“WHO CAN I BE THE BEST PARENT TO?” AN ANALYSIS OF US RACE RELATIONS THROUGH THE LENS OF INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION
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This research is a contemporary study of race relations in the United States (U.S.). The presence of international interracial adoptions reveals white Americans openness to crossing racial boundaries when forming their families though adoption. Since the inception of international adoption, prospective parents have primarily adopted from the regions of Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. However, the international adoption market is changing. As prominent programs slowly shutdown (such as China and Korea since the mid-2000s) or newly emerge (such as Ethiopia during the mid-2000s), it is important to examine the myriad of issues that confront white American parents wishing to adopt children from a multi-racial, international pool of adoptees. Given that this process potentially involves confronting racial-ethnic differences, the realities of immigration, the assimilation process, and the challenges of upward mobility, this study situated the parents’ process within discussions of each of these issues. Intensive interviews and participant observations were conducted among 25 participants, 4 adoption agency staff members and 21 married adoptive parent couples who resided in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The study reveals that the adoptive parents’ adoption plans and the adopted children’s upbringing are influenced by the originization process. “Originization” is the process in which parents socially characterize an adopted child based on the child’s country of origin and foster the child’s acquisition of the cultural traits of the origin country. The originization process leads to the racial stratification of international adoptees, thus highlighting the transformation of the U.S. racial hierarchy from a binary white/nonwhite hierarchy to the white/honorary white/collective black three-tier system.