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Mixed-race adoption the norm in Sweden

"Children have the right to a family"
7:54 min
Children have been adopted from abroad to Sweden since the end of the 1970s. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/Scanpix.

The British debate about the pro's and con's of so-called "mixed-race adoptions" is very different from the Swedish adoption experience. Here, the mixed-race adoptions are the norm, as virtually all children adopted in Sweden come from abroad.

In fact, when white children started being adopted from eastern Europe in the beginning of the 90s, there was a debate about the problems of "invisible" adoption, as these children were white caucasian, just like the adopting parents.

In the UK there has long been a debate about the pro's and con's of so called "mixed-race adoption", and the tradition has been to look for - for example - black adoptive parents for a black child, and white adoptive parents for a white child.

But since there are more white parents who want to adopt in the UK, it has taken longer for black and mixed-race children to be adopted, leaving them in care homes often for years. There is now a move to speed up the adoption process in the UK, and the government there wants to do away with the race-criteria when matching a child with a family.

The difference to the Swedish experience is striking. These days, there are virtually no Swedish children put up for adoption. The 10-20 registered domestic adoptions per year, are mainly kids adopted by the new partner of one of the parents, after the former partner has passed away or is out of the picture completely.

And it has been like this more or less since 1970, according to Inga Näslund, information secretary at Adoptionscentrum, which is the biggest out of a handful adoption agencies in Sweden.

"It became easier to keep a child when you were a single mother, there were abortions, new foster care policy, and so on, evenrything led to the domestic adoptions to decreased very significantly, from around 1970," says Inga Näslund.

Since Adoptionscentrum started, the organisation has helped 25000 children come to Sweden, and more have come here through other organisations. 

And of course, these children looked different than the Swedes. And soon this was the nomal way to adopt.

In fact, there was a completely different kind of debate here - compared to the British and American one - when suddenly the number of white adoptive children increased.

"When we started with more European adoptions in the 90s, there was a discussion that it is harder to adopt when the adoption is invisible, when you can pretend it is your own child, because then you can try to avoid all the adoption issues," says Inga Näslund.

"And I think we succeeded in making the families adopting from Russia and Estonia and so on understand this. I am sure this was better for the children, because we have so many people from when we had Swedish adoptions telling that to keep it a secret for the child is a very very bad thing".

Inga Näslund says they encourage the adoptive parents to get to know their birth country as they grow up, so that they can feel pride of their roots.

To listen to the full report, click on the link above.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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