Mixed race adoption-article in the Guardian today

(32 Posts)
PineCones Tue 13-Mar-12 12:50:32

FWIW, I utterly disagree, and was interested in knowing what everyone else thought.
article here

hifi Tue 13-Mar-12 13:29:30

the writers only solution is to put more energy into finding black adopters,a bit weak if you ask me.
do you disagree with Cameron or the writer?

hifi Tue 13-Mar-12 13:33:06

theses children will end up in care in probably predominately white areas, theres no easy answer and these children cant wait around for all these black families to come forward.
in adoption terms most adopters want a girl, 6 out of 10. even more mix raced adopters want girls. we specified a girl and our social worker said it coulkd be as high as 8 out of 10 mixed raced adopters wanted a girl.

PineCones Tue 13-Mar-12 13:58:04

I disagree with the author of the article. Skin colour be d*mned! A child needs a parent = a child needs a parent.
Between racial/ cultural identity and actually having parents, I know which I would have chosen every time.

shockers Tue 13-Mar-12 14:07:31

Sadly, for every one of those black children with an adoption or in care horror story, there will also be a white child. I'm not sure colour is the issue, it's more to do with adopters or fosterers being poorly vetted, or unprepared for a child with an attachment disorder IMO. The government and SS should be supporting adoptive families for much longer than they do currently to make sure that this kind of abusive behaviour doesn't take hold.

NanaNina Tue 13-Mar-12 14:36:13

This is a difficult area - the thing is if black adoptors are not coming forward to adopt, then what can be done about that. I worked for an LA where 98% of the children were white UK, and thus the issue of same race placements seldom arose. Barnardoes used to be good at recruiting black adoptors and we did "buy" placements for them for the very small minority of black children, but for fostering rather than adoption. They very rarely had black adoptors approved and ready to adopt.

There are some common problems, regardless of ethnicity. The vast majority of adoptors want a baby, and when realising that this is not going to be possible, they will be willing to consider an older child, but usually under 5 years. The children who await adoption are sibling groups, children with disabilities and older middle years aged children, and there is a strong preference for girls over boys.

I think that same race placement is the ideal but only if the match is right, and this of course is true for children whatever their ethnicity.

For sometime now many LAs have dropped their insistence on same race placements, and are trying to recruit families who will "support the children in a way that reflects their ethnicity" and so I am a bit surprised at this article in the Guardian, which of course relates to Cameron's crazy notion of 3 months from removal of a child to adoption. He knows not the first thing about adoption.

I think times have changed and certainly where I live (Birmingham) white uk people are in fact the minority ethnic group, with large populations of Asian people, Polish, Latvian, and a smaller group of african caribbean ethnicity. I am not for one moment suggesting racism is dead and buried (and there is no indication that this is ever going to change) but I a black child is not going to stand out in a multi cultural, multi ethnicity like Birmingham. I appreciate this is not the same for all areas of the country, especially rural areas.

On balance I come down on the side of children being placed with families of a different race, because I truly believe (after 30 years of social work practice) that the over-riding need for children of any ethnicity who have been removed from their birthparents because of neglect/abuse etc is to be placed in a family that can understand the needs of the child in terms of attachment and loss and know that for many of these children "love is not enough" as they have often been illtreated in their first weeks, months and years of life. The first 3 years of a child's life are the most important years developmentally, and lay down the foundation for the rest of their lives.

What the writer of the article says about adoption in the 60s and 70s is absolutely true and on another thread I have mentioned the fact that young women were more or less forced to give up their babies for adoption. The "assessment" of the adoptors was horrendous - they needed to have a nice clean and tidy home and garden, and a reference from the GP and the vicar and then all that was left to do was to go and choose their child from the mother and baby home. I was an unmarried mother in 1966 and had my parents not been supportive of me and my baby that's what would have happened to me. Some of those women are still grieving their lost child 40 years on. Thankfully times have changed and single parents can keep their babies.

