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January 18, 2005

Like to Like, Like to Unlike

Although I'm sure I've heard generally about racial considerations in adoption, I found Michael Triplett's comments on Marriage Debate Blog startling:

It is interesting that [Maggie Gallagher] point[s] to Utah as a state with a married parent preference [for adoption], since it is a state that is probably able to avoid one of the biggest consequences of this policy: the disparate impact it would have on African Americans. A "married couple" preference could be disastrous when it comes to placing African American children into African American homes. There are already significant barriers to placing children into African American homes, many of them economic. When you add the additional barrier of preferring married couples--which are less common among African Americans--you suddenly have even greater problems with placing African American children--often the largest group of adoptable children--into homes of the same race.

Apart from its naked racism, reference to this particular consequence ("one of the biggest") brings into a stark light the muddle that is the race–sexual orientation comparison. (External context, including Gallagher's piece kicking the discussion off makes the same-sex marriage debate relevant.)

Suppose I were to suggest that every effort ought to be made to place heterosexual children with heterosexual parents. Gay rights activists might note that many, or even most, of the children up for adoption won't be aware of their orientation, so segregation would be just about impossible. Well, that's certainly sound thinking, and I happen to agree. But shouldn't the same principle apply elsewhere in the marriage debate — as with the SSM-supporter talking point that we allow infertile couples to marry? They generally won't know that they're infertile, much less completely sterile, until they've attempted to have children.

That's probably not the best example that I could have used, but I'm tired. And I'm still reeling from pondering a perspective that sees the assertion that children need mothers and fathers as discriminatory because it fails both to integrate by orientation and to segregate by race.

Posted by Justin Katz at January 18, 2005 11:59 PM
Marriage & Family
Comments

"There are already significant barriers to placing children into African American homes, many of them economic."

I agree that the race of the child v. the parents ought not matter.

Some may argue that a black child being raised by non-black parents might suffer some disadvantages re: not being aware of his or her racial identity, but if such a child is being raised in a non-two parent household, arguably the disadvantages will be greater.

BTW: B/c of the heterosexual preference, many white gay couples adopt African American children, who are, unfortunately, in less demand than white babies.

I plan on researching this issue in the future, but the argument that "gays shouldn't be able to adopt b/c studies show that if you don't have a mom & a Dad, X,Y, & Z social problems occur" compare intact 2-parent homes with single parent homes. And out-of-wedlock births are a major contributor to poverty, & violent crime, lack of education, etc.

This probably is a HUGE Apples to Oranges comparison re: gay adoption.

I remember a debate between Glen Loury and the Thernstroms where Loury argued if you control for wealth & income, many, if not all of the social problems re: out of wedlock births v. intact families, go away. The Thernstroms countered that such births are such a huge CAUSE of poverty that it makes no sense to control for that variable. But the point was, a Murphy Brown -- a 6-figured professional, who lives in an upper middle class neighborhood, can afford private schools, etc. -- her out of wedlock child WILL NOT face the problems that the typical urban poor out of wedlock child will face.

How this connects to the gay adoption issue: There is already some evidence that shows that gays are wealthier, have higher incomes, and are better educated than straights, which make them more attractive adoption candidates. Adoption procedures tend to "screen out" candidates with unsavory economic issues and "screen in" financially better off candidates; if it can be shown that the children of such gay parents will end up in the better schools, with better education, live in the better neighborhoods, then we will probably see such a "Murphy Brown" affect.

I know of a few affluent, well-educated gays raising minority children who are giving those children opportunities that they otherwise never would have had.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at January 19, 2005 9:25 AM

I'm not sure if Triplett meant to be racist, especially if he read the long discourse between Maggie Gallaghar and Lee Walzer below that.

The racism comes not from the adoption agencies wanting to place black children with black families, but the fact that the majority of couples wanting to adopt are white, married couples, many of whom specifically don't want any child other than a white child. The "racism" is from the parents' end (and I hesitate to use the word racism because I don't think these adoptive parents are necessarily at fault for wanting a child from as similar a background as possible).

It's also good to read that debate because it clears up some of the details surrounding the one example Gallaghar gave and adoption in general (ie public v. private). The question really is, should marriage necessarily take automatic precident over anything else? If you had two possible homes for a child, one with a lower-middle class married heterosexual couple with a criminal history or an affluent, gay couple without as much as a smear on their record?

Posted by: Michael at January 19, 2005 12:53 PM
The racism comes not from the adoption agencies wanting to place black children with black families, but the fact that the majority of couples wanting to adopt are white, married couples, many of whom specifically don't want any child other than a white child. The "racism" is from the parents' end (and I hesitate to use the word racism because I don't think these adoptive parents are necessarily at fault for wanting a child from as similar a background as possible).

