The Current State of Adoption

Author: Elizabeth Behrens, Be the Bridge Educator


Every time you go back home, you are drafted into a full-time job of Integrator. In fact, going home means that you are often the only Black adult in the room. Entering the neighborhood of your childhood generates stares and invasive questions. “Home” means Never Having to See Black People. 

– Natasha Orlando, Filling the Silence, Black Anthology: Adult Adoptees Claim Their Space


“My son, both Black and adopted, was first accused of theft at the age of 4. At 5, someone asked me in front of him and his brother, who shares those same identifying markers, if I had left my kids out in the sun too long. When he was 6, his older sister, my white biological daughter, asked if she could not go to the grocery store with us because she was so tired of being stared at. He only made it until 7 before being called the N-word at recess.

I write and educate people about race every day. Still, I had to pause and process at each instance to handle the situation in a way that showed a level of sensitivity to the pain caused to my son as well as address the perpetrator of the racialized harm.”

– Elizabeth Behrens, Be the Bridge Educator

Parenting transracially puts white parents in places that are completely new to us, situations that make our lack of racial literacy blatantly obvious.

Sadly, this is all the more true for white people who grew up in Christian spaces. That’s something we need to address head-on.

Before we can consider the impact of Christian culture on transracial adoptive parenting, it’s important to understand current adoption realities.

Adoption is a large industry in the US. While some may bristle at calling it an industry, the reality is that over 100,000 children will be adopted each year in the US alone. The average cost of private adoption is over $40,000. Adoptions from foster care, meanwhile, are mostly free (if you don’t count paying your taxes that cover the expenses) and make up about half of adoptions in the US.

Around 70-80% of adoptive parents are white, a number that changes when considering types of adoption, while a disproportionate rate (~60%) of adoptees are Black, Indigenous, or children of color. This has caused 40% of adoptions to be transracial, meaning the parents and children are not of the same race. 

More and more, we are also seeing two groups doing the bulk of the formal adopting, particularly private infant adoptions: those unable to conceive and white Christians. In fact, Christians generally are more than twice as likely as the general public to adopt as a way to not only expand their families but as an expression of their beliefs.

Why is this?

There are a variety of factors that have led to this phenomenon. The key to it is the early 2000’s evangelical adoption movement that connected the Biblical mandate of “caring for orphans” with modern-day adoption. While the focus was largely on international adoption initially, a shift occurred to focus on private infant adoption as an extension of their pro-life beliefs. In fact, 74% of white evangelicals say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Some leaders in the movement even go so far as to say that the adoption of children into your family is a mirror of us being adopted into God’s family (something that many adoptees take issue with).

The increase in white evangelical families adopting children of color has not been without negative repercussions for adoptees.

While adoption is often held up as a beautiful expression of love, too often, there is a clash between the white, Christian understanding of race and the lived reality of children of color growing up in those families. In fact, contrary to what one would hope—and an indictment on the discipleship happening in white churches—various researchers have found higher levels of racism and white supremacy within those churches than outside of them. This is an unfortunate and challenging reality we must look at head-on.


Read Part 2 here.

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