Guest post: Adoption is a Family Affair

Today’s guest post is from my sister, aunt LM. Keep reading to see her review of “Adoption is a Family Affair” by Patricia Irwin Johnston.

Reading this book before the adoption of my niece and nephew was finalized would have been a smart move. But it’s definitely better late than never, for as the sister and sister-in-law of adoptive parents, I did learn a great deal that will help me throughout the lives of my niece and nephew.

The book was very thorough – covering every type of adoption from interracial, to international and to adoption of special needs children. A portion of this book was not applicable to the adoption my family and I are experiencing, but nonetheless was still interesting to read about and compare to our unique situation.

Every step of the adoption process was covered, from the very moment one decides to adopt, all the way through when an adopted child is an adult, offering tips and suggestions along the way. I definitely picked up a lot of things I will need to know as an aunt that will help me in situations I may encounter in the future. The book will be an excellent reference to have years down the road.

One chapter of the book dealt with respecting the privacy of an adopted child when it comes to his/her past. It’s imperative to accept that the reason the child was put up for adoption in the first place, medical conditions, etc. are the concern of the adoptive parents, and family members should not pry for information they don’t need to know. I found this section especially useful, to me specifically, for even after a year of the adoption being finalized, I still find my curiosity getting the best of me. I am definitely guilty of asking questions concerning my niece and nephew that should be kept private. The author reiterates that once information is out there, it can never be retrieved. And the last thing an adopted child needs is to accidentally find out information about his or her past from a relative.

Now that I have read this book, there are thoughts running through my mind along the lines of “I hope I didn’t do that!” The author advises family members to not bombard future parents with questions during the time in which they are waiting on an adoption to become final. It’s suggested that constantly calling a parent-to-be for updates can be irritating, especially when the process is taking longer than expected. I immediately thought about how I was frequently calling S and asking her what the status was, how things were moving along, and what the next step would be. I was doing all those things because I was excited and genuinely interested in how the process was going. In hindsight, I may have added to the stress she and J were already feeling. Other things I wish I had known not to do, which I am quite certain I did – offer up stories of adoption I heard from others as ways to contribute to a conversation or offer advice, and tell S how selfless her and J are and how I admire their decision to adopt (the author advises that adoptive parents are not adopting to receive praise and that often hearing such remarks can make them uncomfortable).

The adoption process as a whole, including paper work, finding an agency, the home study, and more, were covered thoroughly. I enjoyed reading all that was included in the process, because it gave me an idea of what S & J went through. I learned of details that were not told to me along the way, and that gives me a better understanding of the steps taken that led to my niece and nephew becoming part of our family.

Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed in the author’s choice of language at times. She liked to use the term “ignorant” when referring to a friend or family member who does not immediately understand or accept the fact that one has chosen to adopt. I found that term offensive, and I am not easily offended. Aside from that, Adoption Is a Family Affair! is definitely a worthwhile read for any friend or family member of someone looking into adoption or currently going through the process.

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3 thoughts on “Guest post: Adoption is a Family Affair

  1. Great review! I bought this book recently, after my mother reacted very negatively when I told her of my adoption plans. I am planning to send it to her to read, but not sure quite when would be the most appropriate time. I don’t want it to look like a passive-aggressive move. I was going to wait until I was approved, but that will be forever away because I’ve only just submitted my paperwork. The flipside is I’m not sure I want her to engage with it completely in case the terrible happens and I am not approved, for whatever reason.

    The issue of the language used in the book was written on an Amazon review I read and it made me reluctant to buy it, but now I’ve flicked through it, I don’t see it as overly problematic. I think Australians tend to be a bit more ‘in your face’ and less worried about language thta could be percieved as a put down. That said, it will be interesting to see if my Mum comments on it.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Aunt LM says:

    Thanks, Jess. I would definitely get the book to your mother as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. As I mentioned in the review, it is something that is best read prior to an adoption. Plus, it offers a ton of advice for family members to help them understand and accept an adoption taking place. I think your mom will definitely benefit from it, especially if she is a little uneasy about your decision at this time. Good luck! Just give her some time and she will come around!

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