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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Review of research examining links between tranracial adoption and educational outcomes

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This guest blog post was written by Amanda Talan.

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Article: Is there a (transracial) adoption achievement gap? A national longitudinal analysis of adopted children's educational performance

A recent article published in Children and Youth Services Review by Elizabeth Raleigh and Grace Kao seeks to determine whether there are differences in educational attainment between adopted and non-adopted children. The article, "Is there a (transracial) adoption achievement gap? A national longitudinal analysis of adopted children's educational performance," also attempts to highlight potential educational distinctions between same-race and transracial adoptees. The report provides surprising results-- the study found that transracial adoptees perform better than their non-adopted counterparts (children in biological families) and that "white same race" adoptees perform significantly worse when compared to children in biological families.

Article strengths include the fact the report acknowledges that successful educational outcomes for transracial children do not diminish many of the distinctive challenges faced by this population as they age within a transracial family unit. The report includes research that highlights the challenges typically faced by older transracial adoptees, such as identity confusion.

I also found several limitations within this article. Although the article examines academic outcome "over time," the assessments are limited to kindergarten and the third grade. It would be interesting to examine differences in educational attainment at a time point when transracial adoptees are most likely to experience feelings of isolation or identity confusion. Another limitation within the article is that there were significant differences regarding the number of special needs children within each cohort. Special needs students made up 6% of transracial adoptees, 11% of children in biological families and 24% of white same race adoptees. Special needs greatly impacts educational attainment and it is very likely that this inclusion drove the study results. Another limitation of the article is that children within the biological families category were not separated by race, and there was no distinction between international and non-international adoptions within the "white same race" adoptees category.

This study defies myths that regard transracial adoptions as "not in the best interest" of potential adoptees. The article promotes transracial adoptions by reporting that these youth have better educational outcomes than children in biological families. Since I am aware of the various issues experienced by transracial adoptees as they age, I take this information with a grain of salt. Moreover, this study defies any myth that portrays white foster children as the "baseline" for foster youth comparisons, since this study determined that 24% of white adoptees had special needs.

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