In an age of genetic engineering, it is theoretically possible to “design your baby” not only to be born without serious genetic diseases, but also to have certain traits from intelligence to height. But that the hunt for “designer babies,” or babies with “certain qualities,” is more than well on its way, based on a recent NPR report about the different costs to adopt children of different races.
Caryn Lantz and her husband, who are both white, have adopted two African-American boys. As Lantz tells NPR, when they decided to try to adopt a child after struggling to conceive a child for years, an adoption agency social worker told her that there were “different fee structures … based on the ethnic background of the child.”
If Lantz and her husband wished to adopt an African-American child, the process would be quicker because (as the social worker informer her) there were simply more parents wanting to adopt children who are biracial, Latino, Asian or Caucasian. Even more, there are different costs for children based on their race, according to a document from an adoption consulting group linking potential parents with agencies.
The phenomenon of race-based adoption fees is not new, writes Stacia L. Brown in The Atlantic. She cites a 2002 ABC News report that noted a number of factors that can result in different costs for adopting children of different races. In a 2010 study in the North Carolina Law Review, law professor Barbara Fedders found that a number of private adoption agencies “openly advertised race-based pricing.”
According to NPR, while fees for one African-American baby were $17,000 before legal fees, those for Caucasian and biracial babies were higher, from $25,000 to $30,000. Biracial babies were identified by race and ethnicity in the fee chart. The fee for a baby whose parents were identified as CC/HISP (Caucasian and Hispanic) was $30,500 plus $4,500 in legal fees. In contrast, the fee for a baby with a whose background was AA/NA (African-American and Native American) was $22,500 plus $2,500 in legal fees.
NPR Host/Special Correspondent Michele Norris says that such differences in fees are “not widely talked about,” but are “common” and intended to be an “incentive for families that might otherwise be locked out of adoption due to cost” as well as to provide a “little bit of prodding to think about adopting across racial lines.”
That is, the different fees are intended to make it more likely for a child to be adopted. But the reality is something harsher, adoption agencies tell NPR: It is a matter of “supply and demand” — of more couples looking for a child who is white and being willing to pay more for such a child.
The aim of the different fees for children of different races and ethnicities is meant to be “altruistic.” But the fact that an African-American baby “costs” less than a white baby amounts to treating children as commodities, says Fedders. As she also notes, charging more for white babies places may also “place undue pressure on low-income white pregnant women and, ultimately, the children themselves, for whom parents have paid a vast sum.”
Race-based pricing by adoption agencies “is a concrete demonstration of our society undervaluing black children,” Fedders says. It is also yet more evidence that, as recently attested by the Supreme Court’s recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act, that racism is far, far from dead in the U.S.. As a result, in the U.S., some babies – some people, some lives — are just seen as “worth” more than others.
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