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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

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Ra'Shede Hageman, defensive tackle for the University of Minnesota Gophers football team, knows about strength and resilience - and not just on the football field. After being removed from his mother, Ra'Shede and his brother were placed in foster care. After twelve foster homes, Ra'Shede had a natural distrust for people.

4 gal ufot0042513.jpg [Photo by Jerry Holt]

Then he met Eric and Jill - the couple who would end up his adoptive parents. The couple, both attorneys, are white. Hageman is black. Like many other transracially adopted people, Hageman had his share of identity struggles. As stated in the Star Tribune article:

Hageman wanted to fit in seamlessly with a crowd. He was self-conscious about his size and about the skin color of his adoptive family. He harbored anger over the traumatic years in the past. At a young age, he concocted lies when strangers were faced with the truth.

Over time, and with the support of his parents and family and coaches, Hageman began to feel his differences actually served to be his assets. Today Hageman is succeeding as an athlete and is looking forward to his future.

To read more about Hageman check out the featured story on the Star Tribune.

This guest blog post was written by Amanda Talan.


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.

Celebrity adoptions

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This guest post was written by Abdifateh Ahmed.

Article: Why Are So Many Celebrities Adopting Black Babies?
Writer: Kristen Howerton
Posted: 06/14/2012 11:10 am
Journal: Huffington Post

06madonna.480.jpg Photo: Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images

The article sums up why celebrities are adopting children and why higher percentages of celebrities are adopting trans-racially and specifically black children. The writer's motive in the article is not only to support and advocate for the celebrities adopting black babies, but also brings the audience attention to the current issues of racial bias in adoption preference which is very prevalent in our existing system. Black children quite often are trapped in the waiting list to find a home. The article mentions statistical evidence mentioned in the article says it all about the reality in the permanency and adoption. She mentions a significant gap among adoptive white parent who are not open to adopt black children and rather chose to adopt from other race (88% to 14%).

The writer's strength in terms of knowledge in the adoption and permanency subject is depicted in the title and the body of the article. As an audience I am attracted to the title simply because of the curiosity of wanting to answer the question, and improve my awareness of the subject. The statistical evidences and her knowledge of celebrities say it as well. She also have a drive for advocacy and very articulate in her writing. She seems to know what she is writing about.

Although, the writer is very knowledgeable and defending her stand on what she believes, I feel the anger in her voice while reading the article. I thought she should have done a little better in her approach.

Howerton, Kristen,. Why Are So Many Celebrities Adopting Black Babies?.Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2013, from

White savior complex in international adoption

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This guest blog post was written by Salma Hussein.


I recently came across an online article titled "Outrage, sadness as Americans barred from adopting Russian children," on worldnews nbc website. The article was dated March 30th, 2013 and written by Jim Maceda who is based in London.
[Photo by NBC News]

The strength of the article is that it strives to bring various individuals who support international adoption in Russia. Having someone who is a native Russian and who has worked in orphanages for thirty years admit that Americans are more likely to take in children with special needs than native Russians was a strong point. However, just quoting her alone I saw it as being negative because it is solely her own opinion and that alone. It would have been much more powerful if the article had other individuals who thought otherwise. The article did not do a fair job of reporting both sides of the issue, it appeared to push the idea that Russia is abandoning adoption not because they wish to protect children but influenced by geopolitics.

I think one way that the article promotes myths about permanency and adoption is the whole idea of Americans going into other countries to save children. Two families are mentioned in the article the England family and the Preece family who both adopted children with special needs. From my view, the article appears to communicate that Americans are more willing to adopt children with special needs and it inhumane for the Russian government to make it difficult for Americans to continue adopting and rescue these children who are unwanted by native Russians. A child psychologist by the name of Valentina Rakova who is said to have worked in the Bryansk orphanage for 30 years is quoted supporting the notion that Americans are more likely to take in children with special needs than Russians. This is problematic because she is the only person quoted other than government officials. Yes, the government may have other motives for complicating and putting a hold on international adoption, or maybe they want to ensure Russian natives take in their orphaned children. Children are taken outside of institutions where they are labeled as yet another abandoned child, but they also lose their country of birth and culture when they are moved completely to a new country. Why the article only quoted two white families from the Midwest is puzzling, but I hope that reporters can try to be unbiased in their reporting. We cannot continue to go on writing all other countries and their special practices as being insufficient, while not critically examining our own ways using the same lens.

To read the article in full click here.

This guest post was written by Salma Hussein.

