Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Racial Bias in Adoption

This story describes the work of one advocacy group to call attention to racial bias plaguing the domestic adoption system.  Focusing on Texas, the article notes that:

Black and Hispanic children account for more than two-thirds of all Texas youngsters waiting for adoption, according to Family and Protective Services figures.

Half of the 174 children waiting for adoption in Lubbock County last year were Hispanic, even though the county's Hispanic population is 30 percent.

Statewide, a white child waits 28.7 months to be adopted while an African-American youngster waits 31.7 months and a Hispanic child 29.2 months.

Those figures don't surprise Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, a nonprofit group in Alexandria, Va.

"Let's face it, the adoption process reflects the racial prejudices and biases in our society," Wexler said. "An African-American or a Hispanic child is more likely to be taken away from his or her parents than a white child. And when a white child is up for adoption he or she will find a home sooner than an African-American or a Hispanic child."

Those numbers are not all that surprising, and I'd be willing to bet they're quite similar nationwide.  What was more interesting to me is the claim that "social workers remove disproportionate numbers of non-white youngsters from families suspected of abuse or neglect, according to state records."  No Texas data supporting that claim was given.  And of course, it is difficult to judge how meaningful those numbers are given the non-homogeneous nature of abuse and neglect allegations.  Still, I do wonder whether the data nationally is consistent.  Looking at the numbers (percentages) alone, is it true in all states that non-white families are more likely to have their children removed after an abuse or neglect investigation than are their white counterparts?


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The adoption wait gap is surprisingly small given the much larger gaps in the fractions of bastardy in those ethnic groups. That overwhelmingly powerful factor is not even mentioned in this biased story.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 28, 2009 1:13:43 AM


A summary of the data are available in our Issue Paper, Child Welfare and Race, available here:

For a superb discussion of the issue see the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Michigan Race Equity Review, available at There is an overview of the national picture on Page 12. Though the report deals with one state, the findings, which combine data with compelling case studies, apply everywhere. See especially pages 24-54.

For those who want to explore the issue in more depth, Prof. Dorothy Roberts of Northwestern University Law School, a member of NCCPR’s Board of Directors, literally wrote the book on the topic: Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Civitas Books: 2002).

Among other things, all of these sources provide overwhelming evidence that racial bias is a primary reason for “the non-homogeneous nature of abuse and neglect allegations.”

Richard Wexler

Executive Director

National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

Posted by: Andi Carroll | Oct 28, 2009 10:05:43 AM

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