I think the writer of the article is not really presenting a balanced view and I always worry about dogmatic views in issues as important as this. There is no easy answer and no "right" and "wrong" - sadly adoption placements break down, and the older the child when placed, the more likely it is that the adoption will break down. The truth of the matter is that the trauma that many children suffer prior to removal from their family, means that they are never able to overcome their difficulties, and this manifests itself in all kinds of behaviour problems throughout the life span. Hence I think children should be removed sooner rather than later but again that is not easy because the sws first duty is to keep families together and offer support etc. and every sw knows that they cannot bring a case before the court unless they have evidence that the child has been abused/neglected.

Think I have probably said enough!

Will be interested in the views of others.

Lilka Tue 13-Mar-12 19:23:06

I think that if there are no adopters found for a child that are a fit for both the ethnicity/race/cultural background AND for the childs needs, then you must prioritise the childs needs over the right ethnic match. The childs needs willl be the biggest factor in whether the adoption succeeds so it's more important to find that kind of match

It seems that when it comes to transracial adoption, there are two very loud and opposing groups dominating the debate. The first being the "It's a bad thing, and children should NEVER be placed outside their own race/cultural background, because it's too damaging", and the second one being "We should be colourblind, race should not even be a factor in the matching, it doesn't matter at all, it's RACISM to care about it"

And my honest reaction to both of those POV's is hmm I really don't think either of those is the right way to go. Like it or not, colour/background can be very important to the child and it therefore must be considered carefully. Like it or not, the outcomes for children remaining in care and not adopted, are very poor indeed.

Not all black/mixed race children should be matched with white parents, even if there no black/mixed race adopters available

Not all white prospective adopters are or would be suitable parents for a black/mixed race child, even if they want to be

I think if an older black child is going to be adopted, they are perfectly entitled to say to their SW 'I want my new parents to be black like me'. I think that's a reasonable request. A child as old as the DD's were when they came home, is old enough to know whether they would cope with it being obvious that they are adopted (it's really not OK with some children that everyone knows they are adopted, and being with different race parents is like having a sign on your head)

And parents who wish to adopt transracially need to be prepared and prepare themselves as much as possible. They need to have some understanding about things like racism, white privelage, the POV of a child who doesn't have privacy about their adoption, and so on.

Maybe I'm coming off as against transracial adoption, and I'm NOT, it could be the best thing possible for some of the black children in care, BUT it needs careful consideration

CHT Tue 13-Mar-12 21:08:09

I have surprised myself with changing thoughts on the whole race / ethnic matching issue. When we started the adoption process, we were clear we didn't care whether the child was white (we are), black, blue or green, we would love it regardless. And on one hand, I still feel that way and would happily parent any child I was privileged enough to have. On the other...the fact that our DD is such a good match to us both is really really lovely, not least because it means that we have (and she has, when older) the option of whether to tell people that she is adopted or not. I think that is really valuable, and something all adopted children - ideally - should have.

But the central premise about children languishing in the system for years because no-one of the same ethnic background is available to adopt them is patently ridiculous, and needs to be addressed (though maybe not quite as proposed)

Devora Tue 13-Mar-12 22:09:45

I agree with NanaNina and Lilka. I found the article poorly written, dogmatic and provocative. I feel very, very strongly that ethnic identity is one important factor in matching, but should not be the only one. In some areas the situation HAS been ridiculous - I have friends where one partner is white UK and the other Southern European, who were only allowed to adopt dc who had one birth parent from the same European family. Absolutely ridiculous.

BUT I don't think colour-blindness is the way forward either. Adopted children already have to cope with a lot of identity issues, and being racially different from everyone else in your family has to raise pretty big identity issues. The bad old days of placing black children in white families within white communities produced real pain - and we shouldn't dismiss the message of that from this article.

I am the white adopted mother of a black child, and so yes I do feel a bit bristly when I get accused of being a colonialist or a slave-owner. I was allowed to adopt our child because my dp is black. Less important to the adoption agency, but in my view almost equally valid, were my extended mixed race family (my mother has several mixed race siblings), our large number of black friends, and my personal commitment to developing my own awareness, understanding and resources. (I am, for example, paying a not insignificant sum to attend a workshop on parenting BME adopted children next week.) I would have been outraged if these factors were NOT taken into account, if our daughter had been placed instead with a white family who blithely assumed their love was enough. Hannah Pool's book about her adoption (My Fathers' Daughter) shows clearly how problematic it was for her to be adopted by a white family, even though she dearly loves and honours that family.

