Univ. of Vermont Study Reveals Some White Americans Avoid Adopting Black Children Because of Cultural, Physical Differences

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While some Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise, Sandra Bullock and Madonna are known for adopting Black children, transcultural adoptions are not as common as people would like to believe. According to a study by the University of Vermont, many white American parents avoid adopting Black children because they think there are too many cultural and physical differences.

The Australia Network reported on the study, which was published in the journal Sociological Perspectives. According to the research, white American parents interested in adopting often go overseas to find children of different races but avoid adopting Black children born in America.

“The fact that some respondents went abroad to actively seek children of color 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,” said Professor Nikki Khanna, lead author of the study. “Yet, even for many parents who were open to or actively seeking children of color, they had limits; they were open to children of varying racial backgrounds, but not Black – especially not African-American.”

The researchers interviewed 41 mainly white parents who adopted 33 children from 10 different countries. Some of the reasons they cited for avoiding adopting Black children were fears about the children fitting into their social circle and not knowing enough about Black culture to raise the children properly. According to the study, 18 of the parents interviewed said adopting a Black child was “out of the question,” and not in “the child’s best interests.”

The Australia Network article also said the interviewees feared a Black parent who gave their child up for adoption might eventually try to get the child back, and Black children might have drug and other health problems.

Khanna said some of the interviewees were shockingly frank about the reasons they avoided adopting Black children. According to a University of Vermont article, one woman who adopted a child from Guatemala, said that “Hispanic seems less different for me than Black.”

The study has highlighted a problem that many adoption experts have known for a long time. Thousands of Black children in the foster care system go unwanted. According to the University of Vermont researchers, 35 percent of the 400,000 children in foster care are Black.

Khanna said the research shows racial prejudice also affects people’s choices when it comes to adopting children.

“Given these findings, encouraging American parents to adopt in the United States may prove difficult,” she said. “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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