A recent article in USA Today by Sharon Jayson highlights some of the changes in how Americans are adopting children. Referring to work by Mr. Adam Pertman, author of Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families – and America, Ms. Jayson highlights recent statistical data indicating that 40% of American adoptions involve multi-racial or multi-ethnic children and parents, and that 84% of foreign adoptions by Americans involve children of different races and ethnicities than the adopting parent(s).
Mr. Pertman’s update of the 2000 version of his book considers the trends in American adoptions over the past decade such as the fall-out from the failed Haitian infant adoptions which led to increased transparency in foreign adoptions. Higher profile adoptions (not surprisingly, a picture of Angelina Jolie and her kids are attached to the article) by celebrities such as Madonna embodied the kinetic pace of foreign adoptions from a few years ago and it appears the pendulum has swing in the other direction as foster-care adoptions are now increasing while inter-country adoptions are declining.
The article also addresses the effect of “color blind” adoptions: adopting parents attempt to raise adopted children without consideration of the child’s race or ethnic background. While “color-blindness” may be an admirable goal within the household, Gina Samuels, a University of Chicago professor in their School of Social Service Administration and herself a bi-racial adopted child, suggests that families do children a disservice by not addressing the differences of race. By not allowing these children to address these differences within their household, they are not becoming adequately equipped to deal with the issue of race in the larger world. Ms. Samuels stressed, however, that seeing and experiencing the world differently due to race is not an impediment for family members being able to relate to one another.
Adoption issues seem to be cresting lately with the Arkansas Supreme Court striking down a law that banned unmarried couples living together from adopting children. Though the obvious effect of this decision is that an individual living with a same-sex partner may now adopt a child, it also applies to heterosexual relationships and eliminates an impediment family-members were running into when they tried adopting their nieces, nephews, and/or grandchildren.
Currently, Mississippi and Utah ban the adoption of children by unmarried, co-habitating people. Virginia is considering amending the state law to permit same-sex couples to adopt children. Finally, the adoption laws in Michigan are gaining increasing amounts of publicity as the state courts have ruled that unmarried individuals may file joint petitions to adopt.
In a landscape where parties of all orientations and relationships are co-habitating, state courts and legislatures appear to be taking a hard look at their current laws and whether certain prohibitions on classes of parties applying for adoptions is truly reflective of the “best interests of the child” standard many, if not most states, operate under.