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Friday, 17 November 2017
 
 
Book Review: Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families Print
In Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families, Patricia Irwin Johnston repeatedly states that her book is not a “how-to guide” to adoption. After reading the book, however, I would assert that Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families, is a “how-to guide”—how to do adoption right—ethically, purposefully, intentionally and in a child-centered manner.

Although primarily written for couples who have experienced infertility, the author states that the book can be useful for anyone who is experiencing challenges in family-building, including singles and same-sex couples. In the first portion of the book, she suggests a plan for working through the decision-making process, she dispels many myths about who can adopt, she provides a wide range of resources to facilitate people in doing their own research into the world of adoption, and she discusses how adoptive families can gain a sense of “entitlement” to their places in their new families. In the last portion of the book, Johnston guides families through the anticipation of and planning for homecoming, the adjustments of the first months together, and how to deal with adoption-related issues in the world in general.

From her admittedly opinionated position, Patricia Irwin Johnston has filled the book with questions, hard questions, that folks contemplating adoption should ask themselves as they move through the process of deciding whether to adopt, whom to adopt, and what path to take to adoption—questions like the following:

“How would I (and my partner) rank the losses for the “family-challenged”—loss of genetic continuity, loss of a jointly-conceived child, loss of the physical and emotional expectations of pregnancy, loss of the opportunity to parent? Have we fully grieved the loss of the ability to build our family in the ‘normal’ way?”

“Could I (and my partner, and our extended families/social circle) love and accept a child of another race? What are our ‘secret’ biases? What race(s) could we accept, and what could we not?”

“How much risk am I (and my partner) willing to take in choosing a path to adoption? Can we handle the chance that a birthmother might change her mind? Are we willing to risk unknown medical problems or delays in child adopted from an orphanage in another country?”

“How ethical is the path to adoption that I (and my partner) am considering? How honest are we willing to be in the home-study process? How much are we willing to ‘turn a blind’ eye in order to have a faster process? How will we explain our choices to our adult child one day?”

Through the use of many vignettes, as well as confessions from her own journey as an adoptive mom (she and her husband have adopted 3 children, all of whom are now adults) the author gives an honest portrayal (sometimes brutally) of all that adoption entails. As an unabashed advocate for child-centered, ethical practices, she encourages all adults in the adoption process, would-be parents as well as social workers and agency staff, to make sound choices for the protection and in the best interest of every child.

For anyone considering adoption, I highly recommend this book as a guide for “how to do it right.” For those who are already parents through adoption, I also recommend the book, with a warning. During my reading, I found myself very convicted and sometimes embarrassed by my past choices. If I (and my partner) had been more intentional about our adoption, if we had asked ourselves some of those hard questions, if I had been in less of a rush to “get my baby,” I think I would have been better prepared to meet the needs of my first child. Reading this book made me realize that I did not take the time or give the attention necessary to fully grieve the loss of the “assumed child” (that child that we imagined would be jointly conceived). I did not face and deal with the painful, humiliating loss of control that IF treatments had brought into my life, and into my relationship with my husband.

The author writes that many infertile couples feel that “family building challenges are a punishment of some sort or a message that they wouldn’t be good parents anyway. Some fertility-impaired people react by believing that they are somehow less competent than they were before infertility was discovered.” Such beliefs can lead to a victim-mentality, a mentality that I now realize I assumed. Those beliefs were a barrier to my ability to parent my first child with confidence and effectiveness, and those barriers made her difficult transition into our family all the more difficult. For that I feel a sense of guilt. While guilt for its own sake is not productive, this book forced me to take a hard look at my choices, and think about how I will explain myself to my child, if she ever asks me those hard questions.

-by Teddi Tate, MS.Ed., Adoptive Mother
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