Intercountry Adoption (Ica), Adoption of a Child of Another Country

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Natural disasters, war, and many other factors contribute to the number of children left without a family or home. Intercountry adoption (ICA), adoption of a child of another country, began gaining attention during Colonial Times all the way up to WWII as Americans took in homeless children after the war (Brumble and Kampfe 2011). Transracial adoption (TRA) rose after Americans began adopting Korean children after the Korean War ended in 1953 (Brumble and Kampfe 2011). Transracial adoption is the joining of racially different children and parents in an adoptive family, including black, Native American, Asian, and Hispanic (Silverman 1993).

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Transracial adoption became more common after the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) of 1994 and Interethnic Adoption Provision (IEP) of 1996 prohibited states from refusing or delaying the adoption process due to racial differences (Ishizawa and Kubo 2013). However, in 1999 an estimated number of 570,000 children were still left in foster care (Provencher et al. 2017). Last year alone, 400,000 children were reported to be in foster care in the United States (U.S Department of Health of Human Services, 2018).

The number of adoptive parents is steadily increasing every year and California is reported to have the most adoptions with a total of 200,000 per year (U.S Census Bureau 2003). Adoption costs range from $0 – $50,000 or more depending if the child is adopted through foster care, through private agencies, or if the parent prefers intercountry or independent adoption (Child Welfare Information Gateway 2016). Adoption costs differ in the type of adoption, but state regulations prevent price variation due to race or any other characteristic of the child (Skidmore and Anderson 2016). It is vital to give each child a fair opportunity to be adopted without a price range becoming an issue, but there still appears to be a gap between adoptee race and adoption rates. Since adoption regulation does not apply to private domestic adoption agencies, they tend to raise the price of white children since they there are in higher demand (Fedders 2010). In 2002, two million children were adopted with half of them being white, and the least frequent adoptees being Native Hawaiian, Native American, and African Americans (U.S states Census Bureau 2003).

This proposed study focuses on understanding the race gap between adopted children and the children left in foster care. Specifically, I am asking: What are the motivations for choosing inracial (same race) or transracial adoption? Do parents go into the adoption process seeking children of a specific race or those who possess certain characteristics? If they do, how did they decide the race and those specific characteristics? It is important to study the proposed topic from a sociological perspective to understand what factors contribute to the adoption gap in order to help minimize it. This study can also be beneficial for individuals thinking about adoption who are trying to decide whether to adopt inracially or transracially. Previous studies mainly focus on white adoptive parents, but it is imperative to expand the study to include non-white adoptive parents as well.

Literature Review

Previous research has studied preferences between intercountry versus domestic, inracial versus and transracial, and barriers of transracially adoption. According to a previous study, there are various reasons why parents choose to adopt intercountry rather than domestically. For example, by adopting intercountry parents do not have to worry about biological parents changing their mind and claiming their children back (Zhang and Lee 2011). Depending on the state and depending on the type of adoption, biological parents can change their minds any time through the whole process until they sign away their parental rights. In California, once parents sign away their parental rights it cannot be revoked, but in a few states such as Alabama birth parents can revoke their consent 14 days after signing away their parental rights if a judge finds it’s for the best interest of the child to stay with the birth parents (Adoption Network Law Center 2017). In order to avoid going through the process and have biological parents change their minds last minute, adoptive parents usually tend to adopt international instead (Zhang and Lee 2011).

The main concern for parents in Khanna’s and Killian’s study was also the fear that birth parents would change their minds during the adoption process, and feeling uneasy if birth parents wanted to remain in the child’s life (2015). In an open adoption, the biological parent chooses the adoptive family from a set of profiles (Child Welfare Information Gateway 2016). Homosexuals, single, older, Jewish, those with health problems, and those who make less money felt they would not stand chance of getting picked (Khanna and Killian 2015). Another study found out that out of 203 families 51% reported the main reason they adopted intercountry was because they feared they were not going to qualify adopting domestically and others believed it would be easier, faster, and cheaper, and they did not want involvement of biological parents (Simon and Alstein 2000). In addition, 90% of international adoptions are of children younger than 5 years old, and the waiting time for international adoption usually only takes a year compared domestic adoption which can take up more than 2 years (Fisher 2003; U.S Census Bureau 2003). Potential adoptive parents will most likely gravitate towards intercountry adoption to avoid the involvement of biological parents. Vulnerable groups and less advantaged individuals also lean towards intercountry adoption since they fear they will be rejected due to their vulnerability.

