Changes urged in race rules for adoptions

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NEW YORK (AP) - Several leading child-welfare groups today are urging an overhaul of federal laws dealing with transracial adoption, arguing that black children in foster care are ill-served by a “colorblind” approach meant to encourage their adoption by white families.

Recommendations for major changes in the much-debated policy were outlined in a report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

“Color consciousness - not ‘color blindness’ - should help to shape policy development,” the report said.

Groups endorsing its proposals include the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the Child Welfare League of America, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the National Association of Black Social Workers.

At issue is the 1994 Multi-Ethnic Placement Act - and revisions made to it in 1996 - governing the adoption of children from foster care.

One part of the law directs state agencies to recruit more adoptive parents of the same race as the children. The new report says this provision hasn’t been adequately enforced and calls for better-funded efforts to recruit minority parents.

The more contentious part of the legislation prohibits race from being taken into consideration in most decisions about adoption from foster care. For example, white parents seeking to adopt a black child cannot be required to undergo race-oriented training that differs in any way from training that all prospective adoptive parents receive.

A key recommendation in the new report calls for amending the law so race could be considered when selecting parents for children from foster care. The proposed change also would allow race-oriented pre-adoption training.

“We tried to assess what was working and what wasn’t, and came to the conclusion that preparing parents who adopt transracially benefits everyone, especially the children,” said Adam Pertman, the Donaldson Institute’s executive director.

“The view that we can be colorblind is a wonderful, idealistic perspective, but we don’t live there,” Mr. Pertman said. “If we want to do the best for the kids, we have to look at their realities.”

At the heart of the debate is the fact that the foster-care system has a disproportionately high number of black children and that on average, they languish there nine months longer than white children do before moving to permanent homes. The latest federal figures showed that 32 percent of the 510,000 children in foster care were black in 2006, compared with 15 percent of all U.S. children.

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