My husband and I are in a mixed marriage. We’re from different ethnic backgrounds, cultures, countries.

When it came time to build our family by adoption, we were faced with an unexpected choice we had to make. Either we were or we were not open to children of certain racial backgrounds. Often, we couldn’t just say that we didn’t care. We had to commit to a program that would match us with (usually) African-American children or (essentially) children of any other racial background.

The reason we would have to choose a specific program was, in part, because there was a different program fee involved.

The sad truth is that the reason adoption agencies charge less for the same services depending on the race of the child to be adopted is a way to encourage hopeful adoptive parents to adopt children that may not be as readily adopted without such incentives. This brings up two problems.

If there were as many African-American hopeful adoptive parents as there are Caucasian hopeful adoptive parents, proportionately speaking, there would be no reason to try to motivate people to adopt these children. Therefore, there are either more African-American children being placed for adoption, or there aren’t as many African-American parents wanting to adopt.

So adoption agencies try to reach out to non African-American parents and hope to entice them to adopt transracially thanks to the lower program fee. Alternately, the lower program fees may make less well-off families of any racial background able to adopt.

However, I think that the only good reason to adopt transracially is simply being well prepared and invested in raising and parenting a child of a given racial background. Otherwise, the message is that a Caucasian family of modest income may have “settled” on adopting an African-American child because they couldn’t afford to pay the program fee for Caucasian children. What message does this send to the children being adopted?

Furthermore, my impression of coming across these “racial discounts” in adoption programs played on my emotions. It made me feel guilty for not being in a place to adopt a child of such a different background from us. Guilt is no reason to adopt transracially, either.

In lieu of different program fees based on the race of the child, I support a sliding scale fee that some agencies charge, based on the income level of the adoptive parents. This way, all children are seen as equal, and the people who can afford a little more help to offset the cost of those who cannot, allowing families of a variety of income levels to adopt a child they feel most comfortable welcoming into their homes–without guilt.

Transracial adoption is certainly a wonderful option for many families, but it should never be a situation one feels forced into by financial circumstances. As long as there are “racial discounts” offered by adoption agencies, children adopted via these programs will receive the message that they are not as wanted as others. They are wanted, but the families most interested in adopting them may simply not have the resources to do so. Incentives are good, but they should be chosen carefully.



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