There is growing evidence that supports the role systematic racism and the workers biases contribute in the overrepresentation of families of color serviced in the child welfare. Consequently, resulting in unjust, unnecessary and unequal treatments that go on to influence both access and utilization of supportive services that are meant to assist families.

In the article written by Lorthridge, Croskey, Pecora, Chambers, & Fatemi, in 2012 we learn that disproportionality has been linked to a number of multi-level factors that overlap and have various impacts. These factors include parent and family risk factors, community risk factors, and organizational and systematic factors. For instance, in the parent and family risk factors, it is said that disproportionality exists because of a disproportionate need that exists. Risk factors including un-(under) employment, inadequate housing, substance abuse and other debilitating conditions are more likely to be present in families of color. Furthermore, the disproportionality of children of color in the child welfare system will not change unless these risk factors are reduced.

To improve child welfare services for families of color a multi level approach is suggested. Focusing on addressing parent and family, community and organizational and systematic risk factors that contributes to disproportionality. The idea is that all families and children live in communities that are then impacted by the organization they receive services from. The disproportionality mitigation model that was discussed in this article attempted to address risk factors at multiple levels.

The committee that was assigned to undertake the self -evaluation portion of the study felt it would be much easier to start by looking at the data, and then asking agencies/departments what they thought the causes were. The data that was examined came from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and included demographic information obtained from every section of the child welfare procedure. The analysis revealed that African-American families experienced poorer outcomes.

Particular strengths of this article is that it promotes further research to further investigate in determining specific factors that contribute to making some communities overrepresented in both entry and existing the child welfare system. Additionally, the article dispels myths about permanency by promoting a multi-level approach in working with families and communities. Similarly, a limitation of the study was a lack of a system to ensure case records to be readily and easily accessible for further use. Also, the number of African-American families involved in the comparison group study was very small. It is imperative to include more African-American in future research, in hopes of having research participants reflect service recipients. By doing so, we may be able to better understand strategies for improving the profession for all families, particularly communities that are disproportionally represented.


Lorthridge, J., Mc Croskey, J., Pecora, P.J., Chambers, R. & Fatemi, M. (2012). Strategies for improving child welfare services for families of color: First findings of a community-based initiative in Los Angeles. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 281-288.

This guest blog post was written by May Borgen.

The article was written by Amanda L. Baden, Lisa M. Treweeke and Muninder K. Ahluwalia in October 2012 for the Journal of Counseling & Development. The title of the article is Reclaiming Culture: Reculturation of Transracial Adoptees. The authors coin the phrase "reculturation" because they do not believe that the current term of acculturation or enculturation accurately describe the reclamation of birth culture of individuals who have been transracially adopted whether internationally or domestically. The reason given for that is that adoptees' birth culture is less readily accessible to them as they would be for other individuals who function cross-culturally.

Among the strong pints of the article is that it gives a good clear description of the developmental process that a transracially adopted person experiences from birth and onward in developing a cultural identity. The article also describes different outcomes of the reculturation process. Included in the article are differences and similarities between transracial adoptees who have been internationally and domestically adopted. The article also provides three different approaches to reculturation as being education, experience and immersion and implications of reculturation for parenting, practice and future research. The cultural developmental process is described clearly and informatively including tables and charts.

The article does dispel myths about adoption in that it describes the expectation generally held in society that individuals belongs to their birth culture for the rest of their lives. Due to most adoptive parents in the US being White-American, the lived culture of most adoptees will be White American regardless of their birth culture. The article describes the process the transracial adoptee experiences in developing a cultural identity consisting of both their birth culture and their lived culture combined. Many times this process involves identifying with a third culture of adoptees with which they familiarize themselves and come to identify with. When transracial adoptees reclaim their culture, this entails their full immersion into their birth culture. If the adoptees become bicultural they will rather seek reculturation the country in which they already live with persons of their own ethnic background. Those who assimilate into their lived culture will not pursue connection to any greater degree with their birth culture, and those who combine culture will combine all these different ways of relating to their cultural background.

The article mentions the different circles of influence that transracial adoptees participate in as well. Parental influence is mentioned as highly important in the reculturation process of the transracial adoptee but the article does state that "we believe that the transracial adoptive parents alone cannot eliminate the trajectory that adoptees make toward reculturation". The article doe however emphasize the importance of parental understanding, empathy, self-awareness, and racial consciousness as factors likely to affect the reculturation process of the transracial adoptee.

