Why Didn’t Any Black Parents Want To Adopt Me?

Conversing about the racial hierarchy that currently exists and how that plays into who is capable of adopting, as well as who is needing to be adopted is a common discussion in our household. Speaking about the ways in which systemic racism continues to permeate our lives as an interracial couple is an ever present dialogue. In no way do I align with the Black Social Workers Association statement that black children in white homes is a form of cultural genocide (1984) as I feel that adoption is a necessary solution to an unfortunate need, and trans-racial adoption is a beautiful remedy. But why does transracial adoption always look so one sided? White parents and children of color. I know the answer has to do with systemic racism, this is not news to me. But, are we ready to move forward with an ever pressing need?

It is my belief that if we had more options of prospective adoptive parents of color we may enjoy a more positive multiracial and/or “post-racial” America. I’d also love to see the current definition of the term transracial adoption broadened to include transracial adoptive families where the parents are Black.

I’ve read countless books, blogs and articles with a title similar to “A White Mom Wonders If Her Brown Babies Will Be Black Enough” or “6 Things White Parents Can Do To Raise Socially Conscious Children” and while I’m sure these articles are helpful and provide a sense of camaraderie between white parents who are experiencing similar parenting challenges I wonder if there will ever be a market for a “How a Black Mom Talks To Her White Daughter” article or “10 Tips Every Black Mom Should Know When Taking Her White Child to The Vanilla Suburbs” blog post? Doubtful… Seriously though, who better to parent the woes brought up within articles like these than a strong, capable, resourceful, open and honest black parent?

I will again state my disclaimer that I know of countless white parents who are parenting their children of color superbly well, and enter in to these discussions with their children and others in a beautiful way – this is not my concerned line of thinking here. My desire is to find out what it would take to balance the scales in terms of the numbers of adoptive parents of color and White parents adopting trans-racially. Can we put apathy into action and step up where we are needed?

Black folks – Is it insulting to think about raising a white child?

White adoptive parents – How might you handle this question from your child?

18 thoughts on “Why Didn’t Any Black Parents Want To Adopt Me?

  1. I will say, when we were walking out of the courtroom after adopting our newest son who is black, the next couple in for their adoption was a black couple adopting a toddler daughter who was white. We smiled at each other as we held the door open. It was a really humorous, as well as profound moment. I suspect that is rare in what I see, but it was cool to witness.

    Adoption variables are so numerous. I am a same race adult adoptee and some lines of communication bother me. One is that white parents have the custom pick of what their family looks across the globe. It has that “ick” factor. Child placement or match is complex. We have seven children, only two which are biologically linked (now adults). All other child placements were done for very unique and different reasons, mostly having to do with child needs and our experience, similar interests , birth order, and personality/etc. Race was a consideration but not a decision factor. I did consult with same race friends about it to see what concerns they would have or suggestions.None told me “don’t do it”, or even had reservations, but all had suggestions on how to handle things. Lifesaving suggestions.

    I look at this from two angles being an adoptive parent and an adult adoptee. I am not resolved as to what the solutions. In our children, race was not a deciding factor, though it was a consideration. We learned of our newest son by hearing stories from my eldest son who is a child treatment counselor at a residential treatment center. I did not know the child’s name nor situation and certainly not race, but I could see his personality, his humor, and his heart. It was very aligned to our “family” personality, humor, and heart. We became his mentors, and eighteen months later he had our last name. I suspect somewhere inside he might have preferred and desired a black family, but in many of his foster placements (10) in total) to families with one or two black parents did not work out. Racial similarity was not enough to make a family.He is in a multiracial home now where seven kids represent 4 differing race/ethnicity. Probably not ideal, but it is home for all of us. Each have their own story (including me), there are little to no similarities in any.


  2. There is also another factor in this…I think there is inherent bias in the removal, rehabilitation, and termination of birth families that are nonwhite making the racial diversity in foster adopts heavily leaned towards nonwhite. Race does not dictate the health of the parenting, so it is hard to find another variable to explain the disjointed racial construction of a community and the racial construction of foster care in that same community. Transracial adoptions are inevitable.


  3. I just had to mention that I too had the experience of being in the courthouse to adopt my black son when I met a black family adopting a white daughter. I never thought I’d read someone else sharing the same experience!


