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Born in America, adopted abroad

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Families might choose an international adoption because of an affinity for a particular country or a desire to help. Many couples want a child who resembles them so that their family will not stand out as an "adoptive family." Since most adoptive families are Caucasian, this might explain the rise in adoptions from Russia and other eastern European countries.

In 2003, 37 percent of all international adoptions to the US were from countries where the majority of children adopted were Caucasian.

White couples may also be concerned about how their extended family will react to a black child. And they sometimes worry they are not up to the task of raising a black child in America and are not sure it is in the best interest of the child to be raised in a white environment.

Then, too, whites often are uncertain whether they can provide the child with cultural exposure to the African-American community.

Most adoption professionals agree that, all other things being equal, it is best to place an African- American child with an African-American family. The National Association of Black Social Workers' position is that every effort should be made to place children with families of the same race and culture.

Most, but not all, birth mothers agree, if they have the choice. However, they do not often have the choice, since fewer African-American couples apply to adoption agencies. One reason is that babies are frequently available within their extended family or community, and they have no need to go through the expense of an agency to adopt. Also, the number of infertile black couples who can afford to adopt is simply not as large as the number of black babies available.

The word hasn't gotten out

Some speculate that African-American babies have lagged behind in adoption rates because many Americans don't realize they're available. Media coverage and popular culture have focused on Americans adopting internationally rather than domestically.

"When we started to think about adoption, we thought only of international adoption because that's all we were hearing about," says Lisa Malaquin-Prey of North Carolina, mother of an adopted Russian baby. "We thought it would cost too much and that we would have to wait for a long time if we adopted domestically."

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