I'm not sure what the actual statistics are, but I think this works both ways. I don't doubt that there are parents who want to adopt who don't want black children. But I'm also quite sure that there is an institutional bias within the social services community for placing children with adoptive parents of the same race. Surely this overrides the instinct to place kids in a two-parent home sometimes.

There are a couple of other factors, too. The first is that frequently adoptive parents don't want to adopt older children and/or children with physical or emotional problems. Again, I don't know what the actual numbers are, but it doesn't seem unreasonable that a higher percentage of black children up for adoption have those characteristics than white ones. The second is that there are many overseas adoptions, due to the fact that there are more couples wanting to adopt than children available in the U.S. Many of these adoptions are from Asian countries. It seems unlikely that many couples would be unwilling to adopt a black American child due to racism, but would be willing to go through the expense and difficulty of adopting an Asian child.

Posted by: Mike S. at January 19, 2005 1:32 PM

JR: There is already some evidence that shows that gays are wealthier, have higher incomes, and are better educated than straights...

Not bad for a bunch of second-class citizens living in a culture of repressive homophobia, eh Jon?

;)

Posted by: Marty at January 19, 2005 1:43 PM

Marty,

Yup. You know that I challenge traditional leftist orthodoxy especially on economic matters. If we wanted to make an analogy between homosexuals and another minority "group," the closest is not blacks, but Jews of course.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at January 19, 2005 1:54 PM

Jon,

... if it can be shown that the children of such gay parents will end up in the better schools, with better education, live in the better neighborhoods, then we will probably see such a "Murphy Brown" affect.

That's all well and good, but it's a question of degree of preference for married couples, not whether to prefer them... and that's a whole 'nother debate. For now, I note that, while it may be the case that Murphy Brown's "out of wedlock child WILL NOT face the problems that the typical urban poor out of wedlock child will face," that tells us nothing about the comparison with urban poor children of married parents. (There's more to fulfilling lives than "opportunities.")

-----------

Michael,

The racism comes not from the adoption agencies wanting to place black children with black families, but the fact that the majority of couples wanting to adopt are white, married couples, many of whom specifically don't want any child other than a white child.

I don't see how this aligns with Triplett's point in the least. He actually is talking about preferring black parents for black children. Racist white parents would only help that cause.

Just to address the point, though: I have no problem with parents wanting children who look as like them as possible. I don't consider that racism, inasmuch as hair color, (likely) facial structure, and so on would be a consideration as well. I also wouldn't consider it iniquitous racism were parents to seek children more likely to have particular qualities, and it's liberal delusion to deny that, say, picking an Asian child will improve the odds of having a school-smart child, while picking a black child will improve the odds of having a star athlete. These are considerations that an individual family is particularly well situated to make for children who will be their own.

But when the agencies weight matches by race, as an independent quality, that's prima facie racism.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 19, 2005 4:26 PM

Jon,
How about instead of challenging the traditional leftists that you try to challenge the traditional Gay orthodoxy on their "second-class citizen" claims of martyrdom.

Posted by: smmtheory at January 19, 2005 10:40 PM

Some context:

Of the children in America who reside with same-sex couples, 95% were acquired by means other than adoption, foster-parenting, and assisted reproductive technologies. Mostly, these children are children of divorced parents (opposite-sexed) who were formerly married.

And that estimate is based on assuming that homosexual parents use alternative methods at twice the rate of other parents.

For example, 2% of the general child population (under age 18) are adopted; Gary Gates of HRC estimated that 4% of children living with same-sex couples were adopted.

Likewise, about 0.25% of the child population are foster children, so double that rate for children living in same-sex households -- 0.5%. And about 0.5% of all American children have been born through assisted reproductive technologies, so again double that rate for children in same-sex households -- 1%.

It would appear that around 5%-6% of about 350 thousand children living in 170 thousand same-sex households were obtained through alternative means.

I may have missed it but I haven't noticed much discussion among the gay activists about how to encourage "birth parents" to stay in the lives of their children after divorce and after one of the parents decides to reside with a same-sexed partner. That would at least provide a partial answer to the need for both a mom and a dad for about 95% of the children currently raised in same-sex households.

Less than 12% of all homosexual adults live in same-sex households and just 3% of the adult homosexual population resides with children in such households. And just a tiny proportion (5%) of that tiny segment of the child population were obtained by means other than the unexceptional procreative model of coupling.

--

Sources include the US Census 2000, Human Rights Commission analysis of the census, and various gay-friendly reports on same-sex households.

Posted by: Chairm at January 20, 2005 9:31 AM

Clarification: I said, "Mostly, these children are children of divorced parents (opposite-sexed) who were formerly married."

Of course, divorced parents were formerly married. Doh! I meant that the vast majority of these children live with at least one birth parent who was formerly married to the opposite sex but who now lives with a same-sexed partner.

Posted by: Chairm at January 20, 2005 9:41 AM