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A Canadian Haven For Black U.S. Babies

by : Jane Armstrong
Monday October 17, 2005 - 04:28
1 comment

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/serv...

A Canadian Haven For Black U.S. Babies Jane Armstrong October 01, 2005

The United States is exporting newborns by the hundreds and Canada is a preferred destination.

Most of the infants are African American or biracial; their birth mothers want them to be raised outside the United States and believe Canada is a land of little racial strife.

Although there are no officials figures, an estimated 500 African-American babies are adopted abroad each year. In the past 20 years, about 300 have come to British Columbia, where blacks account for less than 0.7 per cent of the population.

The Open Door, a private adoption agency in Thomasville, Ga., has placed about 200 children in British Columbia, including Dave and Juanita Alexander’s two sons, Elias and Keiran.

“It’s the hardest thing a parent can do,” Mr. Alexander, 32, said in an interview this week as he gazed at Keiran - a 14-month-old aptly nicknamed “the tornado”- playing on the back porch of their home in Langley, east of Vancouver, with his older brother. “I imagine [the birth parents] are still grieving.”

Keiran’s birth parents, Mark Dedrick and Shante Easterling, are a young African-American couple who already had two children, one with costly health problems, and decided they could not raise a third. They chose the Alexanders, both teachers, over a black American family because the Canadians agreed to an open adoption with regular contact and future visits.

The adoption process was wrapped up in a matter of weeks in July of 2004, after the Alexanders completed the required paperwork and home study. They had had a similar experience when they adopted Elias, now almost 3. It had taken mere weeks to learn that a woman in Georgia had selected them to raise the baby boy she delivered in November, 2002.

When the couple first laid eyes on Elias lying in a crib in a foster home near Atlanta, they both burst into tears. The three-month-old infant, who had been crying, suddenly stopped. “It felt like he knew who we were,” Ms. Alexander, 36, said, recalling her first minutes with her elder son.

The Alexanders’ rear porch backs onto a wooded marsh threaded with a creek and bicycle paths. In the distance, the snow-capped Coast Mountains gleam in the autumn sunlight. It’s light years from the muggy heat and segregation of the Deep South where both boys were born.

Walter Gilbert, The Open Door’s CEO, said Canada appeals to African-American mothers because the culture and language are similar, plus there is a belief that racism in not nearly as prevalent.

“Is the U.S. more racist?” Mr. Gilbert asked in a telephone interview. “We say yes.”

The practice of sending African-American infants abroad has attracted a wave of media attention in the United States, some of it unfavourable. Critics there say the United States should be embarrassed that the world’s richest country is exporting African-American infants to Canada and Europe to be raised in cultures with far less defined black cultures.

The National Association of Black Social Workers of America has condemned the practice, saying every effort should be made to ensure African-American infants are raised in African-American homes. It says black children are better off with parents who look like them and who can teach them their culture and better prepare them for racism.

Mr. Gilbert said he recently asked a black 13-year-old whose adoption to British Columbia was arranged by The Open Door to describe his experiences with racism. The boy said he had been taunted and teased at school about five or six times in his life.

“If that child had grown up here, in southeastern United States, he would have been called the ‘n’ word every day of his life,” Mr. Gilbert said. “In Canada, it appears like it is just a matter of incidental racism, whereas here, it’s a daily occurrence.”

The Alexanders know that racism exists in Canada, although they believe that in a province like British Columbia their children are viewed more as exotic curiosities. While the Lower Mainland is as diverse as any other Canadian urban centre, with large Asian and Indo-Canadian populations, blacks are few and far between on the streets of Vancouver.

As white parents, they can’t live in their children’s shoes or identify with the experiences the boys will encounter as they grow up in a predominantly white culture. But the couple have taken pains to expose the youngsters to other black children and adults. Once a month, they take their kids to a nearby playgroup for black children.

The couple once lived in Senegal and have African friends. “We aren’t black and we can’t pretend to be or pretend it doesn’t matter,” Ms. Alexander said. “We can only hope they won’t feel like strangers to this heritage when they are older.”

Still, there are moments of tension. Ms. Alexander calls it the Safeway syndrome, that moment when a stranger approaches - often in a supermarket aisle - and asks, “Where is he from? Who are his real parents?” That’s if the stranger is polite.

Once, when the Alexanders entered Washington state for a visit, a U.S. border guard, after viewing the boys’ U.S. passports, said disapprovingly: “You should only be allowed to adopt kids from your own country.”

In both Canada and the United States, foreign adoptions are increasing in popularity.

In the United States, international adoption has increased by 140 per cent in the past two decades, with China the most popular source country for babies. North American couples often cite the lack of babies here as the reason for international adoption.

Private agencies, lawyers or even church groups handle most of the adoptions. And, increasingly, both domestic and international adoptions are “open,” where the birth mother or parents select the adoptive parents and maintain some sort of contact.

When Elias and Keiran get older, they might turn to someone like Troy Peart for advice on how to live as a black man in a white-dominated culture.

Mr. Peart, 33, is one of a handful of black mentors who gather once a month at a community centre in the Vancouver area to play with black kids. The financial adviser with the Bank of Montreal was born in Sudbury and raised in Scarborough, Ont. His parents came from Jamaica.

Mr. Peart understands the isolation of being black on Canada’s West Coast. He helped start the playgroup to be a role model to black youngsters, many of whom don’t know any black adults.

One story repeated at the playgroup was of a young boy asking his white father, “At what age do I become white?” The boy didn’t know any black adults, so he believed he, too, would grow up to be white.

Another assumed that Mr. Peart worked at a fast-food lunch counter because that was the only place he had ever seen blacks.

Mr. Peart laughs when told that many Americans, especially in the South, believe racism scarcely exists in Canada.

As a teenager growing up near the Metro Toronto Zoo, the honour roll student and accomplished athlete was routinely pulled over by police for no reason except that he often seemed to match a description of a criminal at large.

In Vancouver, his biggest complaint is isolation.

To this day, if he sees another black person on the street, he nods and says hello.

The Alexanders have heard the U.S. criticism against sending black infants abroad. But they know, too, that there is a pecking order to the world of international adoption, which ranks white female infants at the top and black boys near the bottom.

The wait for a white baby girl can be years, if ever, and the cost can approach $40,000 (U.S.). The wait for a mixed-race baby is shorter, and the price about $20,000. The wait for a black baby boy is even shorter and costs about $10,000.

Lee Allen, a spokesman for the National Council for Adoption, said African-American families traditionally have not been recruited to be adoptive parents. And their unwanted children, or children they cannot care for, have generally been taken in by relatives.

The Alexanders don’t want to be viewed as a middle-class couple flying in to “rescue” two poor black boys. If anything, the reverse is true, Ms. Alexander said.

“They have blessed our lives beyond measure already. We feel privileged to have the honour of raising and sharing their lives with their birth parents.”



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> A Canadian Haven For Black U.S. Babies
Sunday October 30 - 09:36 - Posted by d1194576a9fbd3e6...

The real issue here is not racisim... It’s that slavery still exists. It’s just called adoption now.
Oh yeah... and the prices of fresh humans has gone up. Wow... $40,000.00 for white meat.

Sorry if this sounds harsh and you just don’t "GET IT" but the fact that I am adopted gives me the right to tell you the truth.







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