A weakness of the article is that it does not cover the topic of implications of the reculturation process for the practice of adoption, and the education of adoptive families which would have been very helpful.

Contested adoption pits family against foster parents

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This guest blog post was written by Emma Siebold.


The article, Split the Baby: Two Sides of an Adoption Battle, was published in the Minnesota City Pages newspaper on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 and written by Olivia LeVecchia. It discusses the court battle between the Grossners and Dunnings, two families fighting for custody of two young African American girls, currently three and two years old. The two girls are the biological children of Princton Knox, the son of Dorothy Dunning. They were put into foster care with the Grossners after their births because drugs were found in their systems. The article mentions briefly their biological mother, Javille "Angel" Sutton, but does not comment on her current whereabouts and involvement in the case. The older of the two girls has been living with the Grossners since 2009 and the younger was born a year later. It was ruled by the lower court that the girls were to remain in the care of the Grossners. This decision was appealed by the Dunnings but the ruling was upheld; the case is currently being contested in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

A strength of this article is that the information is presented in a way that is easy to understand to the general population. It provides general legislative information pertaining to permanency laws such as the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) and federal and state laws regarding race and permanency decisions. This tone is appropriate because this article is featured in a public newspaper, as opposed to a scholarly journal, which may require more scholarly language. The author seems to take on a sense of neutrality when discussing the viewpoints of the foster parents and paternal grandparents. The article does not seem to side with either party. One limitation of this article, however, is that it does not include very much information about the role of the biological parents in this case. The biological mother is mentioned briefly, the author mentions she has had several other children removed from her custody due to drug addiction. The author discusses the biological father's drug addiction, noting that he is no longer using drugs and has another family. In order to present a well-rounded discussion of all the parties involved in this case, including the foster parents, paternal grandparents and child welfare system, the article should include more of a discussion of the biological parents.

The article seems to take the position that the Child Welfare system fractured. It subtly comments on how the adoption process is very slow and provides a disservice to children and families; foster, adoptive, and biological alike. On several instances the article seems to critique the slowness in finding relative placements for children, citing federal and state mandated timelines that were not followed. The article also comments on the discrepancies in the federal and state laws around race considerations and permanency. The article seems to take the position that it is not as simple an issue to eliminate race completely in permanency decisions; race and culture are inevitably intertwined.

Permanency through international adoption

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This guest post was written by Chris Murphy.


Elizabeth Bartholet wrote this article on achieving permanency through international adoption, and it was published in the Harvard Law School Journal. Elizabeth Bartholet is a professor at New York Law School. This article was developed from a lecture that Professor Bartholet gave at the Permanency for Children Conference on March 5, 2010.

Professor Bartholet is adamant that just simply providing permanency for children is not enough. She pointed out that multiple children are growing up in homes recognized as permanent, but are still suffering from abuse and/or neglect. Professor Bartholet stressed the need for all children to have early, permanent, and nurturing parenting in order to flourish.

Professor Bartholet said both nurturing and permanency can be given to children. One way is for policy around international adoption to become less strict. Professor Bartholet would like to see the restriction lessen on international adoption so all children have an opportunity to be adopted and nurtured in homes which are prepared to adopt children. Professor Bartholet argues that international adoption will help other countries in reducing costs associated with raising multiple children who are without parents. Her point is that thousands of international children are raised without parents. These children essentially end up having issues as adults such as homelessness, incarceration, and/or unemployment.

Professor Bartholet suggests all interested parties recognize the international adoption system is currently in crisis. She feels individuals need to maintain hope, work together, and fight for the goal of providing all unparented children with nurturing and permanency early in life.

Professor Bartholet said there is a push to keep children in their countries and find solutions which will assist them in staying connected to their birth family. However, Professor Bartholet said racial matching profiles for adoption should not occur. She is not saying culture and/or ethnicity isn't important. What she is saying is a child being allowed to grow up in a nurturing and permanent home from early on is crucial. Professor Bartholet also points out that the unparented children in other countries are generally hidden away in institutions or growing up on the streets.

The system of international adoption has flaws. Individuals need to come together in order to ensure children have an opportunity to be nurtured and parented from early on in childhood. This may take a change in policy and/or law. There are different rules and regulations depending on what country the international adoption is occurring. Professor Bartholet gave an example of twin boys from Guatemala who was to be adopted, at their birth, by a couple in the United States. The birth mother wanted the children adopted so badly she made a video so nobody would question her consent to adopt her children out to a new family. Delays in the international system held the boys in Guatemala until they were almost one year of age. One of the twins developed meningitis while waiting and almost died. He had delays and such that would have been rectified had he been in the United States for medical treatment. This is just one small example of the laws not being conducive to the need for children to have early nurturing and permanency in order to flourish.

