harm the child in any way, be it physically, psychologcally, or socially. In most cases the child feels that they are much happier in a different race family then in a family of their race. Most transracially adopted children feel that they are getting the best of both worlds and that they would not want it any other way. If the children see it an advantage to have inroads into both communities, then how can anyone say that this is detrimental to the child? As long as the child is happy and comfortable with their adopted family, then it should not matter what the color of their skin is. Too many people in today's society base their opinions on race and color. That should not be the case considering that race is not important to the children that are adopted. A human being is a human being no matter what color they are. Everybody is the same inside and everybody has the same feelings. The only difference in the two individuals is their skin color. Granted, adoption agencies should try to find an acceptable black family in which to place a black child, but when one is not available their should be no problem with placing the child in a transracial home. The family structure, ability to support the child, environment, and chemistry between the adopted child and the family should be more important that the skin colors of the child and family. If an acceptable black family is not available, it would be more detrimental to the child to be kept in a foster care system than to be adopted by a white family. They child would then get a feeling of not being loved or accepted by anyone. Feelings that they were not "good enough" would arise inside of them because they think that they are not wanted by anyone. There would be absolutely no love in their lives. This will give rise to deep feelings of inferiority which will never go away once they are begun. These few results of long lengths of time are more disastrous to the child's mental health than a transracial adoption would ever be. It is close to impossible to relieve the foster children of these horrible feelings. Many will live with the feelings acquired during foster care for the remainder of their lives, however all of them will live with the memory of how it felt to be unwanted and unloved.
Transracial adoptions are becoming more and more frequently seen throughout the United States today. Society is left with a choice between the adoption of children of a different race or letting these children grow up without the security of a family of their own. As long as the family offers its undying love and support to the child, there should be no question as to whether or not that family is allowed to adopt the child of different race. Transracial adoption is the better alternative to long periods of time in foster care. Everyone should be given the chance to see that, as trite it may sound, love really is colorblind.


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Adopting an Identity

It's a day just like any other in my freshman year, and my mom tells me my dad cried over the contents of the envelope she just handed to me. I have a hard time believing her because I've never seen my dad cry and because dads, by the laws of nature, aren't supposed to cry. But the envelope concerns me, and it concerned my dad enough to cry about it.

Pretty soon I'm crying, and my mom's crying. Our faces are like shiny red beets while tears fall into our open mouths as we try and fail to talk to each other through the tears. We only manage blubbering, guttural noises. Inside the envelope are letters and pictures. My mom says they're from my biological parents and that idea doesn't process because the hand-written letter from my bio-father looks so much like my mom's handwriting that I think she's playing some sort of trick on me. She's not. I flip through pictures of Chimene and Richard, these accidental lovers, and of the two half-siblings I never knew about. It's surreal; I feel only half awake as I flip among the pictures and wonder who these people are and wonder who I am because of these letters.

I felt out of place in my family. I would see families stockpiled with  love. But love felt awkward since I didn't know how to give it because I didn't, and in some ways still don't, appreciate everything my family does for me. And I didn't see myself in my parents. They didn't read; they didn't like the kind of movies I like; they didn't share my atheism, my cynicism, or any personality quirks. I didn't understand the concept of all this familial love because I wasn't sure how to love my parents when I felt disconnected from them.

My mom lingers. I think she feels as though she's obligated to help me along this emotional journey because she's my mom and that's her job. All I can think about is how similar this is to the moment in the second grade when I was told I was adopted. I laid on the king-sized bed in my parents' room talking about my day, wide-eyed at the fact that a girl in my grade was adopted. And then my mom told me that the girl and I had similar life stories. My mom claimed she told me when I was young, but I didn't remember. At eight, I was told I was unique in a way I didn't want to be. We sat in silence for a while, and I wanted nothing more than to go away and cry. So I excused myself and got a Pepsi from the fridge. My mom accompanied me, and I can't remember feeling more sad, embarrassed, and angry in my entire childhood at the fact that she wouldn't leave me alone.

My biological mother uses an abundance of "teehees" in her structurally strange, typed letter because apparently she's funny and laughter can't be captured on paper. I can't connect with her "teehees." I can't see any humor in the impersonal black ink. I can't connect with a person whose letter is like a resume, a list of altruistic hobbies and likable characteristics. Yet, I look at this paper and see myself in her love of books, her terrible humor. And I feel almost a sense of... relief.

