FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
From NPR News, this is News & Notes. I'm Farai Chideya.
It sounds good on paper, adoptive parents shouldn't choose their children based on race. But a new report says that colorblind adoption can be problematic.
We've got two perspectives on the issue. We'll talk to a young African-American man who was adopted into a white family. But first we have Hollee McGinnis, policy and operations director at the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. Hollee, how are you doing?
Ms. HOLLEE MCGINNIS (Policy and Operations Director, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute): Very good, thank you.
CHIDEYA: So, tell me a little bit about this new report you've done.
Ms. MCGINNIS: This is a very timely paper. I'm sure many people don't know, but there are essentially three different laws that are governing transracial adoptions in the United States.
We just signed on to the Hague Convention for international adoptions, which stipulates that preservation of one's culture and heritage is important, and requires 15 hours of prospective adoptive parent training.
We have the Indian Child Welfare Act, which specifically stipulates that Native American children should remain within their communities of origin, and then we have the Multiethnic Placement Act, which basically applies the colorblind approach to the adoption of children of color from the foster care system.
And so, our paper was really focusing on that specific act, and taking a lot of the social science research, and, also, looking at the hard numbers. The intention of the Multiethnic Placement Act was to move more children of color into permanency, into permanent homes. And, unfortunately, in the decade that the law has been on paper, that just has not been happening. And so, our paper is really looking at that problem.
CHIDEYA: Now, when you say that problem, what would you like to see changed specifically?
Ms. MCGINNIS: Well, specifically, we are requesting that parents - that the adoption agencies are freed up so that they can prepare those parents who are adopting transracially. I think the key thing I need to emphasize is that we are not saying that transracial adoptions do not work, and in fact, the majority of the social science indicates that many transracial adoptees do very, very well.
But we are also seeing that there is a need to address the realities of our society, which include a race consciousness, and so we would like to bring that into the child welfare system, as well, and to say we need to be cautious of race, we need to be able to, at least, talk about it. Absolutely we are not going to make race the sole factor in terms of deciding a placement, but it does need to be a consideration.
CHIDEYA: Are you talking here about legal changes or cultural changes or both?
Ms. McGINNIS: Ideally, it would be both. But, right now, the biggest impediment is the federal laws, the Multiethnic Placement Act and its amendment. And the Multiethnic Placement Act actually is OK as it stands, it's the amendment part which basically brought a fiscal punishment to agencies if they were determined to be making race-based decisions in terms of the placement.
CHIDEYA: Now, you run programs to take adoptive Koreans, now Korean-Americans, back to Korea...
Ms. MCGINNIS: Yes.
CHIDEYA: So, why is that work important to you?
Ms. McGINNIS: That - it started from a personal perspective. I was adopted from Korea when I was three-and-a-half, and grew up in the Westchester County, about 45 minutes north of New York City.
In growing up, I did not have a lot of children of color, I grew up in a predominantly white community, and in college it became very important for me to begin to understand my racial identity. And, even though I knew very clearly who I was, personally, as Hollee McGinnis, in my family, as soon as I stepped out of my family, I would get inquisitivelooks. I would get questions about where did I really come from, and compliments on my English, and expectation that I would be able to speak Korean and Japanese and Chinese and everything.
And, so college was a critical time for me to really begin to understand my own racial identity, and unfortunately, my parents couldn't give me much guidance, but fortunately the college that I went to, I was able to connect with peers of color and really explore issues of race in the United States.
So, when I graduated from college, I wanted to start a group because I knew that there was over 150,000 international adoptees just from Korea alone, and that doesn't include all the international adoptees from every other country, and I thought that it would be really wonderful to create a mentorship program, where these adult adoptees can mentor the next generation of international and transracial families.
And one important component of that is understanding where you came from. So, sponsoring a motherland ship to Korea was very vital in terms of, what I felt, adoptees needed to do in terms of exploring all aspects of their identities.
CHIDEYA: Well, Hollee, thank you.
Ms. McGINNIS: Thank you.
CHIDEYA: Hollee McGinnis is the policy and operations director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. And we just heard from the organization skeptical of colorblind adoption, but what about people who have been adopted into these situations?