Bartholet, E. (2010). Permanency Is Not Enough: Children Need the Nurturing Parents Found In International Adoption. York Law School Law Review, 781(55). You can download the pdf of this article here.

This guest post was written by Tracy Neil.

la-oe-bass-roybal-allard-immigration-20130211-001.jpeg (Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images / February 8, 2013)

The Los Angeles Times ran an article on February 11, 2013 that was written by Karen Bass and Lucille Roybal-Allard that are both members of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Care. This article brought attention to the issue of what happens to immigrant children when their parents are detained or deported due to federal immigrations enforcement. The article goes on to talk about how immigrant parents or guardians, once arrested are usually not given time to make arrangements for their children. With no one to look after them, these children then enter the foster care system. Due to the distance between where the parents are held and where custody hearings for their children take place, parents often do not have a say in what happens to their children and trying to remain in contact with their children is very difficult. If the parents are released, they face a difficult time trying to work a case plan showing they are capable of meeting the health and welfare needs of their children as they do not qualify for most services that would be provided to assist them and they cannot get a job due to their immigration status. These issues often lead toward the permanent loss of their parental rights. If the parent is deported, the odds of getting their children back are even less and requires the parents to get the support of consulate and have the consulate advocate on their behalf. Often times the judge or social workers feel it is in the child's best interest to remain in foster care in the United States rather than return to the country their parents were sent back to. Last year, the Help Separated Families Act was introduced to Congress by Roybal-Allard and this year Representative Bass will help co-sponsor and reintroduce the act to the upcoming Congress. This act would make it "more difficult to terminate parent's rights based only on their immigration would also allow the children to be placed in the best home for them regardless of the immigration status of the potential guardian" (Bass & Roybal-Allard, 2013).

This article was very well written in regards to explaining the issue very clearly for those who are not familiar with foster care or immigration. It brought to light a very real problem in our country that needs attention but that many readers have probably never thought about nor heard of. However, I felt that more specific information explaining the Help Separated Families Act was left out; leading someone with no foster care experience to think this act is going to solve the issue. The article did not address the issue that some of these children grow up in foster care and upon them aging out of the system; they are deported just as their parents were. If these children are not deported upon aging out of foster care and they do not become U.S. citizens for some reason prior to aging out, they face the same obstacles their parents did in regards to finding a job, getting medical insurance and they cannot apply for financial aid to attend college all due to their immigration status. If they do seek to become a citizen after age 18, how do they maneuver through the system and pay the fees associated with gaining citizenship in addition to trying to keep a roof over their head and food on the table? These are all questions that these children and the system will face, and hopefully as this act moves forward these issues will be addressed.

To read more see the entire article here.

This guest post was written by Brittany Kellerman.

FOSTER-1-articleLarge.jpeg [Photo: Mark Holm for the NYT]

The New York Times published an article on January 26, 2013 entitled "Focus on Preserving Heritage Can Limit Foster Care for Indians" by Dan Frosch. The article discusses the impact that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 continues to have today on Native American children and families. It highlights the fact that Native American children are highly overrepresented in child welfare systems around the country, including in Minnesota. It also points out the extreme shortage of licensed Indian foster families in particular states, such as in New Mexico, where in Bernalillo County there are 65 Indian children in state custody, but only 5 Indian foster homes. This discrepancy leads Native American children waiting in shelters for significant amounts of time while searching for relatives or native foster homes and in many cases ultimately placing the children in non-native foster homes.

While the article provides important facts around disparities that are beneficial to dispelling myths, it does not dig deep into why these disparities continue to exist. It is however quick to point to the poverty and the substance abuse endemic in American Indian communities as being the reasons for low rates of Native foster homes, while the issues of institutional racism and historical trauma are simply skimmed over.

As an example of a case where ICWA impacts the outcomes for native children, the article discusses a highly publicized case of Baby Veronica. In this case, a judge ordered a white couple to return a 27-month-old girl they raised since birth to her biological Indian father. In this case, the father was estranged from the mother and was unaware that his daughter was going to be put up for adoption. The facts of the case demonstrate that the father engaged in seeking custody as soon as he was notified of the request for adoption. The decision to return the child to her father was based upon the child's tribal status and the ruling that the birth mother tried to conceal the father's tribal affiliation.

