Friday, February 19, 2021

Diversity Matters to Birth Parents: A True Glimpse from the eyes of a Pregnancy Counselor

There used to be a time during the adoption process when women would hand their baby over to a family with little to no communication after the process was complete.

Today, birth parents play a crucial role in the matching and selection process in adoption. They are the ones choosing a family for their child when creating an adoption plan. While birth parents are often seeking a family who will love and provide a stable life for their child, representation is also critically important. An underlined reality is that people of color, particularly black or African American families, are very sought out in the adoption world. Many families waiting to adopt domestically, either through a private adoption or private agencylike Barker, are Caucasian. There are several factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of African American families in private adoption. To adequately serve birth parents seeking to make an adoption plan in the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, it is crucial we continue to encourage and work to increase diversity in our pool of waiting families.

At least 50% of our placements each year are children where one or both birth parents are African American. Typically, when at least one birth parent is a person of color, they often discuss the desire to see representation within a potential family. The hope is that their child can see themselves reflected in their adoptive family. In our country's current climate with the racially-charged incidents that have occurred this past year, there is even more heightened awareness among families seeking to adopt. Families are re-examining their readiness and capacity for transracial adoption, particularly when adopting black children.

In my recent work with an African American birth mother, she shared a few things that were extremely important to her- she wanted her child to always be comfortable, to have people who could help him/her know and learn about his/her heritage, and a family to help him/her understand his/her background. She was steadfast about only viewing waiting family profiles where at least one parent was African American. I knew that I only had a few family profiles to share with that specific request. As her pregnancy counselor, I was responsible for letting her know that her selection pool would be very small because we only had a few waiting families where at least one parent was African American. She remained adamant about her specification and ultimately selected a family who she felt a strong connection with. Following through with her adoption plan, she felt very comfortable with her choice, believing that her child now had the necessary tools to better navigate this world as a black child.

When birth parents specifically want to place their child in a family that "looks like them," they often feel discouraged by the limited waiting families list. At The Barker Adoption Foundation, our mission is to be child-centered in all the work we do. That mission incorporates our work with birth parents and supporting them through what they feel is important for their child. There will always be a need for couples and individuals of all ages, all religious and ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender expressions to provide forever families for children. However, we do not dismiss the ongoing desire from birth parents who are African American or biracial to have options for their children when creating an adoption plan. We hear this plea, and we seek to honor this plea through the intentional and continuous recruitment of black families. Diversity and having it fully represented among our waiting families proves to be an important factor that we will continue to support for our birth parents.  It’s also a true testament to what our work must include as we continue to build families here at Barker and that is to remember—Diversity Matters.


Sami Albert, LCSW-C, LICSW, Barker Staff