Multiethnic Issues

Within pockets of the adoption community the question of whether to allow children of one race or color to be adopted by parents of another race or color is a source of heated controversy. Some people believe that mixed-race adoptions are a good practice because they break down racial, ethnic, and cultural barriers. Others see mixed-race adoptions as a means of diluting the cultural and ethnic heritage of adopted children.

Multiethnic adoption presents a compelling problem for two reasons. One is that, as noted above, there are many more minority children available for adoption (including mixed-race children). The other is that there are many more whites than minorities who are willing to adopt. Insisting on matching race to race can leave many children without available parents to adopt them. For children of mixed ancestry, matching race to race is hardly possible.

Federal law protects parents and children from this dilemma. The Multi-Ethnic Protection Act (MEPA) of 1994 states that no adoption agencies that receive federal funds can deny or delay a placement based on race or ethnicity. Occasionally there are still some court cases that raise the issue, but parents who work with a reputable agency and knowledgeable attorneys should not have to worry.

MEPA does not cover children of American Indian (Native American) ancestry. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 was passed to protect Indian children from being taken away from their families for adoption without parental or tribal consent. This action was apparently not uncommon in years past, and the protection is thus important. Unfortunately, some have read the law to mean that no child with Indian ancestry can be legally adopted, even with the birth parent’s consent, without tribal approval. Complicating the matter is the unclear definition of Indian ancestry; some tribes may consider a person with one drop of Indian blood to be Indian. Clearly there are many layers to this issue, and it requires careful evaluation by the prospective parent with the help of knowledgeable intermediaries.

Inside Multiethnic Issues