Cuddling her week-old son, Henry, Jane says she is ready to face the challenge of being a single white mother to a black child.
But right now, there are more important things to think about.
“Henry will always know who he is—an African-American man raised by a white mother who adores him,” she said. “We’ll handle the challenges that are ahead of us. But right now, I need to change his diaper.”
Jane is among a growing number of white couples and single women who are ready to become parents but find that there are not enough white babies to go around. So they decide to adopt a baby of a different race.
Although Jane is from Seattle, most prospective parents come from Western European countries and Canada, seeking to adopt black, Hispanic or biracial babies from private adoption agencies in the United States.
“Whether it is the United States or in Canada, our priority is to place a child in a wonderful, loving, supportive home,” said Nidia Sica, assistant director of Adoption by Shepherd Care, a private adoption agency in Hollywood. “We place our children with the best families out there.”
Most private U.S. agencies working with parents from Canada or overseas find that they place mainly black infants, followed by biracial and black Hispanic infants.
And white babies, including Hispanic infants—in highest demand among American couples—are generally adopted within the United States.
Shepherd Care’s placement of mixed-race babies with white families almost doubled in 2000. Of the 40 babies it placed for adoption that year, 20 were mixed-race infants placed with white families in the United States or Canada.
Changes in federal laws make it easier to do cross-racial adoptions:
• The 1994 Multi-Ethnic Placement Act declared that adoption agencies that receive federal aid could no longer prevent families from adopting children of other races.
• In 1997, the Safe Families Act created financial incentives for states to choose adoption over foster care.
“Private adoption agencies decided to encourage transracial adoptions,” Sica said. “Many people still don’t know that they don’t have to go to China or the Ukraine to adopt a child. They can opt for transracial adoption.”
And the costs are in families’ favor.
The average adoption of a healthy Caucasian baby can take years and fees can run as high as $40,000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
For mixed-race children, it can take a few months and cost $10,000 to $18,000.
Private agencies cap their adoption fees for mixed-race infants.
Shepherd Care charges $8,500.
The cost of adopting a white baby can exceed $22,000, according to Sica.
This year, Shepherd Care placed half of its black infants (seven) and one-third of its biracial infants (four) in Canada, Sica said.
Adoption-Link of Oak Park, Ill., placed one-third of its mixed-race infants (20) in Canada, Germany, France and Austria, director Cheryl Kinnaird said.
Hope Services, an adoption agency in Abbotsford, British Columbia, works with private adoption agencies in the United States.
“Seventy percent of the  infants we place here are African American, and all are from the United States,” said Lorne Welwood, Hope Services’ director. “All of our families are white, all of them want a child, and almost all who call specify they want a black child.”
Canadians prefer black babies because the adoption process is quicker, easier and less expensive than if they were opting for a child from China, Guatemala or Eastern Europe, Welwood said.
“Adoptive parents don’t have to deal with visas, language or cultural barriers. They can get immediate access to the baby’s medical records. They can get background information on the birth mother. And, above all, they can get an infant. Everyone wants an infant.”
The demand for black or mixed-race babies has also grown in the United States, particularly in Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, Michigan and Minnesota.
Adoption agencies place 30 to 40 children a year in those states, accounting for more than half of the infants not adopted from Canada or overseas.
“For whatever reason, those are the choice states,” said Mary Porter, an international adoption recruiter for Shepherd Care.
“White parents are not on a mercy mission,” said Jane Bareman, executive director of Adoption Associates in Jenison, Mich. “They are not saving the world. Beyond anything else, white couples want to adopt a child and raise a family. They need a child in their lives.”
The demand is so high that Adoption Associates has a list of 12 white families waiting for a mixed-race child. In prior years, it has been four or five families.
“This is the highest we have ever had our waiting list,” Bareman said.
Last year, Adoption Associates placed 130 babies domestically. Thirty-seven of those were mixed-race babies placed with white families, primarily in Michigan, with one going to Canada.
With such private adoption agencies as Shepherd Care, the birth mother gets to choose where her child will be placed.
That is why Jane, a human resources manager, feels especially privileged.
The birth mother picked Jane, a 43-year-old single woman, over married couples.
“She saw qualities in Jane that she loved,” Sica said. “A large, loving, extended family. An established career. She owns a beautiful home. And most of all, she was moved by Jane’s lifelong need to become a mother.”
Some American birth mothers prefer Canadians over Americans.
Olvia, a 22-year-old Salvadoran-Dominican birth mother from Hollywood who is seven months pregnant, is choosing a young, successful Canadian couple over American candidates for her baby.
“What they offer is the kind of life I would want for my child if I could afford it,” she said, fighting back tears.
Shepherd Care caseworker Michelle Campo and her husband adopted three black infants 15 years ago.
The Campos did not think that race would be much of an issue. They were quickly proved wrong.
“Race is an issue to other people,” Michelle Campo said. “They will make it an issue every single day of your life. I now understood the world through my children.”