I recently reviewed The Secrets of Successful Adoptive Parenting for the current issue of Adoption Today, the magazine for members of Adoption UK. (If you’re not a member, I recommend it – helpful magazines, local meet-ups, and an excellent conference.)
Space is naturally limited in print, so here is a longer version of the review than the one I submitted.
About the book
This is a thorough guide to how to manage many of the challenges of adoptive parenting, primarily aimed at helping adopters who are still pre-placement to prepare appropriately for the task ahead of them. And it does this job well.
The book covers a wide range of topics under six main themes: the emotional journey, empathy, compassion, communication, child development and preparations. It includes explorations of parents’ values, children’s memories and grief, and the provision of structure and consistency. The sections on support, brain plasticity, and introductions are particularly helpful. The chapters are short and manageable and it is a straightforward read.
The author bases her advice on her own experiences with her daughter Lucy, who joined their family aged 4, and on six other children whose stories are briefly used for examples throughout the book. These sections bring the theory to life and help to make it relatable and tangible. I would have liked to see more emphasis on these children (though they were anonymised composites) – what challenges did they present to their carers, and how were they resolved? It seemed to me that the author extrapolated from her own experiences with her family to imply that all adopted children can behave as beautifully as her own daughter if parented appropriately. I struggled with this implication, particularly in the context of CPV (child-on-parent violence), which isn’t really addressed. I have no issues with the strategies – in fact we have used the vast majority of them ourselves – but in our case they haven’t all worked as well as the book suggests, because our lives are just not as neat and tidy as that.
In summary, this is a good ‘general overview’ book to recommend to prospective adopters once they’ve started on the assessment process. Perhaps those who are at the ‘still considering their options’ stage might benefit from reading something that talks with a little more unrestrained forthrightness about the challenges so that they know what they’re getting into (such as Sally Donovan’s books which I cannot praise highly enough). Those who are more than a year post-placement are likely to have encountered much of the content already, and to be researching information more specific to their child’s needs. But for reading during the preparation stage, this is just the job.
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