I think the 3 month deadline is ludicrous and counter-productive, though I do agree generally that children should proceed through the system more quickly. I think social workers need really good guidance on how to sensitively match about racial and cultural barriers. And I think adoptive parents need much more guidance and support than they currently get on how to support their BME adopted children.

Hi Pinecones I read that article you linked to and I felt really sad. Of course everyone has their right to an opinion but I don't agree the article. Of course it would be wonderful for children to be matched ethnically. Maybe there are some situations where children have a mixed heritage and there just are not enough people around who would be a match. In those circumstances would Social Services say it is OK for them to be adopted by a while British family, and if OK for them then why not for someone else who is black or Asian etc.

Anyway, I read this article today and I found it lovely and heart warming.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12514433

At the end of the day neither of the men who wrote these articles can speak for all the children who are currently in care.

It would be wonderful for more adopters to be found from all racial and cultural backgrounds.

It would be wonderful for those who are adopting children of different ethnic background to understand the culture and any issues that may arise.

In the meantime it is also essential for Social Services to deal with the situation as it is, to be realistic and sympathetic. I found the first article you linked to very sad, and rather insulting to suggest slavery and colony. What about families where partners come from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds, what about situations where one partner then leaves and the other parents alone the child they they created together? How do they keep that child in touch with their full culture?

I just feel that there are many more issues, and lots of people are struggling with identity in the modern world but that is just how it is. I grew up in an area of London with lots of Indian people. The children (my peers) were Indian but had lived all their lives in the UK. So they had a kind of dual identity sometimes, living in the UK but having a heritage from India. Of course the parents helped to promote that for them but it was not always easy. It's just a part of modern life.

I guess I feel a loving, caring home is just so important and of course a truly caring home will want to celebrate all that the child is, and prepare the child in the best way for the future.

Thanks for sharing the article.

We're right at the start of our journey and no idea what opportunities we will have in terms of the type of child we may adopt or might be able to foster but I guess it helps to just think through these issues.

Kewcumber Sat 28-Apr-12 10:44:20

I agree with Nana, Lilka and Devora.

As a transracial adopter myself and having a few friends who are transracial adopters, it isn't easy. Adopted children have enough to deal with without adding a lack of role model, confusion about their looks and whether they "fit" within a family. The issue of not looking like the rest of your family is significant for a child that may already be struggling with attachment and belonging.

Love is not enough.

I am way more realistic about it now than I was before adopting and would be horrified if racial matching lost its significance in matching. I have to deal with a six year old who tells me that he doesn't like his skin because its too dark and he wants light skin like mine. Of course we deal with it and we helpfully live in a very multicultural area and he attends a multicultural school (deliberately chosen).

I do believe that there must be much more emphasis both on recruiting BME adopters in the medium and longer term and simultaneously finding any appropriate family for those children placed for adoption now.

I think there should also be more done to win over social worker a significant proportion of which (IME) are still very anti transracial adoption even if the legal/procedural barriers have been removed. I think there should be some group discussion with social workers and existing transracially adoptive families talking about the reality of life in such a family and looking at the more recent research in other countries.

I also think that if a family are likely to be matched with a child of a differnt race there should be an additional training course specifically on transracial adoption and the issues, akin to the overseas adoption course that Barnet do.

I think the government has missed the point and is playing to the gallery a bit when in fact there is no current bar to transracial adoption.

Kewcumber Sat 28-Apr-12 10:44:49

Oops apparently I think quite a lot blush And that was the edited version!

I agree with kew. I think additional training would be very helpful and if I were adopting transculturally I would want definitely want to be prepared in the best possible way to help and nurture the child. Is that currently available?

Kewcumber Sat 28-Apr-12 13:04:31

not as far as I'm aware unless you do the intercountry preparation course. Which is quite different to the domestic one and covers differnt health and development issues and racism for example.

cory Sat 28-Apr-12 14:58:11

I agree that there are issues about transracial adoption, but are they really that different from the issues surrounding transracial relationships (particularly if the other parent does not stay around)? Is the writer of the article somebody who goes around looking down his nose on racially mixed people as well?

