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Born in America, adopted abroad

African-American babies are going to parents overseas even as US couples adopt children from other countries

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Adrian Stokkeland, a 2-year-old in Canada, dances with his mom to the music of Elvis and sleeps with his most treasured possession, a box of toy cars. Emma Sonnenschein, an energetic 19-month-old in Germany, loves to "help" her mom around the house. Elisa van Meurs, a 5-year-old in the Netherlands, is a real girly-girl. Her favorite outfit is a Minnie Mouse dress, paired with a Snow White tiara and pink Barbie shoes.

Adrian, Emma, and Elisa have more in common than their charm and being the apple of their parents' eyes. All are black children born in the United States and adopted as infants by parents in other countries.

They also are representatives of a little-known trend: At the same time the US is "importing" increasing numbers of adoptive children from Russia, China, and Guatemala, it is "exporting" black babies to be adopted in other countries.

Since 1995, US State Department records indicate that international adoptions by Americans have increased more than 140 percent. Couples often cite the lack of American babies as the reason for adopting from abroad.

But the US is now the fourth largest "supplier" of babies for adoption to Canada. Adoption by Shepherd Care, an agency in Hollywood, Fla., places 90 percent of its African-American babies in Canada. One-third of the children placed through Adoption-Link in Chicago, which specializes in adoptions for black babies, go to people from other countries.

The exact numbers are not available, but interviews with adoption agencies and families in Canada, Germany, France, and the Netherlands indicate that the US also sends babies to those four countries as well as Belgium and England. Most of the children are black newborns. Most of the adoptingparents are Caucasian.

Why is it happening?

There is no simple explanation for why many white Americans prefer to adopt from abroad rather than adopt the available black babies at home. Racism is one reason, says Cheryl Kinnaird of Adoption-Link in Chicago. But there are others, she adds.


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