When Allison Darke goes out in public with her adoptive son, Ethan, people notice certain things.
“They notice he’s a baby, and cute,” she said. “They think my husband is black.”
Ethan was born to black parents in Chicago, but will spend most of his life growing up with Darke and her second husband, Earl Stroud, a white couple living in the Canadian capital.
The State Department says the number of Americans adopting babies from overseas has more than doubled in the last 10 years, with couples often citing a dearth of American babies.
But there are plenty of American babies who need homes—African-American babies. And more and more of those children are finding homes abroad, especially in Canada, according to people who work in the U.S. adoption field.
“I just don’t understand why American couples go to China and Romania and places like that,” Stroud said, “when they have kids in their own backyards.”
Margaret Fleming, who runs Adoption Link, a service in Chicago specializing in placing African-American babies, said the group in recent years has placed Ethan and more than 700 children—many of them with overseas families in Germany, Switzerland, England and Canada.
For every Caucasian child in the United States, there are at least 200 families in line, waiting two to three times as long as they would if they adopted a black baby, according to Adoption Link.
“At the very top of the adoption hierarchy are white, blue-eyed, blond-haired girls,” Fleming said. “And unfortunately, at the very bottom of the hierarchy are African-American boys.”
But there seems to be more than lack of awareness on the part of some prospective white American parents.
“A main reason a lot of times is racism, frankly,” said Michelle Hughes, an adoption attorney who, as head of Bridge Communications, counsels parents adopting across racial lines. “Parents will actually say, ‘I’ll take anything but an African-American child.’”