I can't relate to my parents. And now I'm reading about this woman, seemingly so foreign, this woman who's training for the Iraq war and likes to plant, whose first love is God followed by her husband John, this woman who's half like me. Only half, but that's half more than I can say for my parents.

I sift through her computer-paper memories printed in the dull-colored ink. Then I move on to Richard. I already like him. He gave me actual pictures, glossy, without fingerprint smudges, true and genuine, just like his hand-written letter that tells me he took time and effort in this compilation. I almost feel like an intruder looking at his best friends, his brother, his beard that makes him look like The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Richard begins by feeling obligated to tell me that I wasn't a mistake, that there was a good reason why I was brought up by a different family, blah blah. I don't need comfort from a man I don't know.

But I do know him. It's terrifying to the point where my hands begin to shake.

I know him because I'm the carbon copy of him, from his cheekbones to his aspirations. Our canines are identical, our eyes mirrors, our dimples cousins, our smiles duplicates. As I read the letter, I grow more and more dumbfounded. I want to major in film, and I think NYU is just about the most amazing school there is. So when I read that he majored in film production at NYU, I'm literally scared. The similarities don't stop there. We're both adopted, we both love movies to no end, we like math, we prefer Judaism to other religions, we're both this and we're both that. This letter is staring me in the face, telling me that I'm not random, that it's okay to not be like my family because I'm not exactly a part of them.

It's natural to want to believe that humans are independent. We all like to think we have freedom, that we're not controlled by anyone or anything. But science suggests that we are biased creatures with predispositions originating from either our genes or our environments. The nature versus nurture debate has been going since the dawn of psychology. Some say that we are a product of our environments; how we grow up and the conditions we grow up in help determine who we are today. For instance, someone can be a bitter adult due to a poor upbringing, or a selfish adult because of a spoiled childhood. The opposing view of this is that we have genetic predispositions that shape who we are. It's in our genes to like or dislike something; we're already programmed to be a certain way. Scientists have looked into this study by observing twins who have grown up in different environments. Theoretically, if nature wins out, they should be very similar people; however, if nurture is the dominant factor, they would be completely different people.

Home life, culture, and peers definitely play a role in the makeup of a person. But then there are people like Oskar Stohr and Jack Yufe, identical twins reared apart. One was raised as a Catholic and a Nazi while the other was raised in the Caribbean as a Jew. They both liked sweet liqueur and spicy food, tended to fall asleep while watching television, flushed the toilet before using it, kept rubber bands on their wrists, and had quick tempers. When they met, they were both wearing blue, double-breasted shirts, moustaches, and wire-rimmed glasses. And this might seem like freakish coincidence, but it's not an anomaly. Among other examples, there are also the two Jims; twins reared apart named Jim who had sons named James, first wives named Linda and second wives named Betty, dogs named Toy, vasectomies, a woodworking hobby, fondness for Miller Lite, chain-smoking habit, and more similarities they shared.

It seems that nature wins this debate. But I didn't need studies to tell me that. I learned it in a letter.

I don't resent my parents because I'm not able to relate to them. What used to bother me was my brother. It's clear to see that Gerald Singleton King, Jr. is my father's son. They have matching hot-heads and hair lines and a knack for business. My brother borrowed my dad's eyes and my grandpa's height to become who he is. And when you turn to my mom, you can see how G.J. has her social skill and empathetic demeanor.

Then there is me. The shortest person in my entire extended family, the only blue-eyed girl, the sort of person to read Infinite Jest for fun while everyone else has a magazine in their hands. My entire family always told me I was an artist, but I'm pretty sure that's because they didn't know what else to call me. I always wanted to do something different, and I'm not sure if that's because I was already labeled as different or because I genuinely wanted to. But then my brother went to Brown University and then to Stanford. I had no room to do something awesome because my brother was better; my brother was biological.

It took me a while to stop comparing myself to G.J. I stepped back and remembered: yeah, I'm different. We don't share the same biological source, so how can my brain cells compare to his?

