Race, Price and Ethics in Adoption

When I came to Texas back in the early 1990’s, my boyfriend and I talked about having kids.  We lived together on a 100 acre property south of the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex.  I remember having some blank note cards that had these beautiful painted American Indian/Latino children in a southwest desert setting.  They were so adorable.  In my ignorance, I said, “If we adopt, I want a baby who looks like this.”  I see now how these thoughts were and are unethical.

Sonny, my boyfriend at the time, who actually does have some American Indian ancestry along with European, has light hair and light eyes.  I too have European heritage.  So the chances of us producing an offspring with these characteristics were very rare.

The idea that I thought I could just choose whatever kind of child I wanted because I was adopting, as if children (especially vulnerable children who have been separated from their biological family) are cataloged merchandise and are there to please my needs sounds absurd and yet people do this all the time.

To be honest, I don’t know if I would have understood this prior to me giving birth and relinquishing my parental rights.

I have read many articles and have heard people say how they have always loved Asian children or Latino children and so forth and how they think they are so cute.  So when some of those people decide to adopt, they will often say similar phrases as the reason they chose to adopt outside their race.

Here is the issue.  More often, those same people have never dated anyone from that particular race.  And many would never even consider dating or marrying someone from that race.  So how is it that someone could have always loved “blank” babies but not like “blank” adults?  Babies grow up to be adults.

Saying you want to adopt an American Indian baby when you are not American Indian or making sure the baby you adopted has the ethnic or race that you specified to the agency that you wanted to adopt sounds privileged.  Could it be a deal breaker?

The other thing I have heard as a reason to adopt either outside of one’s own race or oversees was because it was cheaper.  I’ve heard adoptive parents say, “We were planning on adopting here in America but the agencies wanted to charge $35,000 to $40,000 so we decided to explore our options oversees.”  Likewise, I’ve heard similar comments made about adopting domestically from a minority race here in America.

Placing value and worth on a child is unethical especially when it differs due to one’s race, skin color, age, orphaned status or one’s biological background.

Saying you decided to adopt oversees because it was “cheaper” sounds like you are trying to get the best deal or a bargain basement price for something (a human being) that should never be dollar driven or as an incentive.  Cars have incentives.  Department stores have deals and bargains on merchandise.  Human beings are neither of those.  And adoption agencies are not dealers or retailers.

We understand when people want to adopt within their race.  It makes for less obvious scrutiny.  Adopting outside of your race can be more complex.  But when we adopt outside of our race because we decided to settle for something other than what we initially wanted, or we feel sorry for another race as if they are disadvantaged, or because the expense is cheaper, or because it is trendy, or because we want to prove we are not racist, or because we feel it is our right to buy whatever kind of child we want, what does that say about who we are and what we are willing to do to buy babies or children.

When someone has their heart set on adopting or they are acting out of desperation, we know that logic does not always trump ethics.  But that is no excuse for behaving unethically.

It is time to review unethical behaviors, thoughts and practices so we can improve the adoption experience and allow it to become a necessity only after all other options and avenues have been explored.  This is when we use adoption to link children with parents that are best suited for each other which should neither be driven by race or dollars.

3 thoughts on “Race, Price and Ethics in Adoption

  1. As a woman adopting internationally, we did so for multiple reasons, and yes, one was because of cost. When you have battled infertility and cannot bring a child into the world, and also always wanted to adopt but have spent all of your savings on IVF, $35K here in the US (for any race) versus $18K from another country (again, any race) IS a big deal and a very reasonable part of the rationale to go outside the country. One thing we learned in the process as well are many, many adoption agencies, both domestic and international, discriminate based on things like religion (we are non-religious, and the majority of agencies are Christian and look down upon those of agnostic/athiest persuasion), age (my husband at 48 was considered “too old” by many), lack of family resources (both of our fathers are dead and my husband’s stepmother lives in Australia), how long we’ve been married (many require 5+ years), if one’s been divorced (I have), AND the fact that DHS here in the states wouldn’t even talk to us about foster/adopt because we still wanted to continue IVF – they decided that we shouldn’t get the opportunity to adopt a local child because we should ONLY parent one child. We have always worked with kids of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, so we never used color as a deciding factor in where we’d adopt from, and the fact that we are adopting our daughter from Africa is *absolutely* not something we consider ourselves “settling for” or doing out of “desperation”. We were most attracted to international adoption because we are an international family from two countries already, but if we had unlimited funds we’d adopt from everywhere, domestic and international – and without any of the condescending “I’m saving this poor orphan and doing God’s will” attitudes that many of the evangelist types have that gives much of adoption a bad name.


    • Hi EcoFeminist, I appreciate your feedback and sharing your story. I do not think religious beliefs should be a factor. Many people nowadays choose spirituality over religion. I try to blend the two, myself. Wishing you and your family all the best.

      Liked by 1 person

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