Transracial adoptions earning more respect

Associated Press | 11/18/2009, 4:34 a.m.
Debi and Craig Miller and their daughter Mackenzie enjoy a family moment. Transracial adoptions are on the rise...
Debi and Craig Miller and their daughter Mackenzie enjoy a family moment. Transracial adoptions are on the rise throughout the state and the Millers are just one of countless multi-racial families throughout the nation. Millers

Alison Goodwin, director of public affairs for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) said the state’s foster care system is seeing a more diverse mix of families than in the past.

“We have a number of biracial families,” she explained. “We also have a number of gay and lesbian families. There really is no white family, black family — that doesn’t exist any longer.”

Based on her observation, Goodwin said there is an increased openness on the part of adoptive parents in Massachusetts to adopt children of races different from their own.

As it is now, the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) reports there are more than 2,400 children in the state’s foster care system awaiting adoption. About half are children of color. The organization assisted in the placement of 160 children in 2008, up from 143 in 2007.

A slow process

Adoptions through foster care hinge on whether a child has been signed over by his birth parents or by the state as legally free to adopt. This process may take years.

When the Rileys brought home Jack, they were still in the “preadoptive” phase. Visits with the birth parent(s) are usually still required during this time. After nine months, the Rileys’ adoption of Jack was official.

It was a long journey from the days when Mrs. Riley had worked for the agency after graduating from college. When she met her husband, they discussed having a family someday and agreed that regardless of their ability to have biological children, they would try at some point to adopt through DCF.

Fortunately, more resources are now available for those seeking to adopt through private agencies, especially those hoping to adopt hard-to-place children in Massachusetts.

Betsy Hochberg, who directs Adoption Resources under the Jewish Family and Children’s Services in Boston, describes the hard-to-place population as “healthy, partially or fully African American newborns or children whose mothers may have had some health issues.”

As part of her directorship, Hochberg oversees the Lindelil Fund. The fund was founded by a group of adoptive families who were committed to finding homes for hard-to-place children, providing subsidies of up to $25,000 to families who qualify. Hochberg works with churches and other organizations to recruit families and educate them about the needs of their adopted children.

“It is really important for adoption agencies to educate families if it’s a transracial adoption — in most cases, it’s white families adopting a black child — on the issues involved,” said Hochberg. “Families need to understand that they have not just adopted a black child, but that they have [become] a multiracial family, and that they need to embrace that.”

Hochberg said inquiries to the Fund have risen slightly over the last two years, contrasting with other private agencies in Boston who reported dips in inquiries during the recession.

The rising interest also may reflect a changing attitude toward multiracial families, she said.

“I think seeing a black family in the White House has changed people’s attitudes,” Hochberg said. “We as Americans see ourselves differently. We really are a diverse country. ”