One route to parenthood is adoption. A path followed by more than 130,000 families in the U.S. each year. It can be a complicated and confusing journey, as author Adam Pertman explains in Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families – and America. First published in 2000, a revised, updated edition is now on the market. We spoke recently with Pertman in an e-mail conversation.
Question: What was your goal in writing this book?
Answer: I actually had several goals. First and foremost, I deeply believe people need to know more about adoption and the millions of people it touches because, otherwise, we cannot continue the progress we’ve been making in shaping better policies, practices and attitudes. The stigmas and negative stereotypes simply have got to go, so goal No. 1 is to inform readers about the realities of our changing world. Second, I want to show people – through the (I hope) compelling stories in the book that adoption isn’t about somebody else; it’s about all of us and all our families. Finally, I thought it important to provide up-to-the minute understandings about tumultuous events all around us, such as the children devastated by the Haiti earthquake, the boy "returned" to Russia by his mother in Tennessee, the huge number of children being adopted from foster care, and on and on.
Question: As an adoptive parent, what was your biggest obstacle?
Answer: To be honest (which I always try to be), for both my wife and me it was a combination of ignorance – not in a pejorative way, but a lack of solid information – and insecurity. So we worried about things like contact with my children’s birth mothers and whether our family would be as "real" and loving as if we formed it biologically.
Question: As an adoptive parent, what was your biggest reward?
Answer: Well, for starters, it was good to find out our misconceptions were just that – meaning adoptive families are just as real, the love and bonding are just as magnificent and so forth. There are two rewards, by the way, and their names are Zack and Emmy.
Question: What are the some of the hurdles for families hoping to adopt an infant?
Answer: The biggest hurdle is straight-forward: There just aren’t that many infants available for adoption – only about 15,000 children 6 months or younger are adopted in the U.S. per year. The other big issue is the money; this process costs too much, and I write a lot about that in my book. All this said, people are adopting babies every day, while more and more are adopting older children and finding that their families are just as "real" and loving and rewarding as well.
Question: What special concerns should be considered when adopting an older child?
Answer: It obviously depends on the child, so I think the blanket answer should be to educate yourself. That means about the effects of being in an orphanage or in foster care, of the consequences of the pain the child suffered that led to their being in an orphanage or foster care, how best to parent that particular child, and what services and resources are available to help you do so. The most satisfied parents – whether of a baby or an older child with special needs or of a sibling group – are those whose expectations are realistic and who view getting support (when they need it) as a strength rather than a weakness.