Best Interest Of The Child?

To be a person of color in the Western world comes with a series of issues that must be negotiated on a daily basis.  All children are born color blind however, society is quick to teach them to perceive a difference in worth, where none actually exists.  For blacks this can be a particularly jarring experience.  Many Black children already attribute positive characteristics with whites, and negative characteristics with blacks, as attested to by the doll test, despite the best efforts of black parents to instill their children with a sense of racial pride. 

How are these feelings of inferiority compounded by being raised by a family that is not black?  Consider that to almost every face that the child must confront they will be perceived as an ‘other’.  Adoptive parents do love these children, but are they really equipped to understand the issues that the a black child will face as they grow?  They will never be able to speak from experience about being a victim of racism, as theirs is a place of unearned historic privilege. In fact the childs very presence in the child welfare system, may well be a reflection of his or her race.  If the child lives in a mostly white neighborhood, the chances of interacting with POC will be even less. Where are they to see people that reflect them, that truly understand them on an intrinsic level? In a  study released May, 2008 by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, it was stated that, “African American children who come into contact with the child welfare system are disproportionately represented in foster care, and are less likely than children of other racial and ethnic groups to move to permanency in a timely way. These children account for 15 percent of the U.S. child population but, in FY2006, they represented 32 percent of the 510,000 children in foster care. Black children, as well as Native American children, also have lower rates of adoption than those of other races and ethnicities (U.S. DHHS, 2008a; U.S. GAO, 2007).”

If these children are not allowed to be adopted by white families, they will languish within the system until they age out of care.  The question is, is any home better than no home at all?  Along with racial considerations, children need a stable environment, love, discipline and unconditional acceptance from their families.  In the US adoption is subject to the “Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 (MEPA), which: 1) prohibits the delay or denial of a child’s foster or adoptive placement solely on the basis of race, color, or national origin; and 2) requires that state agencies make diligent efforts to recruit foster and adoptive parents who represent the racial and ethnic backgrounds of children in foster care. In 1996, MEPA was amended by the Removal of Barriers to Interethnic Adoption Provisions (IEP), which deleted the word “solely” from MEPA’s prohibition against delaying or denying an adoptive placement on the basis of race. IEP prohibits agencies receiving federal funding from considering race in decisions on foster or adoptive placements, except in exceptional circumstances. Noncompliance is a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, subject to a large fine; individuals claiming discrimination under the Act may file suits in U.S. district courts.” To not even consider race is to deny the degree to which POC are subject to racism in our daily lives, and its affects on our over all sense of happiness, and fulfillment.

It would seem to me that a two fold solution is necessary.  Black families need to be given the tools to properly support their children.  Often children are removed for issues involving poverty, rather than parenting.  If a single mother cannot pay the electricity, or heating bill this does not make her a bad mother, it makes her a mother who is having financial difficulties. With the rising cost of food, and gas there will be more instances of this in the future.  The answer cannot be to simply remove the children.  The fault lies not with the individual, but the predatory capitalist system under which we live.  By commodfying basic needs, and dividing people into classes, we have created a two tier system of worth, and value based on money. For as rich as the United States is, Venezuela still provided discounted oil for the poverty  stricken.  In Canada, the government had to subsidize oil in some provinces, as people were living without heat. It cannot be the fault of the individual, when so many are in the same state.  We can no longer afford to treat the family as though it were inconsequential to the well being of the state (note: the term family does not necessarily denote the “traditional” patriarchal family).  Already services that were once covered under social programs have been reduced, and or eliminated with the responsibility of care downloaded to the family.  With North Americans actually working more than any other generation, and yet having less disposable income, this leaves the family in an untenable situation.  Removing children from a home because their parents are unable to cope within a system that is designed to exploit them is simply as irrational, as the system itself.

Finally, if black children are to be adopted by white families, some sort of after adoption support must be made available.  The children will require some sort of mentorship program from a POC, as I have already stated no matter how well intentioned a white person is, they simply cannot relate with the lived experience of a POC.  As a community we must take responsibility for these children, so that they are aware of their heritage, and the potential issues that will arise because of it.  We must prepare them for the fact that as they age, certain stigmatizations will be attached to their bodies irregardless of their personalities.  A little black boy may be seen as cute when he is 5 or 6, however when he becomes a young adult society will view him as a threat.  The same child that you teach to turn to police in times of trouble must be taught to be wary of them as they age due to police violence; whereas the message of safety and protection never changes for a white child.  If we as a community do not take the time to teach these children racial pride, they will grow to internalize the negative images society has created for black people.  These children represent the future of our community, and we cannot simply abandon them solely to the care of others, regardless of how well intentioned they may be.

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