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Advantages & Disadvantages of Interracial Adoption

By Felicia Lee ; Updated April 18, 2017
Adopting a child from another race or culture brings both joys and risks.

Many childless couples yearning to start families would joyfully adopt children of any race, and interracial adoption has become a welcome option for many. Yet the virtues and potential pitfalls of interracial adoption continue to be a matter of passionate debate, and its potential advantages and disadvantages should be considered carefully by any parents looking to adopt.

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Logistical Advantages

Much of the debate over interracial adoption has concerned the placement of black children with white families. Proponents of interracial adoption argue that there are far more black children in need of permanent homes than there are black adults looking to adopt, and interracial adoptions would put such children into stable, loving homes quickly rather than keeping them waiting months or years for one of the small number of potential black adoptive parents. In some cases, interracial adoption could prevent children from abuse by troubled natural parents.

Logistical Disadvantages

While the states that mention adoptive parents’ race in their adoption laws all allow interracial adoption and forbid denial of adoption rights solely on the basis of race, legal precedent has generally allowed race to be considered as one of many factors in adoption proceedings. Hence, parents interested in pursuing an interracial adoption undergo an extra level of scrutiny that those pursuing same-race adoptions do not. Parents whose interracial adoptions involve children from overseas face the additional burdens of immigration paperwork and travel.

Cultural Advantages

Adopting a child of a different race can give both the parents and child the opportunity to gain an intimate understanding of another race and its culture. Proponents of interracial adoption have argued that interracial families also send a powerful message to the community at large – just by their presence, they build awareness of how people of different races can mix and relate constructively to each other.

Cultural Disadvantages

The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) has denounced adoption of black children by white parents. The association argues that such children grow up without an understanding or connection to black culture, and that such adoptions are damaging not only to the children but to the black community at large. A 1995 study by A. R. Sharma and others, however, showed that interracial adoptees’ self-esteem, adjustment and ability to form relationships were not adversely affected by their adoption situations. Nevertheless, adoptive parents should be aware that children of racial minority groups develop their sense of racial identity differently than do white children, who are typically raised to view themselves as individuals before seeing themselves as part of a racial group.

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About the Author

Felicia Lee is a freelance writer/editor and published author with over 15 years of experience. Her work has appeared in publications including the "Los Angeles Times" and on Salon.com. Felicia holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in English from Stanford and a Doctor of Philosophy in linguistics from University of California, Los Angeles.

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