  4. Kelly, I think you are right. But I believe another major other variable in the formula is poverty. Poverty is underneath many problems that permeate families and cause parents to lose their children to the system. ( Legal difficulties, addiction, etc.) One of my ‘many concerns’ about adoption is that we have evolved into a world that uses adoption as a band-aid to deal with poverty and illness. Also, workers within the foster-care system are terribly over-worked and spread thin. It becomes easier to sever parental rights than fight for families to get the help they need to reunify.

    I’m so glad you wrote this article Angela. It is a topic that never gets acknowledged and rarely spoken of. However, I will say that I disagree in terms of interracial placements being something to support. I’ve been a (caucasian) Social Worker for 43 years. I agreed with the Black Social Work Association in 1984 and continue to believe that it ought to be a high priority for children to be adopted into their own race. I’ve been active in the Civil Rights Movement all these years and have worked to build a world where I can only hope my grandchildren will not be grow up in a world where the races live separate from one another.

    However, I’ve listened to too many young adoptees tell me that absolutely hate being recognized as “adopted” by the color of their parents skin at those times when all youngsters just want to blend in and be like everyone else. I’ve also listened to many adults who were raised by caucasian parents talk about their difficulty of not quite fitting into either race. They are “too white” for their black friends and “too black” (meaning idioms, culture, etc.) for their white friends. And I’m sorry, but I definitely believe that “white privilege” blinds many adoptive parents. So I’m willing to predict that a majority of adults of another race raised by white parents, would have chosen differently, if they could.


  5. I would say the truth, “Your biological family as well as two other black families wanted you. But a judge felt it was better for you to stay in the same home you’d always only ever known, with us.”
    But he won’t ask that question because he has visitation with other black families who wanted him.


  6. What an interesting concept, using adoption to neutralize the race discrepancies of this country. And, you know we are having a huge problem of the widening gap between rich and poor. Economic inequality (also described as the gap between rich and poor, income inequality, wealth disparity, wealth and income differences or wealth gap. To help teach children true values and close this widening gap we should take children from rich moms and give them to the poor. It is my belief that if we had more options of prospective adoptive parents of normal fudicial means we may enjoy a more positive wealth distribution throughout America.


  7. what an interesting concept, using adoption to neutralize the race discrepancies of this country. and you know we are having a huge problem of the widening gap between rich and poor.Economic inequality (also described as the gap between rich and poor, income inequality, wealth disparity, wealth and income differences or wealth gap. to help teach children true values and close this widening gap we should take children from rich moms and give them to the poor. It is my belief that if we had more options of prospective adoptive parents of normal fudicial means we may enjoy a more positive wealth distribution throughout America.


  8. Two of our children were interviewed by adoption specialist as they were in national listings. One was asked what they wanted to see in parents. Race was the last thing mentioned and they stated that they wanted a family first, racial match would be an afterthought. They just wanted a family who would love them. Most of these children in the system have been through many placements, some through adoption disruptions. In those placements, they are exposed to a variety racial makeup in families. They learn that there is not a specific racial situation that has worked out. They needed something that offered them an opportunity at a family, not just a demographic makeup. I think race is important to my sons, but not at the expense of staying in the system years longer. Also, if a family is a fit for their specific trauma related issues, it is better they have a family they can heal from trauma related disorders, than a family that is only the same race. The combination of both may be long to wait for. I know very few parents of anyone I know that can effectively deal with severe trauma related disorders many of the children have from any race/ethnic family makeup. To wait for the right racial/ethnic family makeup and ability to handle trauma related disorders would be a huge, life altering misstep for a child in need of a family and healing.


  9. Yes, I agree, black parents for our children would be my first choice for them, now my second, which is yes, imaginary, would be for us to become black. I agree with the ‘white privilege’ ‘poverty’ ‘equality gap’ and on. When we were adopting thru the child welfare bureau both both of our first calls were of children that were black. We had discussed it before hand, We also know the number of AA children needing placement were a great % higher tham white. So what can we do now, I like to talk about it, when it comes up with our kids, with others of color and as much as possible assimilate with the AA race. I realize I was grandious & naive in my thinking when we adopted. I’m also ready to give our 2 AA children what they made need. Help foster their self-esteem. Yes, I know about the ‘too white’ ‘not black enough’ ‘have to choose’, etc. I’m going to move past that and believe all the AA friends & family we have will accept all of us on our character, they may have to look past our color first, white, black, asian, hispanic, and if they do, they will see ‘us’.


