The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc

Adoption Reading Lists


A Selective List of Essential
Decision Making Tools
Designed for:
Just-Thinking-About-It Beginners

by Pat Johnston

This bibliography is not meant to be in any way exhaustive. Instead, it includes resources that will help people ending infertility treatment and considering whether to build a family by adoption to make the most important of decisions about adoption by answering these questions:

1. Should we adopt at all? Can adoption meet our needs? Do we genuinely understand its lifelong impact on everyone it touches?

2. If we adopt, should we adopt a baby or an older child? from this country or from another? What do the ideas of "healthy" and "special needs" really mean to us; what do we honestly expect; and can we be flexible?

3. If we adopt, would we use an adoption agency or adopt without an agency? What do we understand about openness and confidentiality?

4. We've said yes to adoption. How do we find the child meant for us to adopt?


Reading each of the books below will give you a framework and tools for thinking about ending treatment as a separate issue from deciding whether or not to live childfree or build your family by adoption. Though many people will have presented adoption to you as if it is a "next step" after treatment, in much the same way as they might have suggested that Metrodin or Pergonal were "next steps" after clomiphene treatment. But adoption is really a very separate issue from infertility treatment. It needs and deserves its own decision making process.

Adopting after Infertility by Patricia Irwin Johnston (Indianapolis: Perspectives Press, 1992). An extensive three part handbook for couples considering or pursuing adoption. Section one examines infertility and making all kinds of related decisions. Section two explores all of the issues to be decided in adoption--agency or independent, infant or older child, international or domestic, open or confidential-- and includes guidance on choosing professionals and services which meet your needs. Section three explores life after adoption in a manner important for pre-adopters to explore: talking to kids, dealing with the world at large, infertility revisited, etc. This book replaces by updating and vastly expanding the material in Johnston's earlier An Adoptor's Advocate (Perspectives Press, 1984) which is now out of print. This comprehensive decision-making guide also fits in each of the resource categories which follow, but will not be listed there.

Sweet Grapes: How to Stop Being Infertile and Start Living Again by Mike and Jean Carter (Indianapolis: Perspectives Press, 1989, with a revised version coming in the Winter of 1998.) An infertile couple--she an ob/gyn and he an English professor-- describe their method of learning to communicate with one another that ultimately led them to stop treatment and decide to embrace with joy a childfree life-style. Order it through INCIID

Motherhood Deferred by Anne Taylor Fleming (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1994) Journalist and feminist Taylor Fleming explores her delay of childbearing and subsequent long and ultimately fruitless high tech struggle with infertility and her decision not to adopt. A provocative and important view for those considering leaving treatment. Order it today!

The Whole Life Adoption Book by Jayne Schooler (Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 1993) is, as one reviewer has called it, a pre-adopt course on paper, introducing (though not covering thoroughly) multiple issues of importance. Order it through INCIID from Amazon

To Love a Child: A Complete Guide to Adoption, Foster Parenting, and Other Ways to Share Your Life with Children by Marianne Takas and Edward Warner (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1992. A wonderful exploration of alternative ways to add children to one's own life and make a difference in theirs. The only title to realistically explore fostering, big brothering and other non-permanent nurturing relationships as viable alternatives. Order it from Amazon.

Adoption: The Tapestry Guide by Laurie Wallmark (Ringoes, NJ: Tapestry Books, 1997) An introductory booklet covering the adoption basics. Order it from Amazon.


Having read the books above, if you feel more inclined toward adoption, you will want to learn about the children available for adoption. These books and magazines will introduce you to special issues to be considered in advance before deciding whether or not you would like to adopt a newborn, a toddler, an older child, a child with special needs, a child who matches you ethnically or not.

Adoption Today: Options and Outcomes edited by Cynthia V N Peck (Hackettstown, NJ: Roots&Wings, 1997) A collection of one page stories about and by families who have adopted through every conceivable source and children of all ages and backgrounds which will give you a practical look at how adoption is working and how much it is costing today.

Launching a Baby's Adoption: Practical Strategies for Parents and Professionals by Patricia Irwin Johnston (Indianapolis: Perspectives Press, 1997) a guide to the "expectant" months leading up to and the first year following the placement of a baby under a year of age. Includes preparing self and family, promoting bonding, exploring breastfeeding, and more. Order it today from Amazon.

Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft by Mary Hopkins-Best (Indianapolis: Perspectives Press, 1997) An exploration of what to expect when adopting a child older than one year but younger than school age--a toddler. Advice for preparing one's self and transitioning the child and unique issues of parenting a child who arrives during toddlerhood. Order today.

Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today's Parents --- A must read for all adoptive parents. Gray, a clinical social worker specializing in attachment, grief and trauma, has penned a comprehensive guidebook for adoptive parents, taking an in-depth look at how children and families adjust. The author notes that many of today's adoptions involve older children who may have been abused or neglected, or who may have spent years in institutions or various foster situations; due to their past experiences these children may have difficulty attaching to their adoptive parents.
Order it today.

Parenting With Love and Logic : Teaching Children Responsibility by Foster W. Cline, Jim Fay Psychiatrist Cline and educator Fay's "Love and Logic" parenting method advocates raising responsible children through practice. "Helicopter" parents hover around their children while "drill sergeant" parents give orders to theirs, they claim. Neither of these styles permits children to learn how to make choices and learn from the consequences. The result is that as early as adolescence these children too often make bad decisions. In the context of a healthy, loving relationship, "Love and Logic" parents teach their children responsibility and the logic of life by solving their own problems, providing skills for coping in the real world. After laying out the principles of "Love and Logic," the authors provide "parenting pearls," which are strategies for applying the method to actual situations such as back-seat battles in the car, homework, and keeping bedrooms clean. The narration, performed by Tim Kenney and Bert Gurule, is clear and energetic. This is an upbeat and sensible approach to child rearing that will be popular in public libraries.?Nann Blaine Hilyard, Fargo P.L., N.D.
Order it today.

A Child's Journey through Placement by Vera I. Fahlberg, M.D. (Indianapolis: Perspectives Press, 1991). Pediatrician and therapist Fahlberg helps both parents and professionals understand how the experience of being moved impacts on children. Provides a clear description of the attachment cycle and how to support attachment in children who have left important early caretakers. Order today.

Self Awareness, Self-Selection, and Success: A Parent Preparation Guidebook for Special Needs Adoption by Wilfred Hamm, T Morton and L Flynn (Washington: NACAC, 1985). A workbookish series of questionnaires and exercises for people considering special needs adoption. Order from AFA.

Helping Children Cope with Separation and Loss (revised edition) by Claudia Jewett Jarratt (Boston: Harvard Common Press, 1994). Another valuable resource for those considering an older child. Order it today.

Adopting the Hurt Child: Hope for Families with Special Needs Kids by Dr. Gregory Keck and Regina Kopecky (Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 1995) An honest and accessible exploration of the challenges faced by families adopting children with difficult histories by one of the most intriguing educators in the field of attachment issues. Order today.

Inside Transracial Adoption by the staff of Pact (San Francisco: Pact, 1997) A manual of articles and materials compiled to prepare families for adopting across racial lines. Order it today.

Pact Press (see address for Pact: An Adoption Alliance, below) is a magazine dealing with issues of openness and adopting children of color. Published by Pact--An Adoption Alliance, which is a placement service. $32.00 annually.

Are Those Kids Yours? American Families with Children Adopted from Other Countries by Cheri Register (New York: The Free Press, 1991). A thorough, practical, down to earth discussion about the realities of and guide to parenting a child born outside the U.S. Order it today.

The Post, from the Parent Network for the Post Institutionalized Child (PO Box 613, Meadowlands, PA 15347; phone 412-222-1766, email will be particularly valuable for those considering adopting a child who will come from an international orphanage. Institutionalized children have unique issues which must be quickly identified and addressed in order to be successfully managed. Too many agencies and facilitators are unaware of these issues, and that's where PNPIC can help parents and parents-to-be! $20 annually


And how about communicating with a prospective child's birthfamily? Before you can decide to adopt, this is something to think through fairly carefully. Open adoption is becoming more and more common, but do you understand what this really means, or are you only as literate about open and confidential adoption as the last horrific news story about either one?

