Adoption 101 Must-Reads?
May 6, 2014 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Sometime in the middle-distance future, Mr. Dorinda and I want to start a family. Since babies that share our genes are not an option for us, we're looking for recommendations for books, websites, organizations, and other resources that can help us to think about and prepare for the process of adopting a child, on both an abstract (i.e. what does this mean?) and a practical (i.e. what do we do?) level.

Some extra info:
- Most importantly, we are not ready to begin the actual adoption process yet...we are currently in the "We know we want to adopt, perhaps starting the process 4-6 years down the road" stage.
- We are 100% sure that adoption is the (only) way for us to have a child. We want a child.
- We currently live in the US, but may not live in the US in 5 years. I realize this will make giving specific info/resources a little tricky
- Resources that assume no knowledge of the adoption process are welcome, as are those that assume we have done a little bit of research already.
- Looking for things that address both/either theoretical and/or practical aspects of adopting, from both the parents' and the child's perspectives.
- I am specifically NOT looking for "Is adoption right for you?"-type advice.

I've read these previous AskMes, which are great...but all seem to be geared towards those who are farther along the process than us, or a little more zoomed in on specific scenarios.

Basically, if you were teaching a class on Adoption 101, what would be on your syllabus? Especially interested in recommendations (both READ THIS! and DON'T READ THIS!) from those who've been through this before.
Thanks, all.
posted by Dorinda to Human Relations (15 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to check out Reece's Rainbow. As an organization, they look for homes for special needs children, and raise money to provide for their adoption costs.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:34 PM on May 6, 2014

There are Facebook groups for just about every type of special-interest group imaginable. This is a great example of a topic that has lots of groups. Join a couple. The people there will be able to share their experiences with different agencies, for example, or what they had to do to be able to adopt if they were/are changing countries, as you mention.

Best of luck.
posted by vignettist at 1:42 PM on May 6, 2014

I can't recommend highly enough The Connected Child, particularly if you end up parenting a child who has experienced some sort of neglect, abandonment or trauma in their past ("children from hard places," in the book's parlance). I recommend this to every family considering adoption.
posted by BurntHombre at 1:45 PM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When we started out five years ago, I wish we'd known right away that we would need an attorney. The agency we went to was great, but they did not tell us until the end of the formal interviews and classes that most birth mothers will work through attorneys first so they can have a little more say in where their baby is placed. If we'd stuck with the agency, it would have taken us years for a baby to be placed with us. With an attorney, we went from putting our scrapbook together to meeting our daughter's birth mother in a little over a month. Our daughter was born six weeks later. Cramming nine months of prep into six weeks was a bit overwhelming.

But, anyway, the attorney. Ask around. Get referrals. Do not be afraid to ask about the costs. The first person we were going to talk with, the go-to guy in LA, wanted a ridiculous amount of money. Like, down payment on a house ridiculous. Through a lot of ridiculous and wonderful happenstance, we talked with the guy who became our attorney and found that he used the word "reasonable" a lot. Go with reasonable.

We found Lois Ruskai Molina's "Raising Adopted Children" very helpful. We found Sherrie Eldridge's "Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew" very aerodynamic, as we hurled it across the room with great frequency.

One more thing: we went from filling out initial paperwork with our agency to having a kid in twelve months. I think we were an outlier. Be ready to wait, but don't go nuts with waiting. If you want more specifics, MeMail me.
posted by RakDaddy at 1:50 PM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: the theoretical aspects of adoption

Laura Briggs (an anthropologist) writes on the politics and power issues of cross ethnic and international adoptions. Her book (published by Duke UP) is called *Somebody's Children.* If you don't want to get the whole book, she's been quite widely cited and interviewed, for example, here.
posted by third rail at 3:05 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're thinking about adopting a toddler, The Weaver's Craft is a good read. I also second the Connected Child.
posted by bajema at 4:04 PM on May 6, 2014

Best answer: First, decide what kind of adoption you want. I'm sure you've given it a bit of thought, but some things get overlooked. Do you want open? Closed? Have you considered fostering? Special needs?

Let people know you're looking to adopt. My (adoptive) parents had been trying to adopt for a long time through an agency. They found me because my uncle's neighbor's cousin's friend had just passed away, and her mother was looking to place her (1 month old) grandchild with a family. They still used the agency and their attorney, and paid for both, but it sped the process along. People may also offer references or referrals if you let them know you're looking to adopt.

Like your scenario, my parents also needed to leave the country just a little bit after adopting me, which meant a lot more paperwork and making sure I had a passport even before the adoption was finalized. Some of that may be outdated (and for the wrong country, it was Canada in the late 80s) but it's something to think about.

My mom liked "Dear Birthmother" as a good way to set expectations for herself, and she gave me her copy when I was older. Her edition was an older one, but there are new editions out there. I've enjoyed reading Fosterhood's ongoing adoption story, along with her fostering experiences. If you want any perspective from an adult who had a very open adoption, feel free to MeMail me.

