Regular readers of the blog will know that over the course of the last year Tom and I have been recommended a number of books to read about adoption. Back in November I did a review of the books I’d read so far so I thought I’d keep you posted on the ones I read since. I can officially say I have now read more books about adoption than I did for my entire degree (admittedly it was in drama but still!).
Books about adoption in general…
Talking About Adoption (Marjorie Morrison) – This is a really in-depth book about how best to start the ‘conversation’ about adoption with your children from a very young age. The key message is that by making adoption a talked about subject you take away its taboo status and hopefully enable your child to come to terms with what being adopted means to them.
Talking About Adoption investigates life story work, suitable language to use with children and young people of all ages, how to develop what children know about adoption as they grow older, how to talk to other adults (both family and professionals) about adoption, as well as a whole host of really useful hints and tips. It includes real-life stories, links to other books and websites, and a summing up at the end of each chapter.
Talking About Adoption is relatively new and is published by BAAF. It is one of the few books that feels like its talking to a parent of an adopted child regardless of gender or sexuality which is really refreshing. I genuinely feel more confident in how to talk about adoption and will definitely come back to it in the future. Talking about Adoption was suggested to us by Denise, our social worker.
A Guide to Attachment (John Timpson CBE) – This is a really quick read and every page has a cartoon outlining what’s being said. It doesn’t go into huge amounts of detail but covers the basics and gets the point across that children and adults who have suffered early years trauma need our, and society in general’s, support.
It’s the kind of book that we should give to every teacher, police officer, and person-in-the-street in the country to help them understand very quickly why some young people behave in the way they do. A Guide to Attachment was given to us by Tom’s aunt who works with young people with special educational needs.
Related by Adoption (Hedi Argent) – Tom and I gave this book to our parents who have passed it onto our siblings, so I thought I’d ask Tom’s sister to tell us what she thought of it…
“Related by adoption is a short handbook for grandparents and other relatives, which emphasises a caring, child-centric approach to integrating a new arrival into the family. With some genuine case studies included, it manages to help the wider family understand both the adopted child's perspective and that of family members welcoming the new child. While it focuses on grandparents in particular, it is useful in preparing all relatives and helps create a sense of anticipation.
After reading it, I found myself looking forward to the practical and emotional changes a new child or children would bring to the dynamic of my close and extended family. I was also full of admiration for my brother and brother-in-law for taking this path in life, which is not the easiest, but could indeed be the most fulfilling, way to care for children and build a family.”
It’s been a great book as it’s encouraged discussions between us and our families about adoption in a structured and informed way. Related by Adoption was suggested to us by our social worker.
You’re The Daddy We Wanted (Gavin Andres) – It was great to be able to read a book from a dad’s point of view as there are so few out there. It covers Gavin’s journey from deciding to adopt to becoming a family and is very touching. I discovered You’re The Daddy We Wanted through Gavin’s blog.
Books about adopting siblings…
Top 10 Tips to Placing Siblings (Hedi Argent) – This book is primarily aimed at social workers who are placing sibling groups. However, it’s a great read for prospective adopters too as it helps us understand the processes the social workers go through and, more importantly, the potential feelings and issues the children will be going through.
It’s a very quick read (I got through it in a couple of days) and is full of really useful information. If you’re considering adopting a sibling group this is definitely a book that’s worth reading.
Loving Each One Best (Nancy Samalin) – I found this book quite stressful to read. It’s relatively old so its focus was all about mums and how they are the primary carer. It’s also very American so some of the descriptions of events felt very alien to me as a British reader – I really wish the books were translated culturally (as well as grammatically).
There are lots of examples of issues you may find between siblings but the resolutions offered are so simplistic that I can’t imagine they’re ever useful in a real-life situation. The first few chapters mainly focus on introducing a new born into a family which for Tom and me won’t be the case but may be helpful if you’re adopting children separately.
At the end of each chapter there were top tips which were really useful and easy to go back to when and if they’re needed.
Raising Happy Brothers & Sisters (Jan Parker & Jan Stimpson) – This book has tonnes of really helpful information and tips but the lay-out is so confusing I found it difficult to stay focused on what was being said. As well as the main body of text relating to the chapter, each page is filled with quotes from parents and professionals sharing their thoughts and ideas on the subject, and sometimes a box with more in-depth information as well. It would be so much easier to read if it all flowed together more seamlessly.
Thankfully, Raising Happy Brothers & Sisters also has a really good summing up of the main points at the end of each chapter so I’ll be dipping into those in the future.