Open Adoption Birthparent is a newsletter for birthparents and adoptive parents in open adoptions which is edited and published by birthparent Newsletter subscription price (annually): $36.00 Brenda Romanchik. Open Adoption Birthparent, R-squared Press,721 Hawthorne, Royal Oak, MI 48067.(810) 543-0997. Quarterly newsletter edited by Brenda Romanchik, a birthmother in an open adoption. Covers all aspects of birthparenthood in an open adoption situation. Open to adoption professionals and all triad members.

An Open Adoption by Lincoln Caplan (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giraux, 1990). After extensive fascinating interviews with professionals on both sides of the controversy surrounding open adoption, journalist Caplan attempts to present objectively the intimate details of one particular open adoption in which both birth and adoptive parents allowed him to follow their progress from before the birth through a year following the placement, including a disturbing conclusion. The result is a book which is fascinating, and which neither pro-open or pro-confidential advocates find satisfying, but which certainly goes farther than any other book available to identify and present the elements of the pro/con debate. Order it today

How to Open an Adoption by Patricia Martinez Dorner (Royal Oka, MI: R-Squared Press, 1997.) A guide to opening an adoption that was begun confidentially, written by one of open adoption's pioneers. Order it today.

Adoption without Fear edited by James. L. Gritter (San Antonio: Corona Publishing, 1989). A series of essays written by birth and adoptive parents who participated in open adoptions through the same Michigan agency. Order it today.

The Open Adoption Book: A Guide to Adoption Without Tears by Bruce Rappaport, Ph.D. (New York: MacMillan, 1992) The director of the Independent Adoption Center and founder of the National Federation for Open Adoption Education's guide for consumers. Order it today.

The Open Adoption Experience: A Complete Guide for Adoptive and Birth Families by Sharon Kaplan Roszia and Lois Melina (New York: HarperCollins, 1993). A practical guide to making decisions about openness adoption, living with openness over time, adapting to changing needs and relationships, this resource is unique in that it speaks to birth and adoptive families together. Order it today.

The Adoption Triangle: The Effects of the Sealed Record on Adoptees, Birth Parents and Adoptive Parents by Arthur D.Sorosky, Annette Baran and Reuben Pannor (San Antonio: Corona Publishers, rev 1990). A classic report calling for a revolutionary change to totally open adoption prepared by three long term adoption professionals. Order it today.

Dear Birthmother: Thank you for Our Baby by Kathleen Silber and Phylis Speedlin (San Antonio: Corona, 1982). This is the book that started the discussion of openness in adoption. Startlingly controversial when new just 15 years ago, the form of open adoption it then promoted was the exchange of anonymous letters through an intermediary! Order it today.


(Adopted People, Adoptive Parents and Birthparents)

Understanding how issues in adoption reverberate both positively and negatively in themselves, in their children, in their children's birthparents over a lifetime will help prospective adopters to become better parents to a child they adopt.

Growing Up Adopted: A Portrait of Adolescents and Their Parents by Peter L. Benson, Ph.D, Anu Sharma Ph.D. and Eugene C. Roehlkepartain (Minneapolis: The Search Institute, 1994) A large and significantly more inclusive than usual study of children and families joined by adoption between 1975 and 1980, this study challenges many of the assumptions of earlier less representative studies composed of those in a mental health setting or uncontrolled self volunteers.

Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self by David M. Brodzinsky and Marshall Schechter and Robin Marantz Henig. (New York: Doubleday, 1992). Integrating both psychological and educational theory, the authors offer a model of normal development in adoptees. Order it today.

Searching for a Past: The Adopted Adult's Unique Process of Finding Identity by Jayne Schooler (Colorado Springs, CO: 1995: Pinon Press) How and why adoptees look at the process of searching for their birthfamilies, how they process these experiences, and the impact of search on themselves and their relationships. Order it today.

Giving Away Simone by Jan Waldron (New York: Times Books, 1995) The beautifully written, tortured account of a birtmother's attempts to resolve grief, shame and self-loathing she associated with being a birthparent to a biracial daughter in an identified but for many years non-communicative adoption, Waldron's book explores the struggle of birthmother and adolescent daughter to figure out their relationship with one another. Order it today.

Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories by Merry Bloch Jones (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1993) A carefully explored collection of interviews with birthmothers, this book looks for commonalities of experience and is honest without being angry or hopeless. Order it today.

Shattered Dreams--Lonely Choices: Birthparents of Babies with Disabilities Talk about Adoption by Joanne Finnegan (Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1993). This unique resource of guidance and support for birthfamilies who find themselves needing to consider alternatives (parenting, abortion, adoption) for a baby born with disabilities they feel unprepared to deal with shares the stories of several couples. Offers clear guidance for medical and mental health professionals serving such couples and will help prospective adoptive parents understand the dilemmas of such birthparents. Order it today.

Out of the Shadows: Birthfathers' Stories by Mary Martin Mason. (Edina, MN: O.J. Howard Publishing, 1995) A collection of stories about the experiences of birthfathers. Order it today.

The Adoption Life Cycle: The Children and their Families through the Years by Elinor B. Rosenberg (New York: The Free Press, 1992). Psychiatry professor and adoptive parent Rosenberg presents a view of the challenges of successfully integrating adoption and the changes it continuously brings into the lives of those whom it touches--adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents. Order it today.

Perspectives on a Grafted Tree: Thoughts for Those Touched by Adoption edited by Patricia Irwin Johnston (Indianapolis: Perspectives Press, 1983). A collection of poems written by birthparents, adoptive parents, adoptees, and professionals in the field in an effort to demonstrate the gain and loss, happiness and pain that are part of the adoption experience for all involved. Order it now.


You've considered it all--infant/older, domestic/international, relative health, agency/independent, open/confidential, and you're ready to pursue adoption. These materials will streamline your search for a child.

There Are Babies to Adopt (revised) by Christine Adamec (Kensington Publications, 1996). An exploration of various options in and routes to adopting an infant. Order it today.

The Adoption Resource Book by Lois Gilman (New York: HarperCollins, rev. 1995). This is the most authoritative adoption how-to available and has been updated several times. Journalist and adoptive parent Gilman carefully explores all types and styles of adoption and provides excellent resources for pursuing specific strategies. Order it today.

Adopting in America: How to Adopt Within One Year by Randall B. Hicks (Los Angeles: Wordslinger Press, 1995.) An adoption attorney's guide to successful independent adoption.
Order it today.

Adopt International by Robin Sweet and Patty Bryan (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1996.) A step by step guide to international adoption, from picking an agency to travel arrangements and advice. Order it today.

Winning at Adoption by Sharon Kaplan Roszia (Studio City, CA: The Family Network, 1991). A multimedia approach to making decisions about adoption style, this well put together package includes videotapes, audiotapes and workbooks.

Bringing Family and Friends on Board

Your family is several steps behind you in embracing adoption! The booklets below, and subscriptions to an appropriate period will help prospective grandparents, aunts and uncles learn what they need to know to share your enthusiasm and joy about adoption!

When Friends Ask about Adoption: Question and Answer Guide for Non-Adoptive Parents and Other Caring Adults by Linda Bothun (Chevy Chase, MD: Swan Publications, 1987). A booklet designed to be given to those whose lives may touch our families. Order it today.

Supporting an Adoption by Patricia Holmes (Wayne, PA: Our Child Press, 1984). A booklet for families, teachers, clergy, doctors, and others who may come in contact with adoption-built families. (Order from publisher at 800 Maple Glen Lane, Wayne, PA 19087 for $6.00 postpaid.)

Additional National/International Circulation Magazines and Newsletters for Parents and Clinical Professionals

Adoptalk is the newsletter of North American Council on Adoptable Children (address below).

Adopted Child (P.O. Box 9362, Moscow ID 83843) is a monthly four page newsletter which is written and published by journalist/author/trainer and adoptive parent Lois Melina, who features a single topic covered in depth in each of six annual issues.( $25 annually

Adoption/Medical News is a ten times a year 4 page newsletter offering adoption-related medical information to parents and adoption professionals concerning children with special needs, children adopted internationally, etc. The editor is a pediatrician and the adoptive parent of four children. (1921 Ohio St NE, Palm Bay FL 32907). $36 annually.

