An International and Nontraditional
Edited by Lita Linzer Schwartz,
Ph.D. and Florence W. Kaslow, Ph.D.
Haworth Clinical Practice Press,
Reviewed by Barbara Free, M.A.,
book is not to be confused with the book reviewed in the last issue, also
entitled Welcome Home, by Santa Fe therapist and author, Dr. Christopher
Alexander. Haworth Press publishes many books intended for the professional
therapy field. This book, however, seems to be a cross between a clinical
manual and a book of stories by adoptive parents, such as might be published
in magazines. At the beginning of the book, the editors discuss a research
study they did with adoptive families, and include some of the questions
in their survey, apparently meant to determine how well the adoptive families
of children from other cultures were assimilating into mainstream American
culture. This included asking whether the child had visited the Statue of
Liberty, which seems rather questionable for people living in other parts
of the country. This writer has never visited the Statue of Liberty, nor
have any of my offspring.
After this initial foray into their own research
work however, the rest of the book is comprised of first-person stories,
mostly by adoptive mothers. In a few cases, the adult adoptee or adult biological
offspring added a short piece. In no case was there an open adoption a reunion
with birth family, nor any input from any birth parent. Some of the adoptees
are still children, mostly from China, although one white woman with several
adoptees of African American and/or Haitian background contributed. In all
cases the adoptive parents were Anglo and middle-class. Some of the parents
are married, some in same-sex relationships, and a few are single parents.
There are numerous references by the editors to the Adoption and Safe Families
Act of 997 and to the fact that it makes it illegal to consider race in placing
children in foster care into adoptive homes. Only after several references
to this do they finally mention the Indian Child Welfare Act, which makes
placing Native American Children into Native American homes a priority. The
editors seem to believe this is a great hindrance, and they repeatedly remark
on how important it is to get parental rights terminated as quickly as possible
in order to expedite adoption. Birth parents are only referred to in the
context of abandoning children, or prenatal drug exposure, or the adoptive
parents choosing closed international adoptions because they were
more comfortable with the knowledge that a birth parent would
not re-enter the picture, or would never even be identified. In the only
story where a birth parent was known (she had personally handed the baby
to the adoptive parents in 1962), and the adoptee later found her, and
corresponded for a while. The adoptee then decided my real family are
the ones who raised me, followed by the usual litany about how they
had stayed up with her when she was sick, etc. As a reunited birth parent,
this writer was appalled to think that someone would go to the trouble to
search, even beginning to write and make plans to meet, and then completely
withdraw. I can only imagine the birth mothers sorrow at such a
development. The adoptee in question had at one point also ceased all contact
with the adoptive parents and had had a child herself at eighteen (which
she kept), but whatever the conflict with adoptive family was is glossed
over by the adoptive mother and by the adoptee.
Although this book purports to be aimed at
a clinical audiencewhich, one might assume, would mean the authors
were objectivetheir biases come through rather clearly. In the beginning
of the book, in discussing the reasons people adopt, they discuss assisted
reproduction and mention that it is against religious law in
several religions, including several Protestant denominations.
One wonders what that means. Are there religious police to enforce this
religious law? Then they discuss surrogate parenthood, but comment
that Hispanic men would perceive this as a threat to their
machismo. This comment seems an unnecessary and perhaps incorrect
stereotype, especially in what is supposed to be a professional book. The
editors further comment that biology has so little to do with
bonding. Its the mental commitment you make to another human being.
That, indeed, is what adoption is all about. One hopes that most
adoptive parents today have a better understanding of the birth parents
importance than that. In one instance, the editors refer to the agency
negotiating the adoption between pregnant female and prospective parents,
what legal requirements have to be met, and what costs are involved.
Birth mothers deserve to be referred to as such, not as merely pregnant
The best story, in this writers opinion,.
is the one by a single mother who, over a period of several years, adopted
four children, one at a time, from China. She seemed to have a good understanding
of what each child needed, including the ones with physical disabilities,
and the time they needed to become part of her family. She remained in close
contact with a support group for families with children from China, and with
other single adoptive parents.
In short, we think the book might have been
more balanced by including some stories where there was a reunion, or an
open adoption, or at least some story from a birth parents point of
view. In looking at the bibliography at the back of the book, the only books
we recognized from the vast array with which we are familiar was Adam
Pertmans Adoption Nation and Jayne Schooler and Betsie
Norriss Journeys After Adoption, both excellent books that offer
more balanced information and neither of which the editors, nor any of the
contributors to Welcome Home mention in any way. At the conclusion
of the book, the editors list five major reasons people adopt from abroad,
the last (and apparently most important to them) of which is, They
had a definite preference for a closed adoption, that they would not have
to worry that the childs (childrens) biological parent(s) would
resurface to claim the child (children) they had grown to love or that they
would encounter other future legal complications. Few of us wish to
be referred to as a legal complication.
This book will be in the O.I. lending library.
We would welcome comments from others who read it, particularly adoptees
and adoptive parents, who each have their own perspectives.
Excerpted from the January 2005
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2005 Operation Identity