My SIL was forever having to explain to people that no, her dd wasn't actually adopted from somewhere foreign and exotic or indeed from anywhere at all, and her dd did got through a phase of feeling confused about her identity, especially after her dad had walked out of her life and she had a stepfather who did not share her dad's background- but does that mean my SIL should never have had her? That starting a family with a man of a different race was simply wrong and shouldn't have happened? Yes, SIL had to deal with it- but she did deal with.

I do understand that adopted children have extra issues to deal with, but the article seems so totally negative.

I do not get the impression from my own adopted brother that the impact of being racially different is so great or so negative that he would have been better off without a family at all. And now that he has children of his own, of course he isn't the only one, he doesn't look "different"- we're just a racially mixed family. His children look different from mine, but then my children look different from his. It's not colour blindness, as the writer suggests; it's just accepting that families don't all have to be the same.

Yes, he struggled with identity in his younger days, but so did my niece. Europe is an increasingly multi-cultural society. I think there must be some lee-way between "this needs for extra handling" and "this mustn't be allowed to happen".

Kayano Sat 28-Apr-12 17:41:26

Can you specify that you want a girl or boy? Really?!?!

Lilka Sat 28-Apr-12 18:22:58

Yes Kayano. Generally you need to give a good reason in order to be approved for just one gender. But many prospective adopters, even if they are approved for both, will have a preference. Girls are more frequently adopted than boys in all western countries, whether it's domestic or international adoption.

I was approved twice for a girl only, although with a very wide age range so I didn't have major problems being linked with children

You can specify number of children, ages, gender, and what background and special needs they are known to have at the time

Lilka Sat 28-Apr-12 18:28:06

Actually having said that, if you adopt internationally there are some countries that do not allow parents to choose gender, or only allow it in exceptional circumstances. Usually this is because that country has many more boys needing adoption than girls, and don't want lots of adopters only having girls, which results in long wait times to get a girl and the boys not getting adopted

PineCones sorry to but in, could I just ask Lilka - Do you know of any evidence based research or information available on line regarding the gender mix and birth children? I am sure you have spoken to me somewhere else on munset about gender mix (or to someone else - or I could be totally confused! - apologies).

I'm just wondering in terms of a gender preference how that translates to actually asking if you can adopt one gender. My DD would probably love a boy, my DH and I feel more inclined to a girl, because we have a girl already, we know what to expect, - and I had kind of imagined myself having two girls (maybe because I am one of two girls - I wonder if some of us want to recreate our own families and others of us are trying to do the opposite and have a change!). But I also have heard there are more boys in the system and so wonder if asking about a girl would limit possibilities. Anyway, what I'm wondering is if in terms of the adoption working out well having a birth child of one gender it would work better adopting a child of same gender or opposite? As I said to you before I want to be really flexible but just wondered if there was any evidence on line about what worked well in terms of the family mix. As you know we are right at the beginning and I just want to explore all the information etc. Thanks.

thebestisyettocome Sat 28-Apr-12 19:21:38

I disagree with the article. It's wrong to look back at events in 1984. We live in very different times now. Attitudes have changed a lot.
I don't quite get the Wigan story either. Wigan doesn't have a large black community but I believe the people there are decent and tolerant and the town doesn't have any race issues.
I know many families which are mixed-race. These are happy, sucessful family groups just getting on with life and each other. If they can succeed, why shouldn't adoptive families?

maples Sat 28-Apr-12 19:44:06

Totally disagree with the article. For several reasons:

Not sure how more could be done to recruit BME adopters. London was full of adverts calling for potential adoptive parents when I lived there, and many of these adverts showed BME children

It's a completely different ball game surely now being a BME child to white parents. So many children have at least one parent of a different ethnicity (and often a different ethnicity to all siblings and/or resident carers where BME parent is now with another partner) that the experience of BME children adopted by white families is not going to be as unusual as it was in the 80s.

Also the thought of BME children being left in care is just awful.