Many local and regional adoption support groups publish excellent newsletters, such as FACE Facts from Families Adopting Children from Everywhere in Maryland, News from FAIR from Families Adopting in Response in California and many more!

National Organizations Offering Information and Support to Adoptive Families and Prospective Adopters

American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, P.O. Box 33053, Washington DC 20033-0053. A national association of attorneys who handle adoption cases or otherwise have distinguished themselves in the field of adoption law. Membership is by invitation only and based upon demonstrated in and experience with adoption law. The group's work includes promoting the reform of adoption laws and disseminating information on ethical adoption practices. The Academy publishes a newsletter and holds annual meetings and continuing education seminars for attorneys. Families adopting independently should ask whether the attorney they are using is an AAAA member, and if not, why not!

National Council for Adoption, 1930 17th St NW, Washington DC 20009. Phone 202-328-1200. An advocacy organization promoting adoption as a positive family building option. Primarily supported by member agencies, it does also encourage individual memberships ($50 annually) from those families who share its conservative stance on open-records/confidentiality and its wary view of independent and open placements. If you have decided to pursue a traditional, confidential, agency adoption, call NCFA for a referral to a member agency.

North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC), 970 Raymond Ave. #106, St Paul, MN 55114-1149. Phone 612-644-3036. An advocacy and education resource concerning waiting children, NACAC publishes the periodic newsletter Adoptalk, which reviews new books and tapes, and sponsors each August an enormous, well respected conference on special needs adoption for professionals and parent advocates. This conference rotates through five geographic areas. If you are considering a special needs adoption, call NACAC first for information about local and national resources, parent groups, and adoption exchanges. Membership $30 annually.

Pact: An Adoption Alliance, ( 3450 Sacramento St Ste 239, San Francisco CA 94118. Phone 415-221-6957. Pact is an unusual animal. Focusing on issues related to the adoption and parenting of children of color, Pact does workshops, publishes the magazine Pact press, offers a comprehensive bookstore on issues related to adoption, race, parenting. Though it does facilitate domestic open adoption placements of children of color, Pact is not an adoption agency. Membership (benefits of which include discounts on bookstore purchases and workshops but which is not tied in any way to separately available adoption facilitation services) is $32.00 annually.

Miscellaneous Resources of Value That Just Don't Fit Elsewhere

Designing Rituals of Adoption for the Religious and Secular Community by Mary Martin Mason (Minneapolis: RAP, 1995) A unique and valuable guidebook to planning entrustment or arrival ceremonies and other rituals of placement.

Adoption Subsidy: A Guide for Adoptive Parents by Tim O'Hanlon, Ph.D. (Columbus, Ohio: New Roots, an Adoptive Families Support Group, 1995) A guidebook to the process of finding, getting, and keeping the financial assistance children with special needs are entitled to receive.

Some Questions and Answers About Finding a Legitimate Agency or Attorney:

Q: How do I find and check out the legitimacy of an adoption service provider before signing up?

A: There are many ways to check out AGENCIES, ATTORNEYS and FACILITATORS (who are each completely different kinds of service providers) through reputable and experienced consumer-protection channels:

  • Contact LOCAL TO YOU and LOCAL TO THE PROVIDER adoptive parent groups about members who have used the services you are considering and then follow up with those referrals.
  • Also contact NATIONAL adoptive parent groups (see referrals elsewhere in this R&R list) when working with a provider outside your own state.
  • Contact the state attorney general's consumer protection division (both in your state and in the state in which the provider is located) about possible complaints on file.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau in the city in which the provider is located about any complaints on file
  • Contact your state's family and children's services department's agency licensing division about the licensing status of those claiming to be AGENCIES (not all who "seem to be" ARE licensed agencies!)
  • For a referral to an experienced, reputable ATTORNEY contact the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

Q: Why not just ask on the adoption support boards on INCIID and other internet sites instead?

A: Because while these are wonderful places for general support, you need to remember that you are asking mostly individuals who are posting anonymously (and thus could be ANYBODY) and most of whom are total strangers to you.. At INCIID we work VERY hard to keep these boards "clean" of trollers looking for business rather than looking to offer support, but its hard to do that in an anonymous internet environment.

