Adoption Assignment

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Transracial Adoption in Hong Kong
CHARLES O'BRIAN

Transracial adoption is a subject of some controversy. For some Chinese children in Hong Kong, however, adoption by a Caucasian family offers the only alternative to prolonged impermanence. Using case studies as illustrations, this article offers a cultural analysis of adoption in Hong Kong and tries to show why Chinese infants are placed with Caucasian families. Ideas for changes in policy and practice that might lead to increased same-race placements are discussed.

Adoption has proven to be a suecessful method of rearing children. Triseliotis and Hill [1990], in their comparison study of children reared by adoption, by fostering, and by residential care, conclude that whereas the vast majority of adopted children achieve a settled life in the community, only some who were brought up in institutions reach this position. Using data from the National Child Development survey conducted by the National Children's Bureau in London, Bagley [1992] compared the psychosocial outcomes of 100 adopted children with 100 children who were separated from their mothers in the first seven years but not adopted, and with 10,000 children from the main cohort. On most indicators the adopted children did not differ from the main cohort and had significantly better outcomes than the children separated from their mothers but not adopted. Charles O'Brian, C.Q.S.W., MA., is University Senior Lecturer, Department of Applied Social Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, City Polytechnic of Hong Kong. The author notes that, "despite my name, I am in fact Eurasian of Indian origin." 0009-4021/94/040319-12 $1.50 © 1994 Child Welfare League of America 319

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CHILD WELFARE / Volume LXXIII, Number 4 / July-August 1994

Transracial Adoption Most people adopt because they cannot conceive and they want a child to raise as their own. They want the child to fit in with the family in the same way that a biological child would. In the Westem industrialized worid, a limited supply of healthy Caucasian babies has led prosi)ective Caucasian adopters to consider the adoption of a child who does not fit the profile outlined above. Prospective adopters have considered adopting a child for whom it has been hard to fmd an adoptive family: perhaps a child from an ethnic minority group, an older child living in an institution, or a child with special physical or developmental needs. Their search for such a child has extended into the poorer countries of Asia and South America and more recently, into the war-torn or economically ravaged countries of Eastem Europe. Transracial adoption, however, is a subject of much debate and controversy. This is particularly so for the placement of African American and Afro-Caribbean children with Caucasian adopters [Ladner 1977; Small 1984]. The issue is an emotive one in which polarized positions are often taken. Researchers, mostly Caucasian, point to their outcome studies, which claim that transracial placements work, and by all indicators, children so adopted fare just as well as other adoptees. Minority community professionals [Chimezi 1976] have branded the practice racist and neocolonial and one that leads to children losing their ethnic and cultural identity. Empirical evidence indicates that transracial adoption has had largely positive outcomes for the children placed with Caucasian families. [Gill and Jackson 1983; McRoy and Zurcher 1983; Feigelman and Silverman 1983; Simon and Altstein 1987; Bagley 1992, 1993]. These researchers point to the many positive indicators of transracial adoptees—including educational achievement, good relationships with families and peers, and general feelings of positive self-worth and confidence in themselves as people—as evidence that transracial adoption works. Their research also consistently shows that these children live in a predominantly Caucasian world with very little social contact with the...
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