A Transparent Look Into The History of Adoption in Black America

It’s February and that means it is National Black History Month. The history of being Black in America has been distorted and has been largely, albeit, almost entirely written by white people. History has largely focused on how white people have advanced our culture, our policies, our ideas …… even our adoptions. We went digging to uncover the history of Black American adoptions and were shocked and dismayed at the inequity and racial injustice that was considered acceptable and normal.

Running as late as the 1940s, Black American families were simply denied adoption privileges, because of their race. During this time, not a single Black child proceeded through a legal adoption process. The Black community began the informal tradition of taking in their young family members or children of friends, as needed and often without question. Prior to the 1960s, adoptions involving an African American child were known as “special needs” adoptions. Sickening, right?!?! Up until the late 1960s, they were referred to as “hard to place” children. It is estimated that at one point in our history, roughly mid-century, more than 50,000 Black children needed permanent homes. For those working diligently to advocate for these children, they knew that the majority of them would never be provided a permanent home, simply because their skin wasn’t light enough. We cannot run from these facts or hide from the dull feeling in our gut when we realize how horrible adoption history is in Black America.

Although we are far from the equality and justice that Black children in America deserve, over the last several decades great strides have been taken to change some of these incredibly hurtful and harmful laws and practices. Based on 2018 statistics, roughly 140,000 child adoptions occur each year, Black children making up 25% of that number. 50% are white and the remaining 25% another race or more than one race and we’re seeing beautiful inter-racial adoption stories unfold daily. Where we all know that Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech was in regard to much deserved equality, his desire for “little black boys and girls to join hands with little white boys and girls as sisters and brothers” is coming to life today. Although there is still work to do, I hope Dr. MLK Jr. would see the progress of we have made as promising and a little bit closer to what he dreamed could be possible.

We are grateful to watch a band of amazing women come together daily to advocate for babies, birth mothers, and adoptive families, regardless of their race. They go nowhere near the small-mindedness of those that would choose to discriminate and tarnish the beauty and love that adoption can be. They are quick to protect, persevere, and to love. At Destiny, we are honored to walk through some pretty sensitive journeys involving complex racial issues. We are far from perfect but we work tirelessly to make sure that not a single mom, dad, or child ever feels anything less than loved and valued and equal.

Please take time this month, and beyond, to educate yourselves about black history. I encourage you to be quick to listen, slow to speak and hopeful to understand.