Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Born in America, adopted abroad

African-American babies are going to parents overseas even as US couples adopt children from other countries

(Page 3 of 3)

"Some birth mothers view placing their child abroad as a way for them to have a better life with less struggle," says Joe Sica of Shepherd Care in Hollywood, Fla.

Skip to next paragraph

Long-term studies of black children adopted by white parents paint a picture of well-adjusted children and teens strongly bonded to their families.

Tianna Broad, who's 12, readily fits into this picture. She's into makeup, clothes, soccer, and horses, as are most of her friends in British Columbia. "She's pretty much a typical Canadian teen," says her mother, Karen Madeiros.

Most parents abroad report little prejudice against their adopted black children. "Canada doesn't have the same race history as the US," notes Dawn Stokkeland, Adrian's Elvis-rocking mom. "There isn't the 'us' versus 'them' mentality here."

There are also not the numbers of blacks in Canada. "In my son's elementary school [in British Columbia], there are only eight blacks out of 450 kids and even fewer in my daughter's middle school," says Ms. Madeiros. "Most of the blacks here are middle-class professionals, and our neighborhoods are completely integrated."

"For the most part Germans have very positive views of blacks - they see them as singers, actors, and athletes - all positive images," explains Ms. Hyer. "My children are almost always accepted for who they are without any expectation of who they should be because of the color of their skin."

"I think the main reason there is little prejudice against blacks in Germany is because there are so few blacks here," says Peter Sonnenschein, father of two black children.

That's not to say there are never problems. Some parents say their children have encountered racism.

"Because Holland had many colonies, many [black] people live here and there is prejudice against them," says van Meurs.

"Although my [12-year-old] daughter has never experienced any racism that I know of, I can't say the same for my [10-year-old] son," says Madeiros.

Parents in Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands have formed support groups to help their children develop a positive self-image.

Signs of change

While the news may be encouraging for African-American children adopted abroad, there's evidence of change on the home front, too, as more white Americans look into adopting black babies.

Since the US doesn't keep statistics on private domestic adoptions, the exact numbers of trans-racial adoptions are not known, but anecdotal evidence abounds of a shift toward black infants being placed with white American families.

"We can find homes for all our babies in the US, but there are regional differences," notesRobert Springer of Christian Homes in Texas, who adds that "many families in the Northeast, Northwest, and Minnesota are eager to adopt African-American babies."

Dick Van Deelen, with Adoption Associates in Michigan, reports that for the first time in 35 years they have a list of white families waiting to adopt black babies.

In a twist to the import/export world of international adoption, "We are thinking of looking to Africa to bring over more children to meet this need," he says.

Adoption-Link, in Chicago, also has a waiting list of families for black babies.

"The younger generation that is now adopting is less prejudiced and more open to becoming a mixed-race family," says Mr. Van Deelen.

Some say that the growing willingness of Americans to adopt US babies regardless of skin color comes at a good time, since placement of American babies abroad may be threatened by new regulations.

The US is in the process of ratifying an international treaty on international adoption. Although the regulations are not final, it is expected that they will make it harder for agencies to place American babies abroad.

But all the talk of adoption trends and prejudice fades in the day-to-day existence of parenting after the child arrives.

Ms. Stokkeland sums up what most parents feel. After a particularly trying day with a strong-willed 2-year-old, she sighs and says, "I wouldn't trade [Adrian] for the world. He is truly the child God wanted me to have."

The adoption was such a success that Stokkeland did it again. Earlier this month, Adrian got a new little sister, as Claire Lisa, also African-American, came north from Georgia to join him and his mother in Canada. Stokkeland says she couldn't feel more blessed.