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Most UK adopters would only consider a child of the same ethnicity, survey suggests

04 December 2020

Two-thirds would adopt a child of different ethnicity, however, if more support was offered

home for good

MORE than half of UK adults considering adoption would prefer to adopt a child of the same or similar ethnicity, a new Savanta ComRes survey suggests.

A survey of 10,631 adults, whose results were published last week, was conducted between 9 October and 1 November on behalf of the Christian charity Home for Good. More than one third (34 per cent) of those questioned said that they would consider adoption, fostering, or long-term care for the child of a friend or family member in the future.

Of the 1800 adults (17 per cent) who said that they would be open specifically to adoption, 52 per cent said that they would prefer to adopt a child of a similar ethnicity to themselves. This preference was strongest within the Black community (209 adults who were considering adoption or had adopted), of whom 63 per cent said that they would prefer to adopt a child of a similar heritage, compared with 58 per cent of BAME adults and 50 per cent of white adults.

Black adults were also the most open to considering adoption, fostering, or long-term care of a child in general (60 per cent compared with 52 per cent of all BAME adults, and 31 per cent of white adults). Of this group, 44 per cent said that they would worry that their child might be bullied or treated differently for not being of the same ethnicity as them.

Two-thirds of all UK adults (66 per cent), however, said that they would consider adopting a child of another ethnicity if they were given support to understand the child’s cultural heritage.

Luke, who is mixed-race, was adopted as a baby by a white couple. He and his wife now have a biological daughter and an adopted daughter of mixed race. He said: “I can’t remember a time that I didn’t know I was adopted, and how our family was brought together has always been a source of celebration and a story of love and of God’s grace.

“A few years ago, I stumbled across a documentary on the television about attitudes to interracial adoption during the eighties, and I was shocked to learn that I was born and adopted at one of the few moments during that decade when placing a child into an adopted family of a different ethnicity was acceptable or legal.

“The realisation that, but for a few months, my parents could have been legally prevented from welcoming me into their lives because of our difference in skin colour seems almost unthinkable, having been the recipient of such love.”

In 2014, the Government removed the imperative that local authorities pursue a perfect ethnic match between children and adopters. Between 2015 and 2019, however, the number of in-care Black children who were adopted decreased by 50 per cent. Last month, the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “There is no acceptable reason — none — to block adopters from registering because there happen to be no children of the same ethnicity waiting to be adopted.”

Of the more than 2400 children across England who are currently waiting for an adoptive family, almost half (48 per cent) have been in the care system for more than 18 months. The policy advocacy adviser for Home for Good, Natalie Mills, said that the average wait for a white British child from entering care to legal adoption was 919 days. For boys of Black African descent, however, the average was 1302 days: almost half as long again.

Luke said that his experience led him and his wife to consider adoption. “We got to know our eldest daughter when she was being fostered by a family in our local church, and, over time, it became clear that, because of her age and her mixed heritage, social services were really struggling to find her a family.

“It was at this point we knew that our vague thoughts about maybe one day adopting needed to develop into serious prayers and genuine questions. To cut a long but very positive story short, less than a year later we became a family of four.”

He had personally benefited from interracial adoption, he said, but could understand the concerns. “I’d like to think my experiences suggest that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to the perfect adoptive placement, and I celebrate all that is happening to widen the net to find loving homes for some of the most vulnerable children in our society.”

The founding director of Home for Good, Dr Krish Kandiah (Features, 8 September 2017), said: “It is vital that we continue to understand the barriers that Black individuals face in approaching adoption, and take steps to enable Black adopters to feel confident in stepping forward to adopt. Only then can we ensure that Black children are not left waiting too long.

“However, it is also encouraging to see that many people would be open to adopting a child of a different ethnicity if they were given appropriate support and cultural upskilling. The Government must consider how it can work with regional adoption agencies and the voluntary sector to equip prospective adopters with tools and knowledge to enable them to feel confident in meeting the needs of a child of a different ethnicity.”



‘People ask if I’m a child-minder’

I FIRST felt called to adopt when I went to a Home 4 Good seminar for church leaders. I was expecting to learn how better to support those people in my church and community who were fostering or adopting, but, in the middle of it all, I felt God clearly ask me to respond personally, to act in line with his heart for the most vulnerable: to become a mum to a child or children who didn’t have one.

During the assessment process, I ticked the box for adopting a child from any racial background. For me, this was about being open to any child who needed a loving home. Statistics show that older children (age four-plus) and black children wait longer for an adoptive placement, especially black boys (see the recent Home 4 Good report); so the fact that I was willing to adopt an older child from a different ethnic background meant that I would take a “hard to place” child.

When the social worker presented me with the profile of my children, she made it clear that the difference in our skin colour would always make it obvious that they were adopted. This is our experience; there are times when people will look curiously at us, or ask me if I am their child-minder or a family friend.

Apart from that slightly awkward moment with strangers or new acquaintances, our life as a transracial family is much the same as any other family. We have good days and bad days in terms of the battle over screen time and eating vegetables; we have to negotiate carefully the fairness of pocket money and bedtimes. Our difference in skin colour does not adversely affect our daily life, or our ability to love each other and be family together.

I am aware that, as they get older and teenage hormones set in, the struggles with identity and self-worth will probably throw up new challenges and deeper questions about who they are and who they want to be. I will need to go back to my notes from the training sessions I did right at the beginning, to remind myself how to respond therapeutically.

I will also need to rely on my friends of colour to speak into the lives of my children in ways that I cannot. We are fortunate to live in an area of racial diversity, and to have an international church congregation.

My church family have been so supportive, primarily when I first adopted and took nine months off work. They coped very well with me being in church with my children, but not at the front! They have continued to help me with babysitting for PCC meetings, communal parenting (it takes a village) when we are all together, and calling out the talents or gifts my children are developing.

Adopting my two children has been a wonderful blessing for me and my church, affirming some of the other single mothers in the congregation, but, mostly, reminding all of us that God’s Kingdom is an eternal family of ethnically different and equally loved adopted sons and daughters.

These are the words of Joy, who is ordained in the Church of England.

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