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Transracial Adoption

Topics: Race, Racism, Adoption, Miscegenation / Pages: 8 (1829 words) / Published: Jan 2nd, 2014
Transracial Adoption
Transracial fostering and adoption is a hugely controversial issue in Britain with professionals polarised on what is best for vulnerable children coming into care. There were ‘approximately 65,000 children were placed in care in England and Wales in 2005’ (McVeigh, 6/7/2008). Just under 80per cent are white in a country where 87 per cent of the population class themselves as white British. This means that ethic minority children are over-represented in the care system, and are staying there longer (McVeigh, 2008).
The following discussion aims to address some of the main issues effecting transracial adoption (TRA) and to gain an insight into the affects that TRA has on the children in their later lives. The main focus of which will be placed on the building of identity for those individuals which in turn can impact on attainment, ‘mental health and deep feelings of isolation’ ((McVeigh, 6/7/2008) in creating a contented adult life.
In order to accomplish this, it is important to have an historical overview of TRA in Britain which has been blighted by political ideology, prejudice, racism and professionals relying on ingrained values (Willing and Fronek, 2012) that would leave them ‘deeply uncomfortable with anything but a same race match for a child in their care’ (McVeigh, 6/7/2008).
TRA as a public issue has its origins in the 1950’s where there has been a lack of ethnic minority adopters available, a trend which has continued and saw black children considred as ‘unadoptable’ (Kirton, 2000: 8). During the 1950’s adoption practice became to be seen highly as providing a ‘clean break’ (Kirton, 2000: 7) serving as a detachment from birth families. This was the beginning of important changes which included a closer relationship between adoption and the public child care system. This was enshrined in the Adoption Act 1958 and brought not only a stronger social work influence within adoption but also an interest in extending adoption to children previously considered to be beyond the adoption sphere, including disability, age and racial background. Those that fell into these categories were classed as ‘hard-to-place’ (Kriton, 2000:7).
During this period postwar immigrants had began entering the UK which was society steeped in ‘racialised thinking and attendant exclusionary practices’ (Krition, 2000: 7). Although these issues had been highly debated, it was recognised that western liberal democracy had been characterised by a disjuncture between the formal principles of equality, justice and reason and largely practices of subordination, discrimination and coercion based on racialisation. Public commitment to the goals of equality was fuelled by the ‘liberal tradition and self image of tolerance’ (Kirton, 2000: 7) and the changing world in the wake of Nazism, decolonisation and the Cold War, which served to undermine the respectability of racism (Miles, 1989). Via this, there formed a loose compromise where hostility towards black immigrants was seen to be ‘only natural’ (Kirton, 2000: 7).However, this compromise was largely constrained. There remained colour bars and no blacks notices restricting access to certain places a direct link to the American South.
By the late 1950’s children of mixed parentage made up 10-20 per cent of foster children in London. This rise was facilitated by illegitimate births and the shame of birthing mix-ethnicity children (Stubbs, 1987). These children classed as hard-to-place was proven by ‘reports that one welfare agency where 80 per cent of its (white) foster carers had refused to take black children’ (Kirton, 2000: 8). In addition, agencies where sceptical with regard to prospective white adopters, fearful that they were motivated by guilt, and that with such hostility to miscegenation and intermarriage it would always be difficult to imagine a black child as a fully fledged member of a white family (Patterson, 1965). Supporting this was the belief that ‘being with one’s own kind’ is best (Braithwaite, 1962; Stubbs, 1987: 476). In the early 1960’s a survey produced by the National Council for Civil Liberties found only five agencies attempting to place black children and reported that judges often refused TRA on grounds relating to miscegenation (Kirton, 2000).
It is important to note that during this period which saw the emergence of TRA that there were wider struggles afoot. Racist violence that had come to the fore due to the hostility against immigrants erupted in Notting Hill and Nottingham during 1958. This served as a catalyst for the abandonment of so called ‘laissez-faire’ immigration policy (Kriton, 2000: 11). Although the attacks were condemned this amounted to nothing more than rhetoric as they were classed as understandable and an expected response the immigrant problem. Subsequent Immigration Acts in 1962 and 1968 sought to tighten controls.
However, with the governments eye on developments in the USA of the Black Nationalism and power movements and pressure from the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination. The Labour government of the time made attempts to distance itself from allegations of racism culminating in the 1965 Race Relation Act, which took the first small steps to outlawing racial discrimination.
More systematic efforts were made with the introduction of the British Adoption Project (BAP) in 1965, which had a specific mandate to demonstrate that TRA was possible (Stubbs, 1987). The optimism that TRA was possible was boosted by the adoption of approximately 100 children from Hong Kong and by the mid-1960’s BAP’s own survey demonstrated that TRA was by no means rare with ‘3.4 per cent of agency adoptions nationally, and 7.5 per cent in London’ (Raynor, 1970: 168). In 1970 TRA was given official status ‘in the Home Office’s Guide to Adoption Practice’ (Home Office Advisory Council on Child Care 1970; Kirton, 2000: 10). The guide omitted any notion that same race adoption should be paramount or for the need of recruitment of black adopters.
The 1975 Children Act and 1976 Adoption Act respectively attempted to facilitate adoption and strengthen the position of substitute cares. There was a move away from the clean break view with an importance being stressed of children having knowledge of their adoption and have access to their birth parents and being psychologically healthy. This was to aid in the building of identity and for black children ‘actively locating an individual life history within the collective memory of race’ built on the sense of self (Cohen,1994; Kriton, 2000: 17). Pryce (1975) added to this sentiment and warned of the threat posed to black children’s cultural identity in white homes, with a danger that negative images could be built resulting in ‘disturbing psychological problems’ (Kriton, 2000: 18).
With the rise of the black professional and the Soul Kids Campaign launched in 1975 there was the first concerted effort to recruit black adoptive families. With the establishment of the New Black Families Unit in 1980 and its relative success fuelled the belief that a shortage of black adopting families was due to institutional racism. The battle lines were being drawn and a campaign spearheaded by the Association of Black Social Workers and Allied Professionals opposed TRA stating that it was a
‘microcosm of the oppression of black people in this society’ and ‘Its is in essence internal colonialism and a new form of the slave trade, but only black children are used’ (Sissay, 2012).
This sentiment was bolstered by BAP’s publication in 1983 that TRA was successful however ‘children had become white in all but skin colour’ (Kriton, 2000: 22). For Divine (1983) and Small (1986) the findings seemed to provide evidence of the failings of TRA in relation to racial and cultural identity.
The Children Act 1989 was the first piece of legislation that incorporated issues of race and ethnicity into statue child care law, requiring local authorities to give due consideration, to ‘religious persuasion, racial origin, and cultural and linguistic background (s22(5)(c) ). However, giving due consideration to such issues left the legislation open to a wide range of interpretation (Allen, 1990). There was little change to the adoption law which was still governed in the main by the 1976 Adoption Act. The sentiments of ethnic identity have been followed up in the Adoption and Children Act 2002.
Emphasis on the child’s race and cultural identity had been placed at the forefront of adoptions until recently. In response to issues of adoption times the current coalition government have plans to update the adoption guidelines to aid the removal of barriers to TRA. The Children and Families Bill expected to be introduced later this year gives a key measure in adopting; of stopping local authorities delaying an adoption to find the perfect match if there are suitable adopters available. The ethnicity of the child and prospective adopters will come second (Adoption UK, 2010).
The impending introduction of these guidelines has again divided professionals. Jonathan Pearce (2010) the Chief Executive of Adoption UK gave support to the changes stating ‘While it is important that a child’s race and ethnicity are addressed in placing children for adoption it should not be the overriding factor. This is supported by the comments made by Trevor Phillips (2012), who as the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality should have challenged ‘the race rules which denied children the chance of loving family and instead left them at the mercy of a failing care system’ (Doughty, 2012). Others such as Sissay (2012) disagree, he points to the mistakes of TRA in the past in which saw children bath in bleach, having names changed and being stoned. McVeigh (2008) reported on those children now adults and how they struggle to deal with the consequences. In his article a TRA adoptee pointed out that love was not enough alone and that he would have benefited from having people around that had an understanding of racism and relevant cultural issues, which was echoed by many. However, paradoxically a young man who spent 9 years in care without permanently being placed finds it hard to forgive those who opposed a TRA, depriving him of the opportunity to be loved.
Building ethnic and cultural identity is a large part of TRA
The issue of Identity building is important whoever you are or wherever you live.

