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A case study approach of the attitudes of African-American parents who have inracially adopted toward Caucasian-American parents who have transracially adopted African-American children

Dissertation
Author: Melody J. Aguayo
Abstract:
This study explores the attitudes of African-American parents who adopted same-race children toward Caucasian parents who adopt African-American children transracially. Most previous attitudinal studies discussing these attitudes have been quantitative with participants who are not adoptive parents. Drawing on 9 in-depth, semi-structured interviews, this case study method explores the attitudes and reasoning around these attitudes of these adoptive parents. The African-American adoptive parents in this study had adopted either formally or informally, and they had adopted either African American and/or African-American/mixed children. The expected themes found were color blind, shared fate, exploitation, racial identity formation, and symbolic interactionism. All of the participants were opponents of the color blind theme and were aware of racial and adoption hierarchies. Four of the participants mentioned the stigma and/or discrimination that Caucasian parents share with their children, and only 2 of these discussed the way Caucasians can change when they adopt African-American children. Five of the participants mentioned exploitation in adoption of African Americans when discussing their adoption attitudes. Six of the participants discussed the principles that make up symbolic interactionism, showing concern that the African-American children raised in White homes would not learn the skills they needed to thrive in this racially divided world. Some felt that Caucasian parents could provide this for them by pursuing an African-American community, and some felt that it was not possible. There was some controversy about whether or not African-American children raised in White homes could have a healthy racial identity. The reactions ranged from racial identity is not important to it is extremely important and not possible for Caucasians to instill a healthy racial identity in their Black children. Two new themes were found. The importance of church and spirituality was a new theme that emerged, and this was mentioned by 7 participants. The other new theme that emerged with 6 participants was the importance of gender and skin color in recognizing African-American children's needs. Most of the participants did not question the connection or affection of Caucasian adoptive parents; however, they did express their concerns about those parents' ability or willingness to meet their children's specific cultural needs.

vi Table of Contents

Acknowledgments iv List of Tables ix CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1 Background of the Problem 1 Statement of the Problem 3 Purpose of the Study 4 Significance of the Study 5 Research Design 7 Research Question and Hypothesis 8 Assumptions and Limitations 10 Definition of Terms 13 Expected Outcomes or Findings 14 Summary 16 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW 18 Introduction 18 Theoretical Orientation 19 Review of Research on Transracial Adoption 23 Review of Specific Research that Addresses the Research Question or Uses the Same Methodology 36 Review of Research Literature and Methodological Literature Specific to the Topic or Research Question 56 Summary 66

vii CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY & PROCEDURES 68 Purpose of the Study 68 Research Design 71 Target Population & Participant Selection 72 Sampling Procedures 73 Methods & Procedures 78 Instruments 83 Data Analysis 90 Research Questions 92 Expected Findings 93 CHAPTER 4. RESULTS 98 The Study and the Researcher 98 Description of the Sample 102 Case Study Approach: Applied to Data Analysis 104 Data Presentation and Analysis 106 Case By Case Analysis 114 Thematic Synthesis Across All Cases 159 Attitude Theory 176 Interpretations - “Lessons Learned” 177 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION 179 Introduction 179 Summary of the Results 179

viii Discussion of the Results 181 Discussion of the Conclusions 188 Limitations 196 Recommendations for Further Research 200 Conclusion 202 REFERENCES 205 APPENDIX A QUOTES SUPPORTING PREVIOUSLY FOUND THEMES 219 APPENDIX B QUOTES SUPPORTING NEW THEMES FOUND 227 APPENDIX C QUOTES DIRECTLY ADDRESSING THE RESEACH QUESTION 230 APPENDIX D DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONNAIRE 233 APPENDIX E INTERVIEW GUIDE 235 APPENDIX F INTERVIEW ANALYSIS SUMMARY BY QUESTION 236

ix List of Tables Table 1. Study Design 8 Table 2. Design Type 8 Table 3. Adoption Agency Country Fees 26 Table 4. Expected Themes 160 Table 5. New Themes 160

