Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Suggested Reading Before Adoption

***ETA on 11/16: If you are arriving at this post through a Google search and have never read my blog before, please go back and read this post first. Thank you.***

Of course I have a pro-reading bias, since I am/was an English teacher, but I think that doing serious reading before deciding to adopt is particularly important because it is so difficult to find quality information online. When J and I were getting frustrated with infertility treatments and wanted to pursue adoption, we started with some Google searches and were overwhelmed with the quantity of information available. Unfortunately, some of the top search hits are national agencies, which didn't end up being helpful (more on that in a different post). Other sites offered general information about adoption for couples like us, but they were so vague that they created questions more than answering them. Plus, many of the important adoption issues were glossed over. Adoption blogs like this do offer some good information, but because they are about personal experiences they are not general enough to help people at the beginning stages of the process.

Which is a long-winded way of saying: even if you aren't a pleasure reader, you must read books before you adopt. Period. Don't argue with me. There will be a quiz on Friday worth 20 points and...sorry...

  • Dear Birthmother by Kathleen Silber; this book is required reading for domestic adoption since most domestic adoptions have some degree of openness these days. Silber's book gives insight into the perspectives of each member of the adoption "triad" (adoptive family, birth family and the child). If you are suspicious about open adoption, read this book. If you think you want an open adoption, read this book. If you want to understand birth familes better, read this book. If you want to understand adoptive families better, read this book. It would be beneficial for those looking into international adoption, too.

  • Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew; our SW calls this "the scary book." Why? Because these are 20 things adopted kids wish their parents knew, meaning they have had a good reason not to just mention these things in casual conversation. This book was written by an adopted child who did not have a very open, communicative relationship with her birth and adoptive families, with regard to her adoption. She goes into the emotional and psychological wounds that some adopted kids and adults suffer. Don't read this book first because it will make you feel discouraged about the adoption process. The correct way to read this book is as an eye-opening reality check of what can happen if you don't approach your child's adoption in a healthy way. Other books provide strategies for communicating with your child about their adoption so that these twenty things are minor issues for the child and not major traumas. This book is equally applicable to domestic and international adoptions.

  • Making Sense of Adoption: A Parent's Guide; this book is like an instruction manual for dealing with the issues that arise among the adoption triad, from birth to the teen years (as described in Twenty Things...). J and I appreciated that this book painted a picture of what raising a child in an open adoption might look like. It eases the fear that Twenty Things... created in our minds. This book reminded me of some of my child psychology training in college because it presents adoption in terms of developmental milestones for the child. This book is equally applicable to domestic and international adoptions.

  • Inside Transracial Adoption; even though we didn't end up adopting transracially, we were open to transracial adoption and Lucy's adoption was going to be a transracial adoption. Before you consider adopting a child from outside your own race, whether domestic or international, you must read a book like this one. Talk about a reality check, this book lays out clearly what you are taking on by choosing to adopt a child from a different race. It does not discourage you from doing so, but it makes sure that you go into the experience with the knowledge and tools you need to do it successfully. The most significant idea I took away from this book is that for a child like Evie, her status as an adopted child "belongs" to her. The three of us can decide who gets to know what about her adoption; we don't have to discuss it with grocery store clerks. In a transracial adoption, the child's adoptive status doesn't just belong to the child and the family, it is out in the open for everyone to comment on. That brings up extra challenges for the family. This book gives suggestions for diffusing those issues and also helps adoptive families understand why some people will disagree with their decision to adopt transracially, and how to talk to those people.

  • The Complete Book of International Adoption: A Step by Step Guide to Finding Your Child; this book is the best book out there for International Adoption and if you are considering adopting internationally you must read this book or a similar book so that you know what the entire process will entail. The best thing about this book is that it is easy to compare and contrast the adoption processes for many different countries; the author doesn't write generally about the process and lump South American adoptions in with Asian and Eastern European adoptions. The only weakness of a book like this is that some of the specific requirements to adopt from a particular country can change rapidly. This book also gets into some of the specific "adoption issues" related to adopting transnationally and how to deal with those issues as they arise in your family.

To readers who have adopted: what books did you read that were particularly helpful in preparing you for what adoption was like and what raising adopted kids is like?


  1. I highly recommend Making Room in Our Hearts: Keeping Family Ties Through Open Adoption by Micky Duxbury for anyone adopting domestically.

    And The Family of Adoption by Joyce Pavao is an excellent parenting guide that talks about how children process and understand adoption at different developmental states.

  2. Great are right that there is SO MUCH out there and it's very hard to narrow down to what's actually important! The very first thing I did when we decided to pursue adoption (even before I think) was to begin reading. I'm not an English teacher (yet!!) but I agree 100% that this is one of the very best things you can do for yourself if adoption is even remotely on the brain! Thanks for sharing!



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