Archive for the 'Book reviews' Category

Book Review: The Adoptive and Foster Parent Guide

As someone who works with adoptive and foster families, it has always astonished and frustrated me that there wasn’t a good resource for these families for dealing with their children’s issues of trauma and loss at home. It would have to be professionally written and evidence-based, but also accessible and easy for busy parents to read. I’m thrilled that now such a resource exists in Carol Lozier’s new book, The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide.

You may remember Carol from this interview that I did with her in 2010. She is a clinical social worker (MSW, LCSW) with over 20 years’ experience working with children and families, with a focus on adoption and foster care issues. Carol obviously knows the value of a good therapist in working with children who have experienced trauma, but she also realized that 99 percent of the issues that families struggle with arise at home, not in the therapist’s office. Parents need tools that they can use at home, in the moment, when behaviors related to trauma and loss arise. This book provides them with exactly those tools.

The book is organized “magazine style,” making it easy to dip in at any point in the book and learn what you need to know if you don’t have time to read it cover to cover. It teaches parents how to distinguish normal bumps in the road of childhood from issues related to past trauma. It goes over the psychology of attachment in terms that are easy to understand. Most importantly, it gives parents strategies that they can use immediately and every day with their children to open up the lines of communication and help heal the emotional scars of trauma and loss. While there are many books that teach parents to make children feel secure and talk about adoption in a respectful way, Lozier gives parents the tools of a therapist to get to the heart of the matter and help heal the wounds of the past. The scripts, exercises, games, and tips in the book fill the need that so many adoptive and foster parents express when they lament, “sometimes I just don’t know what to do.” Speaking of parents who feel overwhelmed, Lozier also includes a chapter on self-care for parents and caregivers, providing an important reminder that we can’t care for children if we don’t first care for ourselves.

The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide fills a need in the adoption community, and I believe it will change many adoptive and foster families for the better.

The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide is available at the Forever Families website.

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Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Book Review: 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed

There are a great many books on the market about how to adopt, and a fair number about parenting adopted children, but precious few about truly understanding the heart and mind of the adopted child. As an adult adoptee, Sherrie Eldridge has such a heart and mind, and she shares it with adoptive parents in her book 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed. Like Eldridge’s earlier book, 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, this book goes straight to the heart of the matter and addresses the strong emotions that both adoptees and their adoptive parents struggle with on a daily basis. These are books to read early, often, and with a box of tissues nearby. They will touch your heart and help you draw closer to your child.

What I most appreciate about Sherrie Eldridge’s books is that she recognizes that the adoptive parent’s needs and the child’s needs are inextricably linked. Unless you are confident and secure and have worked out your own emotional issues, Eldridge states, you can’t be at your best for your child. 20 Things reads like a talk with a good friend: She offers support and encouragement while also giving adoptive parents tough love by reminding them that they must be the adults by getting past their own feelings of loss and insecurity to better heal the emotional wounds that every adopted child carries. Eldridge also has an unfailing sense of what adoptive parents want and need to know. Topics covered include:

· The importance of creating an environment where your child feels safe telling you the truth

· When and how to talk to kids about adoption

· How babies experience separation and loss, and how to help them

· Embracing the “differentness” of adoption

· Getting emotionally healthy so you can help your child get healthy, too

· Dealing with insensitive remarks from others about adoption

· Finding appropriate ways to honor birth parents

· Mixed feelings – both yours and your child’s

· Why perfectionism isn’t perfect…or even good for you or your child.

Eldridge’s chapters are peppered with tips for helping adopted children at every age, interesting statistics, and great suggestions for further reading. At the end of each chapter she includes a set of exercises for families to do together as well as a set of exercises for adoption support groups.

If I had one criticism to make about 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed, it would be the emphasis on spirituality and religion, which Eldridge sees as crucial for adopted children. While this is understandable given the importance of faith in Eldridge’s own adoption journey, many families will be uncomfortable with her suggestion that spirituality is indispensable for adopted kids. I applaud Eldridge’s conviction, but I’m a firm believer that families of all different backgrounds and beliefs can make great adoptive families.

That said, like 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed is a must-read for parents in any stage of the adoption process, from those considering adoption to parents of adult adoptees. These books will tell you truths that you may not want to hear, but that your adopted child absolutely needs you to know and understand.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Book Review: Toddler Adoption: The Weaver’s Craft

If you have adopted a toddler, you may be feeling a bit left out. Most adoption support groups, books, and other resources tend to focus on families who are adopting newborns. During the waiting period to adopt, this may not stand out, as waiting for a newborn is very similar to waiting for a toddler to come home. However, once your child arrives, you may begin to feel isolated as you start to face different issues than your friends who adopted newborns. It isn’t you: Adopting a toddler really is different!