1 CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Background of the Problem Despite Black children’s overwhelming need for homes, there is much hesitation about placing these children transracially (McRoy & Grape, 1999). Historically, adoptive practices were to match the ethnicity of the child to the ethnicity of the parent. Carter- Black (2002) stated that adoption of Black children was not an option historically, and that Black children were relegated to foster care; however, Caucasian children were placed for adoption. As the number of infertile couples grew and the number of available Caucasian children decreased, Black children began to be placed transracially, but not without much criticism. The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) released its first article in 1972 against the placement of Black children into Caucasian homes. After this, the number of Black adoptions decreased dramatically (as cited in Carter-Black, 2002). Transracial adoptions (primarily Black) were heavily criticized and supported by different sides of the controversy. Still, in a more current publication printed by the NABSW, it said, “NABSW steadfastly holds to the position that African-American children should not be placed with White parents under any circumstances; further, the need does not exist for transracial placements” (NABSW, 1991, p. 25). Ideally, every child would have a safe home with his/her biological parents, but the reality is that millions of Black children around the world do not have permanent homes, and the

2 negative attitudes toward the transracial adoption of Black children held by African Americans and Caucasians may likely be a factor that impedes the frequency of transracial adoptions. The United States Department of Human Services published a report indicating that in 2003 there were 183,901 Black, non-Hispanic children in foster care, and that they made up 35% of the foster care population (U.S. HHS, 2006). This over-representation is shocking considering they only make up 13% of the general population. McRoy and Grape (1999) described in detail the advantages that lighter-skinned African Americans have over darker-skinned ones. The more traditionally African the child’s appearance, the less desirable that child is for adoption. Carter-Black (2002) discussed the common practice of race matching that was outlawed in 1996 which kept many Black children from finding permanent homes. Though race matching is against the law, the prevalent attitudes that Black children belong to the Black community keep children from finding permanent placements. More often than not, raising Black children in Caucasian homes has shown no significant effects on their self-esteem, racial identity, IQ, or adjustment (Burrow & Finley, 2004; Simon & Alstein, 1987; van IJzendoorn & Juffer, 2005). There is, however, a clear adoption hierarchy of preference with children of African descent relegated to the bottom (Courtney, 1997; Dorow, 2006; Kemp & Bodonyi, 2002). Attitude studies have been used to try to explain the infrequency of Black adoptions. Simon and Roorda (2007) pointed out that many studies concerning transracial adoption focus on White parents’ reports, and therefore may not accurately reflect the

3 adoptee’s experiences. They also pointed out that transracial adoptions are increasingly affecting greater numbers of people, and that it is a worth-while investment to research this phenomena. Statement of the Problem Research Problem: What are the attitudes held by African-American parents who have adopted inracially toward the transracial adoption of Black children by Caucasian Americans? The purpose of this case study was to explore the attitudes surrounding the transracial adoption of Black children through in-depth interviews of 9 African-American adoptive parents. This study examined the attitudes that surround the adoption of any child of any orphaned of African descent (either domestic or international) placed into Caucasian-American homes. This study addressed a gap in previous research that had neglected the voice of the African-American adoptive community (Chimezie, 1975). Attitude scales have been the most frequent instruments for studying attitudes toward transracial adoption. With these scales, the information gained is strength of attitude. Also, it has been argued that attitude scales should not be used cross-culturally (Shea & Jones, 1982). A strength of this study was that it did not rely on an attitude scale. Exploring attitudes toward transracial adoption could lead to a greater understanding of the infrequency of Black adoptions and possibly lead to a shift in attitudes. According to Conrey and Smith (2007), “Knowledge about others’ evaluations…can drive behavior…has an informational impact…has a normative impact” (p. 731). Patton (1997) discussed the need to study transracial adoption qualitatively to answer the questions that

