Vol. 9, No. 1• November 2004

A Social Worker Reflects on Books about Adoption

by Jane Elmore

Recently someone asked me if I had a list of books I recommended to prospective adoptive parents interested in reading about the issues they may face in their adoption journey.

There are a number I recommend. However, I’m very selective. I always make recommendations based on the parents’ background and the needs of the child. I find most parents are eager and happy to read books and other materials that address their specific needs. It is not helpful to families to hand them a long list books, especially if the child welfare professional has not even read them her/himself. Foster and adoptive parents are very busy people and we need to be respectful of their time. I recommend a very specific few books that I have read and believe will meet their needs.

One of my concerns about a few of the books I do recommend (see below) is that they talk about a sense of loss for all three parties to the adoption, assuming the adoption is a second choice to anyone who adopts. My experience is that many families come to adoption for reasons other than not being able to have birth children. To these families the idea that they are experiencing a sense of loss is very foreign. These parents look at adoption as a “gain,” while at the same time understanding the sense of loss their child may feel at not having his/her birth family.

When having follow-up conversations with parents it is important to talk with them about the books or other materials they have read. If the professional has read the books that they recommended to the parents, the quality of follow up services to families will be much improved. Child welfare professionals need to insure that the parents have an opportunity to express their concerns about issues addressed in the reading materials, and the child welfare professional needs to take the initiative to discuss issues of possible concern. This includes any points of view expressed in the books that are different from the family’s personal experience.

Jane Elmore, MSW, MBA is a foster and adoptive parent. She is the former Deputy Director for Foster Care and Permanency Services at the Illinois Dept. of Children and Family Services. She is currently a child welfare consultant, and adjunct professor at the Univ. of Illinois and Springfield College of Illinois.

Books about Adoption
The following books are among those Jane Elmore recommends to prospective adoptive parents:

  • The Whole Life Adoption Book, by Schooler
  • Telling the Truth To Your Adopted or Foster Child, by Keefer & Schooler
  • Adopting the Older Child, by Jewett
  • Parent Effectiveness Training, by Gordon
  • Journeys After Adoption, by Schooler & Norris
  • The Explosive Child, by Greene
  • Promoting Successful Adoptions, by Smith & Howard
  • Inside Transracial Adoption, by Steinberg & Hall
  • Talking with Young Children About Adoption, by Watkins & Fisher

Copyright 2004 Jordan Institute for Families