New Campaign Aims to Promote Black Child Adoption

Wendy Koch, USA Today, August 3, 2009

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‘A perfect parent’

While blacks account for 15% of U.S. children, they make up 32% of the 510,000 kids in foster care, according to a May 2008 report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a private research group. The report is based on 2006 data, the latest available. It shows that black children in foster care, especially older ones, are less likely than white ones to be adopted.

To help deal with that imbalance, a federally funded ad campaign is to be unveiled today. It is aimed at encouraging blacks to adopt from the foster care system. The ads will appear this fall on radio, TV and in newspapers.

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A 1994 federal law, the Multiethnic Placement Act, prohibits denying or delaying an adoption because of race but requires “diligent” efforts to recruit parents of the same race.

The new ads, developed by the Advertising Council, are part of a series that began in 2002 to promote adoption from foster care. {snip}

‘Some good news’

After similar ads aired in Spanish, “we got so many calls, we couldn’t handle them,” says Kathy Ledesma, project director of AdoptUsKids, a federally funded project that launched the ads.

Pertman says it makes sense to target blacks on behalf of black kids, because they are the most likely to adopt them, especially the older ones who are hardest to place. Single black women, often aunts or grandmothers, adopt nearly two-thirds of black foster kids, according to Penelope Maza, who analyzed foster care data for the federal Children’s Bureau for nearly three decades until her retirement in December.

An increased effort to place black children with relatives before they enter foster care and to promote their adoption has helped to improve the imbalance, says Ruth McRoy, who researches adoption at the University of Texas-Austin.

In 1998, black children accounted for 43% of kids in the foster care system, but that share has since gone down, according to U.S. data.

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The Donaldson report says one in five black foster kids are adopted by parents of a different race, and the majority of them are 4 years old or younger. It cites research showing that this kind of adoption can pose identity problems and recommends adoptive parents undergo training to help their kids.

New Yorker Sarah Gerstenzang, who is white, took in a black foster daughter when the girl was 5 weeks old and later adopted her. “I hear kids say to her, ‘That’s your mom!'” Gerstenzang says, adding that her daughter has learned to handle it.

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