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7 Books for Adoptive Parents

If you’re considering adoption as a way to build your family, or you’ve applied to adopt and been matched with a child. Perhaps you already have an adopted child at home or you yourself are adopted… There’s plenty to read regarding adoption, with common themes ranging from primal wounds to reunion stories to chirpy child-of-my-heart tales. These 7 books are favorites for adoptive parents…

1. No Biking in the House without a Helmetby Melissa Fay Greene: Hammurabi’s Code has multiple laws for different types of adoption. Ancient civilizations moved children around freely. While there have always been different reasons to add to your family, there has been one constant: children are loveable and they are fun. Without sugar-coating the trials that come along with raising children, mother-of-nine (four are biological) Melissa Fay Greene captures the raucous beauty of family and children as no other writer can. Whether it’s the moments when you really do hear yourself saying that if you’re going to ride a bike down the stairs in the house, you’d better wear a helmet, or even a run-in with post-adoption depression, Greene is always fresh, wise, and funny.

2. Be My Baby: Parents & Children Talk About Adoption edited by Gail Kinn.Unfortunately out of print, I still list this book because it contains stories from so many perspectives: birth mothers, adopted children, and adoptive parents voice their narratives. Though a bit biased toward traditional families, this book captures the range of the adoption experience, with the adoptees’ stories in many ways the most surprising and heart-wrenching. Though out of print, the book is easy to find on the Internet. Read it yourself, and put a copy in your child’s room.

3. Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis. OK, the author is an actress and celebrity. OK, it’s a children’s book. It’s still one of my favorite adoption books of all time — and my son’s. I rarely get through it, even with my child now a teenager and towering over me, without a sniffle or two. Read it with your little ones, and when they get older, you can have the pleasure of showing your teen Hitchcock’s Psychofor the first time and explaining how the lady who just got knifed in the shower is the same person as the sweet granny who gets woken up to hear about her grandchild’s arrival in Tell Me Again— the author’s mother, actress Janet Leigh. This will be an officially cool thing to know. You’re welcome.

4. Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey by Karen Salyer McElmurray. The author gave birth to a son, put up for adoption, in the early 1970s. Teenaged, living in a troubled home with a severely phobic mother, McElmurray made the painful decision to relinquish her child and spare him the heartache of her home. A lovely, lyric look into the soul of a birth mother, the book tracks the wrenching echoes of her decision and journey to reunite with her adult son.

5. Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution Is Transforming Our Families—and America by Adam Pertman. Head of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and former reporter for the Boston Globe, Pertman is also an adoptive father. He brings a reporter’s sensibility to Adoption Nation, tracing adoption figures and trends, and chronicling evolving adoption law. A father whose family is built around open adoption, Pertman is sensitive to the importance of the triad of adoptive families — children, adoptive parents, and birth parents. Pertman is also a smart and informed advocate of continued adoption reform.

6. Jin Woo by Eve Bunting. Another children’s book, this one is a sentimental favorite — it was inspired by story of the adoption of my son, Jin, from South Korea. Author Eve Bunting heard the story of Jin’s arrival at SeaTac Airport in Seattle from a mutual friend, and fictionalized the story, adding an older brother to the family. It sits on my home bookcase next to my own book Make Me a Mother: A Memoir, the story of the rest of Jin’s life — I like to tell my son that his life so far has been, literally, bookended! Bonus: the beautiful and detailed illustrations are by award-winning adult Korean adoptee Chris Soentpiet.

7. Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child by Beth O’Malley.Now it’s your turn to write a book — this book offers concrete, step-by-step advice for creating a lifebook for your adopted child out of the often bewildering details and documents of his or her particular placement and arrival as well as life with you, with helpful sections on language to use in discussing adoption and topics such as birth parent fantasies. O’Malley walks you through the creation of a lifebook and helps you understand the particular needs of your child you answer by creating one.

Books for Birth Parents

1. Adoption Wisdom: A Guide to the Issues and Feelings of Adoption. Marlou Russell PhD (Broken Branch Productions, 1996): this book offers insight and understanding of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. Adoption Wisdom includes chapters on Adoption Awareness, the Basic Truths of Adoption, Search and Reunion, and an Ideal Adoption. A book for anyone who wants to know more about the realities of adoption.

