Monday, January 16, 2012

Racism in Adoption

As a hopeful adoptive parent, I am constantly researching new ways to network to increase our chances of finding our baby. I am listed with an adoption agency, but I check out other agencies and adoption networking sites all the time to see if it would benefit me to use them.

There are a few--quite a few, to be honest--that cross a line I am not willing to cross. The have a fundamental flaw in their business that I cannot overlook. Plenty of Lifetime movies paint adoptive parents as so desperate for a baby they will do anything, absolutely anything no matter how despicable, for a baby.

Not true of me.

So what is the deal breaker for me?

Different adoption prices for different races.

As much as we all want to believe that we live in a "post-racist" society with a black/biracial President and black Oscar winners, and black billionaires, and whatever else, it is obvious that racism is alive and well if an agency can charge a premium for a white baby (or alternatively, offer a deep discount for a black baby in order to entice business).

Justin and I are open to adopt from all races. I could look at opportunities like this and say, "Hey! This is great! I have no problem adopting an African American baby and we can save money. Win/win!" But I just can't. I refuse to support any agency that has a fee schedule based on the color of a baby's skin.

I get that people have preferences and limitations. I get that racism exists on an individual level. But it's flabbergasting that in today's world, blatant racism--with a price tag attached--exists on a corporate level. That businesses build racism into how it makes money. Why can't they charge the same price and if individuals have issue with children of certain races, they can pass up potential matches? (Actually, plenty of agencies work this way, too. I only list with agencies that have the same price for all matches.) I get the whole "supply and demand" aspect of doing business. But these are people. Babies. Not dress socks.

It makes me fume.

By the way, happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

P.S. I have had a lot of comments saying that ultimately the purpose of this is to get as many children as possible in forever homes. That is totally legit, and I totally get it. It doesn't make the practice any less racist. It doesn't mean agencies are practicing racism, but rather catering to racism in the general populace. There is realism vs. idealism. Realism has it's place because it's, well, realistic. In this scenario, I recognize that I am being idealistic. I just won't use my money to support a practice I don't believe in. Like people who won't spend money at an organization that sells fur because they are vegan or whatever. I don't condone the practice, no matter the justification. I am not that Machiavellian. Maybe it is good that others are more pragmatic, but I just can't be in this scenario.


Melissa said...

Good Post. I didn't realize the "Price issue" as you pointed out. We HOPE to adopt internationally, but again, we'll see. We are just beginning to throw around the idea of adoption. We are moving to Boise.

Jessica said...

That floors me...I can't believe it! Good job on doing your homework and sticking to your beliefs. Also...I'm so excited for you to have your profile up. I love the pic you chose! I've got my pass a long cards...I just need to figure out who to give them to! Yay!

Jewls said...

I wholeheartedly agree! It makes me ill when I see the difference in price for different ethnicities, ugh!

Yay for your profile being active...we should swap passalong cards, I always like to have some from other couples too because it's easier to give a variety then just hand out my own.

Melissa said...

Shucks! I have in-law family in Rexburg so if I ever go up that way I could let you know. :) I would love to stay in contact with you tho in case adoption questions come up. I'll follow your blog until then!

Sheyann said...

Well said. Kuddos.

Rachel said...

It's sad. Horrifying. But in my mind, it's a horrifying reflection of our culture, not of adoption agencies. I seems to me that an adoption agency's number one priority would be finding homes for babies, which does come down to a supply/demand thing, which can come down to a difference in adoption fees. Which means that it's the hoards of birth parents with a preference for white babies who create the need for adoption agencies to drop the price on adoption for minority race babies; if they didn't, they may not be able to find adoptive families for the little ones they've been asked to place. So maybe these agencies are simply trying to find homes for babies in a racist culture and aren't necessary capitalizing on racism?

I honestly don't know.

Willow said...

I agree that agencies that base their fees on race are despicable. Ours let us say what races we were open to (we were open to all), but our fees were on a sliding scale based on our income, not our baby's race. Love that this was your MLK Day post!

BumbersBumblings said...

I hate hate hate this too! So sad! But the situation in the above comment bothers me too! Since I make more money, I have to pay more?? That tells me that adoptions can be more affordable!!

Lady Jennie said...

My sister was adopted from Korea and my brother was adopted from a local agency. He was half-black, half-white, born to a mother addicted to drugs. I am so so grateful to have had a mixed family. A new friend of mine in my town is racist (I just discovered). She's from a farm in Poland so I'm not super surprised that she hasn't had a broad upbringing. And I plan to talk to her about it lightly - I don't think I'll change her, but at least she will know where I stand. But apart from the price-tag issue, what breaks my heart is knowing that some children have very little chance of ever getting adopted at all.

Anonymous said...

I used to work with a private adoption agency. All fees were the same regardless of a child's ethnicity.

OUR experience was that many prospective adoptive parents, when approached about a potential placement of a black infant, asked for "discounts" because the child was black.

We found this to be odious. But sometimes, if this was the only way we could match an adoptive family with a birthparent and her infant, then we acceded. This meant the agency absorbed the cost for the benefit of the birthparent and the child.

