Adopting Bigotry

Friday, March 24, 2006

Adopting Bigotry

Recently there has been a lot of noise made in several states to ban adoption of children by gay or lesbian people. It appears to be the next, natural step after banning same-sex marriage/unions/domestic partnerships. I would not put it past the GOP to try and repackage their anti-gay family message by replace "gay marriage" with "gay adoption."

There are a lot of obvious reasons I have trouble with gay adoption bans-- namely I'm a lesbian who is very much interested in adoption. But it's also pretty obvious that it's a proposed law based on prejudice, not evidence, and that categorically banning a whole class of people from adopting children is ridiculous. But mostly I have to shake my head at their ignorance about the current state of adoption in the US.

There is this persistant myth in this country that domestic adoption is nearly impossible, that it takes years. Most people know about the trend of international adoption, of Americans going abroad to adopt children from other countries. But do most people know that there are people from other countries traveling to America to adopt American children and take them back to their respective countries? Canada especially, but European countries too? It all comes down to the law of supply & demand.
Since 1995, US State Department records indicate that international adoptions by Americans have increased more than 140 percent. Couples often cite the lack of American babies as the reason for adopting from abroad.

But the US is now the fourth largest "supplier" of babies for adoption to Canada. Adoption by Shepherd Care, an agency in Hollywood, Fla., places 90 percent of its...babies in Canada.
[In the U.S.] children who are in the greatest demand are also in the shortest supply. Those who want to adopt healthy white babies in the US may wait as long as five years, agencies say. In contrast, they add, the waiting for African-Americans is often measured in weeks and months, especially for baby boys...It's also the case that adopting a white baby [domestically] costs more than adopting a black or biracial one. Adoption fees for healthy Caucasian babies can be as high as $40,000, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. For biracial babies, the cost is about $18,000. For African-American newborns, it ranges from $10,000 to $12,000, agencies say.
So there you have it. There are more children available for adoption domesticall than there are available homes. So why are people acting as though there are potential families lined up around the block? (I haven't even touched on all the older children, children in foster care, or children with special needs either.)

But the fact is that adoption is different than marriage. Marriage legally protects families, adoption creates families with children. Banning marriage doesn't stop us from marrying (it didn't stop me!) but banning adoption or foster care parenting actually hurts children. Even if one were to concede that straight, married parents were the "ideal" family, the fact is that there are children that need homes who don't have them and that a home with 2 moms or 2 dads is far preferable than no home at all. Recent polls certainly suggest that half of America "gets" that.

On a more personal note, I am not underestimating the challenge of adopting "transracially" and I respect people's choices to adopt the kind of child they want or feel that they can handle. Even as my partner and I plan to adopt transracially I'll admit that I do have my own reservations about adopting an African-American child, although not about our family, but how we would be treated by other people in society. I personally know that we can do right by them, that our love, dedication and will is strong, and that we have many more connections to the African-American community than your average white people. The fact is that families, no matter what, are always a good mix of love, hard work, perserverence, challenge and commitment. Sometimes the challenges in some families are just more visible than in others.

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