4 quantitative research cannot answer. This qualitative study examined these attitudes in depth. Purpose of the Study The researcher was able to find very little research specifically on the attitudes of African Americans who had adopted inracially toward Caucasian Americans who have adopted transracially (Asungi, 2005). Researchers have found within-group differences of attitudes toward transracial adoption, but rarely specifically examining the African- American adoptive parents’ attitudes (Erickson, 2003; Fenster, 2002; Tyebjee, 2003; Whatley, Jahangardi, Ross, & Knox, 2003). This case study approach examined a sub- group of the African-American community by conducting in-depth interviews with 9 African-American adoptive parents. This is a sub-group that has been neglected. The problem is significant, and the effects of this problem are manifested both domestically and internationally. There is a lack of research in the area of what attitudes (specifically) surround the issues of the transracial adoption of Black children. Because research has almost exclusively shown that transracial adoptees do not have any significant adjustment issues compared to same-race adoptees, the infrequency of adoption of Black children is not explained through these results. In fact, Simon, Alstein, and Melli (1994) stated, “There is no empirical or scientific evidence to demonstrate that transracial adoptions work against the best interests of the child” (p. 39). Research has failed to show how transracial adoption is damaging, and the controversy seems to be ideological and not scientific. This qualitative research examining the attitudes held by African-American families who have adopted Black children, along with a rich

5 description of the history and cultural meanings of this type of transracial adoption, could help explain the infrequency of these types of adoptive placements. This is an issue that has not been explained adequately using other variables. Significance of the Study Significance for Psychological Professionals Transracial adoption is becoming increasingly common. As previously shown, Black children are in the greatest need of permanent homes. Up to this point, research has focused on empirical evidence, and based solely on that evidence, transracial adoption is a success. This study may also help provide data for social workers as they train and recruit perspective adoptive parents. It may facilitate and increase the number of Black adoptions. This study could provide a foundation for support groups for families that already adopted transracially as they explore different races’ reactions to transracial adoption. There is also a need to acknowledge and recruit African-American adoptive families. This study could contribute to the body of research that focuses on the importance of tapping into the African-American community for its adoptive needs. Chimezie (1975) pointed out that there is a stereotype that suggests that African Americans do not adopt. Black Administrators in Child Welfare (Jones, 2002) agreed, saying that the overlooking of kinship care and the lack of formalizing kinship care added to the stereotype that “Blacks don’t adopt”. Taking care of one’s kin is a cultural value in the African-American community. This African-American informal, adoptive community

6 needs to be heard from through formal research. This could lead to potentially more adoptive homes and give transracial adoption a new focus for future research. This study explored attitudes held by African-American adoptive parents toward Caucasian Americans who have transracially adopted Black children. Examining these attitudes could help with exploring different recruitment strategies and educational strategies for all prospective adoptive parents. Few quantitative studies (Erickson, 2003; Fenster, 2002; Fenster, 2004; Moos & Mwaba, 2007; Tyebjee, 2003) and even fewer qualitative ones ( Asungi, 2005; Carter-Black, 2002; Tan & Nakkula, 2004) were found discussing attitudes toward transracial adoptions. Many studies have discussed transracial adoptees’ adjustment, racial identity, and self-esteem (Cederblad, Hook, Irhammar & Mercke, 1999; Juffer & van IJzendoorn, 2007; Scarr & Weinberg, 1976). Articles have also been written on the historical implications and current controversies of transracial adoptions, but very few have been written on the attitudes surrounding them (Courtney, 1997). Significance for the Community The United States has over 500,000 foster children. Most of these are Black children. There is no controversy that adopted children fare significantly better than foster children. Through an economic lens, adoption is much less expensive for the government than is foster care. Foster children are also at a much greater risk of future problems that drain the government’s economic resources. Caulton (2005) said, “There is also a potential reduction in the child’s social maladjustment and thus in the financial drain on society” (p. 7). Many researchers consider adoption a successful intervention for

7 enhancing the child’s IQ, school performance, and thus possibilities (van IJzendoorn & Juffer, 2005). The United Nations estimated that there are 143 million orphans worldwide. Of these, 41.5 million are on the continent of Africa. Africa is known as the continent of orphans (Queiroz, 2006) despite the fact that Africa has countries with comparatively more inexpensive and well-established adoption programs. The international adoption community is growing every year, yet the adoptions from African countries remain very small, even though these are often the quickest and most inexpensive programs. Understanding the attitudes toward the transracial adoption of Black children has significance to both the domestic and international communities. Research Design The group assignment for this design was purposive. The participants were being selected based on their ability to answer the research question. The design type included 2 interviews, one in-depth interview, and a follow-up interview after the data had been analyzed the first time and transcribed. This second interview was shorter (by telephone) and verified with each participant if the attitudes interpreted by the researcher were indeed an accurate representation of the attitudes held by the participant. This was a case study qualitative analysis.

