All About Adoption: How Families Are Made and How Kids Feel About It is a book from Magination Press, which specializes in titles helping children understand tough situations or deal with feelings. (Magination Press is also the publisher of Maybe Days, a Book about Foster Care.) All About Adoption authors Marc Nemiroff and Jane Annunziata are both clinical psychologists specializing in families and children.
All About Adoption starts out by saying “there are lots of different ways to have a baby. ..some parents have one baby..and some parents have two or three babies all at once.
“Babies grow inside a birth mother. They have a birth father too. Some babies stay with their birth parents and grow up with them. Some babies go to new parents and grow up with them. When you have different parents than your birth parents, it means that you are adopted. Your adoptive parents are your real parents. They will always love you and take care of you. All of this is called adoption.”
The book later does mention that some parents adopt older kids, and sometimes those kids have been living in a home where one or two other kids are cared for until they’re adopted, or in “ a larger home where many kids are cared for”, and talks about changes and feelings older kids might experience when they are adopted. But it does start out just talking about “babies”.
The authors say each adoption has two beginnings: birth parents begin to realize they might not do a good job of caring for the child (again, drawings illustrate a pregnant woman here). The book explains that the birth parents think of all the things children need: attention, good food, comfortable home, good doctors, good schools, to feel safe, friends to play with, and lots of love. They decide they can’t provide these things as much as they think a child ought to have. Meanwhile, adoptive parents want a child. Lots of different helpers, all over the world, help birth parents and adoptive parents.
“These helpers are important because adopting a child is so very special.” Some helpers work in adoption agencies to help birth parents or children and adoptive parents find each other. Sometimes doctors bring birth and adoptive parents together. The helpers find out all about the birthparents and adoptive parents. They answer lots of questions about themselves, their family, their health and their families’ health, their education. They ask adoptive parents to show they have enough money to get what a child needs, they have health care available for the child, and they have a safe house with enough space for a child. A helper visits the home to check for safety, sees where the child will sleep, and meets the whole family.
“And always, lawyers make sure that everything about your adoption is legal. That means that all the rules are followed so that your adoption is just right.”
Some parents meet their new children in their own town, some in another city, some in another country. Some meet their babies in hospitals. Some meet their older children in a children’s home. Kids have many feelings when they meet their new parents—they can be excited and happy, but nervous and sad and mad that so much has changed.
Older kids may wonder: Will I miss my old home? What will my new family be like? What will my new neighborhood and school be like? Will people there like me?
The book also points out that babies have feelings too, since they know that something has changed. They are being cared for by different people and in a different place, but there are also different sounds, different smells, different things to touch and see and play with.
The book asks children: Can you name some other feelings/changes? It acknowledges that it can be hard to get used to so many changes. The book reassuringly says that it may take time to feel close to your new family, but it does happen, and understanding adoption feelings can help it happen.
The “getting to know each other” part of adoption can be a roller coaster, but sometimes after the initial part, kids have even more feelings. They may be sad that their birth mother and father can’t be their parents. They may wonder if they did something wrong, or if something is wrong with them.
The authors tell kids to remember how much their moms and dads wanted and loved them, and that their parents think they’re great just the way they are.
“Sometimes kids who are adopted have special worries. One big worry that lots of kids have is: Could I be un-adopted? The answer is NO! Remember, your parents love you, and they worked really hard to make your adoption legal. Legal= just right and permanent. That means for keeps. You are their child forever.”
Kids who’ve had to move before may wonder: are more people I like going to go away? The authors remind kids that what happened before is different from what happens from now on.
The book touches on the subject of anger, pointing out that all kids, adopted or not, feel angry at their parents sometimes. Some adopted kids may feel angry that they didn’t get to grow up with their birthparents, or they may get angry at their adoptive parents to “test” and see how much they love them. They may not even realize that they are testing them in this way.
“Parents always pass this test, of course,” the authors say, “because they do love their kids so much.”
The book talks about questions people may ask about being adopted and possible responses. It also suggests learning about a child’s culture of origin.
“Our country is made up of people from many different countries and cultures and colors. And many, many people are adopted. People like us because of who we are, not because of our color, or what country we come from, or if we are adopted or not. And the most important thing to remember is: All families are more the same than they are different. A family is a family, and families are where children are loved.”
The book concludes with a section for parents on talking with kids about adoption and some suggested responses to difficult questions.
This book would make a good companion for Why Was I Adopted? For a classroom or school library, consider pairing this book with Adoption Stories for Young Children or What Is Adoption?—Helping Non-Adopted Children Understand Adoption.
Please also see these related blogs: