Adoption and Race

Table of contents

Historically, transracial adoption began to be practiced after the Second World War. Children from war-torn countries – Korea, Vietnam, and even Europe — without families were adopted by families in the United States with Caucasian pa

Through the years, as more racial ethnic minority children within the United States were without families, domestic adoption agencies began to place African American, Native American, and Hipic children with Caucasian families who wanted children.

However, in 1972 the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) became concerned about the large numbers of African American children who were being placed with Caucasian families. They condemned the practice of transracial adoption of African American children to Caucasian parents.

They cited psychological maladjustment, inferior racial identity, the failure to cope with racism and discrimination, and “cultural genocide” as the likely outcomes of transracial adoptive placements.

As an offshoot of this, legislation was introduced in the form of the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) of 1994. MEPA, together with the Interethnic Adoption Provisions (IEP), has been signed into law to reduce the practice of race-matching in adoptive placements for children.

These two pieces of legislation, commonly referred to as MEPA-IEP, were designed to decrease the amount of time children wait for adoptive placement, to improve and assist in the recruitment and retention of prospective foster and adoptive parents who are able to meet the distinctive needs of the children to be placed, and to eliminate discrimination in the practice of adoptive and foster care placements on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

However, the passage of MEPA-IEP has not resolved the controversy over racial matching policies and transracial adoptions. Controversies still hound transracial adoption. Although the law prohibits categorical assumptions about the benefit of same-race placements, child welfare workers still will have to make decisions about the importance of race in the life of an individual child.

They are also tasked to identify reasons that may eventually require for the consideration of race. Those who believe that same-race placements are preferable may feel aggrieved that federal policy now contradicts their conviction and routinely calls for them to place children without giving weight to the child’s race.

On the other hand, those who place little value on racial matching may have trouble identifying children whohave a specific need for a same-race placement.

It is within this light that this study will take shape.  As issues continue to be raised regarding transracial adoption, it is only fitting to go beyond statistics and find out the feelings of those who are personally involved in the process. As this study will attempt to unravel the issues closest to the hearts of those involved, the approach that will be used will be generally qualitative.

Statement of the Problem

What is the percentage of interracial adoption, and what are the controversies surrounding racial matching and transracial adoption?


To define racial matching and transracial adoption;
To find out the percentage of transracial adoption in America;
To find out the various issues related to racial matching and transracial adoption;
To find out the various legislations designed to address racial matching and transracial adoption.


This study will use interview – which entails purposive sampling — as a method for gathering data. The interviews will be conducted with the aid of an interview guide which is an informally prepared unstructured questionnaire. Data will also be collected through numerous secondary sources.

Materials and documents such as discourses in books, official publications, position papers, letters, newspapers and magazine clippings will also be utilized. The official websites of various organizations will also be used as necessary. Implications of the study will be derived from the analysis of the gathered data and issues raised in the interviews and the various secondary sources.

Review of Related Literature

Practicing social workers, leaders of minority group communities, and scholars have expressed concerns on the effects of transracial adoption (Hayes, 1993). In a study conducted by Kim (1995) on international adoption, he noted that “transracial adoption of black children stirred up many controversies regarding their psychological development, especially with respect to their ethnic identity, or cultural well-being” (p.141-142).

In order to determine the effects of transracial adoption on adoptees, several studies were also conducted on the racial identity of transracial adoptees (Bagley, 1993).

These studies conceptualized racial identity in terms of racial group preferences, objective racial self-identification, and knowledge or awareness of one’s racial group membership. Andujo (1988) also studied racial identity by measuring levels of acculturation, and by assessing the degree of pride in one’s ethnic heritage and appearance.

Johnson et al. (1987) found that transracially adopted Black children had greater awareness of their race at an earlier age than did intraracially adopted Black children. As they grow older, however, both groups of adopted children expressed analogous levels of awareness and preference.

The findings of the study also indicated that transracially adopted children’s awareness and preference stayed constant over time, while that of intraracially adopted Black children’s both increased more swiftly to exceed that of transracially adopted children.

In the end, the study concluded that transracially adopted children were developing differently from intraracially adopted children. This developmental difference could be the springboard of the problems in the transracial adoptees’ racial identity.

Shireman and Johnson (1986) likewise reported on the psychological adjustment, racial identity, and sexual identity of transracial adoptees as compared to intraracial adoptees and adoptees of single parents.

All of the adoptees in the study were Black children and all of the parents were also Black except for the parents in the transracial placements all of whom were White. Parents and adoptees were interviewed separately. The findings of the study suggested that there were no differences in psychological adjustment among the three groups of adoptees as determined by objective ratings of the interviews.

In the end, the controversies hounding transracial adoption, no matter how limited they are, still largely affect those who are involved in the process. Only when these issues are addressed and resolved can the matters be put to rest.


Andujo, E. (1988). Ethnic identity of transethnically adopted Hipic adolescents. Social Work, 33, 531-535.
Bagley, C. (1993a). Chinese adoptees in Britain: A twenty-year follow-up of adjustment and social identity. International Social Work, 36, 143-157.
Hayes, P. (1993). Transracial adoption: Politics and ideology. Child Welfare, 72, 301-310.
Johnson, P. R., Shireman, J. F., & Watson, K. W. (1987). Transracial adoption and the development of black identity at age eight. Child Welfare, 66, 45-55.
Kim, W. J. (1995). International adoption: A case review of Korean children. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 25, 141-154.
National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (2000, August). Adoption: Numbers and trends. Available:
Project 21. (1995, March). African-American leadership group condemns racist adoption practices. (On-line). Available:
Shireman, J. F., & Johnson, P. R. (1986). A longitudinal study of Black adoptions: Single parent, transracial, and traditional. Social Work, 31, 172-176.,%20self-esteem,%20and%20racial%20identity

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