8 Table 1. Study Design

Design Item Descriptor

I (1) Represents the first in-depth interview with participants. This was a face-to-face interview.

I (2) Represents the second phone interview after the data had been transcribed and analyzed from the first interview to verify researcher’s interpretations of participants’ attitudes.

P Indicates individual participants and was followed by an identifying number; for example, P(1)= Participant 1, P(2) = Participant 2, etc.

A (1) Represents the data analysis that took place after each individual interview as a result of analyzing each transcription.

A (2) Represents the final data analysis that took place after the completion of all of the interviews.

Table 2. Design Type

Design Type Design Process

Two Interview P (1) I (1) A (1) I (2)

Purposeful P (2) I (1) A (1) I (2)

Case-Study Design P (3) I (1) A (1) I (2) and so on until all the interviews were completed. After this, A (2) was completed.

Research Question and Hypothesis • Research Problem: It is not known what attitudes are held by African Americans who have adopted inracially toward Caucasian Americans who have adopted Black children transracially.

9 • Research Question: What are the attitudes held by African Americans who have adopted inracially toward Caucasian Americans who have adopted Black children transracially? Based on previous research that will be described below, this researcher was assuming that there was a difference between African-American adoptive families’ attitudes and the attitudes of the African-American population in general (which has already been researched extensively). First of all, many adoptive parents feel that there is a stigma in society claiming that adopted children are never as good as “your own”. It is possible then that African-American adoptive families would feel as though at some level they can relate to Caucasian-American adoptive families. Secondly, it does seem that research shows that experience with adoption shows significantly more optimistic views toward transracial adoption. Because most attitude studies about transracial adoption are quantitative, the only factor measured has been the strength of attitudes. This researcher was interested in the meaning and experiences that encapsulate these attitudes. Miall (1987) conducted a research study on adoptive families’ perceptions of community attitudes toward adoption in general. Over half of the participants felt that the following attitudes were prevalent: adoption is never as fulfilling as having a biological child, adoptees are not as good as biological children because of genetic disadvantage, and the perception that one cannot possibly love an adopted child the way one loves his/her biological child. The participants were not divided according to race for this study.

10 Tyebjee (2003) conducted a study on adoption attitudes and motivations. He found that Caucasians were most favorable toward adoption and African Americans more skeptical of it. He also found, however, that those with a personal experience with adoption or a personal experience with foster care also showed a significantly more favorable view toward adoption. Fenster (2004) also conducted a study on attitudes toward transracial adoption. He too found that African Americans showed less favorable views towards the phenomenon than Caucasians. Both of these were quantitative studies. Erickson (2003) had similar findings and also found that if participants had close friends outside their own race, they had more favorable views towards transracial adoption. It is possible then that one’s experiences with adoption and with people from other races may influence one’s attitudes toward transracial adoption. As has been shown in previous sections, this is a question that has not been answered yet in research.

Assumptions and Limitations Methodological Assumptions • It was assumed that the participants understood spoken English and could read and understand the consent and demographic forms. • It was assumed that the participants were telling the truth about their position. • It was assumed that this study would not be generalizable. Ontology (Nature of Reality) • It was assumed that the participants’ subjective attitudes were valid forms of scientific knowledge.

11 • It was assumed that reality is constructed by an individual and interpreted through verification, observation, and interview by the researcher. Epistemology (Nature of Knowledge) • It was assumed that the researcher and participant mutually influenced each other during their interaction. Axiology (Study of Values) • It was assumed that the researcher, a Caucasian woman who had adopted Black children, had values and ideas about the topic of transracial adoption. Theoretical Assumptions • It was assumed that the African-American participants had some sort of cultural homogeneity (Day, 1979). Hollingsworth (1999) described symbolic interactionism as a person learning the cultural rules, symbols, and value systems by belonging to a group of people that he/she interacts with. • It was also assumed that attitudes are subjectively formed. Eagly and Chaiken (2007) state, “An individual’s past experience establishes a tendency to respond with some degree of positivity or negativity to an attitude object” (p. 585). • It was assumed that most African Americans show fewer color blind attitudes than Caucasian Americans (Neville, Lilly, Lee, Duran, & Browne, 2000). • It was assumed that African Americans hold different views about who can raise a healthy Black child (Hollingsworth, 1999; Kennedy, 2003). There are heterogeneous views within the community that are clear in research. Many

