Six Words: 'Black Babies Cost Less To Adopt'
Courtesy of Caryn Lantz
Caryn Lantz and her husband Chuck were
surprised to learn that costs associated with adopting black children
were much lower than for white or mixed race children. They ultimately
went with an adoption in which the fee was based on their income, not
NPR continues a series of conversations about , where
thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural
identity in six words. Every so often NPR Host/Special Correspondent
Michele Norris will dip into those six-word stories to explore issues
surrounding race and cultural identity for Morning Edition. You can find hundreds of six-word submissions and submit your own at .
adopt thousands of children each year. And as the nation has become
increasingly diverse, and with the growth of international adoption in
recent decades, many of those children don't look like their adoptive
parents. That intersection of race and adoption has prompted many people
to submit their six words to The Race Card Project, including this
submission from a Louisiana woman: "."
Other contributors have
also addressed the skin-color based fee structure for many adoptions,
including Caryn Lantz of Minneapolis. Her six words: "Navigating world
as transracial adopted family."
Lantz and her husband, both
white, are the adoptive parents of two African-American boys. The couple
had struggled for years to conceive a child. When they finally decided
to turn to adoption they were willing to adopt kids of another race. But
they were concerned by what they discovered about the differential costs.
says she remembers a phone call with an adoption agency social worker.
"And [she] was telling us about these different fee structures that they
had based on the ethnic background of the child. And ... they also had,
sort of a different track for adoptive parents."
through the process would be quicker if the family was open to adopting
an African-American (not biracial) child, the social worker explained to
her. "And that is because they have children of color waiting," Lantz
says. Adopting biracial, Latino, Asian or Caucasian children could be a
slower process, she was told, because there were more parents waiting
Courtesy of Caryn Lantz
A screen grab detailing the race-based cost
differential for children being placed by various agencies. The original
page appeared on the website for an adoption consulting group that
links potential parents with adoption agencies. This fee structure has
been common for some time throughout the adoption system. The group no
longer posts this information to the public and asked to remain
"And I remember hearing this and just sort of being dumbfounded
that they would sort of segregate — to use a loaded term — segregate
these children by ethnic background before they were even in this
world," Lantz says. "That's when I started realizing that, OK, being a
parent to a child of a different ethnic background — this is gonna be
some work. There's going to be a lot of work on our end in order to be
successful parents and to get our child ready for this world."
Race Card Project spoke with social workers, adoption agencies and
adoptive parents about adoption costs based on ethnicity. We discovered
that this is not widely talked about, but it is common, Norris tells
NPR's David Greene. "No one is comfortable about this."
children, and black children, in particular, are harder to place in
adoptive homes, Norris says. So the cost is adjusted to provide an
incentive for families that might otherwise be locked out of adoption
due to cost, as well as "for families who really have to, maybe have a
little bit of prodding to think about adopting across racial lines."
In other words, Norris explains, there are often altruistic reasons
for the discrepancy — "but people who work in adoption say there's one
more reason, quite simply: It's supply and demand."
typically cover administrative costs, but also costs associated with
taking care of the mother, like travel, rent, health care and counseling
services. Now, some states and agencies are using a different formula
to make adoption more affordable for families, with a sliding scale
based on income rather than skin color. In that system, lower-income
families pay less to adopt. Some agencies are also moving toward a
uniform cost system where all adoptive parents would pay the same fees.
the Lantz family adopted their sons from Nevada, where the sliding
scale was based on income, not race. But because they were eager to find
a child, they did consider agencies that used a race-based cost
Many people have written to The Race Card Project about the intersection of race and adoption.
— Kathy Osborne, Greensboro, S.C.
. — Corrie Bugby, Murray, Utah
— Tod Carey, Laguna Woods, Calif.
. — Phyllis Kedl, Little Canada, Minn.
During the process, the family received four calls about potential
children to be matched with them — three from states that used this
race-based cost structure. "One was a full African-American child, one
was a biracial child and one was a white child," Lantz says. "And when
they told me the fees for the white child, I was in a Babies R Us
[store] and I remember having to sit down in the aisle and say to
myself, 'I don't think we can afford to adopt this child if the
expectant mother chose us.' "
The cost to adopt the Caucasian
child was approximately $35,000, plus some legal expenses. "Versus when
we got the first phone call about a little girl, a full African-American
girl, it was about $18,000," Lantz says. The cost for adoption of a
biracial child was between $24,000 and $26,000.
Eyes do linger
on her blended family in her community, Lantz says, and curious people
make comments. Two years ago, before she had a second son, she started
growing concerned about the effect those comments might have on her son
as he grows older.
"I am a little nervous about what we're
gonna do when he starts to understand why someone approached us at
Target and thanked us for saving babies," she explained at the time. "Or
when a woman, you know, walks down the aisle of the grocery store and
says, 'What's he mixed with?' "
Lantz responded to that
incident, she recalls, by saying, "My son, we adopted him at birth. And,
you know, his ethnic background is a little different. And we don't
know a whole bunch about it, but he is a beautiful kid, isn't he?"