Black, minority families “too often tossed aside as candidates”
The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) was passed in 1994 to make it easier for white families to transracially adopt African American children and other children of color. But no federal law or policy has ever addressed the fact that African Americans and other minorities were and are systematically discriminated against when they attempt to become foster or adoptive parents to children from their own race and cultures.
The Black Family Summit Coalition in conjunction with the National Association of Black Social Workers, Black Administrators in Child Welfare, and several other professional Black organizations, is calling upon the United States Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) to fine states that discriminate against African American and other minority families when they try to become adoptive and foster parents.
The coalition is also calling upon the federal government to provide more funding for preventive and family preservation services to keep children with their birth parents or their extended family. For those children who cannot be kept with relatives, adoption is the best alternative to assure that children will be provided with permanent families.
Currently most federal funding for child welfare goes to foster care services. Even though there has been a decrease in the number of Black children entering the foster care system in the last few years, African American children are still disproportionately over-represented in the child welfare system nationwide and are most likely to be released from the system without a permanent family in their lives or the skills to care for themselves.
A recent report by HHS shows that discrimination and racism still exist 25 years after the enactment of the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA). A child’s race remains associated with time spent in care prior to adoption: Black children adopted between 2017 and 2019 spent the longest time in foster care prior to adoption, with a median of 33 months, compared to a median of 27 months for white children and 28 months for Hispanic children.
Although MEPA calls for the states’ recruitment efforts for potential foster and adoptive parents to reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of the children for whom foster and adoptive homes are needed, minority families are still often screened out of the process and preference is often given to transracial placements with white families.
The myth that African American families are not interested in adoption has been negated by studies going as far back as Trudy Festinger’s “Why Some Choose Not to Adopt Through Agencies” in 1972, Dr. Robert Hill’s “Informal Adoptions” in 1977, and Charles P. Gershenson’s study, “Community Response to Children Free for Adoption,” which was published by HHS in 1984. All of these studies showed that African American families are interested in adoption and respond in large numbers to recruitment efforts. However, they are often screened out of the process by agency policies, procedures, government regulations and attitudes of agency staff that favor white middle class families and culture.
The Black Family Summit Coalition wants HHS to require states/agencies to not only submit recruitment plans for minority communities, but to report the results of their recruitment efforts in getting more minority families into the foster care and/or adoption process. Agency policies should be reviewed to assess arbitrary or systemic racist policies – policies that use age, income, marital status, income, education, family composition, based on white middle class standards – to screen out Black kin and other Black prospective adoptive parents.
MEPA and its companion law, the Inter-Ethnic placement Act (IEPA) enacted in 1996, state that they are designed to prevent discrimination in the placement of children on the basis of race, color or national origin, facilitate the diligent recruitment of foster and adoptive parents, and increase the number of children who are adopted.
But these laws ignore the glaring problem that willing Black and minority caregivers are too often tossed aside as candidates for fostering or adoption. The Black Family Summit Coalition wants to rectify these decades old problems.