China Tightens Restrictions on International Adoption—Will Demand for African-American Children Increase?
Thank you for the introduction and the opportunity to guest blog this month. I look forward to everyone’s comments.
The Chinese government’s new restrictions on international adoptions went into effect earlier this week. The new rules require that all adoptive parents be married at least two years (to a person of the opposite sex), that they have at least a high school education, and that their family assets total at least $80,000. Most Americans seeking to adopt internationally have no objection to the educational and financial requirements, possibly because most Americans adopting from China are upper middle class. However, there has been a lot of discussion on the adoption blogs about China’s new age and health requirements. According to the U.S. Department of State, China now requires that all foreigners seeking to adopt be 50 years of age or younger. They also must be free of certain medical conditions such as “mental disorders requiring medication for more than two years, including depression, mania, or anxiety neurosis” or a “Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more.” Persons with severe facial deformities, limb paralysis or dysfunction, or blindness (even if only in one eye) are also disqualified.
Many sending countries place even greater restrictions on foreigners seeking to adopt. In addition, Russia has recently stopped accepting applications from American adoption agencies as it attempts once again to curb rampant corruption in its adoption system. Guatemala has similarly announced that it will impose greater restrictions on international adoptions as it attempts to comply with Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. As a result, many Americans must come to terms with the reality that their odds of creating or expanding their families through international adoption anytime soon might be reduced.
A few days ago I got a call from a journalist asking what effect, if any, China’s new restrictions will have on white Americans’ adoptions of African-American children. One might expect that China’s new policies would lead some white Americans who would otherwise have adopted from China to adopt an African-American child. After all, these are families who had already decided to adopt a child of a different race. However, I am not hopeful. As much as I would like to believe that China’s restrictions will lead many more white Americans to seek African-American children, not only from foster care, but from private agencies that place primarily healthy infants who were relinquished voluntarily, I am not sure China’s restrictions will lead to increased demand for African-American children.
First, some families chose to adopt internationally because they wish to avoid the risk that the birth mother or father will later change their minds and attempt to reclaim the child. Although this rarely happens, understandably, some adoptive parents prefer to adopt from abroad where this particular risk might be even lower although the risks of other types of disruptions might be higher. Second, some adoptive parents want to avoid open adoptions which are increasingly common in the U.S. and require the adoptive parents to keep in contact (albeit minimal contact in many cases) with the birth parents.
But let me suggest a third reason—race. Is it possible that some white Americans disqualified from adopting from China might not seek to adopt an African-American child precisely because he is Black? The literature on unconscious racial bias shows that cognitive biases against African-Americans influence employers’ evaluations of applicants’ resumes based on whether they have a “white” name or a “Black” name. Unconscious racial biases also affect the amount of bail set, and even the rate at which NBA referees call fouls against African-American players. Studies have shown that Americans marrying interracially find African-Americans to be the least desirable marriage partners, even when the study participants honestly believed that they had no racial biases. Further, demand for African-American children is significantly lower than demand for children of other races. Indeed, many adoption agencies subsidize adoptions of African-American infants because too few families are interested in adopting these children. The standard fee for adoptions of “Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian-American, or Native-American infants, or any combination thereof” does not apply to adoptions of African-American infants which are discounted as much as 50%. Thus, I ask: Is it possible that unconscious biases against African-American children will keep some white families from providing a child with his “forever family?”