Patricia Irwin Johnston, MS

Pat Johnston is Perspective Press' publisher. She has been writing and speaking and advocating about infertility and adoption issues for nearly 30 years, beginning as a long-term volunteer in Indiana coalition building and with RESOLVE (for which she chaired the national board of directors for three years) and including several years on the national board of Adoptive Families of America.

An innovative thinker, in 1979 Pat and two partners (Carol Hallenbeck and Dr. William R. Keye, Jr.) conceived of and planned what they later discovered had been the first consumer symposium on infertility held anywhere in the world! It became the model for the RESOLVE/Serono symposia series. A regular columnist ("Growing Up Adopted: 0-2") for Adoptive Families magazine for over five years (ending in 2000), Pat is an on-line expert for INCIID's Exploring Adoption and Expecting by Adoption bulletin boards. As well, she is a frequent contributor to many other magazines and newsletters.

Pat's books include Understanding Infertility: Insights for Family and Friends, Taking Charge of Infertility, Adopting after Infertility, Launching a Baby's Adoption, and Adoption Is a Family Affair! What Relatives and Friends Must Know and editing the poetry anthology Perspectives on a Grafted Tree. Pat and her husband, Dave, are the second generation of their family to extend it beyond infertility through the adoption of three children. (See Pat's Recommended Reading List).

Pat Johnston's decision-making and special-issue-exploration workshops for consumers and her in-service trainings for allied professionals are routinely praised for their friendly, inspiring, and gently provocative nature. Frequent topics (as one hour sessions or mixed and matched for half and full day sessions) include

Infertility: Issues and Decisions

  • Life at the Crossroads
  • Taking Charge of Infertility
  • Making Good Decisions
  • Creating a Balance
  • For Men:What to Do when You Can't "Fix It"
  • Fostering Effective Communication between Partners
  • Dealing with Family and Friends
  • Coping with the Holidays
  • Choosing the Right Professionals
  • Doctor/Patient Relationships
  • Where Do We Go from Here?--Evaluating Options
  • When Is Enough, Enough?--Knowing When to Stop
  • Ethics and Choices
  • Why Childfree is not Childless
  • The Quasi-Adoption Options: Donor Insemination, Surrogacy, Egg and Embryo Adoption
  • Is Adoption for You?--Making the Decision
  • Is Adoption for You?--Making the Commitment
  • Tough Adoption Choices--Making a "Match", Openness, Artificial Twinning, and more
  • Parenting after Infertility

Parenting in Adoption

  • Launching a Baby's Adoption
  • Promoting Attachment
  • Growing Your Family--Entitlement, Attachment and More
  • Getting the Words Right--Using Respectful Adoption Language
  • Adoption Expectancy--Feeling "Pregnant"
  • Eggs, Cabbages Patches, Airplanes and Social Workers--What Kids Think
  • Attaching through the Senses
  • Children's Developing Understanding of Adoption
  • Sex Education and The Adoption-Built Family
  • Conspicuous Families--Parenting across Racial Lines
  • Embracing Difference
  • Opening Ourselves to New Issues
  • Bringing Family and Friends Aboard
  • Promoting Understanding in the World Outside

And, for profressionals ,The Infertile Client in the 21st Century a half or full day workshop on dealing with today's changing issues with today's changing clients

To contact Pat Johnston about speaking for your organization, e-mail Pat at the office of Perspectives Press

Pat moderates the Exploring and Expecting through Adoption Forums

Children First: Making the Paradigm Shift from Infertility to Adoption By Patricia Irwin Johnston, MS

Moving from infertility to adoptive parenting is a complicated emotional process. In transferring from the process and the culture of infertility and its treatment to the process and culture of adoption, consumers are expected to make a huge shift. The Barrier? Medical treatment is centered on the needs and wishes of the paying-client—the adult who wanted a baby (that’s you!). Adoption’s culture is centered on the needs and best interests of the one client who has no say in the process and who bears no financial responsibility—the child (not you!) Adoption is child-centered rather than adult-centered. But you, one of three clients in the picture, will carry all of the financial risk and burden.

