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  Vernellia R. Randall
Professor of Law
The University of Dayton
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Adoption
Model Race Preference Statute
Asher D. Isaacs
Excerpted from: Interracial Adoption: Permanent Placement and Racial Identity – An Adoptee's Perspective, 14 Nat'l Black L.J. 126-156, 154-156 (1995).
1 Preference for adopting children shall be given to:
(a) relatives; 

(b) families of the same race or ethnicity of the child; 

(c) families of different racial and ethnic heritage that demonstrate awareness, understanding, and appreciation of child's racial heritage and a willingness to promote positive racial or ethnic identity in the child;

(d) families willing to develop such awareness, understanding, and appreciation through counseling including training in how to promote the child's racial or ethnic identity.
2 When a child becomes available for an adoptive placement, the agency has no more than 12 months to place the child with a family under 1(a) or (b). During this time the agency shall:
(a) actively recruit relatives or same-race families; 

(b) contact community-based organizations that recruit same-race families, or, if none exist, any other such organizations willing to locate same-race families; and 

(c) screen potential adoptive families under categories 1(c) or 1(d) to determine their suitability for adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity.

This Model Statute has several aspects which allow it to strike an appropriate balance between permanent placement of a child and placement in an environment that is best able to promote the child's racial identity.  First, there is a same-race preference.  This is in the best interests of the child because it encourages placement of the child in an "adoptive family [that] is able to deal with racial issues that may be faced by the adopted child."  Second, the statute proposes an absolute time restriction on the amount of time that the child should be held for a same-race family to be available.  This should alleviate any concerns that social workers are abusing their discretion by creating excessive delays in the placement of Black children. 

  Third, the statute requires the agency to recruit same-race families.  This requirement is supplemented by having the agency contact community-based organizations to locate same-race families.  Involving community-based organizations help to alleviate any concerns that effective recruiting efforts have not been made -- a critical issue considering the past ineffectiveness of agency-led recruitment efforts.  Finally, it allows the agency to screen potential families during the "hold" period to determine their ability to promote positive racial identity in the child.  This would allow a child to be placed with an eligible family under s 1(c) or (d) immediately following the conclusion of the twelve month recruitment period.  The screening should attempt to determine whether the potential adoptive parents have racist or prejudicial attitudes, live in an integrated neighborhood, and regularly socialize with members of the child's racial heritage. 

  Professor Elizabeth Bartholet argues that no delay in placement should take place because it causes discontinuity and disruption and risks further delays.  However, this argument flatly ignores the critical need to develop positive racial identity in Black children and simply values permanent placement over any other concerns.  While the data on the effects of the disruption in bonding of a child are inconclusive at best, the proposed Model Statute contains an absolute time limit, thus eliminating any risk of continual delays in placing the child. 

  One key aspect of the Model Statute is that it requires agencies to screen potential adoptive parents in an effort to determine the families' ability to promote positive racial identity.  Agencies should examine several factors, including: residence in an integrated community with integrated schooling, the ability to provide a social support group of Black peers and role models, the presence of race bias or lack of racial awareness and sensitivity, and the willingness to promote positive racial identity in the home. 

  The screening process gives some assurance that white adoptive families understand the importance of developing racial identity in their child.  It also serves to prevent families who have racist or prejudicial attitudes, or who exhibit an unwillingness to confront racial issues, from adopting Black children. 

  Thus, a carefully drafted statute defines the interests of children -- placement in a permanent home that enables the child to develop a positive racial identity -- and prevents decision-makers from acting outside of those interests.  Only by understanding these goals and the underlying reasons for their importance can changes be implemented which truly serve the best interests of the child. . . . 

  All things being equal, Black children should be raised in Black homes.  Thus, there must be some preference for same-race families.  This does not mean that any child should be deprived of a permanent family.  Long-term foster care is not the solution to any child placement problem.  However, it is equally callous to prevent a Black child from developing a positive Black identity -- something vital to the development of a healthy self-concept in all Black children.  Thus, equal weight must be given to these considerations.

Last Updated: 
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Same level:
The Black Family: Confronting the Lie of Black Inferiority ] African American Child as Other ] African American Coparenting Joint Adoption Model ] Flashpoints under the Indian Child Welfare Act ] Foster Care for Minority Children ] [ Model Race Preference Statute ] Reconstruction Era and African American Marriages ] Transracial Adoption and the Unblinkable Difference ] What's Wrong With Me? ] Race Matters in Adoption ]
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Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law
(1993).