Student Writing Sample
Reforming the Adoption Laws
Despite the fact that thousands of Americans are willing and able to adopt and care for orphaned children, innumerable kids are languishing in orphanages all over this country, for one simple reason: overly restrictive adoption laws that are biased against good parents for a variety of reasons. Today, American couples and individuals spend a fortune traveling to the far corners of the globe so they can adopt a Chinese, a Romanian, or a Peruvian baby, while here at home, thousands of innocent American children stay, year after year, in orphanages that provide only food, shelter, and clothing, but not parents or the loving support that only a family can provide.
The main reason for this sad state of affairs is the overly restrictive rules governing adoption that still inhibit trans-racial adoption (despite recent federal laws to address that problem), single-parent adoption, or adoption by gay and lesbian couples. While these rules may have been established with good intentions, they are no longer justified and must be reformed as soon as possible.
The solution is federal legislation that prevents discrimination against worthy parents for any reason whatsoever. The rules that used to prohibit or inhibit trans-racial adoption were, no doubt, established with the best of intentions, and are, in part, rooted in a past that too often included serious racist violations of the rights of the adopted children, specifically in the cases of Native American children who, after being adopted by parents of European descent, were forced to deny (perhaps even despise) all aspects of their original culture. Today, untold numbers of American children of color continue to languish in orphanages, not because there are not people willing to adopt them, but often because there are not enough people of color willing to adopt them, and some orphanages or child welfare agencies are still dragging their feet on trans-racial adoptions because of outmoded notions about the harm to the identities of children raised by parents of a different race. Fortunately, "the Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994" (MEPA) prohibits an agency or entity that receives federal assistance and is involved in adoptive or foster care placements from delaying or denying the placement of a child on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the adoptive or foster parent, or the child involved (NAIC). This legislation has already done quite a bit of good and can serve as a model for more expansive legislation that designed to address not just racial and ethnic discrimination, but marital status and sexual preference discrimination as well.
Similarly, there are thousands of prosperous, responsible, loving individuals who do not have spouses or life partners but would love to adopt a child. These people could be just as good parents as any single parent, and there is ample evidence to show that plenty of single parents do a far better job of parenting than many couples, but, again, restrictive policies discriminate against single parents, forcing them to adopt children from overseas.
Finally, gay and lesbian couples, victims of ill-informed prejudice in so many other aspects of their life, are also discriminated against as potential parents, despite the fact of ample evidence to show they can be as good or better as heterosexual couples at parenting. Fortunately, one state, New Jersey, has okayed a gay couple as adoptive parents, but most other states engage in blatant discrimination against gay and lesbian couples based solely on their sexual preference.
Some have suggested that adoption laws are best addressed at the state level, for a variety or reasons. Such contentious issues as the definition of a "family," or what is considered to be a "fit guardian" are more easily addressed at the local level than the national. For example, citizens of New Jersey, their elected officials, and their State Supreme Court have embraced a more liberal and tolerant view of same sex relationships than some other states have. Therefore, when it came time to decide whether a couple of gay men could be fit parents for an adopted child, that decision was easier to make because the populace had already decided that gay men were legitimate, accepted members of the society, and had already established a history of having been recognized by businesses and several state governmental agencies as deserving spousal benefits, etc. So, having already won some battles there against other forms of discrimination based upon their sexual preference, gay and lesbian couples were more likely to be successful in that state on this most recent battle against discrimination.
However, the state-by-state approach to the problem of children languishing in orphanages does not really solve the problem effectively. For example, what if the gay couple had identified a child they wanted to adopt who happened to be in an orphanage across the state line in Pennsylvania? That state has not decided that they should cease discriminating against worthy parents based on the irrelevant fact of the parents' sexual preference. So, just as MEPA now prevents government supported agencies from denying or delaying adoptions based on race or ethnicity at the national level, we need a law preventing discrimination against single parents and same-sex couples on a national level as well.
Federal legislation that prevents states or agencies from discriminating against prospective parents for such irrelevant reasons as race, marital status, or sexual preference is the most thorough and effective solution to this widespread problem. It will solve the problem of many orphans, regardless of what state they happened to have been born or abandoned in. It will prevent narrow, regional, bigoted views about family, about identity, and about decency from keeping desperate children separated from the loving and worthy parents who are eager to adopt them.
National Adoption Legislation Clearinghouse. "Transracial Adoption." 2 Aug. 2000. http://www.calib.com/naic/pubs/s_trans.htm.