On Adoption, Race Does Matter

Oona King, Guardian (London), December 21, 2012

‘My social worker is racist,” said a softly-spoken 10-year-old white boy. “She says I shouldn’t stay with my foster carer because my carer is black.” This child was one of 20 in the care system who told the Lords select committee on adoption legislation about their experiences, during a review of proposed changes to the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

The government, spurred on by the education secretary, Michael Gove (himself adopted as a baby), is determined to ensure “race doesn’t matter” when it comes to finding families for children in care. While Gove’s motives are understandable, the Lords committee, on which I sit, decided this week that his main proposal—the end to the obligation on social workers to give “due consideration” to race, religion and ethnicity when assessing adoptions—should be scrapped.

We would all agree with Gove in principle that race shouldn’t matter—and certainly in the specific case of the young boy in foster care it should not. But for many black and mixed-race children, ethnicity shapes their experience. To imagine it doesn’t is to imagine the earth is flat. I’ve lived that experience and I know it’s real.

But I also know that the single most important thing for a child is a loving family. Sometimes it is difficult to meet both these fundamental needs—for a loving family, and for ethnicity to be acknowledged and at least partially reflected.

Black, Asian and children from other ethnic minorities wait longer than white children to be adopted. There are horror stories about social workers refusing to give them a loving family because they prefer a never-ending quest for the “perfect match”. Few things are worse for children in care than delay in placing them with their “forever family”. The longer a child waits, the harder it is to adjust when the placement is made. Children who are moved around the care system are more likely to have significant behavioural and emotional problems, leading to what one report described as a downward cycle of “poor educational results, unemployment and a lifetime of poverty”.

If I had to make the choice, I’d avoid a lifetime of poverty and opt for a loving family that didn’t reflect my ethnicity. After all, in my one-parent family, I had a very loving white mother who didn’t look anything like me. Because she’s blonde and blue-eyed, no one ever thought she was my mum.

The fact that we were—on the surface—separated by race, nagged me as a child. It fed into other vague feelings around being different and “not belonging”. I was the only mixed race child in my class, both in primary and secondary school, although in those days I was often called, at best, half-caste, at worst, mongrel. But it still wasn’t such a terrible thing. After all, I had a loving, capable parent. And that’s what I want for all Britain’s kids languishing in our care system.

But I don’t support the government’s proposal: yes, we should reduce the prominence given to ethnicity (it should not, for example, trump a disabled child’s need to be placed with parents who have insight into disability); but we must not move to the other extreme where it is entirely ignored. I used to share Gove’s view that unless there was the perfectly matched family waiting with open arms, ethnicity should be disregarded. “It didn’t do me any harm,” was my argument. But numerous black and mixed-race adopted adults contacted me to say that being adopted into a white family, notwithstanding unconditional parental love, often left them struggling to resolve difficult issues around identity. Obviously some black adoptees don’t have this experience, but it was a recurring theme. If you imagine a white child adopted into a Sudanese British family, where all other family members are black, it’s not inconceivable that the white child might experience confusion—especially if society viewed the white child’s ethnicity as inferior.

Now that I have three adopted mixed-race children, I realise that some complexities of race can’t be swept under the carpet. That is not Mr Gove’s intention, but it is a likely outcome of his proposal. On the surface, my kids wouldn’t be terribly damaged if they were brought up in a family that didn’t reflect their ethnic background. It would nag them, the way it nagged me, but it wouldn’t crush them. But I now understand in graphic terms that my kids—because of their very difficult birth histories that led to adoption—already had a host of identity issues to deal with that dwarf anything I experienced as a mixed-race teenager. Why add to their load?

Unfortunately, despite the undoubted wisdom of my select committee’s young witness, skin colour continues to matter. Pushing additional cultural identity issues on to fragile children can push them over the edge. While I would never advocate leaving a child in care instead of placing them with a family of different ethnicity, by the same token we mustn’t ignore ethnicity if we don’t have to. Gove is right to be scandalised that minority children wait longer for adoption than white children. But he must not throw a baby’s cultural identity out with the legislative bath water.

