Friday, March 19, 2010

International Adoption: Problematic or Beneficial?

The Possible Risks of International Adoptions

One major component of studying families from a global perspective is the issue of international adoptions, and the decision adoptive parents have to make about assimilating their adopted child into their own culture, or preserving the child’s original culture. This can be a difficult choice for parents because it could possibly lead to a loss of cultural identity for the child in the future. Some parents are eager to assimilate their child into their own culture, while others are looking to find the balance between setting the child apart from the family culture and diminishing the original culture of the child. (Vonk).

Many advocates of adoption agencies prefer to place children with families of the same race for the sake of the child’s racial and cultural identity. Some organizations, such as the National Association of Black Social Workers opposed placing African children in homes of white American families. Their opposition stems from their belief that this mixture of races within the family will cause the child to have racial identity confusion or encounter racism or difficulty forming an ethnic identity. Many adoption agencies based in Africa have fear that the adoption of African children by American families will cause the child to lose the cultural and traditional values of their country of origin and take on an Americanized way of living (Roby).

Along with affecting their cultural identity, international adoption and the assimilation into a new culture influences the identity the child forms as a member of their new adoptive family. Many children have difficulty identifying or attaching to parents who appear and act differently than they do. In one study, almost one third of the children examined showed feelings of wanting to be white at a young age, and about one half of the children expressed the desire to have been born into their adoptive family. This may be due to the fact that they feel distant from their parents and other siblings because of their appearance, and have difficulty communicating their concern with their parents because they feel misunderstood or alone (Juffer).

The question to think about is : Are these challenges of preserving the child’s cultural identity while teaching him the skills he will need to thrive in an American community significant enough that possible adoptive parents should not adopt a child if he or she is of another race?

What services would be appropriate to carefully ease adopted children into a new culture without confusing the child about his or her ethnic or racial identity? Do you think these services are necessary for every adopted child?

What do you think adoptive families could do in order to make the child feel as much of a member of the family as a biological child?

Do you agree that interracial adoptions cause more risks for the child’s identity than same race adoptions? Are there equal risks?

Do you think the birth families should have a say in whether or not the adoptive family preserves the adopted child’s culture in the future?

Juffer, Femmie and Wendie Tieman. (2009) Being adopted: Internationally adopted children’s interests and feelings. International Social Work 52(5), 635-647.


M Elizabeth Vonk, Peggy J Simms, & Larry Nackerud. (1999). Political and personal aspects of intercountry adoption of Chinese children in the United States. Families in Society, 80(5), 496-505. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID: 44580377).

Roby, Jini L., Shaw, Stacey A. (2006) The African Orphan Crisis and International Adoption. Social Work 51(3), 199-210. /login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=22702483&site=ehost-live

This post was presented by: Annika Ecklund, Carolyn Kaufman, Sally Pitcher, Stephanie Vassillion, Karl Daruwala, Elissa May


  1. I think that interracial adoption should not be considered any worse or even very different from same-race adoption. THe most important factor is the quality of the relationship in the family. It would be ridiculous to say that a family is less effective for a raising a child or that their relationship would suffer due to racial or ethnic differences. I feel as though that is comparable to saying that and interracial marriage is less effective or loving than a same-race one. Adopting a child of a different race than your own might even portray positive messages about race-relations and acceptance to the child. However, I do feel that it is important to educate a child, and the parents, about the country/culture of origin of the child, to the extent that the child wants to learn.

  2. This is an interesting topic. I agree with Kendall, there should be education for everyone involved in the adoption and the child should be able to decide the extent to which they would like to learn.

    A part of me wants to believe that in international and interracial adoptions the issue of race shouldn't matter. Unfortunately this isn't an ideal world and racism as well as prejudice are still issues that we deal with on a daily basis. An adoptive parent should keep possible challenges in mind when adopting a child.

    Another part of me understands that there is a big demand for light skinned and white children for adoption, but they are not always available. The people that I know who have adopted didn't usually focus on the issue of race, they just wanted a child that they could love and call their own.

  3. Interracial adoption is an interesting topic to look into for many different reasons. The negative effects of never growing up without a loving family or being bounced around from many different foster systems should be far worse than living with a family that may not look like you cause they are they are a different racial identity. Though the idea of the social stigma that may be attached from international adoptions as well as the issue of how to assimilate their child into their own culture is something to be looked into.
    I do not believe that the challenges of preserving the child’s cultural identity while teaching him or her the skills that they will need to thrive in an American community is a significant enough reason for potential adoptive parents to not adopt a child if he or she is of another race for many reasons. One is the issue that I listed above that the negative effects of never growing up without a loving family or being around from many different foster systems are far worse off then living with a family that may not look like you. As well there are so many children internationally that need to be taken into a family, for example children given in China because of the one child policy, or children living in third world countries in deep poverty, or children living in countries struck by disaster such as Haiti. It is hard to find the balance between preserving the childs original culture and giving them the skills to thrive in an American community. One way of families finding this balance would be to chose to settle in a more urban community where there is a balance of many different cultures so that the child may not feel as different. Another way for parents to ease their child into a different culture would by this family taking on this culture themselves because their child is a member of it.

  4. I think this topic of interracial adoption is very interesting and important to address. The points brought up in the blog are definitely concerns many people have when talking about adoption. I agree with what the other students have stated in their comments regarding this topic as well. It clearly is a concern for many agencies and parents when the adoption process is taking place. Many adults will stay within the same race and try to adopt a child who is of the same skin tone as themselves to avoid this conflict. Although some may see this as a major problem, I believe people should not hesitate to go through with an interracial adoption if they can provide a loving family for that child. It may be true that a child who is adopted by a family that is of a different race than their own may feel different or left out at some point or another but this may not apply to everyone. Some of the questions that children may have concerning race, their biological parents, and difference in appearance can come up in all adopted children whether they are interracially adopted into a family or a child who is of the same race as their adoptive parents. I believe that no matter the circumstances, the child should be surrounded by a loving family that is open to balance their own culture with the culture of their new child to make a comfortable, supportive environment for all.

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