Even though intercountry adoption is more common than domestic or private agency adoption there has been a decline in the past few years. International and domestic adoption through foster care has become more common rather than adopting through private agencies (Ishizawa and Kubo 2013). However, if parents are looking to adopt a white infant then they will most likely adopt from a private domestic agency, and if they’re looking for an infant of any race then they are most likely going choose international adoption since domestic adoption through foster care tends to take longer (Ishizawa and Kubo 2013). Although, there seems to be a preference for international adoption it began to decline in 2008 after new adoption regulations were put into practice due to an international treaty (Ishizawa and Kubo 2013). Additionally, Russia’s law prohibits international adoption by Americans and China developed stricter qualifications for international adoption in order to increase domestic adoption in their country (Breuning 2012). This new international regulations and requirements might help reduce the race gap of adopted children in the United States since it appears to be tougher to adopt abroad.

Previous research shows that adoptive families will mostly adopt inracially. Most parents adopt children who share the same race and traits as them in order to resemble a biological family (Ishizawa and Kubo 2013). However, not everyone defines family in the same way. Some individuals see family as blood-related and will not adopt a child who is not from a family member while others define family beyond blood and are willing to accept any child in their family as their own (Ishizawa and Kubo 2013). This might be able to explain the gap between the race of adoptees getting left behind in foster care. If most adoptive parents are white, then they’re most likely adopting white children leaving minority kids in foster care. In 2000 only one in five families adopted interracially (U.S Census Bureau 2003). White parents who were willing to adopt black children refrained to do so because they believe they would be criticized by the Black community thinking they are not capable of raising black children (Brooks et al. 2002). In a previous study, a white family decided to adopt a black child because they are considered a disadvantaged population (Zhang and Lee 2011). However, another white couple who adopted 3 Korean babies brought up the point that they did not consider adopting any black children because both their parents were older and they would have not approved; however, other parents see this idea as an excuse for not adopting black children (Zhang and Le, 2011). However, this could possibly explain why there is such a big gap, but as interracial marriages are becoming more common perhaps race preference will become less of an issue.

There’s a clear gap between adoptee race and adoption rates, but even if potential adoptive parents are willing to adopt transracially state and personal barriers make it hard to do. In an effort to reduce the racial gap in adoption, the Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) prohibits caseworkers and child-welfare agencies of denying adoptions based on race differences between the child and the parents (Brooks et al. 2002). Some caseworkers and agencies still believe a child should be adopted by a family of the same race, so they only turn to transracial placement if the parents prefer a child of a specific age or any other preferred characteristic and these preferences are not meet by any children of the same race (Brooks et al. 2002). When transracial adoption began in the 1970s there was great opposition from the Black community because they believed white individuals were not equipped to raise a black child and Native Americans believed they were going to become culturally extinct by white individuals adopting Native American children (Marr 2011). Even though some white parents are willing to adopt transracial children, they are not open to adopting black kids. White parents believe they might have trouble bonding with the child and they would face prejudice from their family so they felt it was of the best interest of everyone to avoid adopting a black child (Khanna and Killian 2015; Marr 2011). Additionally, a lot of individuals believe black children come from drug addicts or HIV positive parents so they assume the children will grow up with health problems (Khanna and Killian 2015). If there are no White children in the U.S. then will most likely adopt Guatemalan, Korean, or Chinese children, but not black (Marr 2011). It has mentioned that America’s melting pot includes everyone, but blacks because they still tend to live in segregated communities, they do not marry interracially compared to Hispanics and Asians, and black children are not being adopted by white families (Marr 2011).

These previous studies primarily focus on adoptive parents’ preferences for either intercountry or domestic adoption. Even though there is little research on interracial or transracial adoption preferences, much of it does not include adoptive parents who identify as vulnerable. My proposed study will include both vulnerable and non-vulnerable adoptive parents in order to understand adoption preferences accurately.

