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Blue-Ribbon Babies and Labors of Love

CHRISTINE WARD GAILEY
Copyright Date: 2010
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/721272
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    Blue-Ribbon Babies and Labors of Love
    Book Description:

    Most Americans assume that shared genes or blood relationships provide the strongest basis for family. What can adoption tell us about this widespread belief and American kinship in general?Blue-Ribbon Babies and Labors of Loveexamines the ways class, gender, and race shape public and private adoption in the United States. Christine Ward Gailey analyzes the controversies surrounding international, public, and transracial adoption, and how the political and economic dynamics that shape adoption policies and practices affect the lives of people in the adoption nexus: adopters, adoptees, birth parents, and agents within and across borders. Interviews with white and African-American adopters, adoption social workers, and adoption lawyers, combined with her long-term participant-observation in adoptive communities, inform her analysis of how adopters' beliefs parallel or diverge from the dominant assumptions about kinship and family. Gailey demonstrates that the ways adoptive parents speak about their children vary across hierarchies of race, class, and gender. She shows that adopters' notions about their children's backgrounds and early experiences, as well as their own "family values," influence child rearing practices. Her extensive interviews with 131 adopters reveal profoundly different practices of kinship in the United States today.

    Moving beyond the ideology of "blood is thicker than water," Gailey presents a new way of viewing kinship and family formation, suitable to times of rapid social and cultural change.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79514-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. ONE PROFILING ADOPTION IN THE UNITED STATES TODAY
    (pp. 1-17)

    Race, class, and gender issues permeate and shape adoption in the United States. Adoption has always concerned race, from the first efforts by white settlers to adopt Native American children to the ongoing controversy surrounding interracial placement of children. It has an abiding location within a class hierarchy that draws children for adoption from the indigent or working-poor. Adoption today is also heavily gendered: women initiate the vast majority of adoptions; the preponderance of adoption social workers are women; and birth mothers are most often the sole parent for their vulnerable children. These hierarchies determine the structural risks facing children,...

  5. TWO “KIDS NEED FAMILIES TO TURN OUT RIGHT” Public Agency Adopters
    (pp. 18-30)

    There has long been a socioeconomic divide between those who adopt children from foster care and those who adopt privately or through private agencies. For decades, most foster parents have come from the working and lower-middle classes (see Mandell, 1973: 43). Public agencies did not actively solicit adoption applications from these caregivers until reforms of the 1970s permitted foster parents to adopt. Public agency adoptions began to permit kin adoptions in the 1970s, followed by greater acceptance of single-mother adoptions in the 1980s. Kin adoptions reflected the class and racial/ethnic backgrounds of children in foster care. Single-mother adoptions included more...

  6. THREE TRANSRACIAL ADOPTION IN PRACTICE
    (pp. 31-55)

    Institutional and attitudinal forms of race, class, and gender discrimination have shaped adoption in numerous ways: in the necessity for adoption in the first place, in the state’s regulation of adoption and fosterage, in the categorization of children and parents, and in matching children with parents. Most researchers concur on these points, but few have put all these factors together into a comprehensive analysis of adoption and race. Even in a thoughtful study such as Sandra Patton’s examination of race and class in transracial adoption (2000), gender is often overlooked or submerged.

    In this chapter, the politics and practices of...

  7. FOUR MAKING KINSHIP IN THE WAKE OF HISTORY Older Child Adoption
    (pp. 56-78)

    Older child adoption¹ in the United States today is a story of forming kinship bonds in the aftermath of personal and community-based trauma,² specifically, violence that has simultaneous gender, race, and class dimensions. Adoptive parents and children struggle daily with a set of intersecting ideologies of child development, personality, and kinship that make change, transcendence, and healing appear impossible. It is a story that often revictimizes children by making them appear helpless and ignoring their strengths. Parents who subscribe to society’s dominant narrative of kinship as an expression of genetic replication, inheritance, and possession, and who reinforce society’s gender hierarchies...

  8. FIVE THE GLOBAL SEARCH FOR “BLUE-RIBBON BABIES” International Adoption
    (pp. 79-116)

    In 1992, international adoption¹ represented only 5 percent of all adoptions in the United States, far less than domestic adoptions through public or private agencies. By 2001, that percentage had tripled, a level it continues to maintain until today. As with domestic transracial adoption, the dramatic increase can be traced in part to the adoption reforms of the 1990s. The number of international adoptions to the United States keeps growing steadily, from about 6,472 in 1992 to 20,679 in 2006. As such, the United States is the largest importer of adopted children in the world, a trend that shows no...

  9. SIX INCLUSIVE, EXCLUSIVE, AND CONTRACTUAL FAMILIES What Adoption Can Tell Us about Kinship Today
    (pp. 117-152)

    The adopters in this study varied widely in how closely they adhered to dominant cultural “kinscripts” regarding what family is supposed to be (see Stack and Burton, 1993). The approaches adoptive parents took to issues of their children’s origins, sense of belonging, socialization, and learning styles or perceived capacities reflected class, ethno-racial, and gender configurations as well as the parents’ own upbringing and willingness to engage or change such received patterns. Class, gender, and race all provided the framework in which kinship of some sort developed.

    Substantiationis what I call the process through which people enter and are embraced...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 153-156)
  11. REFERENCES
    (pp. 157-180)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 181-185)