Posted: March 23rd, 2022

The Politics and Realities of Transracial Adoption

Adoption is a social phenomenon that spans centuries, cultures, and nations. It is the focal point of many policies, laws, and public attitudes. In the United States, adoption legislation and practices change and reflect society’s evolving perspectives. Interracial adoption, once generally accepted and promoted during the Civil Rights Movement, now faces intense debate among social service professionals and greater society. Despite several arguments against interracial adoption, there exist even more compelling reasons for individuals and civilizations to support and encourage this practice.


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Children without permanent families and homes desperately need and deserve love and stability. It seems reasonable to state that society concurs with this statement. Since the procurement of an affectionate and stable environment for children is the principal objective of adoption, it appears the racial composition of a prospective family is of lesser concern. In other words, the races of adopted children and their respective parents pale significantly in light of a more pressing issue — children’s fundamental needs of and rights to love and constancy. A plain and logical observation, this forms the foundation from which proponents espouse cross-racial adoption.


Consider the alternative viewpoint. There is a growing movement for racial compatibility within adoptive families. Opponents of interracial adoption claim that placing minorities within majority families results in cultural genocide of the former (Kennedy 1). This argument overlooks the irrevocable psychological damage minorities experience while waiting for racially similar adoptive parents. The demand for racial compatibility considerably delays or even prevents placement. Said differently, by strictly adhering to a policy of racial congruency, minority children may undergo protracted experiences within the foster care system and/or may never be adopted. Considering the injuries such a limiting policy creates, one must wonder how it can possibly take precedence over more children’s immediate needs for a caring and permanent albeit racially divergent home. Certainly this situation defeats the primary purpose of child welfare.


The mentioned argument against interracial adoption — that of cultural genocide further unravels upon closer examination. Opponents assume that racial identity is not possible in families whose races differ from those of adopted children. This claim rests on the assumption that parents do not acknowledge their adopted children’s native culture. However, studies reveal that many parents encourage their adopted children to explore and express their cultural roots (Bashir 3). For example, adopting parents may expose their minority children to prominent and positive role models. In addition, parents may provide their children with ample opportunities for social interaction with racially similar peers. Open dialogue about ethnic issues is yet another way to promote cross-racial understanding and tolerance. Such widespread parental efforts certainly weaken the argument that cultural genocide is inevitable when interracial adoption occurs.


Perhaps more important is the notion that cultural identity is not determined solely by familial relationships. Culture is possible only within a larger societal framework. Without doubt, family plays a crucial role in one’s self-image; however, society also holds great sway over an individual’s identity. It follows that minority children adopted into majority families can access their racial heritage through various societal organizations and mechanisms. Since the United States is a pluralistic society, there is no uncertainty that its citizens are increasingly able to access information and support regarding their respective heritages. Coupling this with the mentioned parental efforts to educate and support their minority children, there need not be the fear that the latter will automatically lose their racial identity.


There is substantial evidence that refutes the idea of cultural genocide. Research indicates the vast majority of ‘transracial adoptees … enjoyed their family life … And felt they had loving and supportive parents’ (Kennedy 2). What’s more ‘there was no evidence that transracial adoptions left children incapable of living well-adjusted lives’ (Kennedy 2). Another investigation, which studies African-American and Latino adopted children, reveals that ‘those who identified strongly with white culture fared no worse than those who identified with their birth culture’ (Bashir 3). This finding resonates with another study, whose results state ‘almost without exception … [there is] no significant difference in overall well-being between inracially and transracially adopted children’ (Courtney 1).


This leads to another reason to endorse interracial adoption, albeit it somewhat removed from the concrete needs of individual children. In the United States, there is much talk about the negative affects of racism. To overcome this debilitating phenomenon, many promote multi-cultural awareness and acceptance. In fact, this is evident in nearly all aspects of society. Educators increasingly teach multicultural curricula. Companies claim to be equal opportunity employers. Non-profit organizations strive to bridge diverse communities and individuals. Such efforts and goals are noble and many times produce the intended effects. If there exists a general and pervasive desire for multicultural harmony, then it logically follows that adoption should reflect these societal principles. This statement means that a sincere movement towards societal racial integration correspondingly signals racially diverse adoptive families.


Through meaningful exchange between races and cultures, humans are better able to understand and accept the differences among them. Moreover, profound interracial experiences allow diverse individuals to recognize commonalities that exist among all human beings. Many in the United States acknowledge such wisdom and attempt to embody it. As a result, the racial climate in this country is gradually evolving. However, until the United States becomes a racially peaceful society, cross-racial adoptive families, most of which are productive and positive, serve as brilliant examples that such social goals are indeed realistic and worthy. In fact, ‘some people see transracial adoption as a harbinger of hope: if the different races can live together and love each other as members of the same family, surely there must be hope for the relationship between the races in the larger society’ (Perry 1). Although not an immediate goal, positive societal influence is nonetheless inherent in interracial adoption practices.


In conclusion, there are numerous reasons to promote cross-racial adoption. The most obvious and important is the urgent needs and human rights of abandoned children. Minority children are at greater risk of remaining in foster care (DellaCava 4) than their white counterparts. In order to eliminate this injustice, social service professionals should promote interracial adoption. The notion that interracial adoption equates to cultural genocide is absurd as it completely ignores children’s rights to loving and stable relationships. What’s more, through family support and encouragement, minority children may still develop their racial identities. In a more abstract but nonetheless important sense, interracial adoptive families model the purported American ideal of racial harmony; they serve as reference points for others who wish to personify this value. By witnessing functioning interracial intimate relationships and familial units, American society at large is better able to realize that cross-cultural understanding and tolerance is possible and probable. Furthermore, since many adoption agencies are sponsored by government agencies, it is prudent for them to adhere to their claims of civil liberties. The result is a more racially integrated civilization that follows its own social precepts.




Bashir, Samiya A. ‘The Best Interest of the Child.’ Colorlines Magazine: Race, Action,


Culture. (2002): 1-5.


Courtney, Mark E. ‘The Politics and Realities of Transracial Adoption.’ Youth Law


News 14.1 (1998): 1-10.


DellaCava Frances A. ‘Adoption in the U.S.: The Emergence of a Social Movement.’


Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare (2004): 1-12.


Kennedy, Darlene Addie ‘Should Congress Facilitate Transracial Adoptions?’ Insight


On the News (1995): 1-3.


Perry, Twila A. ‘Thinking and Teaching about Transracial Adoption.’ Family Law 12.1


(1996): 1-3.

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