Living in a country in the western part of Africa, for over 12 years, has had its impact on my personality and the way I view the world. In Nigeria, 50% of the citizens live in poverty (Yomi Kazeem), and at least a third of those are children. Growing up, I encountered numerous children living on the streets, orphaned with nowhere to go, and barely surviving the hardships of life. As a child myself, these encounters made me wonder, how many children around the world live in similar conditions? Why are capable adults not helping them and not choosing to adopt them? As I grew older and became exposed to the Internet and social media I learned that some, even if it is just a small number, of these less privileged children are being adopted by people from totally different backgrounds.
Ethnic adoption (also referred to as interracial adoption) signifies the act of placing a child of a certain racial or ethnic group with adoptive parents of a different race or ethnicity. Recently, many more people are considering adopting children of different backgrounds. However, this raises the question: What are the effects of ethnic adoption?
Therefore, it is important to consider this topic due to the fact that in our modern societies, the integration of races and ethnicities is increasing. However, even though there are governmental policies involved with adoption, adoptive parents should tread cautiously, they need to know how to conserve the identity of the child and decrease damage on their psychological state, or else the child may be affected negatively, which could lead to greater problems within the family. Hence, this leads me to the various perspectives i will be tacklingt throughout my exploration, such as the psychological, political (laws concerning interracial adoption), and social point of view on ethnic adoption. Hopefully, these perspectives will shed led on the questions being asked on ethnic adoption.
The article I began my exploration with was “The Long-Term Effects of Transracial Adoption” from the Social Service Review by writers William Feigelman, a professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at Nassau Community College, and his colleague Arnold R. Silverman, researcher and author on sociology. It is based on a national survey of 372 adoptive families, where the authors compare and contrast the results of long-term adjustments of several transracial adoptees with those adopted in-racially. The article shed light on the psychological well being, adjustment, growth development, and academic performance of the different adoptees studied (594), while aiming to expand the body of knowledge of people willing to adopt, whether interracially or not. This would help them decide and be more prepared on the issues they’ll face with adoption.
As the results had shown, it was discovered that the Korean, Colombian, and Afro-American adoptees with Caucasian parents were doing just as well (or as poorly), as the Caucasian adoptees with Cauasian parents over six years after their adoption. Other studies of asian, african, or mixed race children taken in by white parents in Great Britain presented overall similar outcomes, meaning that they were not limited to a specific region of the world (590). Some studies showed that the Afro-American adoptees faced a slightly greater difficulty than their peers of different races, however, these differences were deemed statistically insignificant (594). Regardless, further psychological/behavioural studies reported that the children developed healthy self-concepts and identities, and were also able to fit in and carry normal lives (598).
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Since there were inarguable statistics and the input of professional social workers on the ethics of ethnic adoption, I found the results shocking. This is due to the misconception of ethnic adoption being a form of ‘cultural genocide’. I did not expect the children to be only slightly impacted by living with parents of different backgrounds, and not caused any remarkable damage to their well being or loss of identity. Through the article, I found that as long as the children are taken care of in the best ways, they would not face any more difficulties than children with parents of the same race or ethnicities.
Moving on with my exploration, I decided to look at the issue of interracial adoption from the ethical point of view as in, what are the protective policies posed on interracial adoption? The article I studied was “Does the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption Protect Orphaned and Vulnerable Children and Their Families?” by Professor Karen Smith Rotabi in the Department of Social Work at UAE University, and Professor of Psychology at Saint Louis University, Judith L. Gibbons. In this informative article, I learned about the Hague Convention, which has been signed by 83 countries, and is designed to protect the best interests of children, birth families, and adoptive families involved in intercountry adoption. Thus, adoptive and birth families would benefit the most from reading the article since they are introduced to the conditions of the Hague Convention and how it would protect them.
The article was filled with explanations of what the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (HCIA) is, yet were contradicting themselves when talking about the effectiveness of the HCIA. This left me unconvinced, and I thought ethnic adoption needed better policies. For example, the authors stated that the HCIA uses the concept of subsidiary, a principle that requires signatory nations to (a) attempts to keep the child within their family, if that is not possible the country should (b) aim to place the child domestically in adequate and humane alternative care situations. However, once these options have been explored (and failed), then the child may be (c) freed for intercountry adoption, if that is deemed the appropriate solution and after weighing several variables based on the particular child’s case (108). Yet, the authors proceed to present that the HCIA fails to provide “precise requirements as to what factors should be considered when determining the best interests of the child for the continuum of care” (108). This means that each country basically has its own ‘rules’ to make when deciding the fate of the child, and that the HCIA does not set a specific standard for all signatory nations, making it a weak policy that may be altered depending on the nation, hence losing its overall effectiveness in international protection.
Being someone that follows celebrities, and celebrity news ever since joining social media platforms, there were times when the whole world was talking about Angelina Jolie and her ethnically adopted children. Jolie adopted a Cambodian child, Maddox Chivan, on March 10 2001, when Maddox was barely a year old. In 2005, Jolie also adopted 6 month old Zahara Marley who was originally from Ethiopia. Lastly, Jolie adopted Vietnamese Pax Thien 2 years later at the age of 4. The article containing is information “Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Children – Family Facts” by Kyrsty Hazell is from an online magazine “Made For Mums”. The magazine article introduced the children Angelina Jolie adopted, as well as her biological children, basically giving a timeline of the family’s relationship and advances. The article was mainly for entertainment rather than actual expansion of knowledge, and is aimed at adolescents interested in celebrity life, such as myself. Angelina’s experiences with her biological, and adopted children seems normal as she treats them equally, and the family rarely faces problems with the kids more than problems between Angelina and Brad themselves (or at least that’s what the media portrays).
Another article I had to review in order to further understand why people choose to adopt interracially, was from the website AptParenting, titled “Why People Go for Interracial Adoption” by Niharika Arya. Here, the writer states that some people believe that adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity may help society with getting rid of racial differences, whereas others just adopt regardless of race and community. A greater variety in the age and gender of the adoptees is another reason people may opt for ethnic adoption. Lastly, easier access to custody of a child of a certain race can also be a reason. There are many other social causes also which encourage people to help the newborns of the underprivileged and underdeveloped societies. There are a lot of kids who need a family to take care of them and hence, the adoption should not be done keeping racial discrimination in mind.