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State Must Consider White Families in Mixed-Race Adoptions

July 2, 1993

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ The state must stop its policy of trying to place racially mixed children in black homes, a judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Robert McRae said he found little merit in the argument that children with one white parent and one black one would lose their black heritage in white homes.

″I have trouble with the word ‘heritage.’ ... I’d say it’s a code word,″ McRae said. ″The heritage should certainly be made known to the child. It’s a problem for both races, but life has problems.″

In his ruling from the bench Wednesday, McRae said the state must avoid considerations of race when finding adoptive families for racially-mixed children. He said a written order will follow in about a month.

The ruling came in a weeklong trial on a lawsuit filed by Ben and Laurel Reisman, the white adoptive parents of a mixed-race girl. The Reismans were foster parents for the child when they sued in 1990.

″We fell in love with her and wanted to be considered to adopt,″ Reisman said. ″But white parents were not considered as a matter of policy. We didn’t think it was right.″

Hayden Lait, the Reismans’ lawyer, said the state still can use race as one factor, but not the deciding one, in finding adoptive homes for children whose biological parents are of the same race.

Lait also said attempts to find black homes for mixed-race children is not exclusive to Tennessee.

″Other states try to find black homes, too,″ he said. ″That means placement is delayed even though everyone agrees they need to be put in a loving, nurturing environment as soon as possible.″

During the trial, witnesses for the state Department of Human Services said the adoption of a mixed-race child is considered ″transracial″ for white couples but not for black couples. They also said mixed-race children growing up with white families may have a hard time learning how to deal with racism.

″The white community has not embraced the (biracial) child wholly. It is the black community that has embraced them,″ said Ruth Gail McRoy, an associate professor of social work at the University of Texas at Austin who testified for the state.

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