The case of Baby Veronica, while governed by ICWA in this case due to the father's tribal affiliation, brings up questions around all fathers' parental rights that were not addressed in the article. If this case were involving a non-native father, would the child be returned to the biological father? If a biological father is willing/able to provide a loving home for the child, it only seems right to keep the child connected to their biological roots. The case of Baby Veronica will be held before the Supreme Court in April 2013 and the court will be asked to consider the constitutionality of ICWA.

In summary, ICWA has made a significant impact on the Native American population by keeping many children connected to their heritage. Clearly, Native American families continue to face significant challenges and discrimination in their interactions with child welfare agencies and cases such as Baby Veronica's demonstrate a continued need for additional protection for Native families.

For more information on the Baby Veronica case, click here.

This guest post was written by Emily Wesely.

JuvenileJustice.jpeg [Photo from]

Published in the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, "Number of Kids Behinds Bars Reaches 35-Year Low", written by Kaukab Smith on February 27, 2013, discussed the recent reduction in youth incarceration rates across the country, reaching the lowest it has been for 35 years. Smith referenced the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot (2013), "Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States", to share the recent trend toward more community-based services for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. These alternative responses to juvenile delinquency are less punitive and cost saving for the public. Five states - Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota and Tennessee - reported declines in the number of incarcerated youth between 2001 and 2010 by more than 50 percent (Smith, 2013). These states have recognized that the reasons youth become involved in the justice system is different from adults; therefore, the response should be different.

Crossover youth, a popular term used to describe the several children involved in both the juvenile justice system and the child welfare system, are affected by these declining youth confinement rates. The number of crossover youth varies depending on the jurisdiction, however, estimates range from 9 to 29 percent of children in the child welfare system (Goldstein, 2012). This reduction in youth incarceration means that children who intersect in both systems are experiencing less confinement and out-of-home placements, increasing permanency rates and the overall outcomes for these said crossover youth. Youth in confinement are defined as young people under the age of 21 (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2013), which includes those involved in the child welfare system given that children may remain in extended foster care until age 21.

One of the weaknesses of the article is that it fails to identify and describe the alternative measures and responses to juvenile confinement. The article is so focused on the reduction in incarceration rates that it overlooks the current trend toward permanency for youth by treating them in their home communities. One strength of the article includes Smith's discussion on racial disproportionalities. Despite declining incarceration rates, racial and ethnic disproportionalities still exist in the remaining incarcerated population. This disparity is also true for crossover youth. Youth who identify as African American are disproportionately over represented in both systems. Therefore, permanency rates for African American youth are lower given that they are more likely to be in out-of-home placements or incarcerated.

Since crime rates have not increased as a result of fewer incarcerations, this article dispels the myth that juvenile incarceration rates are correlated with the general public's safety and crime rates. This article promotes the myth that more permanency in placements for youth produces better outcomes, not just personally for the youth and their families, but also for the communities in which the youth reside.


  • Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2013, February). Reducing youth incarceration in the United States. Link.
  • Goldstein, B. (2012, November). "Crossover youth": The intersection of child welfare and juvenile justice. Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Link.
  • Smith, K. J. (2013). Number of kids behind bars reaches 35-year low. Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Link.

This guest blog post was written by Johanna Zabawa.

Group pays drug addicts to get sterilized or receive long-term birth control, sparks criticism: Founder launched group after adopting four children from a crack addict.


[Photo from the Project Prevention Facebook page]

On May 9, 2012, Rheana Murray, with the New York Daily News published an article on a controversial non-profit called Project Prevention (formerly known as CRACK: Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity). Project Prevention, based out of North Carolina, pays women $300 to either get tubal ligations (permanent sterilization), or other forms of long-term birth control such as IUDs, Implanon, or Depro-Provera shots. The article does well discussing both supportive and oppositional opinions revolved around the program's practices. Founder Barbara Harris holds firm to the position that Project Prevention is about preventing unwanted pregnancies and placing fewer burdens on the child welfare system. Harris has adopted four siblings, all from the same mother who was addicted to crack. The program believes that decreasing unwanted pregnancies from addict populations will aid with the economic burden on taxpayers, trim down social worker caseloads, and alleviate clients from "the burden of having children that will potentially be taken away" ( The article also provides opposing viewpoints of Project Prevention, including beliefs that the program is "thinly disguised" racism, targeting vulnerable populations and women of color. Critics condemn the program further by discussing that addicts may not be in a position to make decisions of this magnitude, especially when offered money. Harris responds to criticism within the article stating that two thirds of the women Project Prevention has served are White, and that the majority of women choose long term birth control over sterilization.

