Candace Russell doesn't mind the color of her new sister's skin. As long as the baby learns to love hot pink. Taylor, 1, shares Candace's...

Share story



EUCLID, Ohio — Candace Russell doesn’t mind the color of her new sister’s skin. As long as the baby learns to love hot pink.

Taylor, 1, shares Candace’s vividly painted bedroom and enjoys the 9-year-old’s gentle care.

Taylor’s adoptive mother is part of a small — maybe growing — group of black parents who adopt white children.

Nationwide, 8 percent of white children in public custody were adopted by black or interracial couples in 2004, the latest year available. About 26 percent of black children were adopted by white parents, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Historical data is scarce, but those who work in adoptions say more black couples appear to be adopting white children.

“It’s part of globalization and the trends for multiculturalism, and that’s a good thing,” said Karen Anderson, adoption director of Bellefaire JCB in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

In 1994, a federal law gave preference to same-race matches. But a 1996 amendment banned racial considerations unless they are raised by the parents seeking to adopt.

Adoption workers say black parents seldom ask for white children in general but usually accept them in the particular. And a few white children ask for black parents because of good experiences in foster care or friendships.

Some black parents are paired with white children through foster placements, often emergency ones, and these pairings bloom.

“Chris and I just made a connection,” said Shirley Hinton, a black resident who adopted a white 8-year-old boy.

Chris made her feel needed.

“He was so timid,” Hinton said. “You had to help him protect himself, talking to him, trying to reassure him.”

Chris, now 11, felt the connection, too.

“She said she wouldn’t tell anybody anything I didn’t want her to, and she hasn’t, so I trust her,” he said.

Elaine Russell met Taylor even before becoming her foster mother. Taylor was 1 week old and in an unstable placement elsewhere when she came to Russell’s home day-care center. Two weeks later, Taylor moved in.

“She was so precious and in need of a permanent home,” Russell said. “I think God put her into my hands.”

Black parents say they face some unique challenges in raising white children. Start with nosy strangers.

“I get looks wherever I go,” said Kim Stokes. “People go, Is he yours?’ I hate that question. What difference does it make?”

Stokes said a traffic cop once grilled her in the back of the cruiser about her adopted children, who are of different races. Fortunately, she had James’ paperwork in his diaper bag, just in case.

Some black parents say they hesitated to adopt white children for fear of exposing them to such bigotry.

So why did these parents go ahead? For love.

“He was a baby in need,” Stokes said of a child born addicted to drugs. “Hello?”

Black parents encourage white children to learn both cultures. Cathryn Thompson, 9, celebrates her Irish blood by wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, even at the family’s Baptist church.

Some agencies offer training to prospective white couples seeking to adopt black children, but black parents raising white children may have to learn by trial and error.

Stokes’ son James got sunburned before she learned to protect him. And his hair went wild until she learned to wet it down.

Adoption workers say most of these blended families live in somewhat integrated neighborhoods, which helps them to fit in.

In one hour recently at the Hintons’ home, two black friends showed up independently to play with Chris.

“It’s cool,” Chris’ friend Stanley Jordan, 9, said about the cross-racial adoption. “It’s good for people to understand each other.”