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Journal Issue: Adoption Volume 3 Number 1 Spring 1993

Outcomes of Transracial Adoption
Arnold R. Silverman

Controversy Over Transracial Adoption

As the number of black-white transracial placements rose sharply, however, black social workers began to question whether sufficient efforts were being made to find homes for black children within the black community and whether transracial adoption was diminishing and destroying the integrity of that community. In 1972, at its first annual convention, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) passed a resolution vehemently opposing transracial adoption. The vigor with which this position was advanced can be seen from the statement of the 1972 resolution:

Black children should be placed only with black families whether in foster care or adoption. Black children belong physically, psychologically and culturally in black families in order that they receive the total sense of themselves and develop a sound projection of their future . . . . Black children in white homes are cut off from the healthy development of themselves as black people . . . . We have committed ourselves to go back to our communities and work to end this particular form of genocide.9

Responding to the criticisms of the NABSW, members of the social service establishment began to reevaluate their positions on transracial placement. In the 1973 revision of the Standards for Adoption Service,10 the Child Welfare League of America stated, "In today's climate, children placed in adoptive families with similar racial characteristics can become more easily integrated into the average family and community." Thereafter transracial placements declined sharply. By 1976, black-white placements had dropped to 1,076.6 In 1987, black-white transracial adoptions were estimated to be 1,169, while adoptions of children of other races—mainly Asian and Hispanic—were estimated to be 5,850. (See the article by Stolley in this journal issue.)

At the present time, one cannot determine with certainty either the total number of adoptions in general or the total number of transracial placements in particular.

Transracial adoption remains controversial. On the supporting side, one finds groups like the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC), representing more than 400 child advocacy organizations in the United States and Canada, who have long expressed their commitment to transracial placement. The Child Welfare League of America now assumes a position of qualified support for transracial placement. The 1988 edition of Standards for Adoption Service observes:

Children in need of adoption have a right to be placed into a family that reflects their ethnic or cultural heritage. Children should not have their adoptions denied or significantly delayed, however, when adoptive parents of other ethnic or cultural groups are available.11


A presidential task force, comprised of government officials selected from a variety of social agencies, took a similar position by stating, "While it is preferable to place a child in a family with a similar racial background, transracial adoption should be a permissible method of providing a loving permanent home."12

The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) has not changed its position of opposition to transracial placement. In both 1977 and 1985, the presidents of the NABSW reaffirmed the association's 1972 position.13 Beyond the position of the NABSW, a number of writers have also expressed strong opposition to transracial pIacement.14-16 However, the minority community has not been uniformly opposed to transracial adoptions. One study conducted in a midwestern black community found a majority (57%) generally receptive to the idea, while only 7% were totally opposed.17 Another study of black child care professionals found a similar division of opinion on transracial adoption among workers with varying exposure to the practice. Those who had direct experience with transracial adoption tended to evaluate it more favorably, while those who had no experience with it were much more critical.18