We have had considerable experience
at the Dight Institute in working with adoption agencies in the
placement of children of mixed racial ancestry. Mrs. Esther Nordlie
and I have just completed a follow-up of the results of the placement
of such children and will summarize the results here, as this is
the first study of its kind. It is probable that genetic counselors
will be increasingly occupied with this topic as interracial unions
are likely to continue in the United States. The casual unions often
result in children who become available for adoption. . . .
The problem of placing “pure” Negro, Indian or Mexican
children is difficult only because few families of these minority
groups request children for adoption. Ordinarily, no attempt would
be made to place these babies in Caucasian families as the child
or the adoptive parents would probably find social adjustment too
difficult. However, children of mixed racial origin may “pass
for white” or resemble the Caucasian adoptive parents sufficiently
so that placement in a white family is feasible. Such placement
is desirable for the child as the socioeconomic environment is assumed
to be more favorable there. This would be true only if the racial
appearance of the child would permit acceptance in the white community.
Many white couples are desperately anxious to adopt children. Some
are sufficiently free from racial prejudices to be able to adopt
children of mixed racial ancestry, if a reasonable “match”
between child and adoptive parents can be made. The critical prediction
rests with the geneticist (or anthropologist) who must project the
appearance of a small baby ahead to the child of five or six when
entering school. . . .
One would suppose that predicting the chances for a child to “pass
for white” would be quite simple. Such, however, is not the
case. The main difficulty is that these traits, when present in
the racial hybrid, may not be apparent in an infant but develop
over the years. Hair texture and skin color are the most important
traits and at the same time the most difficult to predict. The baby
may have no hair; it is well known that babies with considerable
Negro ancestry may look quite light at birth and darken considerably
during childhood. The geneticist is thus vulnerable to mistakes
in his predictions as to the future appearance of the baby. One
could take the attitude that unless the geneticist can make his
prediction with certainty he should not enter the picture at all.
Such reasoning is absurd. The baby is in the custody of the adoption
agency and the agency must make some provision for this child.