Lois's Reviews > The Family of Adoption: Completely Revised and Updated

The Family of Adoption by Joyce Maguire Pavao
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's review
Jul 16, 2012

it was amazing
Read in April, 2012

If my parents could have read only one book on adoption,"The Family of Adoption" is the one I would have chosen for them. It stated my truth as an adopted child in a way that I had never been able to articulate to them, and addressed some painful issues: identity, secrecy, connection, divided loyalties, and loss, that distinguish families created through adoption from biologically-related families. It is written with consideration and compassion for all members of the adoption circle, although with an admitted bias in favor of the adopted child, towards finding the best home for every child in need of one. It’s a little book- 144 pages including the acknowledgment section- a quick read. If you are contemplating adoption, or you are part of a family created by adoption, you should read this book.

Through the presentation of the individual adoption stories of birth parents, adoptive parents and adopted children (from early childhood through young adulthood) the author discusses dynamics unique to adoptive families. While conflicts inevitably arise in virtually all families during a child’s teenage years, adoptive parents may entertain the fantasy that their biological children would never act in such a dismaying manner. Adopted children are sure their birth parents would be “cool,” very different from their adoptive parents. “In adoptive families, the additional problem is that there are many ghosts in the room.”(p.73) The “ghosts” may be painful to consider but awareness of their existence is an important step in working through the conflicts, towards a happier family.

Dr. Pavao, a renowned therapist in the field of adoption, is also an adoptee who searched for and found her birth mother. She described it as one of the most healing events of her life. Regardless of how loving and functional the adoptive family may be, and irrespective of why a child was relinquished by or removed from his or her birth family, an adopted child’s family of origin matters to that child. “I believe there’s no such thing as “termination” in the relationship between children and their birth families. Even if the birth parents die, it’s not “over.” By creating a ritual based on the pretense that the relationship has ended, the child’s internal reality is at odds with the external one.” (p. 97).

In her epilogue, Dr. Pavao focuses on adoption in the broader context of our society. She has come up with many concrete suggestions for systems changes and for increased professional competence in the adoption field. In addition to those members of adoptive families (or those who relinquished a child), it should be required reading for everyone who works in the field of adoption in any capacity. Professionals who facilitate and, or support adoptions, through counseling, psychotherapy or education, or who are involved in termination of parental rights cases, or who legislate the rights of members of the adoption circle should all read it. Everyone whose life has been touched by adoption should read this book.

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