Some policy changes under the Clinton administration have had a significant impact on transracial adoptions, Pertman said. One was to limit the time children would be in temporary care before becoming eligible for adoption and another was to tie financial incentives states receive to how many kids were placed in permanent homes.
Then Congress passed the Multiethnic Placement Act in 1994, which essentially mandated color-blindness in adoptions. Pertman said it has not worked to significantly decrease the number of black kids in foster care, despite the slight increase in transracial adoptions.
Part of the reason is that white parents still need to be trained in how to raise black children, everything from how to do their hair to how to talk to them about racism.
"The problem is we don't live in a colorblind society," said Pertman, who supports changing the law. "Race is still an issue. You enable parents to do a better job when you're color conscious."
Robert O'Connor, an African-American who was adopted by white parents and now studies transracial adoptions as an assistant professor of social work at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn., agreed.
"It's very important to believe in biculturalism versus assimilation," said O'Connor, who grew up on a rural farm and a suburb in Minnesota where he and his brother were the only black people in town. "Parents need to make sure their homes represent not just their culture but the child's culture, and it can't be what I refer to as 'cultural tourism.' The family needs to see themselves as a family of color as opposed to a white family that adopted a child of color."
O'Connor said the adopted black children in celebrity families may be insulated from some of the issues that average multiracial families face but they will, at some point, have to wrestle with issues of racial identity.
"They will have to work out that racial identity before the public eye and that scrutiny could cause them greater difficulty," he said. "These children are seen as members of a larger community, whether their parents recognize it or not. Sometimes transracial adoptees feel guilty about doing so well versus the people they came from. I call it 'survivors remorse.' For children of celebrities, I think negotiating where they came from and connecting with people of origin will be a much wider gulf to traverse."