The population being studied is adoptive parents in California. This includes heterosexual, homosexual, and interracially married couples as well as single, divorced, and widows. The dimensions of diversity include race, gender, and sexual preference among adoptive parents. The study entails some vulnerability since same-sex married couples, being either females or males, are seen as different from the general public and considered socially disadvantaged. Race also is considered vulnerable since possible participants can be from a minority race including African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Asians, Alaska Natives, or Pacific Islanders. I will ensure that each potential participant’s vulnerability is protected in my study by guaranteeing that all information they provide and identity will be fully confidential.

Ethical Concerns

Informed Consent

Once I gather potential participants I will explain in great detail the proposed study with complete honesty and as professional as possible. They will be informed of any possible risk or benefits prior to signing the form or entering the study. I will ensure them the study is completely voluntary and they can withdraw from the study at any time no matter how far the study is in and they have the option to not answer any question that they don’t feel comfortable answering. In order for them to participate in the study, they have to sign the provided consent form. The form will ensure participants that their personal information will be kept confidential and the form will entail exactly what their roles are in the study and their rights. They will receive a copy of the consent form and they will be provided with my contact information as well as with my advisors in case they have concerns or questions about the study or their participation. They will also be provided with additional contact information of my superiors and the IRB who they can contact if they feel their rights are being violated. The only concern I have in gaining consent from the participants is if there is a language barrier. The proposed population to be studied reside in California, but if there does happen to be a language barrier then I would have a translator explain everything regarding the study and the consent form prior to signing it.

Assessing Risk of Harm, Minimizing Harm, and the Benefits of Research Participants

A potential benefit to the research participants is that they might consider adopting or become more open-minded towards transracial adoption. Maybe they haven’t shared their adoption story before so the study might encourage them to reach out to others and share their story and provide insightful information to other individuals who are also thinking of adopting themselves. Potential risks include participants becoming overwhelmed and emotionally unstable due to sensitive questions regarding preferred characteristics and race of adoptees. Also, they might feel ashamed of their motives for adopting a child who has “more desirable traits/characteristics” and become depressed and regret adopting. They might change their minds about adopting again. Also, they might not have told the adoptee they are not their biological parents so after participating in the study they might feel they have to tell them which can cause them anxiety.

I will do my best to minimize the risk of harm to the research participants by reminding them their answers are completely voluntary, that there are no right or wrong answers, and they will not be judged on their answers. I will provide them with contact information for counseling in case they feel the need to need to talk to someone else.

Gaining Access and Developing Trust & Rapport

I will locate my participants through flyers and Facebook adoption communities. I will develop and maintain trust with my potential research participants by fully explaining the research goals and objectives and ensuring them the whole study is regulated by the IRB. Explain to them the role of the IRB so they can know that the research is regulated and reassure them that their answers will be kept confidential. I will answer all the questions they have and I will address any concerns they have as well. Regarding incentives, any participant who enters the study will automatically be entered in a raffle with the chance to win a VISA gift card of $500. The winner will be chosen randomly after the completion of the study. If some participants decide to withdraw early from the study they will still be kept in the raffle.

I’m part of a vulnerable population since I am Hispanic, but I would not disclose this in order to gain trust. Some of my interview questions include race preference of adoptees, and some participants might have a negative connotation on Hispanics so I would not disclose my race in order for the participants to answer the questions comfortably and honestly. For example, if a couple did not adopt a child because they were Hispanic they might not answer honestly knowing I am Hispanic myself.

Data Collection

I will collect data by interviewing each participant individually. This data collection method is the best because unlike a survey, the participants can elaborate more openly about their answers. Also, if they don’t understand a question I can clarify or reword the question. If I feel are not interpreting a question correct I can rephrase it as well. Participants will be asked about their background and their adoption decisions. As mentioned I am Hispanic so my concern with this style of data collection is that participants might have adopted based on race and if they didn’t adopt a child to their Hispanic background they might feel uncomfortable answering. I would not disclose I am Hispanic, but they might assume I am based on my facial features and accent and I will be asking them if they turned down a child for being Hispanic. I will make up for this concern my remaining professional and unbiased though out the study and reassuring the participants they will not be judged or shamed on their preferences.”

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Intercountry Adoption (Ica), Adoption of a Child of Another Country. (2021, May 24). Retrieved from