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More couples choose interracial option

By Curtis J. SitomerStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / May 29, 1987


MANY of the 2 million US couples who are seeking to adopt children are looking in the wrong place. The shortage of white infants available for adoption is becoming increasingly acute - due to abortion and young unmarried keeping their babies. But there is still a critical need for homes for older children, especially blacks and other minorities, and youngsters with physical and mental handicaps. Further overseas adoption by Americans is a strong potential - and is on the rise.

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These options, however, are often surrounded by controversy, risks, and hurdles for prospective adoptive parents.

Among them:

Organized opposition to placing minority children in white homes.

Agency regulations which tend to make many black families ineligible to adopt.

Public procedures that keep ``special needs'' children in foster care rather than facilitating permanent placement.

Problems surrounding international adoption, including foreign-government opposition and black-market baby scams.

Although statistics are hard to confirm, the National Committee for Adoption (NCFA), based in Washington, D.C., reports that there is a significant shortage of adoptive parents for black children. This umbrella group for hundreds of child-placement agencies says that black youngsters constitute 14 percent of the nation's child population, but 37 percent of children available for adoption and waiting for placement are black.

NCFA president William Pierce adds that, overall, there are ``from 30,000 to 100,000 kids who need homes. They are legally free. Parental rights are gone.''

Mr. Pierce favors legislation that would ``convert foster care to subsidized adoption.''

``The federal government would still pay ... [but] it would give the child a more stable home.''

Children's advocates, including NCFA and the Child Welfare League of America, say a first priority should be to place a youngster in need of permanent placement with adoptive parents of the same color or race.

However, this is not always possible. Further, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW), among others, formally oppose transracial adoption as an affront to black pride and a threat to racial identity.

William Merritt, NABSW's former president, has called the practice a ``form of cultural and racial genocide.''

Many blacks, including Mr. Merritt, also point out that white families showed little interest in adopting black children until recent years when the serious shortage of available white youngsters occurred.

Experts are divided over how well minority children fare in white families.

One recent study, conducted over a 12-year period by Rita Simon, a sociologist and dean of the school of justice at American University in Washington, D.C., found that nonwhite children in white families tend to adjust well, succeed in school and other activities, and carry few emotional scars.

Dean Simon is a strong advocate of transracial adoption. She says, however, that ``nobody suggests that this should be a first choice.'' If black families are available for black children, she allows, this would be the top priority.