This article, as well as an article from the LA TIMES, bring up interesting albeit controversial view points surrounding the amount of children entering into foster care from drug addicted families, and what role or responsibility, if any, does the child welfare system have in preventative measures with these families. Harris argues that "its just not fair" to the children whose parents have either no intention or ability to remain sober. She believes the amount of children entering into the foster care system is preventable. The last 20 women who chose sterilization through her program were pregnant a combined total of 120 times. Out of those pregnancies, "Thirty were either aborted, stillborn or died after being born and seventy-eight are in foster care." The LA TIMES article, written in 2009, describes birth control as the "elephant in the room of the child welfare system". Although it seems like an area that many workers and county agencies would be interested in supporting further, outside of their counseling and advising regarding birth control and pregnancy prevention, it might challenge agency boundaries and the constitutional rights of the women who are addicted to make more formal supports through policy and practice.

This article focuses on issues related to permanency and adoption that might not be at the forefront of most of our minds, yet is a challenge that impacts child welfare agencies and addicted parents everyday. The article perhaps promotes the idea or frame of thought that the majority of children and siblings entering into care are abandoned by drug-addicted parents, and every drug addicted mother is producing multitudes of children who are bound for the foster care system. Neither article includes the point of view of children who have come from drug-addicted parents and foster care, nor those parents or mothers who have fought addiction and have been reunited with their children.

Find more information on this topic:

Two sides of an adoption battle

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This guest blog post was written by Ryan Lewsander.

Right now the Minnesota Supreme Court is tasked with making a tragic choice: who will they rip two children away from, their prospective adoptive family, or their biological grandmother and extended family in Georgia? The sad drama of this case is documented compellingly in Olivia LaVecchia's City Pages article "Split the Baby: Two sides of an adoption battle" published on January 13th, 2013.


The story begins in October 2009 when Javille "Angel" Sutton gave birth to a baby girl, Princess, born with cocaine in her system. Hennepin County Child Protection Services (HCCPS) responded by placing the four-day old infant with foster parents Liv and Steven Grosser in Plymouth, Minnesota. Upon learning that her granddaughter was in the system, Dorothy Dunning, of Mississippi called HCCPS on December 2nd, 2009 and expressed that she wanted Princess with her. In April 2010, HCCPS sent Mississippi an Interstate Compact in the Placement of Children (MICPC) to approve Dorothy Dunning's home as a placement for Princess. This process was bungled, and after a year and a half HCCPS withdrew its' MICPC and told the Grosser's to move forward with their plans to adopt Princess and her baby sister, Hannah. Not long after that, Mississippi sent a completed home study of Dorothy Dunning to Minnesota, and in March 2011 HCCPS reversed itself and supported Dorothy's claim for the children in court. Now the Minnesota Supreme Court will decide the fate of the children after hearing the case this January.

Lavecchia's article does a good job of presenting the details of the timeline of the case, and the injustices done to both the Grosser family and Dorothy Dunning. The complexity of this contested adoption depicted in the article enables the reader to feel empathy for all parties in the case, as is appropriate. What's more, the article does not shy away from illuminating an important element of the dispute: race. The Grosser family is a White suburban family and Steven, the father, works as a Corporate Financial Officer. Dorothy Dunning is African-American who cleans homes professionally and whose son's crack addiction was a reason for the children's removal upon birth. The article provokes the reader to think about how race should be considered in cases of permanency. More specifically, it challenges many readers to wrestle with their prejudice that white affluent families are better caregivers for their children than poor black families, and should therefore be privileged in these kinds of disputes. A key question this article provokes is how would this case be different if Dorothy Dunning was white and middle-class and the Grosser family was black and working-class?

The article also hits on the widespread perception of permanency in child welfare as a confusing mess, and excessively bureaucratic. In this case, it appears that HCCPS made major mistakes by not searching out Dorothy Dunning as an option for the children, and by encouraging the Grosser family to adopt only oppose it three months later. Not to be outdone, Mississippi demonstrated extreme incompetence by taking a year and a half to complete a home study to approve Dorothy Dunning as a fit placement for the children. It is these kinds of mistakes that lead people to believe that the system does more harm than good for vulnerable children.

To read the article in full, click here.

