*The Michigan Chronicle captured snippets of Black family adoption stories in this two-part series for National Adoption Month. Stay tuned for the second part to learn about more Metro Detroit families and their journeys to become parents.
Her name is Harper Lee Wright.
The beautiful, brown-skinned baby has an abundance of black curls which is where your eyes might land first. Then you can’t help but immediately notice her squeezable cheeks, doe-like eyes, and sweet, gentle demeanor.
Harper is the beloved and long-awaited daughter of 49-year-old Southfield resident LaShon Wright.
Wright adopted Harper four months ago and said overcoming difficult life challenges [including her father’s passing] helped solidify her desire even more to become a mother.
Wright said that she tried to wait for her husband, “That is what we’re taught to do,” she said. But as time went on with Wright dating she said “nothing is working.”
“I still want to be a mother,” she said adding that she tried the fertility clinic route and that didn’t work. Wright, who has a couple of girlfriends who adopted, decided to go that direction and started planning. “The desire in my heart was there; I wanted to do that. … Why not give someone a second chance?”
That second chance came in the form of two-day-old Harper whom she flew out to meet at a hospital in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in July. Despite the pandemic rearing its ugly head and slightly stalling the process, the family was finally united shortly after Harper’s birth mother gave birth.
“I knew God had a plan and there was a baby for me,” she said of how she encouraged herself during this lengthy journey filled with disappointments and setbacks– including one birth mother changing her mind about Wright adopting her baby in March.
Wright said that Harper’s birth mother already had two babies, a two-year-old and one-year-old.
“She was 20,” Wright said, adding that the birth mother hugged her immediately upon their meeting. “I was like I knew … this is God’s blessing to me. I always call her [Harper] God’s masterpiece.”
Wright said that her daughter was “beautiful” and her heart “melted” when she saw her.
“I call her my nosy baby,” Wright said beaming while cradling her sleeping daughter on the morning of Nov. 6. “She kept her eyes open [the day we met]; She’s a good baby inside and out.”
Wright said that she’s received mainly positive feedback about her adopting [she told any naysayers to keep it moving] and that the Arkansas judge presiding over her case said days into Harper’s birth that Wright is “making a legacy.”
“You’re giving someone a second chance,” the judge said to her.
Some Black children are never given the first chance, according to a 2019 article from pri.org. Social workers are often called upon to “assess” a newborn’s skin color, because skin color can be a deciding factor potential for placement, according to the article, which also revealed from an NPR investigation that dark-skinned Black children cost less to adopt than light-skinned white children. They are, oftentimes, ranked by social workers and the public as less preferred, the article stated.
“In the adoption market, race and color combine to create another preference hierarchy: white children are preferred over nonwhite,” Washington University law school professor Kimberly Jade Norwood said in the article. “When African-American children are considered, the data suggest there is a preference for light skin and biracial children over dark-skinned children.”
Wright said that she would “absolutely” encourage others in the Black community who might be considering adoption to adopt Black children as she did.
“I decided to adopt a Black baby because of the culture,” she said. “I wanted her to be a powerful African American woman — that is my goal for her.”
Wright used the Florida-based Lifetime Adoption Agency to adopt Harper. Heather Featherston, vice president of the agency, said that they use mostly pregnant mothers and occasionally mothers with toddlers who are put up for adoption.
Lifetime Adoption Agency operates the African American Adoptions program online, which started over 15 years ago as a more direct way for Black pregnant mothers to find Black and biracial couples for their child(ren). That is the route Wright took.
Featherston added that modern adoption today is “open,” in which the birth mother makes the choices of where her child goes. She also said that this type of adoption is nothing new but it’s “kind of the untold story.”
“She [the biological mother] gets to see a variety of families,” Featherston said, adding that the families have prepared booklets and video clips describing who they are for the birth mother to peruse. “She can talk to one or more of them and see who she would like to choose for her child. … and she can make other choices for her child; the type of ongoing contact she wants [and who] is in the delivery room with her.”
“We’ve worked hard to keep it so in search results it shows up … for those moms,” she said of the Black-centric online program. Also, in the last 15 years a lot more Black families have adopted from the program, Featherston said. “We get a lot of families [like Wright’s] who apply from word of mouth. We want to be sure that women considering adoption have the opportunity to choose the type of family they are looking for when it comes to race.”
Wright’s longtime friend, Southfield resident Pat Clarke, 75, is the adoptive “meemaw” and watches Harper a couple of times a week when Wright goes to work at Weight Watchers.
“We talked about it … I kind of went through the process with her when she decided to adopt,” the proud grandmother [who doesn’t have any biological grandchildren] said.
Clarke said that children are a blessing and she and her friend are both learning along the way.
“In this day and age we are our brother’s keepers and so many kids out there … need homes,” Clarke said. “I would definitely encourage Black people to do [adopt Black children] so we can make our culture stronger.”
For more information go to http://www.AfricanAmericanAdoptionsOnline.com/ or find “African American Adoptions” on Facebook.
Read the second part of this series here.