Transracial Adoption

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What is Transracial Adoption?

The term transracial adoption means the joining of racially different parents and children together in adoptive families. (Silverman, 1993)

What Legislation Exists Concerning Transracial Adoption?

  • The Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 (MEPA), prohibits an agency or entity that receives Federal assistance and is involved in adoptive or foster care placements from delaying or denying the placement of a child on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the adoptive or foster parent, or the child involved.
  • In 1996, Congress enacted a law amending MEPA, the Interethnic Adoption Provisions (IEP), which forbids agencies from denying or delaying placement of a child for adoption solely on the basis of race or national origin. The Provisions: removed potentially misleading language; stated that "discrimination is not to be tolerated;" strengthens compliance and enforcement procedures, including the withholding of federal funds and the right of any aggrieved individual to seek relief in federal court against a state or other entity alleged to be in violation of the Act.

    MEPA-IEP specific intentions include:
    • decreasing the length of time that children wait to be adopted.
    • facilitating the recruitment and retention of foster and adoptive parents who can meet the distinctive needs of children awaiting placement.
    • eliminating discrimination on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the child or the prospective parent.
    (Hollinger, The ABA Center on Children and the Law, National Resource Center on Legal and Court Issues, 1996)

How Many Families are Adopting Transracially?

  • The most recent estimate of transracial adoption was performed in 1987 by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The findings revealed that only 8% of all adoptions include parents and children of different races.
  • 1% of white women adopt black children
  • 5% of white women adopt children of other races
  • 2% of women of other races adopt white children (estimates include foreign-born). (Stolley, 1993)
  • An estimated 15% of the 36,000 adoptions of foster children in FY 1998 were transracial or transcultural adoptions. (US DHHS, 2000)

What Does the Research Show?

  • The research that has been done to date suggests that transracial adoption is a viable means of providing stable homes for waiting children. Nearly a dozen studies consistently indicate that approximately 75% of transracially adopted preadolescent and younger children adjust well in their adoptive homes. (Silverman, 1993)
  • In a 1995 study, transracial adoption was not found to be detrimental for the adoptee in terms of adjustment, self-esteem, academic achievement, peer relationships, parental and adult relationships. (Sharma, McGue, Benson, 1995)


Hollinger, J.H. and The ABA Center on Children and the Law National Resource Center on Legal and Courts Issues. (1998). A guide to the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 as amended by the Interethnic Provisions of 1996. Washington, DC: American Bar Association.

Sharma, A.R., McGue, M.K. and Benson, P.L. (1996). The emotional and behavioral adjustment of United States adopted adolescents: part 1. An overview. Children & Youth Services Review, 18, 83-100.

Silverman, A.R. (1993). Outcomes of transracial adoption. The Future of Children, 3(1), 104-118.

Stolley, K.S. (1993). Statistics on adoption in the United States. The Future of Children: Adoption, 3(1), 26-42.

Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (

Visitor Comments (4)
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Amy - 3 weeks ago
Let's be honest. These stats don't match with adult adoptee suicide, addiction or incarceration rates. Much like Donna, as an adult transracial adoptee (adopted in infancy), I had a different experience from the white adopted kids in the midwestern rural farming village where I grew up. My parents and their extended families (who lived out of state) were entirely accepting and loving. No one in the village was overtly racist to me, rather many avoided and discouraged their children from playing with me.The only other asian adoptee (8 yrs older) in our village, committed suicide. Adoptive parents should prepare themselves that their transracial child is likely to have additional issues regarding abandonment, sense of self and self identity, and it is not anyone's fault. Raising any kid is tough, and adoption doesn't automatically heal the wounds of abandonment. The hard work and sacrifice doesn't end at adoption; that's when it really begins (much like kids acquired in the regular way). #1
Donna - 2 months ago
I must differ from the opinions of the research. My current project is to inform those in education and mental health fields as to the vast differences between transracial adoptees social experiences and those of their white siblings and parents. After extensive research and interviews, including my own personal experience as transracial adoptee, I want to shed light on the microaggressions, discrimination from whites as well as others of our own ethnicity. Our Black or Asian classmates tell us that we are not "Black" enough or not "Asian" enough to be accepted into their circles. A term I learned during this process, was, "culturally white." We are culturally white but Black in the mirror or Asian in the mirror etc. This rejection from others of our same race, combined with racism from whites leaves us feeling lost and alienated. Many transracial adoptees commit suicide or enter lives of crime because they have no place to call home, socially. My aim is to publicize these issues. #2
Student1 - 4 years ago
0 0 1
What would be the statistics of Transracial Adoption in 2012 or 2013? #3
Steve W - 4 years ago
1 0 1
Look at the Children's Bureau statistics. #4

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