Gailey, Christine Ward. Blue Ribbon Babies and Labors of Love: Race, Class, and Gender in U.S.Adoption Practice.Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2010. xi + 185 pages. Cloth, $50.00.
In Blue Ribbon Babies and Labors of Love, sociologist Christine Gailey has produced an important work on adoption practices in America. She examines adoption in the United States from many different lenses, all of which facilitate understandings of this complex issue. Adoption has generally been considered a positive and well-meaning humanitarian gesture toward children in need of families; however, in this book Gailey does a good job of deconstructing any myths surrounding adoption, and successfully calls into question the motivations of different groups of adopters. More importantly, she includes an analysis of race, class, and gender in adoption decisions, utilizing an intersectional approach that is important in any study of human actions. By illustrating that kinship and ideas of family are socially constructed concepts with varied meanings attached across race, class, and gender categories rather than built on "blood" relations, Galley furthers understanding of the link between symbolic meanings and family relationships.
Throughout the book, the author provides an extensive history of adoption practices and policies in the United States which helps readers understand how adoption has changed and why her book is an important addition to the scholarship. Gailey presents a typology of different types of adopters and the ways that race, class, and gender influence the decisions made to adopt. She argues that adoption is highly gendered: Women are more likely to initiate adoptions; the majority of social workers are women; and birth mothers are the primary parent placing children for adoption. Gailey does include men as members of married couples who adopt children and quotes from married male adopters, many of which deal with the men's perceptions of the adoption on their wives. The challenges and rewards of adopting for lesbians can be found throughout the various chapters, but gay males as adopters, while identified as part of the sample, are largely missing in the rest of the book. This is one of the drawbacks of the book, for it perpetuates rather than questions the notions that children are women's burdens and that fathers are not involved in family and kinship practices.
One of the strengths of the book is that the sample of 131 adopters of ninety...