Thursday, November 15, 2012

Adoption Kids' Book Review: My New Family: A First Look at Adoption

What do you get if you cross a journalist with a psychotherapist? If it's the same person, and they write about adoption, you get this book:

Counselor, journalist and psychotherapist Pat Thomas has written a series of “A First Look At…” books, which intend to “promote interaction among children, parents and teachers.” Her 2003 book, My New Family: A First Look at Adoption begins by telling adoptees, “You live in a very special family.”

Thomas’ training as a psychotherapist shows through in this book. The book is measured, comforting, and normalizing.  It explains that there are many ways to make families, describes various family structures, and invites children to discuss differences and similarities between families. The book expresses, without explaining why, that sometimes birth parents cannot care for a child as well as they would want to, and that this leads a child into foster care. It acknowledges that once in foster care, some children go back to their birth parents and some do not. The book explains adoption as “living with another family forever,” and normalizes it by saying that “lots of children all over the world are adopted – sometimes as babies and sometimes as older children.” Thomas addresses that families sometimes look different, and says that appearances and origins “are not the most important things,” but that it is more important to learn to understand and unconditionally love each other. Thomas’s book encourages children to talk with their adoptive parents about how they feel, to share openly about their sadness, and to ask questions about birth parents.

The book does mention birth parents. It affirms that “both… sets of parents have given you something special,” and it also reflects that birth parents are sad when they decide to make an adoption plan for a child.  The book does not mention open adoption, which is unfortunate.
Thomas includes a one page “how to use this book” primer for parents. The primer encourages parents to always be open about adoption with their children, to be honest when they don’t know answers, to err on the side of love when giving hypothetical explanations, and to avoid making the child feel grateful. Unfortunately, the back cover of the book, which was likely not written by Thomas, explains that the book tries to help adopted children “understand how lucky they are.” Thomas herself would probably bristle at this phrasing, as would many adoptees. Ignore the back cover, though, and the book itself is solid.

I recommend this one to families that are considering adoption. Reading through it can help you prepare yourself to have a health outlook towards discussing adoption with your kid.

Happy reading!

PS. When I first started reviewing kids’ adoption books, I did it in the context of preparing a resource for foster and adoptive parents at the agency where I was employed. My first set of reviews was entirely from books in the children’s section of the Pasadena Public Library. People started suggesting other books to review, and this is one of them, recommended by a friend and former co-worker. I do enjoy finding new kids’ books; if you’ve got any books you’d like me to review, please mention them in the comments section!

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