Kewcumber Sat 28-Apr-12 20:58:06

I should also add that there doesn;t seem to be a general acceptance in sS circles that whilst waiting for a permanent family, many many BME children are fostered with white families until eventually they age out of realistic adoption prospects.

Practically I don't see why long term foster care with predominantly white carers is a better option than white adoptive parents.

But yes Cory - in many cases I do think that transracial comes with additional issues to your run of the mill transracial families. Thats not to say obviously that I don;t think it should be possible, being a transracial adopter and all!

The recruitment of BME adoptive parents is a very long term issue IMO, lots more work in the community not a few posters.

cory Sat 28-Apr-12 21:06:23

The attitude towards trans-racial adoption is very different in the UK compared to Sweden where it is still very common and seen as a normal thing. Would be interesting to see some stats re the relative number of breakdowns of adoptions, to see if there is some evidence that suggests that Swedish adoptions more often break down. And if they don't - could it be partly to do with the fact that adopting transracially in a culture where it is frowned upon also brings more extra problems?

Lilka Sat 28-Apr-12 21:20:24

I agree with Kew - advertising will not help promote adoption in communities where adoption is culturally taboo or not spoken of. Those are often the communities that are ethnic matches for waiting children, but adoption is not the done thing, and there is no real work being done to combat that.

Italian - I'm not aware of any actual research done on that matter. I'd say that it's highly individual how different gender mixes work out. Sometimes having a different gender works well, sometimes not. The childrens personalities will be the biggest decider I think. I think being flexible about both genders and looking carefully at the childrens profiles after approval will give you the best chance of being matched with the right child. I know it's not easy when you are going in the dark, and not knowing what to expect. I admit I was approved for only a girl twice - the first time was because I felt much more prepared for a girl, and thought that as a single woman, I'd be better with a girl, and I was certain I wanted a daughter. The second time was different, and based on DD1's needs a the time. I am very glad now that I have had the chance to have a boy as well, and I guess I'm personally a bit biased and think having at least one of each is great! I'm sorry I can't help you more there

Kewcumber Sat 28-Apr-12 22:01:18

Cory - from memory there has been some research done in Canada which shows good results of transracial adoptions but as you say the prevailing attitudes and also the preparation pre-adoption and support post-adoption must make a difference.

Lilka thanks so much for taking the time to reply. I am just so excited about it all now we are at the start! Just talking about it with people who know stuff is really great.

Cory I've been to Sweden a number of times and I noticed (especially at Astrid Lingren World!) that there were many racially mixed families, with white parents. My friend did say something about interracial adoption in that country being very welcomed. I am sure if it is something that is seen as a positive thing then that must help in some way. However, just seen a study that does say in Sweden that racism is a factor and that racism rather than being transracially adopted may be more of a factor in 'serious psychiatric and social maladjustment problems' BUT I can't vouch for the information! I am also keen to see evidence/support etc on how to combat any problems rather than just documenting stuff. Also, as someone who has just 'holidayed' in Sweden and has friends who live there I really don't know much about the culture and what it is like underneath the casual observations.

While looking on line I found this interesting (also long and a bit hard to read!) article. I got as far as this paragraph (below), it's late and I'm off to bed, I might read more tomorrow! I felt it was a really nice positive note (although probably not surprising for anyone who knows about this subject!).

"There also is emerging evidence that positive racial and ethnic experiences contribute to the psychological adjustment of transracial adoptees. DeBerry et al. (1996) and Yoon (2001), for example, found that racial/ethnic identity, as measured principally by ethnic pride, was related positively to psychological adjustment in studies of African American and Korean transracial adolescent adoptees in the United States. Yoon also found that Korean adolescent adoptees, whose adoptive parents actively promoted their children’s ethnic cultures, had more positive racial/ethnic identity development and, in turn, better psychological adjustment. Moreover, the direct and indirect effects of these racial/ethnic experiences were above and beyond the effects of general family functioning as measured by parental warmth and positive parent-child communication."