Adoption UK (2010) Adoption UK responds to the Government’s plans to update guidelines on transracial adoption. [Online] [Accessed on 30 December 2012] Children Act 1989 [Online] [Accessed on 28 December 2012] Doughty, S. (2012) Ban on mixed-race adoption deprived thousands of decent home life, says equality chief. [Online] [Accessed on 29 December 2012] Kirton, D. (2000) ‘Race’, Ethnicity and Adoption’, Open University Press: Buckingham
McVeigh, T. (2008) Race dilemma at the heart of our adoption crisis. The Observer. [Online] [Accessed on 23 December 2012] Patterson, S. (1965) Dark strangers: A study of West Indians in London: Pelican books
Raynor, L. (1970) Adoption of Non-White Children, London: George Allen and Unwin
Robinson, L. (2000) ‘Racial Identity Attitudes and Self-Esteem of Black Adolescents in Residential Crae: An Exploratory Study’. British Journal of Social Work, 30, 3-24
Sissay, L. (2012) On inter-racial adoption, Cameron is wrong. Colour blindness is a disability. The Guardian [Online] [Accessed on 21 December 2012] Stubbs, P. (1987) ‘Professionalism and the Adoption of Black Children’. British Journal of Social Work, (17), 473-492
Willing, I. and Froneck, P. (2012) ‘Constructing I identities and Issues of Race in Transracial Adoption: The Experiences of Adoptive Parents’. British Journal of Social Work, 1-18

References: Adoption UK (2010) Adoption UK responds to the Government’s plans to update guidelines on transracial adoption. [Online] [Accessed on 30 December 2012] Kirton, D. (2000) ‘Race’, Ethnicity and Adoption’, Open University Press: Buckingham McVeigh, T Raynor, L. (1970) Adoption of Non-White Children, London: George Allen and Unwin Robinson, L Sissay, L. (2012) On inter-racial adoption, Cameron is wrong. Colour blindness is a disability. The Guardian [Online] [Accessed on 21 December 2012] Stubbs, P. (1987) ‘Professionalism and the Adoption of Black Children’. British Journal of Social Work, (17), 473-492 Willing, I

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