Sunday, July 09, 2000

Boy's death changed federal law




By Lucy May
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County's adoption practices have been pushed into national focus before.

        In 1989, county officials took 2-year-old Maurice “Reecie” West, who was an African-American, from white foster parents who wanted to adopt him. County officials placed the boy with an African-American couple in Rochester, N.Y.

        Within eight weeks, the boy died after repeated beatings by his new parents. The New York couple was convicted in the toddler's death and sentenced to prison.

        Reecie's death sparked a movement to change interracial adoption laws nationwide.

        Then-U.S. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio proposed federal legislation to keep race from being a primary factor in finding homes for children. The law also encouraged public agencies to recruit more minority parents. The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act passed in 1994.

        Two years later, the federal law was changed without debate in an amendment to a bill concerning small businesses. It said race could not be considered at all, except in rare cases.

        An exception is made if the adoptive child asks to be placed with parents of a particular race.

Adoption case tests bonds of love and race
Adoption requirements and numbers



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