In the UK, there’s a raging debate about changesÂ to the way social workers deal withÂ inter-racial adoption.Â There have never been implicit rules about itÂ not being able to create mixed families, butÂ social workers have always been encouraged to hold out for the “perfect match.” There are fewer black and Asian families offering to become adoptive parents, so there are proportionately more black, Asian and mixed-race kids living in foster homes. Often the children live with goodness knows how many different familiesÂ before they reach 16 years old.
So, in order to prevent this situation getting worse, the government’s now encouraging social workers to just look for good parents … irrespective of race.
There are so many argumentsÂ against this from the lack of cultural identity to understanding what it means to be an ethnic minority. I have family members who’ve grown up without anyone they can culturally identify with, and I know they found it hard. Especially my mixed-race cousin, who learnt all she needed to know about black hair from watching MTV videos because there were no other black people in her German village.
How canÂ parents teach their children about the reality of prejudice, if they’ve never really experienced it?
I do not deny all those arguments. But I am not against inter-racial adoption.
My mum spent 20 years working as a social-worker in Children and Families, especially with kids in foster care. She saw the reality of what it can be like to grow up in care. Of what its like for kids when they’re shunted from home to home and have 10 different “father figures” every year. When they don’t have a single person they can trust and believe in and when they get finally get close to a family, the children are only moved again. It’s devastating, it’s hard and it’s heartbreaking.
The things my Mum witnessed, whilst raising her own children,Â meant that after 20 years she retired from working with kids and moved on to working with the elderly, the scars of her social worker years never left her.
I also have a black friend who was put up for adoption after he was mistreated by his family. He and his brother were eventually adopted when they were very young by a white family. I met him after he was adopted.Â It was hard for him, but the reality was that this “mum and dad” saved him fromÂ spending years in care. His life could’ve gone in a completely different direction. He was privately educated (similar to my parents, his parents felt that a young black kid wouldn’t thrive in the state system) and now has a good job.
Every time I tell that story people always hesitate and then ask, “Well, you know is he, um … properly black?”
That’s what the crux of this argument is isn’t it? Can white parents raise … properly “black” kids. And it’s this argument that angers me more than anything else. Irrespective of the colour of the people whoÂ raised you, where you live, what music you like and who you’re friends are, when you walk down a street, into a shop or a job interview, you’re black. So you tell me, what is “properly black?”
I know that mine isn’t a popular view. UK blogs written by black writers on the subject are testament to that. But how many of them have actually met people who grew up in an inter-racial adoption situation? How many of them have been raised in care? In fact, how many of them have even considered becoming adoptive parents? And for the record, as a child of a social worker … adoption or fostering has always been in my “life plan.”
Sometimes as black writers we need to stop standing on the race block and actually look at the reality of certain situations because things are not always as clear cut and simple as they appear.
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