Selling Transracial Adoption

Families, Markets, and the Color Line

Elizabeth Raleigh
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1478-6
Publication: Dec 17

HC: $94.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1477-9
Publication: Dec 17

250 pages
6 x 9

Examines cross-race adoptions from the perspectives of adoption providers, showing how racial hierarchies and the supply and demand for children shape the process

Read the Introduction (pdf).


While focused on serving children and families, the adoption industry must also generate sufficient revenue to cover an agency’s operating costs. With its fee-for-service model, Elizabeth Raleigh asks, How does private adoption operate as a marketplace? Her eye-opening book, Selling Transracial Adoption, provides a fine-grained analysis of the business decisions in the adoption industry and what it teaches us about notions of kinship and race.

Adoption providers, Raleigh declares, are often tasked with pitching the idea of transracial adoption to their mostly white clientele. But not all children are equally “desirable,” and transracial adoption—a market calculation—is hardly colorblind. Selling Transracial Adoption explicitly focuses on adoption providers and employs candid interviews with adoption workers, social workers, attorneys, and counselors, as well as observations from adoption conferences and information sessions, to illustrate how agencies institute a racial hierarchy—especially when the supply of young and healthy infants is on the decline. Ultimately, Raleigh discovers that the racialized practices in private adoption serve as a powerful reflection of race in America.


In this highly readable contribution to the critical adoption literature, Raleigh considers the central role of race in the private adoption market (both domestic and international) during a time of ‘crisis.’ Her use of qualitative interviews foregrounds the perspectives of adoption workers and provides new insights into the commodified intersections of race and kinship.”
—​ Sara Dorow, Professor of Sociology at the University of Alberta, and author of Transnational Adoption: A Cultural Economy of Race, Gender, and Kinship

“Selling Transracial Adoption is a welcome addition to the current literature on race and the market forces that shape building families through transracial adoption. By focusing on adoption providers, Elizabeth Raleigh adds to our understanding of how changes in the political economy of adoption pressure adoption providers to market children in their programs to clients who are not prepared to address the complexities of parenting across race. Acquiescing to the pressures of sustaining programs in a shrinking market, adoption providers must face difficult choices to balance the welfare of children with the demands of prospective parents. Raleigh provides a balanced analysis of the challenges to adoption providers and offers suggestions to address the conditions of power and privilege in the formation of family so that all participants are better served. This is an important contribution to understanding the market dynamics of transracial adoption.
Pamela Anne Quiroz, Professor of Sociology and Director of Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston and author of Adoption in a Color-Blind Society

"The research that is the basis of this book is incredibly important and groundbreaking.... This book is not about blaming individual adoptive parents, adoption workers or adoption agencies. This book does, however, ask us to think about how the racism, ableism, and adult-focus (even within a supposed 'best interest of the child' framework) of our culture and society (in the U.S. at least) plays out the way we practice adoption. This book really asks us to step back from our own personal stories and ask a couple of important questions."
Harlow's Monkey

"Raleigh offers a nuanced and compelling discussion of the consumerism of international and domestic adoption economies.... (She) crafts a compelling examination of how markets of children are created and how this shopping for children is packaged to become palatable for prospective adoptive parents as they select the children they wish to adopt.... (I)n its focus on transracial domestic and international placements, Selling Transracial Adoption contributes significantly to recent debates and conversations concerning the market logics of this kind of adoption."
— Adoption and Culture

"In this well-researched study, Raleigh makes a compelling argument for viewing adoption as a business, a business in which 'love and markets intermingle,' as she writes in the introduction.... (T)he author skillfully weaves narrative from adoption workers with her own views about family and the demarcation of the color line. The text illustrates racialized adoptive practices and questions not only how adoption workers manage the market demands placed on their services and commodities, but also what the future of this industry will be now that the number of global adoptions (market share) has significantly decreased.... Summing Up: Recommended."

Table of Contents


1. Staying Afloat in a Perfect Storm
2. Uneasy Consumers: The Emotion Work of Marketing Adoption
3. Transracial Adoption as a Market Calculation
4."And You Get to Black": Racial Hierarchies and the Black–Non-Black Divide
5. Selling Transracial Adoption: Social Workers' Ideals and Market Concessions
Conclusion: The Consequences of Selling Transracial Adoption and the Implications for Adoptive Families


About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Raleigh is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.