All three of these books were suggested by our agency when we attended the sibling training in November last year.
What other books have you read that you’d recommend?
I mentioned last week that I started doing some research into adoption. In this post I’ve listed some of the blogs, books, and forums that have helped us understand the journey we’re on and prepare us (intellectually at least) for what’s to come. I do worry that I’ve possibly read too much, both online and in books, so do be careful that you don’t overwhelm yourself with too much reading.
Blogs - One of the things that’s encouraged me to start this blog is the support and information Tom and I have found through following blogs. Keith from the agency first told me about Sally Donovan’s blog, which led me to The Adoption Social (TAS), which led me to hundreds of others. Each week TAS sends out the best blogs so you can get a real sense of what’s going on in adoptive families. Here are some (among many) of the ones that I really like - Misadventures of an Adoptive Dad, We Are Family, Three Bees and a Honey, Suddenly Mummy and last but not least the musical Gareth Marr.
I follow many of these bloggers on twitter and they have all been happy to answer questions, lend support when needed, or simply 'like' my thoughts - so thank you to all of them!
Books - Every social worker I’ve spoken to has had their own ideas about which books you should read. There’s a book list in the Stage One information pack, another in the Preparation Days information pack, and another on the agency’s website. I have probably read more books on a single topic this year than I did in my three years at university (admittedly I did drama so it’s not that surprising). Anyway, here are my mini reviews on the books…
No Matter What by Sally Donovan – This is a great read. It’s honest and full of hope, joy and sadness. It brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face in equal measure. It was brilliant to hear about an actual adoptive parent’s journey. I found out about the book through Sally’s blog.
The Pink Guide to Adoption by Nicola Hill – The first half outlines the law and how it affects adopting as a gay or lesbian couple. This was very helpful from a practical point of view. The second half is full of case studies of gay and lesbian couples adopting children. This was really helpful to see that it has been done before, and most importantly it has been done successfully. I found this book on the internet when I first started investigating adoption.
The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier – I really struggled with this book. The premise is that babies create a bond with the birth mother in utero and if the child is separated at birth a wound is created that is devastating to the child’s development. Whilst I completely accept that early childhood trauma seriously affects children’s emotional and intellectual development, my issue with the book is that it talks mainly about children being relinquished by birth mothers at the time of birth. From everything I’ve been told about the types of children on the adoption register in the UK, it's incredible rare for a child to be relinquished at birth nowadays that the information seems slightly redundant. There's very little mention of childhood traumas beyond the separation itself. It also mainly talks about a woman taking over the caring role and that men have little to do with this side of things. All in all not that helpful for Tom and me. The second part of the book is more practical, and potentially very helpful, but by this point I couldn’t wait to finish it.
A Child’s Journey Through Placement by Vera Fahlberg – This is a text book for social workers who look after children and young people plain and simple. I haven’t read a book like it since I trained to be a teacher many years ago. However, its plain talking and clear advice have made excellent reading and I would recommend it, as a book to dip in and out of, to anyone who is thinking of adopting. This was recommended to me by Sandra from the agency.
Preparing for Adoption by Julia Davis – This is a straight talking book that outlines the process of adoption and gives clear, practical guidance on how to get started and how to keep going once the children arrive. This was also recommended to me by Sandra from the agency.
The Unofficial Guide to Adoption by Sally Donovan – I have just finished Sally’s second book. Again, this is a really open and honest account of what life has been like for an adoptive parent. I suspect I’ll come back to this book one once we have our children as it is packed full of really useful and practical tips.
If I had to choose a few of the books I'd go for No Matter What and Preparing for Adoption.
Forums - These are a great way to speak directly to other adoptive parents who are either at the same stage as you or have already been there. Sandra at the agency directed us to New Family Social which is specifically set up to support LGBT people who want to adopt. The online forum is brilliant – I have posted a number of questions that have always been replied to quickly and with great thought. They also run events where you can meet up with other families (although at the time of writing we have yet to attend one of these). We have also just joined Adoption UK, recommended to us by the agency, which is basically the same as NFS but available for everyone to join. Again there is access to forums and support, which have been really helpful. For both these forums, like all online communities, you get out of them what you put in so try to keep your profile up to date and check in with what they’re up to.
No doubt you'll find your own research and information to help you make your initial decisions and then to support you when you adopt but this has all been invaluable for Tom and me to make sure we have made the right decision.
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...