2. The Adoption Reader: Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers, and Adopted Daughters Tell Their Stories. Susan Wadia-Ells. (Seal Press, 1995): these personal essays and stories are informed by the contemporary adoption movement and raise timely issues that illustrate its complexity, among them.

3. The Adoption Triangle: Sealed or Open Records – How They Affect Adoptees, Birth Parents and Adoptive Parents. Arthur D. Sorosky, Annette Baran and Reuben Panor. (Corona Publishing Co. 1989): a classic and the first to deal with how sealed and open records affect adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents. Originally published in 1978,” … it is as true and open as the changes advocated … comprehensive, factual, forward looking, totally honest, readable and thoughful …” Los Angeles Times.

4. Birthbond. Judith S. Gediman and Linda P. Brown. (New Horizon Press, 1989): In this eye-opening, deeply affecting account, the authors reveal – through the words and experiences of adoptees, birth mothers, and birth fathers – that what reunion can accomplish is impressive, although its pangs are no less real than the pangs of birth.

5. Birthmark, Lorraine Dusky. (M. Evans and Company, New York 1979): Marked for life emotionally, intellectually, and politically by her baby’s birth twelve years ago, the author tells of her obsession with finding the daughter whom she gave away and has never seen.

6. Birthright: The Guide to Search and Reunion for Adoptees, Birth Parents, and Adoptive Parents. Jean A.S. Strauss (Penguin Books, 1994): What happens when an adoptee decides to locate a birth parent or a birth parent wants to find a child given up long ago? How does one search for people whose names one does not know? And what happens during a reunion?

7. Cast Off: They called us dangerous women. So we organized and proved them right. (Stow Away – Cast Off) (Volume 2) (Dr. Lee H Campbell, 2014)

8. Stow Away, “They told me to forget. And I did. Now my memories have mutiny in mind.” Lee Campbell. (Book Baby. 2013)

9. The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption.Kathryn Joyce (Public Affairs, A Member of Perseus Books Group, 2013): When Jessie Hawkins’ adopted daughter told her she had another mom back in Ethiopia, Jessie didn’t, at first, know what to think. She’d wanted her adoption to be great story about a child who needed a home and got one, and a family led by God to adopt. Instead, she felt like she’d done something wrong.

10. The Family of Adoption. Joyce Maguire Pavao. (Beacon Press, 1998): Full of wonderful stories that give insight into a wide variety of adoption issues, now revised in light of recent developments, The Family of Adoptionis a powerful argument for the right kind of openness in adoption. Joyce Maguire Pavao uses her thirty years of experience as a family and adoption therapist to explain to adoptive parents, birthparents, adult adopted people, and extended family, as well as to those who work with children professionally the developmental stages and challenges one can expect in the life of the adopted person.

11. The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade. Ann Fessler. (Penguin Press, 2006): This book describes and recounts the experiences of women in the United States who relinquished babies for adoption between 1950 and the Roe v. Wadedecision in 1973. The book examines the pressures placed on the birth mother by family, adoption agencies, and society at large to give up the child for adoption, and the long-term psychological consequences for this event on her.

12. Hole In My Heart, a memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption. Lorraine Dusky (Leto Media, Sag Harbor, 2015): HOLE IN MY HEART is the compelling story of a mother separated from her child by adoption in the Sixties and the state-imposed secrecy that keeps them apart. Defying convention, Lorraine Dusky reunites with her daughter in the early Eighties when such reunions were rare, and in the process becomes a staunch advocate for reform of America’s antiquated adoption system. The author gives an inside look on the emotional turmoil following reunion for both mother and daughter.

13. Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest for Wholeness.B.J. Lifton (Basic Books, 1994): Betty Jean Lifton, whose Lost and Foundhas become a bible to adoptees and to those who would understand the adoption experience, explores further the inner world of the adopted person. She breaks new ground as she traces the adopted child’s lifelong struggle to form an authentic sense of self. And she shows how both the symbolic and the literal search for roots becomes a crucial part of the journey toward wholeness.

14. Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience. B.J. Lifton (Harper and Row, 1988): [Looks] at adoption from all sides of the triangle: adoptee, birth mother, adoptive parents . . . A provocative, comprehensive inquiry.

15. The Other Mother: A True Story. Carol Schaefer. (Soho Press, 1991): A Literary Guild alternate in cloth, this wrenching account of a biological mother’s reunion with the son whom her repressive family made her give up for adoption covers a wide ra