Why race matters for the transracially adopted child

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Adoptive Families Magazine online featured an article in their Circle forum by Jane Brown, an adoptive parent well known for her workshops for adoptive families, on why race matters for a transracially adopted child.

In many ways the article was actually a lesson in why race matters for transracial adoptive parents. There are many adoptive parents who adopt a child across racial, ethnic or cultural lines who do not believe that race matters, and who believe a "colorblind" mentality is the appropriate approach.

Brown suggests that a color-blind approach may be well-intended but ultimately does not serve the child. Since society still discriminates against people of color, parents who do not prepare their children of color for such discrimination sets them up to be unprepared for future discrimination. I found it interesting that there was push-back from some parents (in the comment section). While it is understandable that white adoptive parents may feel threatened by articles about race and privilege, the current research and practice knowledge comes from listening to the lived experiences of transracial adoptees themselves, as Brown makes very clear in her articles.

As Brown writes, regardless of what white adoptive parents think their transracially adopted children experience, the reality

'is that how we, as adoptive parents, see/think/feel/assume is quite different from how THEY see/think/feel/believe. When we repeatedly and vehemently express our views TO them, we dismiss theirs, and they often end up doubting their own experiences. They tend to remain silent. They are very loyal to us, so that they do not wish to disappoint us. They feel less entitled to hold separate and different views because they are children, and we are the powerful adults. They question whether or not their views are valid--given that we tell them to think as we do. All of that, however, does not change how THEY experience race and racial differences."

You can read Brown's article, and the comments following, here.

The HuffPost Live blog aired a show on transracial adoption. Featured guests include an adult transracial adoptee, Rachel Noerdlinger, adoptive parent Mindy Smith, researcher Darron Smith and Toni Oliver from the National Association of Black Social Work (NABSW).

You can watch the episode on the HuffPost Live website or below.

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Last week a local news organization, The City Pages, published a feature article about a contested adoption case that the Minnesota Supreme Court is reviewing. As with many of these cases, this story highlights systems issues in child welfare, the tension between biological family and foster families, racial differences, interjurisdictional placements between states and the differences in state's proceedures regarding adoption, and much more.

In "Split the baby: Two sides of an adoption battle" reporter Olivia LaVecchia's story delves into many of these issues but the main attraction, as is often the case, revolves around race. The placement of the two young sisters at the center of this story has been presented as one in which the African American paternal grandmother has been denied custody in favor of a white foster family.

Our executive director at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, Traci LaLiberte and I met with Ms. LaVecchia to provide background context for adoptions and child welfare practice in Minnesota and a few of Ms. LaLiberte's comments are featured in the article.

Among the issues we brought up include:

  • The pendulum swing in child welfare as the profession emphasizes relatives and kin over "new resource" adoptions, a change from the past when many thought that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree"
  • The interjurisdictional mistakes that were made in this case
  • The MultiEthnic Placement Act and Interethnic Provisions and how that legislation differs conceptually with the Indian Child Welfare Act
  • The difference between "active efforts" and "reasonable efforts"

While both parties in this case are arguing issues regarding race - that the children need to be raised in their cultural community according to the grandmother, over the argument by the foster parents that they are the only parents these children know and that race should not trump the relationship and bond they have with the girls.

This story, as with the baby Veronica case, pits the contested adoptions as matters of race, which often becomes the story and illustrates the very divided opinions people have about race and culture in America. However, what is often not as considered is that these issues are almost always about much more than race alone - they typically involve intense differences in opinions about whether biological families are more entitled to raise children than new resource families; the issues of class is often unspoken but foster families in these legal cases are almost always white and middle class while the relatives are often from communities of color and are working class; and finally in most of these cases one or more significant practices required by law were either not done properly (in the baby Veronica case, for example, the workers did not follow the procedures of ICWA) or they were not done to the effort they should have (such as following through with the state of Mississippi in the case of the Dunnings).

Some things to think about:

  • If the relatives, the Dunnings were white, do you think they would have been more likely to receive the children?
  • If the Dunnings had lived in Minnesota instead of Mississippi, do you think the case would have been ruled as it was?
  • If the foster family, the Grossers, were African American, how do you think this case would have been resolved?
  • Can race really be taken out of it, as the attorneys argued before the Supreme Court?

Transracial adoptees speak

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Transracial adoption has always been controversial. Whether or not you agree with the practice of transracial adoption, it is important that child welfare and adoption practitioners and foster and adoptive parents understand that transracially adopted children and youth will have additional identity development needs and concerns than same-race adoptees.

