State of Texas Settles Interracial Adoption Challenge, Agrees to Monitoring

John Kramer
John Kramer · November 7, 1996

Washington, D.C. ­In a court settlement announced today, the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS) will now be under the watchful eye of the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm. The settlement will ensure the State no longer engages in racematching in adoptions-a practice whereby social workers delayed or denied adoptions when a child’s race did not match that of the adoptive parents. The DPRS agreed to turn over to the Institute statistics for the next two years on the placement of children into adoptive homes. The State agreed to the settlement after the Institute filed suit on behalf of minority children whose adoptions were delayed or denied by DPRS because of their race.

On April 13, 1995, the Institute for Justice launched a nationwide challenge to racematching by state agencies and sought to establish a rule of law that racial discrimination in adoptions is unconstitutional. Its first two test cases were filed in Texas and Tennessee. In the Texas case, the Institute represented Matthew and Joseph, the two foster children that Lou Ann and Scott Mullen tried to adopt for nearly two years. While the litigation was pending, the Texas legislature passed one of the toughest laws in the nation forbidding race-based adoption placements. Despite the fact that Texas prohibits the use of race to delay or deny adoptive placements, the Institute charged that social workers ignored it and continued racematching. Immediately after the Institute filed the challenge, the State at last approved Matthew and Joseph’s adoption.

Under the terms of the agreement, which were approved by the court on October 28, DPRS agrees to turn over to the Institute two years of statistics on the placement of children into adoptive homes. During that time the Institute’s litigation can be reopened if the State does not comply with its legal duties not to discriminate in finding adoptive homes for children. Because the Mullens have two other minority children they have sought to adopt for the past five years, the State also agreed to monitor monthly the DPRS local office to ensure the children’s “speedy, permanent placement” with the Mullens (barring unexpected circumstances.)

“I’m relieved that this part of our case is finished,” said Lou Ann Mullen. “But until the State no longer has control over our children, this issue will not be over for us.”

“This settlement will ensure that Texas social workers will no longer use race as an excuse to block the doors to loving homes for minority children,” declared Donna Matias, the Institute’s attorney on this case. “The Institute will be vigilant in its oversight of the Department.”

“Until government is denied the power to discriminate in adoption decisions, we will see lengthy delays in adoptions solely on the basis of the skin color of innocent children,” declared Clint Bolick, the Institute’s litigation director.

Of the half-million children waiting in foster care, more than 30 percent are black, 14 percent are Hispanic, and roughly five percent are of other, non-white background, according to a 1993 American Public Welfare Association report. Further, the same report shows that black children awaiting adoption constitute approximately 40 percent of all children awaiting adoptive homes, although blacks represent only about 12.3 percent of the general population. Statistics from the National Adoption Center, which maintains a register of “hard-to-place” children and waiting families, reveal that approximately 67 percent of such children are black and 26 percent are white. Yet 67 percent of the waiting families are white and 31 percent are black. One study of children awaiting adoption revealed that minority children wait twice as long for an adoptive home as their white peers, and minority placement rates are 20 percent lower than non-minority placement rates.

The Institute for Justice advances a rule of law under which individuals control their destinies as free and responsible members of society. Through strategic litigation, training, and outreach, the Institute secures greater protection for individual liberty, challenges the scope and ideology of the Regulatory Welfare State, and illustrates and extends the benefits of freedom to those whose full enjoyment of liberty is denied by government. The Institute was founded in September 1991 by William Mellor and Clint Bolick.