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Facilitating Privilege: International Adoptive Mothers, Race, and Russian Ethnicity
Unformatted Document Text:  become available internationally for adoption from Eastern Europe. Russia, which opened for international adoption with 324 placements in 1992, has been extremely popular with Americans. Since 1993 Russia has been one of the top two countries from which the largest numbers of children are adopted internationally by U.S. citizens. 2 In 2004 there were 5,865 U.S. adoptions of Russian children (U.S Department of State 2004). While a variety of reasons shape the decision to pursue an adoption from Russia, the desire for a white child is an important one. A major project among international adoptive families is the maintenance or construction of the children’s ethnic identity. International adoptive parents are encouraged by a myriad of sources, including adoption agencies, adoption family support groups, and other adoptive parents to transmit ethnic and cultural information to adopted children about their birth nations, despite parents’ limited experience or knowledge about birth cultures (Pertman 2000). The call to construct an ethnic identity for adopted children grew out of the debate surrounding the efficacy of white adoptive parents to raise children of color. Beginning in the 1970s heated criticism occurred about the placement of Black children with white adoptive parents. The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) argued against transracial adoption on the grounds that white adoptive parents were incapable of “teaching their Black children how to resist and undercut potentially devastating and ubiquitous racial stereotypes and racist ideology” (Patton 2000:13). Similar arguments have been made about the placing of American Indian children with whites, leading to the Indian Child Welfare Act (1978), which gives American Indian tribes influence over the adoption of Indian children (U.S. Congress). Adult Korean adoptees have also 2 Russian adoptions were second behind Korea starting in 1993. In 1997 and 1998 Russia was the leading country. In 1995, 1996, and from 1999 onward Russia has been the second most popular country (the first being China) (U.S. Department of State 2005) 2

Authors: Jacobson, Heather.
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become available internationally for adoption from Eastern Europe. Russia, which
opened for international adoption with 324 placements in 1992, has been extremely
popular with Americans. Since 1993 Russia has been one of the top two countries from
which the largest numbers of children are adopted internationally by U.S. citizens.
2004 there were 5,865 U.S. adoptions of Russian children (U.S Department of State
2004). While a variety of reasons shape the decision to pursue an adoption from Russia,
the desire for a white child is an important one.
A major project among international adoptive families is the maintenance or
construction of the children’s ethnic identity. International adoptive parents are
encouraged by a myriad of sources, including adoption agencies, adoption family support
groups, and other adoptive parents to transmit ethnic and cultural information to adopted
children about their birth nations, despite parents’ limited experience or knowledge about
birth cultures (Pertman 2000).
The call to construct an ethnic identity for adopted children grew out of the debate
surrounding the efficacy of white adoptive parents to raise children of color. Beginning in
the 1970s heated criticism occurred about the placement of Black children with white
adoptive parents. The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) argued
against transracial adoption on the grounds that white adoptive parents were incapable of
“teaching their Black children how to resist and undercut potentially devastating and
ubiquitous racial stereotypes and racist ideology” (Patton 2000:13). Similar arguments
have been made about the placing of American Indian children with whites, leading to
the Indian Child Welfare Act (1978), which gives American Indian tribes influence over
the adoption of Indian children (U.S. Congress). Adult Korean adoptees have also
2
Russian adoptions were second behind Korea starting in 1993. In 1997 and 1998 Russia was the leading
country. In 1995, 1996, and from 1999 onward Russia has been the second most popular country (the first
being China) (U.S. Department of State 2005)
2


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