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28 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 553 (2001-2002)


The best world allows a child to grow to adulthood with biological parents, or at least one parent, who love the child unconditionally and who have resources to support the child. A second-best world allows the child to permanently and completely become part of an extended family that loves him or her and has the resources for supporting and meeting the child's needs. Hopefully this process costs little in terms of time or emotional or physical harm to the child. In traditional third-party adoptions, the child permanently moves and becomes part of (hopefully, at low cost) a family that will love him or her and has the resources for supporting and meeting the child's needs. With multiethnic adoptions, opponents suggest that despite good intentions, the child's needs as a person of color are not likely to be met. They suggest that waiting for an adoptive family of the same race or a permanent foster placement with a relative or other member of the same cultural group better meets these needs. In addition, some opponents of multiethnic adoption suggest that the needs of the cultural group (and its very survival) should be taken into account in placement decisions.

Minnesota has favored racial matching as best meeting a child's needs even before this became a progressive stance to take. Increasingly, Minnesota's position seems to contradict federal legislation that requires states and their agents to ignore race in favor of swifter permanent placement of children. The federal stance can be analogized to child custody rules on dissolution that place the child's best interests above fairness to parents.

This paper takes no position on whether multiethnic, or transracial, adoptions are the best solution for children of color whose birth parents cannot care for them. Instead, it explores possible reasons for Minnesota's rather defiant position. On first glance, Minnesota seems a more progressive jurisdiction. Since opposing multiethnic adoption is currently part of the progressive agenda, any other attitude would be surprising. However, there may be other, more complex, answers to the question.

Minnesota's programs for Native Americans, and in particular its unique Native American foster care program, suggest that for this important minority, the desire to preserve cultures extends below the surface. Whether this treatment will extend to other groups without such deep historical connections to the state presents another question that this paper will address.

Another part of this paper will present an empirical look at some of the theoretical problems already described. First, the actual numbers of Minnesota children in foster care, minority children in foster care, adoptive placements and transracial placements will be presented. From a demand-side perspective, white adoptive parents may be finding children from other states or countries. The paper will present the number and rates of Minnesota foreign adoptions compared to intrastate adoptions and compared to rates from other states.

A very long-running empirical debate in academic journals considers the outcomes for adoptees. Though some argue that positive (numerical) findings cannot measure the difficulties faced by those transracially adopted (so that some of the most recent literature on both sides is narrative), it is at least interesting to see whether there are measurable differences and what these might be. Accordingly, this paper will also consider whether depression (measured by the CES depression scale) differs for African Americans who are adopted transracially.



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