The earthquake in Haiti has put a spotlight on international and interracial adoption, especially in light of the bizarre attempt by a church group to illegally transport children out of Haiti. In this article in Newsweek, the author airs a number of concerns she has about white families adopting children of other ethnicities from abroad.
Adopting a child, no matter where that child is from, presents unique challenges. The same is true for having a mixed-race family, whether that family is the result of adoption or of interracial marriage. The author is right in suggesting that people considering adoption should not take these issues lightly—and most don’t.
However, I do take issue with the author’s concerns that white families who adopt children of other ethnicities are less able to celebrate that child’s culture, or that families looking to adopt would do better to adopt American children first. With regards to interracial adoption, it is again certainly true that interracial families face challenges that other families don’t. However, skin color is not necessarily the same as culture. A white child from Berlin does not have the same culture as a white ranch family in Montana; a Black Christian family in Virginia does not have the same culture as a Black Muslim child from West Africa. Both of these families would face the same challenge (or opportunity!) as a white family adopting a Haitian child in terms of learning about and celebrating their child’s culture.
As to whether it is better to adopt at home or internationally, I can only say that all children need and deserve to have loving families and sufficient resources. It is a tragedy that not all children do have these things, regardless of where they are. When the author suggests that it would be better to adopt at home than from abroad, she falls into the exact mindset that she is critiquing—that adopting children are status symbols, signs of a parent’s virtue, and adopting children from the U.S. is of higher virtue than adopting from abroad. The fact is, for most parents, adoption is not about doing the most good. It is about growing a loving family, in a way that works for them.
International adoption and interracial adoption are complicated issues, and opinions on them range widely—as do the backgrounds of those who express opinions. However, among the responses to these articles, I have seen few comments from people who have been in the position of being adopted by a family of another nationality and ethnicity. Because I believe that this perspective is important to informing how we think about this issue, I have asked Nicole Schultz to contribute a guest post on this issue. Nicole was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, placed in an orphanage by her biological father, and adopted by a white American family. Her post is below. If you have any questions about her experience, please post them in the comments and I will relay them to her.
I have worked in economic policy and research in Washington, D.C. and Ghana. My husband and I recently moved to Guyana, where I am working for the Ministry of Finance. I like riding motorcycle, outdoor sports, foreign currencies, capybaras, and having opinions.