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  • The__Bobster

    Black, Asian and children from other ethnic minorities wait longer than white children to be adopted.

    Hard to believe that the Asian kids have to wait longer, given all the libtards that go overseas to adopt them. Do the SWPL’s feel even warmer and fuzzier inside rescuing them from the abject poverty of a turd world nation?

    • Nathanwartooth

      Well the real reason is because other races adopt much less often then Whites. Plus I’m sure there are a lot of White families that don’t want to take in someone from another race. Can’t really blame them.

      • The reason many minorities do not adopt because they feel that they cannot qualify because they do not make a high income and own their own home. However, there is adoption assistance for those who adopt “special needs: children such as older children, minority children and disabled children.

        • The Worlds Scapegoat

          I cannot understand why anyone would adopt someone else’s child, unless it was their brother’s or sister’s child, and they died.

        • rightrightright

          Adoption is forbidden to Muslims. So that’s them out of the equation.

          • NYB

            Muslims often come from cultures which place a high value on clan blood and inheritence. They often don’t like to marry outside their family. The idea of rewarding an adoptee by expending family wealth on them is not in their values.

    • I am surprized about Asian kids too. Especially since there is currently a five year wait for healthy infant from China.

      • NYB

        China is short 30 million females because of infanticide. Although the government is concerned about too many Chinese males not being able to find wives, they continue to indulge Westerners who want a cute little Asian female to adopt and raise.

    • Marduk

      We are talking about UK here, so “asian” probably means “arabpakistani” in most cases.

  • Speaking of, who here thinks that Putin has a really good reason for prohibiting American adoptions of Russian children all of a sudden? I do, but I just can’t figure what.

    • IstvanIN

      He needs to keep Russian children in Russia and provide good homes for them. We need to stop shopping for children overseas and have our own.

      • But he’s only prohibited outcountry adoption movement to the United States, not to any other countries. Is he worried about something “coming down” here?

      • I agree. I can see overseas adoption if a relative is adopting a child/

    • ncpride

      I’m torn on Putin signing that bill. On the one hand, we need all the White children we can get, but on the other hand, I also agree with IstvanIN that Russian children belong in Russia. Who knows what his real motivations are…?

    • The reason for the ban is that there was a woman who returned her adoptive child back to Russia because she could not deal with him.

  • Exiled White

    Is it not a stretch than to assume that race also matters in the creation of a culture and civilization? Can an black person every really be a Northern European? A race brings it’s culture with them in their blood, and it is clear now that black and brown people will not embody the principles of our white European Culture, but will bend it to their will, and the spineless liberals will abide.

  • Part of the problem with adopting foster children is that it can take quite a while for the child to be freed for adoption. Since the goal of many child welfare programs is to reunite the child with his biological parents, there have to be many court proceedings in order to finally terminate the biological parents’ parental rights.

  • W. G.

    This woman is a baroness, and, as such, gets to sit in the House of Lords. That the daughter of black American father and a Jewish mother should be in the House of Lords — what more eloquent testimony to the decline of Britain could there be?

  • OlderWoman

    What are the odds a black family asks to adopt a white child? I’d imagine zero to none.

    • newscomments70

      Not true. Stray white children in South Africa…some kidnapped, some orphaned are taken into black families. They usually enslave and severly abuse them. In Arab countries, white boys are often kidnapped and used as sex slaves. They do that to their own children as well, but white boys are especially in demand. That is their version of adoption.

      • OlderWoman

        Thanks. I believe this about South Africa. I am all for ceasing aid to Africa. It doesn’t help them. It’s just a band-aid. Africa is a lost cause, just like Chicago and Detroit and anywhere blacks have created their slums. We should keep our money in America.

        • newscomments70

          I know, but I was trying to give you an example of how they, and other primative cultures “accept” white children. It doesn’t happen here yet. As law and order continues to deteriorate, this is our future.

          • OlderWoman

            Thanks for the information. I have read of white slavery in many countries. It sickens me to think white children are living in black homes exposed to their crime, especially their sexual aggression.

          • newscomments70

            White slavery is also common in Latin America. Girls and women are kidnapped and sold into prostitution. that has been a problem for decades.