  10. I do think that same-race adoptions should be preferred, since transracial issues are just one more layer of difficulty and adoption is already a difficult journey. However, until the proportion of adoptive parents matches the proportion of children available for adoption, transracial adoptions are a necessity and I’m not going to let a kid remain in foster care waiting for a race-matched parent who may never come. Even though the BSWA’s statement was decades ago, it still haunts me as I consider adopting a black child. If that happens, I guess I will have to console myself with the fact that white moms are better than none!


  11. Angela, I’m a black [Caribbean] Adoptive Mother. My husband is a white man of European birth. Our son is white [blond blue-eyed] of American birth. So, he’s in a transracial adoption because his mother is black.

    Economics and age play so much into adoption. So too does stigma, stigma often perpetuated by Christian theology (if you just have faith…) or “mother wit” (the minute you adopt that baby, you’ll get pregnant).

    Another reason African Americans don’t formally enter the adoption world is that many are already unofficially raising siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins in a kind of “open adoption.”

    Of course, as a black mother of a white male child, I’m concerned regarding how to raise him to be anti-racist, as this will affect his relationships with his aunties and cousins on my side, without alienating him from his birth family, who are white, Midwestern, and some quite conservative. Right now, he is preverbal, so who knows what will happen. I think part of the job is to keep listening and keep talking and keep legitimating feelings.

    I do think he notices that we are different, and I talk to him about it…that my skin is darker than his, or that Mama has thick curly hair and his is straight and blonde.

    It is certain to be an interesting journey for all of us!


  12. Thank you for sharing! I’m glad to know you virtually. Yes, I agree that when your son begins to talk and express his feelings that listening and normalizing his experiences are integral to the formation of his self, and his comfort in expressing his feelings to you and your husband through his years.


  13. As to your question, “Is it insulting to raise a white child?” Well, it’s an open adoption and the birthparents chose us when they were 5 months along, so I knew the baby would be white. I started preparing myself from the start for those who would just assume that I am the nanny. What has amused me is how infrequent that is. Sometimes, older black folks assume I’m the grandma…and I am older than his youngest grandma, so that’s not completely illegitimate. But for the most part, and again he is preverbal, right now it’s all “normal.” All of my circles know that I have adopted, so they just go with it.


  14. Our county is very proactive in recruiting potential foster and adoptive parents that are black or latino as well as those of muslim faith so that there is a better chance that foster children who fit those characteristics can be matched with someone of their race or faith. They are given priority placement in the mandatory training, too.

    The social workers are very upfront that potential families who are looking to foster/adopt children of certain characteristics that match the waiting children will be fast tracked through the home study process. However, “matched” is more than race.

    Sibling status, age, race, religion, medical conditions. physical disability, mental illness, learning disabilities, mental disabilities, physical abuse history, sexual abuse history, and neglect history are the first aspects looked at for a match. Are you willing to parent a child with the above characteristics?

    But wait! There’s more. What about children’s behaviors? Running away, aggressive, timid, prone to cry, bed wetting, stealing, hoarding food, not eating, tantrums, etc. Do you feel able to parent a child displaying these behaviors?

    And then comes personality. How active the child is, their likes and dislikes, their hobbies, their

    My point here is that a child’s race is just one piece of what makes them who they are. It’s a very, very important part. But when looking at making a match, good social workers look at the totality of a child, and knowing who the child is as a unique individual finds the best fit with a unique family. And only after exhausting all attempts to reunite the foster child with his/her bio family.

    If you want to see how we figured out which children to foster, check it out here: http://thebeautifulopportunity.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/choosing-our-foster-child/

    So, if our child asks us “why didn’t any black parents want to adopt me?”, we would answer that the social worker considered all of the wonderful things that makes you you, sweetie, and determined that with your love of [sports, superheroes, being outdoors, etc], we were a good match for you. You are super lovable and I’m sure that many, many parents would have loved to have been your mom or dad, but we were the super lucky, chosen ones.


  15. Ok I’m confused with the title of this article & the story. First of all, the 2 people in the picture above with the little girl who looks white are the child’s biological parents. Why are their picture attach to this article “Why Didn’t Any Black Parents Want To Adopt Me?” This is a very misleading article.


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