Fortunately, there is a wonderful resource for new adoptive parents of toddlers in the book Toddler Adoption: The Weaver’s Craft by Mary Hopkins-Best (Perspectives Press 1997). Hopkins-Best and her husband adopted an 18-month-old boy from Peru and found themselves unprepared for the special issues that newly adopted toddlers present. Her book is a must-read for anyone who is even considering adopting a toddler. It includes a section on how to determine whether toddler adoption is right for you, the specific issues toddlers present, attachment challenges, child development, behavior management, and tips for easing the transition into your home. Finally, Hopkins-Best includes a chapter on taking care of your own needs as a parent while also looking after the needs of these very needy little people. Each chapter includes several personal stories from the parents of children adopted as toddlers, including 26 families who took an extensive questionnaire for this book.

There is something in Toddler Adoption for families at every stage of the adoption process, from those just considering whether adopting an older child might be right for them to families who have already adopted a toddler. I especially loved the way that Hopkins-Best conveys the joys and advantages of toddler adoption as well as its challenges, and that she does so in a way that only a parent who had experienced toddler adoption could do. Her material on child development and attachment is well-researched and thorough, and her tips for bringing your adopted child home for the first time are invaluable for parents – but even more so for the little people in their care during this difficult time. A short list of resources in the back helps connect parents with more support and information.

Most of all, the message that shines through Toddler Adoption is that you are not alone. The book allows you to benefit from the wisdom of many other parents who have experienced the special challenges – and special rewards – of toddler adoption.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Book Review: And Tango Makes Three

Whether you are a gay or lesbian parent or simply looking for a way to introduce your children to the idea that there are many types of families, And Tango Makes Three is the book for you. When reading reviews of this book written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole, the word you will see the most is “charming.” Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more charming tale than this true story of two male penguins raising a baby chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo.

Roy and Silo are just a little bit different from the other male penguins. Instead of noticing the female penguins, they notice each other, and the zookeeper notices that “they must be in love.” They build a nest together like the other penguins, and they bring home an egg-shaped rock and start caring for it. When the observant zookeeper finds himself with a penguin egg in need of a family, he decides to let the pair raise a chick of their own, and Roy and Silo know just what to do. Thus, Tango makes three in one of the most charismatic families in print. If the beautiful message that it’s love that makes a family isn’t enough to warm your heart, than the illustrations of fuzzy baby penguins surely will.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Book Review: The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Adoption

The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Adoption

With a title like “The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Adoption:Everything You Need to Know about Domestic and International Adoption,” expectations are set pretty high. Adoption attorney and adoptive parent Elizabeth Swire Falker mostly lives up to the promise of her title in this thorough book for those who are just getting started thinking about adopting a child.

Falker takes on the big issues that are on most prospective adoptive parents’ minds when they begin the journey toward adoption: Domestic vs. international, how to afford an adoption, the home study, preparing to parent, bringing a baby home, and a basic overview of state laws on adoption. The book really shines in its thoughtful and no-nonsense advice on how to choose between agency and independent adoption, and between domestic and international adoption. The “Resources” section is also a great place to start finding more information on everything from support groups to grants, travel products to breastfeeding. I also appreciated the table in the back of the book with a brief overview of state laws on adoption. In short, if you are early in the process of thinking about adoption and have no clue where to begin, this book will be an extremely helpful resource.

Falker’s perspective as an adoptive mother shines through in this book, and her practical advice about the emotional and practical aspects of adoption is valuable. Falker advises parents to determine their “neediness number” early on in the process, and to be honest about how much stress and legwork they can handle when choosing a type of adoption. Falker’s experience as an adoption lawyer is also an asset of the book, and she includes several real-life stories from her clients that illustrate her points and make the book more enjoyable to read.

I do have a few criticisms of The Ultimate Insider’s Guide. First, although some of the information in the book applies equally to gay and straight couples (the sections on financing adoption and preparing for parenthood, for example), there is very little specific information for LGBT individuals or couples who wish to adopt. Given the prevalence of adoption in the LGBT community and the many special issues involved, this was a conspicuous absence.

Second, just as all families in Falker’s book are straight, all adopted children are babies. There is no mention whatsoever of adopting toddlers or older children in this book. While legally the experience of adopting an older child is the same, the challenges of bringing home and parenting an older child are drastically different. Although I understand that not every topic can be covered in depth in one book, it did seem odd to me that Falker did not even mention older-child adoption.

Third, I was a bit shocked to see how dramatically Falker downplays the effects of maternal drug use on babies. “And please, please keep in mind that many problems caused by drug or nicotine intake during pregnancy can usually be overcome with appropriate early intervention. One of the more common consequences of drug exposure is speech and development delays, which are almost always completely resolved by working with a speech pathologist (paid for by your state).” While I am a huge advocate of families opening their hearts to children who were exposed to drugs in utero, it is extremely important that these parents be prepared for a difficult road. There is a wide spectrum of disorders caused by maternal drug use, and although some can be overcome with early therapy, others can be life-long and debilitating. The New York Times reports that the severe mental and behavioral problems that drug exposure can cause sometimes even cause adoptive parents to give up in despair and return the child to foster care. I am a firm believer that a good parent is a prepared parent, and it is quite simply a disservice to discount the difficulties that drug-exposed babies can have.