12 believe it is by nature exploitative, and others believe transracial adoption can be done successfully. • It was assumed that in-depth interviews of approximately 8-14 participants would bring the researcher to a point of data saturation, and that a case study approach was appropriate for this research question (Caulton, 2005; Raible, 2005; Tan & Nakkula, 2004). • It was assumed that in-depth, semi-structured interviews were one of the most common and best ways to explore an issue within case studies (Hancock & Algozzine , 2006; Stake, 1995). Topic Specific Assumptions • It was assumed that African-American adoptive parents had certain feelings and opinions toward Caucasian Americans who adopt Black children. Limitations • The researcher is herself an adoptive parent (ethnically Caucasian) of Black children. She made her mentor aware of this and took precautions against biases by triangulating her data and holding herself accountable. • Her role as a Caucasian interviewer interviewing African-American participants was a limitation. The African-American participants may not have been comfortable discussing racial issues such as transracial adoption with a Caucasian woman who had transracially adopted. Unfortunately, it was not feasible to hire an African-American researcher and pay to have him/her trained in interviewing to conduct the interviews. In general, however, African

13 Americans talk about race more comfortably and more often that do Caucasian Americans. They also become aware of the importance of race earlier than Caucasian Americans (Goodman, 1968). The researcher let the participants know that she had been discussing race in different settings and with different groups of people for 10 years. She let them know that she had a multi-racial family, and that she was very interested in their opinions/feelings, whatever they might be. • The participants had the option of meeting in one of three public libraries in a private meeting room. They were made aware of the limitations to confidentiality in the informed consent. For example, most of the private rooms in the library had large windows. Even though the participants would not have been heard, they might have been seen. • It was possible that those who volunteered for the study had stronger viewpoints than those who did not. This was not a limitation that could have been controlled since all participants were volunteers. Definition of Terms Attitudes Toward Transracial Adoption – “An individual’s beliefs about the value of transracial adoption based on their perception of its positive and negative effects” (Visser, 2006, p. 38). African-American Adoptive Parents – any African American that defined himself/ herself culturally and racially as an African American who had formally adopted a child of the same race or who had been the primary caregiver for 3 or more years to an

14 African-American child whom they did not conceive. Researchers point out that informal adoption is very common among the African-American adoptive community and will not be excluded in this study. Black Children – the children of African descent that were described as children who appear to have African-American heritage. Fong, Spickard, and Ewalt (1995) said that if a person appears to have African-American heritage (even minimal), he/she is perceived as Black by society and treated as such. Caucasian-American Adoptive Parents – any Caucasian American who has adopted a Black child transracially. Black and African American – In this study, Black and African American were used interchangeably, as were White, Caucasian and Caucasian American. In the field test conducted, these terms were considered appropriate, and the participants used the terms interchangeably as well. Expected Outcomes or Findings Based on previous research on attitudes toward transracial adoption, the researcher put together a description of what attitudes might be found during the interviews. She divided these attitudes based on themes/theoretical orientations that seemed to be prevalent, though some more than others, in transracial adoption research. Color Blind This is a perspective that is less common within the African-American community, but more common within the Caucasian community (Neville, et al., 2000). This is the belief that race does not matter. Statements such as the following: “No one is

15 really White or Black; we are all a mixture of something,” or “Children are children; they all need the same thing,” would be examples of people displaying a color blind belief system. Shared Fate This is the perspective that when a person adopts transracially, he/she begins to share his/her child’s fate. In other words, he/she begins to experience the world in small ways like a person of color may. Zastrow (1977) found that a large majority of the Caucasian-American parents who had adopted or were in the process of adopting transracially experienced discrimination and opposition from their own families and their community. Smith (1996) said, “A choice, then, to compose a multiracial family is also a choice to become responsible for an anti-racist, anti-prejudice stance…Anything less would fail to protect all of our children” (p.23). There are a growing number of researchers who believe that transracial adoption experiences can change the racial identity of the family or individuals in the family (Raible, 2005; Rothman, 2005). This is not to say they believe this is the most typical response, only that it is possible. Exploitation This seemed to be one of the most dominant views torward transracial adoption. The exploitation is described as racial, cultural, and emotional (Eng, 2006; Quiroz, 2007). These researchers’ conclusions were based on the racial hierarchy in adoption. Caucasians seem to have their pick of color. It is also argued that Caucasian families have been normed and African-American families have been pathologized (Day, 1979), so, in essence, Caucasians are saving children from the Black community.