Just as every adopted person feels differently about their experiences, the views of those adopted transracially differ as well.

The follow are a few videos of transracial adoptees sharing their experiences.

Struggle for Identity - this film is one of the oldest that includes transracial adoptee voices. The film shows a variety of perspectives from transracial adoptees, although viewers often react most strongly to the two more vocal adoptees featured in this clip, Michelle and John. Understanding that these adoptees are expressing their experiences is important so that adoptive parents can think ahead of time about how they will address these issues for their own children.

From the film Adopted comes these adult transracial adoptees and professionals discussing identity issues.

Rhonda Roorda, co-author with Rita Simon of the book In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories, discusses transracial adoption in this news story

Aaron Stigger, with his mom Judy, discuss transcial adoption

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A current University of Minnesota student wrote a first-person account of her experience as a Korean adoptee.

Student Leah Lancaster describes her experience as being in "No man's land" for the Minnesota Daily.

"What is distinctive about being an adoptee is that you are virtually thrown into a cultural No Man's Land," writes Lancaster. "Supposedly, you have no "roots." It becomes difficult to disentangle who you are from who you're supposed to be. You become a blank canvas for other people's expectations. Many adoptees that I know, as well as myself, have felt alienation from white culture and even more from Korean culture. We simultaneously occupy small areas of both these spaces, but find we do not belong in either. The struggle between these cultural realms is quite possibly the defining feature of the Korean adoptee experience."

For the rest of the article, click here for the Minnesota Daily site.

Chinese-adopted children's adoptive parents' narratives

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AsGirl_000004802916Medium.jpgA recently published article in Adoption Quarterly by April Chatham-Carpenter explored the narratives that adoptive parents of internationally adopted Chinese children construct about the circumstances around their child's abandonment or relinquishment.

The study was conducted to explore the story narratives that adoptive parents use, and what is included and left out in these stories.

In Chatham-Carpenter's qualitative study, the author found that adoptive parents tell a "dominant narrative" in their stories to their children, in which they attempt to humanize their child's biological parents decisions,and counternarratives that seem to be an attempt to make the story more palatable for the adoptive parents feelings rather than their child's.

Parents in the study often included details about their reasons for adopting, the "referral" news, and the day the parents met the child along with their guesses about the reasons the child was abandoned or placed.

Birth parents and birth parent decisions/actions were mostly described in positive ways, portraying them as "loving" but "victims of something larger, outside their control."

Practitioners working with adoptive parents may find this article informative and helpful in training pre-adoptive parents about ways to talk about adoption with their child.

The article is available at

Thumbnail image for 00262697.jpgAs the recent AFCARS figures show, approximately 22% of the children in the U.S. waiting for adoption are Hispanic (of all races). According to a recent report by the Casey Latino Leadership Group, the number of children in care more than doubled over the past 20 years, and issues such as deportation laws are a factor in this increased number of Latino children in care.

More on Latino children in the child welfare system and the recruitment efforts for Latino foster and adoptive parents, are as follows.

A case in Norway involving the removal of two Indian children from their parents sparked controversy and allegations of racial and cultural bias. According to the articles, the children's grandparents expressed a desire to care fo the children and accused the Norwegian government of preferring to keep the children in foster care until their 18th birthdays. However, according to MSN News, Norway agreed to place the children in the custody of their uncle.

Over the past few days, several articles have reported this story about an Indian family living in Norway whose children were placed in foster care, sparking accusations of racial and cultural prejudice.

According to The Telegraph article that was published today, Norway has accused the parents of over-feeding their children and allowing them to co-sleep. Norweigan social workers also claim the children's mother suffers from depression,

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According to the children's grandparents, the allegations that led to the removal of the children are culturally-accepted ways of child-rearing in their culture, where it is common practice for mothers to "push food into their toddler's mouths" and where "children often sleep in their parents' bed until they are six or seven."

In The Telegraph, the head of the Child Welfare Services is quoted as saying, "I most strongly deny that this case in any way is based on cultural prejudice or misinterpretation. I am unable to give any comments regarding the particular grounds in this case because of our duty of confidentiality."

According to the article, Norwegian officials have determined the children will remain in foster care in Norway until they are 18 years old. The family is pushing for the children to be cared for by their grandparents, but according to the article, Indian officials are getting involved.

Read the article in full here.

Another article on this story: Reunite Indian Kids with Parents, Delhi Urges Oslo