Not fair, you say? I understand. Been there. Felt that. But as my children by adoption have grown up, as our relationships with them and some of their birthparents have developed, I’ve changed my thinking a lot.

Here’s something you probably don’t understand if you are not yet a parent. Parenting itself changes everything. From the moment you become a parent forward, your child’s needs will always come before yours and before anyone else’s in your life. For those who conceive their children, that shift comes automatically as part of the pregnancy experience. Indeed, it’s that shift in thinking that makes it possible for birthparents to plan an adoption.

For those who adopt, however, making that shift is not automatic. Unless one makes a deliberate choice to shift thinking, to participate in an adoption expectancy period, the shift won’t likely happen until after the child arrives. And by then, many infertile couples can have made some pretty bad choices already—choices rooted in their frustration, in their reactions to many losses that infertility has brought to them, in the desperation they have begun to feel about ever being able to parent.

Over the past twenty years or so, changes in adoption have done little more than move the locus of power in adoptions. First power was moved from adoption professionals to adoptive parents, and now it has been transferred to birthparents. But changes in who holds the power have not often included the education necessary for all of these parties to understand and accept what children themselves need from adoption. And what is it that children need? They need well-prepared, unafraid, stable and loving families over their entire lifetimes!

Too many of those involved in adoption right now seem to experience it as a competition. Agencies compete with other agencies and with independent service providers to draw in limited numbers of birthparents whose healthy babies can be offered to an apparently unlimited supply of prospective adopters. Special needs agencies compete with one another for public and private grant money, and often trash one another and their differing approaches to counseling and preparation. Prospective adopters compete with other prospective adopters for the opportunity to adopt available babies. They look for too many shortcuts to “faster” placements by looking for providers who will not require education, extensive preparation, and screening, because it is too “invasive and unfair.” Adopters attempt to demonstrate to expectant parents that their adoptive family would offer a "better" life for the child about to be born than would the child’s family of origin or any other prospective adopters. When an expectant parent has a change of heart about adoption during the window of time a state or province grants for the change-of-mind process, many adopters and their professional advisors take the stance that possession-is-nine-points-of-the-law and go to court so that they might "keep" the baby, even though they are not yet the legal parents. Adopters, birthmothers and professionals often conspire to keep birthfathers and their families out of the picture entirely.

Ideally, changing adoption so that it really meets the needs of children would begin with fundamental changes in thinking and in the law. Different thinking would end the adversarial aura that surrounds adoption. If adoptions really kept the child's interests center-stage, everybody involved in any untimely pregnancy would be seeking the best possible solution for the child to be born. This solution would find him with his permanent family (birth or adoptive) as soon as possible after his birth.

Getting off to this kind of a "clean" start in an adoption, however, demands a tremendous amount of understanding and emotional work on the part of both sets of parents, as well as careful judgment on the part of well trained and well informed professionals. Those working to launch a child-centered adoption must be helped to understand how each of the decisions made and each of the procedures followed will help the child at the adoption's core.

For a baby's launch to be optimal, everyone involved must be committed to being honest with everyone else in the adoption. Birthparents must be honest with one another, with helping professionals, and with prospective adopters. Adopters must be scrupulously honest with professionals and expectant parents. Intermediaries must be scrupulously honest with expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents. There must be no assumptions that “leaving that little something out” “letting that little something go,” causes no harm. Scrupulous adherence to ethical standards that keep the child at the center while respecting the needs and interests of both adoptive parents and birthparents is absolutely crucial in making all decisions concerning an adoption.

As an adoptive parent, wife, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, cousin-in-law, sister-in-open-adoption to my child’s birthmother, and adoption educator, I hold those who elect to join to adopt to very high standards. That’s because this is what children deserve from their parents.

Patricia Irwin Johnston. is an INCIID Advisory Board Member. She is a long-time advocate, infertility and adoption educator and author of several books, including Adopting after Infertility, Launching a Baby’s Adoption, and INCIID’s own Adoption Is a Family Affair, written with the participation of the INCIID community members on two of the forums which Pat moderates: Exploring and Expecting through Adoption.

Contact Information:

Phone: (317) 872-3055