16 Symbolic Interactionism The term symbolic interactionism is not mentioned very frequently, but in defining it, it is seen very frequently in the transracial adoption debate. “Symbolic interactionism takes as fundamental concern the relationship between individual conduct and forms of social organization” (Denzin, 1969, p.922). It answers the question dealing with how an individual’s self emerges from the symbols that make up the social structure. The meanings of these symbols are socially/culturally constructed. Because meaning and development of the self are dependent on the group, African-American children require the African-American family for socialization into the group. There is a dominant concern within the African-American community that questions whether or not a Caucasian American can teach an African American what he/she needs to know in order to function as a Black person in America. Racial Identity Formation This describes the attitude that is seen that states that a child cannot have a healthy racial identity and be raised in a family that is a different race than his/her own. The research on racial identity is conflicting, but the perception that a Caucasian American cannot instill a positive Black identity to his/her child seems to be one of the major concerns of the African-American community. Summary It should be noted that most African Americans show support of transracial adoption in general, but when concerns are noted, these are the dominant concerns. There is a concern that color does not matter to some Caucasian Americans when it clearly

17 matters to African Americans. There is a concern that the child is going to lose his/her ability to relate to other African Americans and will grow up with a weak racial identity. There is also a concern that there is inequity in the adoption world, and this inequity leads to exploitation. Another concern is that Caucasians cannot teach an African-American child how to thrive in society. Other African Americans believe that the entire family will be targeted if they choose to adopt transracially. It was expected that the researcher’s interviews would fall under these dominant attitudes. However, as previously noted, research has shown that interracial experiences or experience with adoption can affect attitudes toward transracial adoption (Erickson, 2003). It is probable that African-American adoptive parents will reflect attitudes that are represented above, but it is also possible that as adoptive parents looking at transracial adoption, new, different themes will emerge. The researcher expected that the above themes would be reflected in her research, but she left space for new themes to emerge.

Full document contains 264 pages
Abstract: This study explores the attitudes of African-American parents who adopted same-race children toward Caucasian parents who adopt African-American children transracially. Most previous attitudinal studies discussing these attitudes have been quantitative with participants who are not adoptive parents. Drawing on 9 in-depth, semi-structured interviews, this case study method explores the attitudes and reasoning around these attitudes of these adoptive parents. The African-American adoptive parents in this study had adopted either formally or informally, and they had adopted either African American and/or African-American/mixed children. The expected themes found were color blind, shared fate, exploitation, racial identity formation, and symbolic interactionism. All of the participants were opponents of the color blind theme and were aware of racial and adoption hierarchies. Four of the participants mentioned the stigma and/or discrimination that Caucasian parents share with their children, and only 2 of these discussed the way Caucasians can change when they adopt African-American children. Five of the participants mentioned exploitation in adoption of African Americans when discussing their adoption attitudes. Six of the participants discussed the principles that make up symbolic interactionism, showing concern that the African-American children raised in White homes would not learn the skills they needed to thrive in this racially divided world. Some felt that Caucasian parents could provide this for them by pursuing an African-American community, and some felt that it was not possible. There was some controversy about whether or not African-American children raised in White homes could have a healthy racial identity. The reactions ranged from racial identity is not important to it is extremely important and not possible for Caucasians to instill a healthy racial identity in their Black children. Two new themes were found. The importance of church and spirituality was a new theme that emerged, and this was mentioned by 7 participants. The other new theme that emerged with 6 participants was the importance of gender and skin color in recognizing African-American children's needs. Most of the participants did not question the connection or affection of Caucasian adoptive parents; however, they did express their concerns about those parents' ability or willingness to meet their children's specific cultural needs.