Conference addresses importance of culture in transracial adoption

by Megan Boldt

Families seeking to adopt children should try to adopt within their race, said Dr. Ruth McRoy, who spoke at an international adoption conference. But transracial adoption can work if parents interact with people of the child’s original racial, cultural and ethnic community.
McRoy, a professor of social work at the University of Texas, is one of eight speakers discussing adoption issues at the first International Conference on Adoption Research this week at the Radisson Metrodome.
The Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project sponsored the event, which started Aug. 10 and will run until Aug. 14.
“Around 90 conferees are in attendance from all over the country and even the world,” said Dr. Harold Grotevant, a professor in the Department of Family Social Sciences.
Since the mid-1970s, McRoy has been involved in adoption issues involving race. During this time she has published numerous books on the subject.
During her presentation, McRoy outlined the historical and present-day practices and policies concerning transracial adoption, along with the psychological aspects.
“Most of the research done to date is about African-American children being brought into white families,” McRoy said.
With an increase in African-American children available for adoption, and a decrease in the number of white children, many white families choose to adopt transracially.
“It’s a case-by-case situation. Efforts should be made to place a child in a family of the same race, but sometimes that’s not possible,” McRoy said. “The bottom line is to place the child in the best family possible.”
McRoy explained that the reasons why African-American families are not adopting children as frequently as white families are often socioeconomic.
In a 1991 report done by the North American Council on Adoptable Children, many African-Americans have to overcome barriers such as racism, fees, inflexible standards and lack of information on adoption.
Some research indicates that race should not be an issue when adopting a child. Yet other studies contradict this notion.
“Some children have problems with racial identity,” McRoy said. “They don’t understand why they do not look like their parents.”
When adopting transracially, parents need to interact with others that are the race of that child and live in a integrated community, McRoy said. It is also beneficial for the child to have a role model that is of their own race.
There are more than 500,000 children waiting to be adopted in the United States. McRoy said more than half of these children are minorities.