Thank you for adopting, and best of luck.
posted by Torosaurus at 4:04 PM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't wait if you're at all thinking about trying to adopt a newborn or infant from a state agency (which is usually cheaper). Start the process now, even if you're not 100% sure of your future plans. At least meet with a social worker and discuss your situation and get feedback on your state's timeline and whether it makes sense to start your application now considering your timeline.

It is much easier to move down or off the waiting list for whatever reason once you've already got the ball rolling than to decide to adopt an infant from the state and have a baby in your arms tomorrow.

A friend really regrets waiting until she and her husband were "ready" before putting in their application. When they learned about the waiting list, she said that if they'd known how many years it could take, she would have gone ahead and applied 5 years ago even though they were still saving up for the fee and trying to get pregnant instead of adopting back then.
posted by lesli212 at 4:46 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and seconding Torosaurus' advice to let everyone you meet know you're trying to adopt. My friend who's trying to adopt hasn't had luck yet, but she follows this advice religiously, and I cannot tell you the number of people who respond with some version of, "Oh yeah, my friend/family member told everyone they were trying to adopt and they ended up adopting the child of an acquaintance of an acquaintance." I don't know the stats, but that sort of thing seems to be a much more common occurrence than I had thought -- I swear, she meets a new person with a variation on this story once a week.
posted by lesli212 at 4:54 PM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Adoptee memoirs. There are lots out there. Not adoptive parent memoirs, but books by adoptees (foster kids too). Some recent birth memoirs.

Adoptive parents, especially when their kids are young, tend to frame their children's lives around the strong positives of adoption and gloss over the challenges. The whole system is skewed strongly to adoptive parents as the ones with more power and money, while birth families and adoptees are minimized in comparison. Your kid will be an adopted child for a few years, an adult adoptee for a very long time and they're the ones to listen to.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:46 PM on May 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

This is US: The New All-American Family. A single white adoptive father to three Latino kids. Educational and inspiring.

Instant Mom. Nia Vardalos adopted a toddler. Part memoir, part advocacy, and really, really good.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:02 PM on May 6, 2014

Best answer: I wish I had a better prospective adoptive parent 101 but I've put together a list of recommended reading to understand adoption better. To understand the process of adoption, reading adoption agency website and adoptive parent forums is likely worthwhile. To understand adoption itself and what it means to the family of origin and adoptees and how to go about the process ethically so you look back and feel proud of how you formed your family may involve a little more reading because not all agencies are ethical in how they treat the original family. The for profit aspect of adoption, as well as cultural ideology about the unworthiness of single or struggling mothers can lead a preference for separation and adoption rather that first providing comprehensive support structures and healing services to families in need.

Is your adoption agency ethical? by Claudia Corrigan Darcy

Ethical considerations of internet assisted adoption without an agency at the Declassified Adoptee.

A lot of adoptees who do wind up getting involved in activism find it harder to relate to their adoptive parents later in life because it's hard to reconcile the classism inherent in assuming poor women should give their babies over to people with more resources when no one is fighting to make sure the families are really getting the resources they needed to begin with. Make sure you're on board with the fight to reform the way resources are allocated to families in need and that you're willing to do the research to confirm your future child really is in need of a home (and there ARE children with a need of a home because their families are abusive, addicted to hard drugs, dangerously mentally ill, or genuinely don't want the child even if comprehensive resources are offered etc) just make sure the reasons for the placement are reasons you feel comfortable with.

John Raible writes a great blog as both an adoptive parent and an adoptee dealing with issues of race and social justice in adoption in particular. Such as "how to fix adoption: First respect adult adoptees"
posted by xarnop at 7:23 PM on May 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The Home is a really interesting account of growing up in a pretty decent 1950s orphanage in the US.

Lost Daughters have an anthology out - I haven't read it yet, but the site is very very good and diverse.

In Their Own Voices is good but brief for each story.

Lucky Girl is a quick read by a good writer has had a largely positive adoption experience. Her other books are good too.

Ten Thousand Sorrows is a very painful memoir about a generally destructive childhood, before and after adoption. Worth reading, but hard.

I can't find the ones I read years ago - I just went to the library and steadily read my way through the adoption shelf.

I would say there are about three adoptive parent accounts for every adoptee and birthparent book out there....
posted by viggorlijah at 9:38 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Adult adoptee here. I'm echoing earlier comments to read about adoption as experienced by adoptees--not as non-adopted persons might imagine the experience to be. Namely, all adoptions, no matter the circumstance, start from a trauma--the loss of the natural parents. I'd start with authors Betty Jean Lifton and Joyce Maguire Pavao. Amazon will give mostly good recommendations if you start with those two.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:42 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

You may be able to check withthe department of youth and family services in your area to see if they have any "Open Houses" about fostering / adoption. I just got information in the mail about one for Philadelphia (where i live).
posted by WeekendJen at 7:00 AM on May 7, 2014

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