I came across this article last night on the Washington Post website. It describes discussions happening in congress regarding a law enacted in 1994. The law is called MEPA, the Multi-ethinic Placement Act. This law made the adoption process ‘color-blind’ in the United States. The reasoning was due to a large number of non-white children that could not be adopted because social workers were unable to find enough adoptive parents of the same ethnicity as the child. So now, under MEPA, a white couple can adopt a black child or a black couple can adopt a white child. Race is not a factor.
But law makers are now re-looking at this law and some think that MEPA has caused more harm than good. Essentially the argument is that you get a white couple that adopts a black child and is then not-equipped to deal with identity issues that the child has from being raised in a white home. That the child has to then face unique struggles in life from being raised by a family that is a different ethinicty than they are. These challenges are real. But are they large enough to revoke MEPA?
The article describes some who are asking for training and preparation for couples who will be adopting a child that is not of their ethnicity. I think this is a great idea. This would essentially mean that the system would no longer be ‘color blind’ , but at least it would be realistic and provide assistance to families that will face these unique challenges. I don’t want to see the system turn into what it was prior to MEPA, with children that could not be adopted because there were not enough parents of the child’s ethnicity looking to adopt.
But as the article describes it is clear that there are people who would rather have kids not have a family than to have to deal with these unique ‘identity issues’. Have they not realized that simply by being taken away from their parents or by being neglected or let go by their parents that there could be some ‘identity issues’? I think everyone involved in this discussion has the kids best interest in mind. But I think what some are failing to realize is that the past can not be changed. It is not possible to provide the perfect ideal situation for these kids. Their lives have been turned upside down. The only thing we can do is to help make their lives better. And a family is always better than no family. There will be issues in transracial families, but those are certainly better than the alternative of a child bouncing from foster home and ‘aging out of the system’ when the child turns 18.
To the law makers: Don’t forget that there are children that need homes, and parents that want to provide a home. And there is nothing you can do to make the lives of these children ‘perfectly normal’. Simply being in this situation is tramatic and unique and will bring forward many unique challenges that other kids may never face. So, if MEPA needs to be adjusted to provide additional assistance to families then please tweak it, but certainly don’t look at MEPA as a total failure. There are children today that have families because of MEPA, so don’t forget that when you review the pros and cons of MEPA. There are laws that have changed lives for the better, and this is one of them.