The discussion below is adapted from an English assignment from 2015.

Photo from The Chronicle of Social Change


When a white Minnesotan couple adopted their African-American child in 1948, they opened the door to a social debate that would span decades (Hawkins-Leon 1239). This first act of transracial adoption [TRA] instigated conversation about the appropriateness of crossing racial lines. Today, TRA occurs more often than it did in the 20th century. This recurrence calls to attention a need for resolution of the dispute. 

Arguments against transracial adoption

  • Children in transracial families must face racism alone. Because their families’ skin contrasts theirs, transracial adoptees “must learn how to navigate racialized stigma from parents whose racial status is not stigmatized” (Samuels 83).
  • Researchers observed that, as transracial black adoptees grew from childhood to adolescence, efforts on the parents’ parts to integrate Afrocentric values declined (Deberry 2382).
  • Parents who take a color blind approach ultimately cause racial alienation for their transracial children (Griffith 92).
  • The National Association of Black Social Workers argued that  transracial adoptees will “[assume]…[the children’s white parents’] posture and frame of reference” (NABSW 2). As a result, black children adopted into white families may be “whitewashed.”
  • Transracial adoption perpetuates stereotypes. Seeing a black child with a white couple, onlookers may assume that the child needed placement transracially due to prevalent “pathologically inept black families who are incapable of raising their children” (Morrison 183).
A shot from the play Middle Brother (Photo credit Michal Daniel)

Arguments in support of transracial adoption

  • Transracial placements finds children families considerably faster. Statistics show that black people adopt at the same rate as white people, but the disproportion of black families to waiting children means that limitation to same-race placement is not sufficient (Bartholet 101; Hawkins-Leon 1265).
  • The Child Welfare League of America realized this conflict in 1978 and proposed that “[t]he opportunity to have a permanent family should not be denied a child by reason of…race…” (Hawkins-Leon 1241).
  • Outcome studies suggest that TRAs are not necessarily more prone than same-race adoptees or nonadoptees to emotional or behavioral problems, low self-esteem, or maladjustments (Lee 4).
  • According to a 1983 study, racial differences do not inhibit transracial adoptees from developing typical relationships any less than inracial adoptees (Morrison 182).
  • Racial differences may strengthen the parent-child relationship, as it “reinforces that the family’s foundation is based on bonds of relationship, not…biology” (Morrison 188).
  • Transracial adoption allays racism in society according to the contact hypothesis (Morrison 190).



I myself am transracially adopted – a Chinese girl in a white American family – so this topic hits close to home for me. I believe that through transracial adoption more children find families, a greater need than race matching or the preservation of racial integrity that the National Association of Black Social Workers promoted in the 1970s and 1980s.

As one black transracial adoptee expressed, “I don’t need my parents to identify with me on how it felt to be called a n–r. All I needed to know is that they were there for me… And that’s what they [children] need” (Samuels 91). 

What do think about transracial adoption? Is it a good course for adoptees, or should placement agencies aspire to match children with same-race parents?

Works Cited
Bartholet, Elizabeth “Race Separatism in the Family: More on the TRA Debate”
DeBerry, Kimberly M. “Family Racial Socialization and Ecological Competence: Longitudinal Assessments of African-American Transracial Adoptees”
Griffith, Ezra “Recent Developments in the TRA Debate”
Hawkins-Leon “Race and TRA: The Answer is Neither Simply Black or White Nor Right or Wrong”
Lee, Richard M. “The TRA Paradox: History, Research, and Counseling Implications of Cultural Socialization”
Morrison, Andrews “TRA: The Pros and Cons and the Parents’ Perspective”
National Association of Black Social Workers “Position Statement on Trans-racial Adoptions”
Samuels, Gina M. ” ‘Being Raised by White People’: Navigating Racial Differences Among Adopted Multiracial Adults”