Archive for November, 2010


The Whole Life Adoption Book

Are you considering adoption as a way of building your family? Are you just starting the process? How much do you really know about parenting an adopted child? Are you planning to adopt transracial; if so, are you prepared to educate your child about race and racism? If you are considering adoption, then I have just the book to recommend to you. It’s The Whole Life Adoption Book by Jayne E. Schooler.

I just recently found this book, the original version fo which was published in 1993. In 2008, a revised and updated was published. This review is based on the 1993, which I still feel is an excellent resource for adoptive families, especially those just thinking about adoption or early in the process. This book will lay the foundation of the unique parenting journey you are considering.

The book is divided into four parents. The chapters in Part One deal with the unique challenges adoptive parents face, give 10 critical factors for success in building a healthy adoptive family, and talk about how to parent your family and friends for this journey. Part Two deals with attachment and strategies you can use to ease the transition for your child. Part Three covers communicating about adoption, including critical questions and answers for both parents and children and talking with our children about adoption. Then Part Four delves into growing up adopted, including giving our children what they need, helping teens resolve painful issues, birth family searches, and the special challenges that transracial adoption brings.

My favorite part of the book is The Cultural Heritage Plan by Pamela Severs. This plan lays out racial or cultural root activities that families can do from infancy through the teen years. The plan includes establishing relationships with people who share your child’s racial and cultural background; providing culturally appropriate toys, books, and puzzles; introducing culturally appropriate magazines; learning the child’s language of origin; and so much more.

This is one resource I wish I’d had when we were in process. It covers so much of the very important topics that touch the lives of adoptive families. Even if you’re an experienced adoptive family, I think you can still learn from this book. While I’ve already learned many of the lessons in this book (some of them the hard way), it was still a great refresher for me. Not to mention our family can use the Cultural Heritage Plan for years to come.

I encourage you to check this one out, no matter where you are on your adoption journey. I found the 1993 version at our library, but you can buy the revised and updated version from In comparing the Table of Contents of the two editions, it appears that the chapter on transracial parenting is not included in the updated version. However, after reading one of the reviews it seems that there is extensive coverage of intercountry adoption in the new volume, but I can’t attest to that personally.


Unique Yet Similar

People were unique, each with an impossibly complicated inner life, a mosaic of personality, history,and perceptions. Their inner lives were vast, nebulous symbioses of memory and the present moment, no incident or experience standing alone from the incidents or experiences that formed them. But the problems people face were often the same.
–from Fragile: A Novel by Lisa Unger

I just finished reading the book from which the above quote comes. I happen to love this author’s books; her books resonate with me and the above quote seemed to sum up my feelings about the experience of adoptees (although that wasn’t at all what the book is about).

Over the course of the last four years, I’ve learned so much from reading and listening to the complicated stories of adult transracial adoptees. While I listen to all, I’ve personally learned the most from those who are open about sharing their struggles as they’ve worked to form their identities.

But I know many adoptive parents choose not to listen to those hard, complicated stories. They cling to the stories of the “happy” adoptees, feeling I guess that in those there is hope that their children won’t struggle. I’ve even heard these so-called “happy” adoptees (and I use the term for lack of a better one) claim that each experience and person is so different that they can’t relate to those who have struggled.

Of course, there is truth in that each of us is unique and each has traveled a path that is uniquely ours. But so much of the human experience is linked by commonalities. That’s why I loved the quote from Fragile. It addresses the differences in each of us, while acknowledging that the problems we face are all too common.

I admit that it bothers me when the experiences of adult adoptees who have struggled are disregarded, not listened to, or passed off as “not the norm.” Because to me it seems that so many are sharing the same information–the same struggles, the same feelings of loss. How can we not listen? How can we believe that our kids will be immune or unaffected? How can we not allow this information to penetrate us and change us as parents for the better?

That’s not to say that the experiences of adoptees who haven’t struggled aren’t valid. They are; and I always keep them in the back of my mind. But understanding the struggles of adoptees who have passed through the phases and stages my son is going through help me to be a more proactive parent. One who is ready and willing to address the issues and struggles, if and when it is needed.

One adoption book I read, I believe it was Patty Cogen’s Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, noted that a small percentage of adoptees may never struggle with their experience. But that most will, at some point in their lives. That’s the commonality of our problems. And I personally have heard too much to ignore it.


Great Link about Identity

I just had to share this link to an article about helping adoptees develop healthy identities.

The article is written by Chris Winston, mother of three grown children two of whom are adopted and author of A Euro-American on a Korean Tour at a Thai Restaurant in China, and Deann Borshay Liem, who has produced two documentaries about her adoption including In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee. I have great respect for both of these women.

This is short little article about making connections–deep, meaningful, lasting ones–with members of our children’s ethnic group, and gives some advice in how to go about meeting and making friends within these groups. It’s a message is that I feel is very important to interracial adoptive families, and one I fear too many families are brushing off as not necessary.

Granted, it isn’t an easy thing to do. Our son has been home for four years now and we’re still struggling to find ways to meet and make friends within our local community. But we haven’t given up; we continue to look for ways to connect in hopes of becoming a part of the community in a reciprocal way that Winston talks about.

So much of what we feel is important for our son is, we feel, in a good place right now. He has lots of friends who are adoptees, mostly transracial adoptees, and we have many friends who aren’t caucasian. We have open dialogue about race and adoption with him. But we do feel that the piece of the puzzle that’s missing is being friends with more Korean Americans and doing more to be a part of that community.

So I encourage you to check out the article. It’s good advice from two people who have been there.

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