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2366972/

Lilka Sun 29-Apr-12 08:58:35

Thanks for the article Italian. It does highlight the fact that transracial adoptees nearly always do better if their adoptive parents are clued up on racial issues, don't ignore the fact that their child is a different race, and actively help the child make links with people who look like them. Unfortunately, despite the fact that research deos back that up, it is being ignored by the government in their drive to increase adoptions.

I wonder how many domestic adoptions there in Sweden? Countries with few domestic adoptions will have higher numbers of international adoptions, and those are the ones which are more often transracial.

I also think that there is a difference between a child having issues with their race, and an adoption disrupting. Low disrupion rates are great, but I'm not sure that's an indicator of how many children are having mild/moderate problems with being in a transracial family, since such problems are unlikely to lead to disruption. I am going to look for research into outcomes of transracial adoptions. The only British research I can find was about how likely BME children were to be adopted in the first place

Thanks Linla.

This is a really helpful discussion for me because I expect we will be asked about race and ethnicity in the future. I'm not sure how many BME children there are in our area but we live in quite a rural setting.

A long time ago my hubby and I considered overseas adoption and I wanted to look into China. Sadly, we were not ready for it and at the time it seemed very expensive, and we did not go ahead. I felt confident I could be of use to a Chinese child because I had lived in Asia (Singapore) studied Mandarin, travelled in south east Asia, informally studied another Asian language and have a great love of the culture of China and south east Asia. I've also been told I look Asian by a couple of south East Asian people, which I love grin.

Although we live in a village there are BME people around. Something to read up and think about so I can give positive answers to questions etc.

Would love to hear from people who have children of different ethnicity or race and how they are actively helping their child have a positive idea of that. I kind of imagine adopting a BME child and trying to accost people in the street and asking them to be my friend! I wonder if there are support groups. I am pretty sure there are groups of adopters who have adopted from China etc.

I do feel happy that we are going for domestic adoption and this discussion is helping me to think through all the areas of domestic adoption as well, so thank you all.

Sorry Lilka!

Kewcumber Sun 29-Apr-12 10:04:40

Italian - thats an extract from the canadian research I mentioned here www.cps.ca/english/statements/CP/CP06-01.pdf

Its long but if you go down to page 446 the recommendations are both obvious and helpful.

Yes there are support groups and if there aren't because your child is an "unusual" race then you set one up yourself - the internet can be a great thing! We meet up about 2/3 times a year with people from across the country.

cory Sun 29-Apr-12 14:55:18

Italian, my experience of Swedish racism is that it certainly does exist, like it does here, but it is more tied to language and culture than to physical appearance. At least when I was a child, somebody who looked like a Swede but spoken broken Swedish or with a foreign accent would be far more likely to experience racism than somebody who looked totally different but spoke with a native accent and appeared au fait with Swedish cultural norms. Swedish racism in those days at least was more about xenophobia (will they know how to behave like us?). So a Finnish or Greek immigrant might expect to have a harder time than a Korean or Indian adoptee. I don't think my brother has experienced much racism, but I know my best friend who was the child of Finnish immigrants did occasionally. And as far as I am aware, the greatest sufferers from racism in Sweden today are Somalian immigrants, and to some extent Middle Easter immigrants. It's not something I would expect to touch the lives of my nephews.

Another factor that might have made a difference in those days (though possibly not now) would have been that there were hardly any adult immigrants from the countries which furnished the adopted children: so anyone with xenophobic tendencies who saw a Korean or Indian teenager around in the 70s would assume that s/he was adopted and therefore "one of us".

Lilka, as far as I am aware there are very few domestic adoptions in Sweden. Partly, I think, because there are fewer unwanted pregnancies: more take-up of contraception, plus an unwanted pregnancy would be more likely to end in abortion.

The first big wave of inter-racial adoptions in Sweden was in the 60s- so those children are now grown up and have families of their own.

Thanks Kew I like the recommendations, very clear, yes quite obvious in a way but then it does help to spell it all out. The version I found was just from googling around and your version was clearer. I'd not followed up your link, got caught up in all the comments.

Just watched a very moving film at church, about children abandoned in Kenya, some adopted from Kenyan orphanage. Now a large number of those children are adopted and of that number a large number (80%) are adopted within Kenya. Very moving.

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