October 21, 1995
Web posted at: 10:00 p.m. EDT
From Reporter Kathleen Koch
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Soon, it should be easier for couples to adopt children of a different race. The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act goes into affect Saturday, prohibiting public agencies from delaying or denying adoptions because of race.
But there is disagreement among parents and experts over the measure's intentions and whether it will be effective.
White foster parents Michael and Sylvia Mauk know both sides of interracial adoption. While they were allowed to adopt now 7-year-old Dustin and Janae, toddler Tiffany was taken from them and given to an African-American couple after they had raised her for nearly two years.
Michael Mauk says that losing the child is pulling the family apart. "It's going to leave a mark on that child as well, mentally," he says.
Every year, thousands of the 20,000 U.S. children legally available for adoption wait for long periods to be placed in homes because, until now, 40 states favored same-race adoptions. Three states had laws promoting it.
Most of the children trapped in limbo are African-American, because while they make up 43 percent of adoptable children, African-Americans account for just 12 percent of the nation's population. The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act is supposed to help get more of those children into permanent homes sooner.
"You know, you don't have to be black, white, whatever to be a mom."--Sylvia Mauk
Some opponents, though, say that trans-racial adoption is tantamount to racial genocide. "If there's a wholesale taking of children from one culture and placing them in another, then you're missing the passing on, or you're destroying the passing on of values and history," says Toni Oliver with the National Association of Black Social Workers. (125k AIFF sound or 125k WAV sound)
Others who support such adoptions fear little will change, since the federal government will check states' policies and laws, but not their actual practices.
"That's all the state has to do, is as long as you don't have anything in writing, you can still deny a child a placement based on his race," says Mary Beth Style of the National Council for Adoption.
And the law does let agencies consider race as one of many factors in an adoption. "The well-being and the best interests of the child must prevail," said Caren Kaplan of the National Association of Social Workers. "And race, ethnicity and national origin has to be considered." (108k AIFF sound or 108k WAV sound)
Adoption funding is one of many areas Congress hopes to shift to state control through block grants. Federal officials admit that doing so could cripple enforcement. "The loss of authority to monitor state programs will handicap us and perhaps limit us to only responding to specific complaints," says Carol Williams of Health and Human Services.
Families yearning for children of any color worry that if nothing changes, it will mean more heartache for thousands of children. "You know, you don't have to be black, white, whatever to be a mom." says Sylvia Mauk. "There is absolutely no color in love." (38k AIFF sound or 38k WAV sound)
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