And I have to remember. It doesn't happen often, but I have to remember that my parents aren't useless. I know I take them for granted; every suburban teenager does. If they didn't raise me Christian, I wouldn't have found my voice through atheism. If they didn't provide for me well, I wouldn't feel the need to provide well for others. If they didn't teach me the laws of the world, I wouldn't know how to rebel against them. While I found solace in the letters, I had to remember - have to remember - that my ability to relate to strangers doesn't compromise the fact that my parents are, and always will be, superior because they raised me.

Richard is rather poignant. All biofathers should be as cool as Richard. No one has ever told me that I'm special the way Richard is telling me I'm special. He writes, "Your existence in this world means a lot to me. It's difficult to put into exactly the right words, but it's kind of like... When you were born, it validated my existence. No matter what I did or did not accomplish from that point forward, there would always be you."

I think I needed Richard's letter more than Chimene's letter. Maybe that's because I was able to relate to him so well, and I needed a father figure to relate to. My dad always had my brother; they bonded over sports and muscle. And I had my mom, which was fine. But I think I rejected my dad a lot; not only because he was sports-crazed and I wasn't, but also because I only ever remember the bad things about him. Like the time he threw mashed potatoes in my hair at Thanksgiving. Or whenever he would yell something rude at me, then adopt a gentlemanly Southern accent for his customers on the phone. Or when I called 911 when he collapsed unconscious on the stairs and never received a thank you.

I'm not saying I needed a father figure or that Richard would fulfill that gap I (perhaps) have in my psyche left over from an unrequited relationship that was never really formed. Bottom line is, it's nice to hear that I'm special.

My mom told me she's scared that, when I'm upset, I lock myself in my room and look at the battered envelope and dream of a life with a family that would accept me. I don't. I hadn't even touched the envelope for a second time until last week, trying to write this paper and remember why my bioparents are still important to me.

I wanted to meet them when I was younger. I wanted to live a different life when Hinsdale was too small or too dull for me. I dreamed of the day I would turn eighteen and find them, where ever they were lurking. It frightened me to think that there were people walking and talking and living out there who came together under erroneous circumstances of which I was a product. I struggled with the idea that I had two sets of parents, four sets of grandparents, double order of everything, and I'd never get the chance to know half of them. It didn't seem fair that there were two people whose blood I shared living normal lives without me. I never grasped the phrase "blood is thicker than water" because I didn't know whose blood ran in my veins. 

I understand my mom's fear that I might get along with my bioparents if I met them and abandon her to have a hunky-dory relationship. But I think my mom's fear is irrational. She's my mom. It's not as though I'd go running off with some woman I didn't know only because she gave birth to me. My biological mother wasn't the person I talked to everyday after school about my day. She wasn't the person that drove me to all the soccer games I never even played in. She wasn't the person who bought my Christmas presents, who wasn't afraid to touch me when I got the flu because I was stubborn and didn't want a flu shot, who searched online for weeks to find a replacement for my striped Ralph Lauren comforter that I ripped unintentionally while taking a nap. Chimene had nothing to do with my life, nor did she have the right to because she had never been a part of my life.

I don't know whether or not I want to meet them now. I'm not sure I could stand the humility. "Oh, hi, my name is Maz, and I think I'm your daughter." Yeah, I'm sure Hollywood has already covered that conversation. And I feel as though I'd be an inconvenience. Out of nowhere, a daughter of sorts comes into their lives. I know they basically plopped right down into my life with that envelope, but I needed to know who they were; I needed just a little bit of information about them in order to accept myself and the differences between me and my family. If we reversed the scenario, if I contact them, I would feel obligated to keep talking to them, or else it would be too awkward to have a potentially life-changing encounter, only for communication to fizzle out after one or two meetings. And I'm sure that's a hassle, for both them and me, as well as my parents. I don't think my mom could handle it; all her fears would come creeping back and horrid little ideas would form in her mind in my absence.

But, most importantly, I don't see the point in getting to know my bioparents anymore. When I was little, I nearly begged for a different life. And now I'm off to college in a semester - I'm forced to have a different life. I don't feel that longing anymore, the sort of longing that requires endless amounts of hoping and pining for something not quite in your reach. Because the thing is, I'm sure my bioparents are wonderful people. They sound like wonderful people. But I don't need or want their approval. I don't need or want a relationship with them. I know they exist. And that's enough for now.


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