Finally, I was puzzled by Falker’s section on creating an adoptive parent profile for birth mothers to see. While advising adoptive parents to “prepare your own adoptive-parent profile from your heart,” Falker also advises prospective adopters to make themselves appear “fun” and “happy-go-lucky,” to include pets they don’t own in their photos, and to hire a professional photographer for pictures. She also includes the bizarre advice not to include a picture of yourself at the beach under an SPF-protective umbrella, lest the birth mother think you are overprotective. What? The truth is, there is absolutely no way to predict what a birth mother is looking for in an adoptive family. Each birth mother is a human being with her own personal and specific criteria for selecting an adoptive family. The best advice anyone can give you is to be yourself, present yourself in your best light, and show the birth mother you care by putting effort into your profile. If you are authentic in your profile, birth mothers will choose you for your authentic self, increasing the chances that it will be a good match for all concerned.

Overall, The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Adoption is a good resource for those who are just getting started thinking about adopting a child in order to learn the basics and begin making decisions about what type of adoption to pursue. As you learn more about adoption, supplement it with other books that are more specific to your situation.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Story Time: Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born

This month’s children’s book review is of Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis (yes, that Jamie Lee Curtis), with illustrations by Laura Cornell.

The story depicts a little girl who wants to hear again about the night that she was born and her adoptive parents excitedly woke up and hopped on a plane to go pick her up from the hospital. With lightheartedness and love, the book goes through all the details of the first days of an adoption, like “tell me again how you got on an airplane with my baby bag and flew to get me,” and “tell me again about my first bottle and how I liked it so much.” The whimsical illustrations are bright and fun for kids, and also contain humorous details that parents will appreciate. It’s a tender and fun way to get a conversation going with your young child about the night that he or she was born and your first days together.

As an advocate for kids, I love that this book shows that talking about adoption is fun and cool, not at all a taboo subject. The refrain of “tell me again” suggests that it’s normal to want to hear your birth story over and over, which it is. I also love that Curtis’s main character has a book entitled “Me,” which appears to be a “Life book” of the kind I described in this post. This is a great, great way to make your child feel special, loved, and connected to his or her history. While the book does skip all the tougher questions kids might ask about the night they were born, I think it is appropriate for the age it is written for (3-6) and makes a good starting place to have a deeper conversation when the time comes.

If this book has one downfall, it’s that it is overly specific to one type of adoption. There is one page that says “tell me again how you couldn’t grow a baby in your tummy, so another woman who was too young to take care of me was growing me and she would be my birth mother, and you would be my parents.” Wow, detailed! If you didn’t adopt after infertility, or if your child’s birth mother wasn’t “too young,” or if you didn’t have a domestic out-of-state adoption, you might find that the details in this book just don’t fit your family. The book could be confusing to very young children whose adoption story is different from the one depicted here. There are many ways to make this an asset: You could change the story to fit your child’s own story, and even enlist your child’s help in “rewriting” the book so it fits your family.

Tell Me Again is a lovely book to have on your shelf, especially for very young children. Because it treats the subject of adoption very simply, I suggest that you make it one of many books in your adoption library, so that your child can see that there are many ways to be adopted and many ways to feel about it. This book will let him or her know that you are happy to “tell again” about the night they were born, over and over, with love and warmth.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Story Time: Made in China

Fall is here, the leaves are changing, and it’s the perfect time to curl up with your child and read a good book. This month’s book review is of the charming picture book Made in China by Vanita Oelschlager.

In Made in China, the main character is a young adoptee from China. Her older sister teases her by showing her tags on toys and clothing that say “made in China,” and taunting that she was “made in China,” too. “I thought to myself, could this be me?/I’m not a blanket or a plastic bee,” the main character thinks in alarm. She runs to her father to soothe her hurt feelings, and dad responds with love and compassion. “Well, I can see how you’d think that is true./But you’re much more than what people say about you,” dad replies. He goes on to explain that she was born in Ningdu, China “to a wonderful woman who really loved you,” and who “gave you your smile.” This part of the book is accompanied by Kristin Blackwood’s beautiful, colorful illustrations of China’s landscape and culture. The book closes with illustrations of the older sister listening in on the explanation and learning a lesson herself about what adoption means. “We love you now, we loved you before,” dad concludes, “In all the wide world, we couldn’t love you more.”

What I love most about this book is how it models a parent hearing and validating his daughter’s feelings. The words “I can see how you’d think that is true,” are a lovely way to invite anyone to a deeper conversation, and especially a child just beginning to discover her feelings about adoption. In this family, questions about adoption are lovingly welcomed. I also appreciate how this book respects both the birth mother and the child’s country of origin in both words and illustrations. Any child from China would feel proud seeing these illustrations of his or her homeland as a beautiful, culturally rich place. The explanation of the birth mother’s choice is simple and age-appropriate for this audience (ages 3-8).

Made in China is especially valuable for families that have internationally adopted children as well as biological children. If your children come from countries other than China, try pulling out some photographs of your child’s country of origin to share with them as you read along. Wherever they were “made,” this book is a lovely way to start a conversation about your children’s birth stories.

Click here to read my criteria for children’s books about adoption.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

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