Kudos to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute for stepping into the minefield which is race and adoption. Their recently released report, Finding Families for African American Children: The Role of Race & Law in Adoption from Foster Care was widely reported in today’s New York Times and on public radio.
The Donaldson report focuses on domestic transracial adoption and assesses its use as a policy and practice approach in meeting the needs of African American children in foster care. The findings and recommendations are endorsed by the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the Child Welfare League of America, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Adoption Exchange Association, the National Association of Black Social Workers, Voice for Adoption, and the Foster Care Alumni of America.
The report’s major focus is the federal Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 and the Interethnic Adoption Provisions of 1996. I’ve written about MEPA before on this blog. So has the Government Accountability Office in this July 2007 report on African American Children in Foster Care. And the Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau Administration for Children and Families in this December 2003 report entitled Children of Color in the Child Welfare System. University of Pittsburgh law school Professor David J. Herring has done groundbreaking work criticizing MEPA based on behavioral biology and social psychology research.
So perhaps it is time to revisit MEPA and even seek wholesale revision given the fact that the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 is designed to do the exact same thing as MEPA which is to speed the exit of children in foster care to permanency.
The coalition’s recommendations are as follows:
- Reinforce in all adoption-related laws, policies and practices that a child’s best interests must be paramount in placement decisions.
- Amend IEP to allow consideration of race/ethnicity in permanency planning and in the preparation of families adopting transracially. The original MEPA standard – which provided that race is one factor, but not the sole factor, to be considered in selecting a foster or adoptive parent for a child in foster care – should be reinstated.
- Enforce the MEPA requirement to recruit families who represent the racial and ethnic backgrounds of children in foster care and provide sufficient resources, including funding, to support such recruitment.
- Address existing barriers to fully engaging minority families in fostering and adopting by developing alliances with faith communities, minority placement agencies, and other minority recruitment programs.
- Provide support for adoption by relatives and, when that is not the best option for a particular child, provide federal funding for subsidized guardianship.
- To help families address their transracially adopted children’s needs, provide post-adoption support services from time of placement through children’s adolescence.
Has MEPA become redundant? Is it time for a change in light of ASFA or are special extraordinary measures still needed to address the permanency of the vastly overrepresented population of African American children in the foster care system? Everyone knows that race does matter, but should it be accounted for and how?