Why US Parents Prefer Adopting From Children Abroad Instead of African Americans


A study published in the journal Sociological Perspectives showed that some US parents want to adopt non-white children, as long as the child is not black. The researchers from the University of Vermont explain that these parents think African Americans are just too physically and culturally different from them.

“The fact that some respondents went abroad to actively seek children of colour challenges the assumption that parents simply choose to adopt abroad because they are in search of white children they could not find in the United States,” University of Vermont’s associate professor and study lead author Nikki Khanna says in a statement. “Yet, even for many parents who were open to or actively seeking children of colour, they had limits; they were open to children of varying racial backgrounds, but not black – especially not African American.”

Nikki Khanna. University of Vermont. Photo: Sally McCay

Nikki Khanna. University of Vermont. Photo: Sally McCay

The study involved interviewing 41 mainly white parents from the northeast of the US who adopted 33 children of different racial backgrounds from 10 different countries. Eighteen of the participants said that adopting a black child was out of the question, claiming that adopting a black child is not in the child’s best interest.

The team classified these responses based on racism and socialisation. They explained that racism is about the concern over how other people will treat the adopted child while socialisation is the concern about feeling unqualified to teach the child about the African American culture and how to handle racism.

These parents are also concerned about bonding fears, family prejudice and racial stereotypes. Apparently, they think black males would cause more trouble compared to other non-white children.

The researchers note that other non-racial factors may also come into play. Adoptive parents may fear that the biological parents may want the child back or would like to keep in touch with them. These parents also fear that US children have health problems, due to the mother’s drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy.

Moreover, some adoptive parents prefer to choose their children or being matched with them abroad unlike being chosen by the biological mother like what they do in the US. The team emphasised that 400,000 children are still in foster care, 60 percent of whom are of colour, including 35 percent African Americans.

“Given these findings, encouraging American parents to adopt in the United States may prove difficult,” says Khanna. “These findings also have implications for broader race relations in the United States, given that parental preferences regarding the race of their adoptees reflect the American racial hierarchy that relegates black/African Americans to the bottom tier.”


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