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Pet Sins November 2005

The assumed motivations of non-Asian parents who adopt Asian children

Very often, I've heard people tar white parents of Asian children with a broad brush, labeling them "people with Asian fetish who just want a China doll to play with", implying that they see their children as collectible objects or playthings. While this is certainly true in many cases, it is certainly untrue in many other cases.

I've certainly come across white parents who adopt Chinese children because "they are cuter than children of other races.' I've also met those whose decision to adopt from China had nothing to do with 'race', and everything to do with practical considerations. For example, I have a co-worker who initially considered adopting an infant domestically, but he and his wife decided against it because of the indefinite wait for a birth mother to 'choose' them, and also because of the possibility of a custody challenge. With an international adoption, the possibility of the birth parents reclaiming the child is much lower.

So my co-worker and his wife applied to adopt from South America. They waited a few years, and had a few false starts with placements that didn't go through, even after they had flown to South America to see the child that was going to be placed with them. Finally, tired of the unreliable paperwork processing they experienced in in South America, they turned their attention to China. "The China process may be slow, but it is at least reliable", my co-worker told me. "You know you will eventually hold your child in your arms, be it after an 8 month wait or a 3 year wait."

So it is not 'Asian fetish' which drives this couple to China, but rather a need to have a predictable adoption process. African American parents who adopt Asian children may face opposition from both within their community and without. A typical remark is "are black babies not good enough for you?" .

The reasons why many African Americans turn to international adoption are the same reasons many non-black parents turn to international adoption:

  • Not many infants, African American or otherwise, are available for adoption to single parents. Birth mothers prefer to choose couples.
  • Fear of a disrupted adoption from custody challenges.
  • The reliable and well-managed adoption process and foster-care system in countries such as China.

But critics often make assumptions about the dubious 'racial' motivations of parents without getting to know the families they are criticising. Sometimes, the hostility and disgust directed towards these parents who chose to adopt internationally is quite strong, and they often come from people who claim to stand for 'racial justice'.

Adoption is difficult enough with social prejudices against adoption. Do we have to add fuel to the fire by attacking parents for alleged motivations without lifting a finger to help them against society's other prejudices?