It was not uncommon for prospective adoptive parents, who actively sought a black infant or who were open to a black infant, to say they would adopt a girl, but not a boy. Our agency did not accept applications from these prospective adoptive parents.

A number of prospective adoptive parents seek international adoptions because they can be less expensive than domestic adoptions.

Some adoptive parents go international so they can avoid any relationship with the birth parents.

Some adoptive parents do their best to work directly with prospective birthparents so they can cut out the "middle man" in an attempt to save money, not realizing the emotional and financial landmines involved for both themselves and the birthparents.

I mention the above to point out that adoptive parents and birthparents are the primary drivers of adoption economics and practices, *not* agencies.

Before jumping to conclusions about an agency that charges different fee schedules for different children, consider why that may be the case. Believe me, it's not something an agency would prefer.

It's just possible that for some infants, that may be the best way to match them with forever homes.

Katie said...

I just found your blog through BlogHer. I am so sad to hear that many agencies do this. My husband and I may adopt as I lost one baby and have been unable to get pregnant again. Already I have seen how expensive the process is, and I get the distinct feeling only people with money are able to adopt at all. I feel very discouraged that we will ever have the 30k for a domestic adoption. I understand having fees, but it is insane how much is charged. I guess they want to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, but I don't see myself as chaff because I don't have a lot of money. But I agree I would never pay less than what is typical if told getting a black or biracial baby was cheaper. I would adopt any race baby but think pricing them differently is despicable. Ugh.

graceling said...

Generally, domestic infants of color are harder to place than white infants, even in private adoptions. Once in the foster system, children of color will wait significantly longer than same-age white children for a permanent placement. Same with "special needs" children. And sibling groups- especially is one or more of the kids are over age 5. These facts can be confirmed with your local foster care office, and in national publications.

Why is this? It's not agency driven it's driven by adoptive parents, most of whom want to adopt a healthy infant of the same race as them (and most of these families are white.) Often, agencies offer to place children of color, SN children, and sibling groups at a reduced fee so that these kids can find permanent homes faster. Do you think they should not offer reduced fees for older, SN, and sibling group placements as well? I see nothing wrong with that- what's most important to me is that the kids have permanent families.

By contrast, healthy infants of color- especially girls- with international origins are very easy to place. There are long waiting lists for these kids. Yet, SN, older children and sibling groups with international origins remain difficult to place. Why is there a wait list for black babies born abroad while the US is a huge "sending" nation for black babies (meaning we send our black babies to other countries to be adopted because they are so hard to place here)?

Racism is rampant in this country, and I would argue that it's not the agencies- it's the prospective adoptive parents. There is simply not a demand for domestic children of color. This makes me sick.

And I am a white momma to a black girl, living in Mississippi. Believe me, I know about racism. And unfortunately, so does my little girl.

Joli said...

I agree that it seems racist, but the agencies are simply trying to place as many children as possible in the best homes.

The truth is, most people adopting are white and most children available for adoption are not! It isn't simply about race, but about (sorry to seem callous) supply and demand. The demand for healthy white children is great, and many other children will be left in the system if there were not some incentive given.

I was adopted at 18 months of age, I was a healthy white child. It took so long because I was labeled High Risk because of my bio-moms drug problems. There were discounted rates for me, as well as a lifetime of medicaid coverage and other incentives. It was not because I was an inferior child, but to place me in a home more quickly.

Racism can be a problem, but that problem is in the prospective parents that won't adopt a child of a different color, not in the agencies doing all they can to help these children.


Camilla H said...

I am a biracial adoptee (Irish/German/African American heritage) and I agree that the core of the problem lies with racism amongst potential adoptive parents. However, in acquiescing to that racial bias, agencies are only perpetuating the problem. It is completely understood that the important factor is making sure that children get permanent homes - but into what kind of home has a child been placed if his/her parents are willing to pay more for a white baby vs a black baby? How is that child, with the discounted fee, valued and viewed by his/her adoptive parents? My guess is that a child of color who is adopted into a household that values children with white skin more than they value children with darker skin will likely face tremendous problems, on multiple fronts, over the course of their upbringing. I have a biracial friend whose white adoptive parents took issue with their white (and biological) daughter dating men of color - despite the fact that their own child is a man of color. In my opinion, any person who feels that they should pay a lower fee or get a "discount" on adopting a child of color should NEVER be allowed to adopt period - but ESPECIALLY not adopt a child of color! said...

I was adopted and my parents got a "rebate" on me for that same reason. It was a policy enacted by Reagan to encourage adoption of "hard to place" children, so the same or similar policies are, I think, in effect for special needs children. So you are welcome to have the same opinion, but a) you can't really blame the agency when it's a federal thing that has been in place for decades, and b) from my perspective, it seems like you're cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Yes, it's a squeamish thing to think about, but I doubt people choose to adopt children of color based on this. My feeling is that anyone who thinks that they WOULD adopt a child of color were it not for this policy is having some underlying issues about adopting a child of color anyway. My parents simply said that they were willing to take any child and found out later that that meant that some of their fees would be reimbursed. But I can't imagine anyone seeing this as the only reason to adopt or not adopt a child of color.

I hope it doesn't seem like I'm yelling at you. I'm just trying to explain from the perspective of someone adopted under those particular circumstances.


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