Trans-racial adoption : a study of race, identity and policy
Adoption policy requires that the child's welfare needs must be considered as the priority, and in light of the surplus of available "white" adopters and shortage of "black" adopters, calls for 'trans-racial' adoption to be seriously considered. However, despite their lack of empirical evidence, it is the essentialised and political arguments of the opposers of 'trans-racial' adoption that dominate adoption practice. This thesis addresses the contradictory and inconclusive research on 'trans-racial' adoption, by providing a firm sociological understanding of racial identity development theory as applied to the 'trans-racial' adoption debate. It shows that the 'trans-racial' adoptees were constantly aware of their racialised differences, and although most perceptions of difference were negative because the adoptees felt alone and saw it as a constant reminder of them not being a 'real' member of that family, some of the adoptees perceived these differences positively. This is significant because it tells us such differences are able to contribute to the adoptee considering themselves to be confident, have high self-esteem and a positive perception of self. Another key finding is that race and the racialised differences brought about by the 'mixed heritage' aspects of the adoption, are significant factors in the adoptees' searches for their birth heritage. Another finding is the adoptees' possession of a 'trans-racial' identity, and how this is a racialised identity that consists of being neither "black" or "white", but "mixed". The thesis argues for the recognition of the valuable insight that the current population of 'trans-racial' adoptees can offer policy debates, and hence calls for their consultation. It also illustrates the value of the life (hi)story approach, in particular the oral life (hi)story interview as a method of data collection when studying the racial identity development of 'trans-racial' adoptees. The thesis concludes that the racial identity development of 'trans-racial' adoptees is far more complex than existing debates acknowledge. It is something that is socially constructed in an ongoing process, where it is open to modification and negotiation. As such, the thesis is contrary to the idea that individuals need to develop a "black" identity in order to have a positive and healthy sense of self.