      • The Worlds Scapegoat

        In Africa they will eat them thinking it will make them smarter.

    • bigone4u

      Wasn’t that a rather unfunny Steve Martin movie from 20 years ago? A white boy raised by a black family in the south goes to the big city? Can’t recall the name of the stupid thing.

      • robinbishop34

        It’s called “The Jerk” and it’s probably more like 30 years old or so.

        • Seek

          Yeah, it came out in 1980. It was sort of funny, but not as good as some of Martin’s later movies like “The Man with Two Brains” and “Bowfinger.”

        • Flossie

          When he struck it big, he bought his adoptive parents a really, really big shack.

      • The Worlds Scapegoat

        The jerk.

        “I was born a poor black child.”

        ” N****r? I’m a n****r”


  • Enar_Larsson

    —But numerous black and mixed-race adopted adults contacted me to say
    that being adopted into a white family, notwithstanding unconditional
    parental love, often left them struggling to resolve difficult issues
    around identity.—

    So, being adopted into a white family has the benefit of “unconditional parental love” and the negative of identity issues? I wonder what the benefits and drawbacks of being adopted into non-white families are…

  • bigone4u

    Twenty five years ago a poorly paid professor acquaintence of mine adopted two black babies because he and his wife could not afford the adoption cost of white babies. I think the blacks only set him back $5k each. Anyway, the sight of he and his wife pushing them around in baby strollers at university events was a bit unsettling, at least to me. Today the girls are adults and he is dead. It would be interesting to know what he and his wife learned from their PC liberal experiment. As for me, I adopted homeless dogs and feel that my life has been worthwhile because I made dogs happy.

    • Luca

      And the dogs probably never bit you either.

  • As in other misguided leftist policies, this one will hit a brick wall when applied to Muslims. There’s no way Muslims are going to allow their kids to be adopted into infidel families. It will be interesting to watch this play out.


  • Laager

    “Black, Asian and children from other ethnic minorities wait longer than white children to be adopted.”

    “Gove is right to be scandalised that minority children wait longer for adoption than white children.”

    All will be resolved in about 40 years time. Projections are that white caucasians will be the minority in the land of their birth by then [c2050]. So the new majority will be able to demonstrate their concern and compassion then by taking up the slack.

    The real question to be asked is: Why are the Asians [Indians, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans] and ethnic minorities not doing anything about taking care of their own right now? This issue has raised it’s head before. The story behind the story is that the institutions are overflowing with non white babies that nobody wants. It is costing the Government money. Hence the desire by Government to off-load this cost onto good old kind hearted whitey.

    Another item which made the news in the UK today is that more babies are being now than since the baby boomer years. Officials are puzzled and are trying to figure out why this phenomenon is occuring. They could find the answer by looking at the names of the new-borns. The most common name for new baby boys in the UK right now is Mohammed.

    • rightrightright

      Third worlders are loath to donate blood or bequeath body parts (although they have no problem in accepting such gifts). I suppose is it lack of altruism once again

  • rightrightright

    How come a White boy was placed with a Black foster parent in the first place when, as the article states, it is third world non-White kids who wait forever in institutions before being taken on. Was somebody playing politics with this boy’s life? Didn’t his identity as an authentic British child matter?

  • Guest Poster

    The most serious racial offence a Wthie can be guilty of is interracial adoption. The White pays a certain price when he or she produces a mixed-race child. An adoption is a total rejection of racial morality, as it is the child who must bear the consequences of such an upbringing, while the parents can conveniently slip out of it in certain ways.

  • Fed Up

    I think so too — that race matters with respect to adoption. When the youngest of our four children also went off to college, our house seemed too quiet and empty, My wife came up with the idea of taking in two or three kids — a foster home environment. Accordingly, we checked with several church-sponsored centers in our area.

    All they had were either White children with extreme health problems or mixed-race kids probably borne to a drug addict white mother. The good people at the adoption centers were appalled when we told them we will think about it.

    On the way home from the last one, we stopped at the local animal shelter. Adopted four cats and two dogs. Those six critters gave us back the love and care we lavished on them tenfold!