Taylor’s adoptive mother is part of a small—maybe growing—group of blacks who adopt white children.
The group lacks the numbers of white parents adopting black children. But officials chalk up the difference mostly to the outsize numbers of black children available for adoption—about 78 percent of the available children in Cuyahoga County’s custody.
Nationwide, 8 percent of white children in public custody were adopted by black or interracial couples in 2004, the latest year available. About 26 percent of black children were adopted by white parents, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The rates have been much closer in Cuyahoga County the past two years: 14 percent of white children were adopted by black or interracial parents; 17 percent of black children were adopted by white parents.
Historical data is scarce, but those who work in adoptions say more black couples appear to be adopting white children.
“It’s part of globalization and the trends for multiculturalism, and that’s a good thing,” said Karen Anderson, adoption director of Bellefaire JCB in Shaker Heights.
In 1994, a federal law gave preference to same-race matches. But a 1996 amendment banned racial considerations unless they are raised by the parents seeking to adopt.
Adoption workers say black parents seldom ask for white children in general but usually accept them in the particular. And a few white children ask for black parents because of good experiences in foster care or friendships.
A white teenager in Cuyahoga’s custody recently asked for a black family, thinking they would accept her mostly black friends.
The law requires children’s racial preferences to be evaluated to see if they meet valid personal needs. The Cuyahoga teen’s preference passed the test.
Adoption workers say some parents of either race prefer black children to help meet the greater need. Few black parents prefer white children, but many get them through foster placements, often emergency ones, which are made more randomly than adoptions. Some of these pairings bloom.
Black parents say they face some unique challenges in raising white children. Start with nosy strangers.
Stokes said a traffic cop once grilled her in the back of the cruiser about her adopted children, who are of different races. Fortunately, she had James’ paperwork in his diaper bag, just in case.
Some black parents say they hesitated to adopt white children for fear of exposing them to such bigotry.
Black parents encourage white children to learn both cultures. Cathryn Thompson, 9, of Canton, celebrates her Irish blood by wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, even at the family’s Baptist church.
Some agencies offer training to prospective white couples seeking to adopt black children, but black parents raising white children may have to learn by trial and error.
Stokes’ son James got sunburned before she learned to protect him. And his hair went wild until she learned to wet it down.
Adoption workers say most of these blended families live in somewhat integrated neighborhoods, which helps them to fit in.
For all the challenges, workers say most adoptions succeed regardless of racial combinations. It helps that families are increasingly frank about adoption, which explains any contrasts in color.