Special Needs and Biracial Adoption

In the 1990s adoption agencies, both private and public, focused primarily on finding families for "hard to place" children, a category that includes older children, sibling groups, disabled children, and biracial or minority-racial children. The U.S. Department of Human Services estimated in 1998 that 520,000 children lived in foster care in the United States, a sizable increase from 1992. About 110,000 children were reported to be legally free for adoption. Many child-welfare specialists believe that if sufficient effort were expended, homes could be found for them. Some states offer subsidies to families who are willing to adopt and raise disabled children. Single persons and gay and lesbian couples, not generally approved for newborn babies, are often considered acceptable for placement of children who otherwise might not find permanent homes. This remains a controversial issue in some parts of the United States, as a number of individuals and groups question the ability of these nontraditional adoptive parents to raise healthy, normal children.

In 1972 the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) launched a campaign against allowing white families to adopt black or biracial children. The NABSW called this practice genocide. They maintained that, with enough effort and focus, black families could be found for these children. Proponents of interracial adoption argue that the benefits children gain from having permanent and loving homes outweigh the social and psychological difficulties they may face because of society's prejudice toward mixed-race families. Mental-health professionals generally agree that permanency, whether with legal adoption or long-term placement, is a paramount need for all children; they believe that growing up without roots and a stable home is a primary cause of lifelong problems. Many child advocates prefer that a child be placed with his or her extended family or within his or her community of race or religion, but accept the fact that biracial placement is preferable to no permanency as long as the families are sensitive to biracial issues and seek integrated communities in which to raise their children.

Adoption of Native American children is a related and equally controversial issue. Many Native Americans believe that adoption by Caucasians robs them of their children and robs the children of their native heritage. When Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, giving tribal courts exclusive jurisdiction over adoption proceedings involving Native American children, each tribe developed its own guidelines concerning the Native American lineage a child needed to qualify as a member. Children identified as members of a particular tribe must be placed for adoption with a family of that tribe.

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