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Fixing the Fates – Adoption Book Review

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From the Cover of Fixing the Fates: An Adoptee’s Story of Truth and Lies by Diane Dewey:

“Diane Dewey, surrendered in a German orphanage at age one, was adopted and raised by loving parents near Philadelphia who withheld information about her origins, seemingly to protect her. Then the axis shifted. When Diane’s Swiss biological father contacted her by letter after forty-six years, her sense of truth was upended. In the months and years that followed, she sifted through competing versions of the story of her birth and adoption, and discovered disturbing secrets about her true fate. She was in the midst of attempting to substantiate–or refute– these finding through resonant family reunions when another mysterious letter appeared. One part forensic investigation, one part self-discovery, Fixing the Fates is an unflinching saga of facing deception and resetting the compass to live one’s truth.”


Grade:

5 hoots out of 5

Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 5 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]


What I Thought:

Diane Dewey’s descriptive and enrapturing writing in Fixing the Fates transports the reader to various moments and places throughout her life. Her descriptions of her feelings, thoughts, and perceptions are vulnerable and vivid. I found myself sneaking any spare moments during the day to read this book as it is one of those “couldn’t put it down” stories. The universal themes Diane explores in her memoir are empathy, context, self-acceptance, intuition, and grace (releasing and not harboring anger).

I highly recommend this book to adults in the adoption triad, but especially to adoptive parents as this is the angle from which I read the book. Diane not only shares her thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and experiences as an adoptee, but she discusses universal themes and best practices in adoption and mentions other important works, such as The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier and Adoption Nation by Adam Pertman. Listening to the experiences of adoptees is one of the most effective ways for foster and adoptive parents to become more informed about how to best parent their children and empathize with them. Reading Fixing the Fates makes these concepts and themes accessible to readers by bringing them into the mind and experiences of an adoptee who expresses her experiences so vividly.


Buy From Our Links and Support Transfiguring Adoption:


It’s Your Turn:

    1. What insights did you gain from Diane’s book?
    2. If you are an adoptive parent, has reading Fixing the Fates led you to make any changes to your parenting?
    3. Has the book changed your perceptions of birth family search and reunion?

NOTE: JKS Communications provided an advance copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Should My Child Have Been Adopted?: Questions We Should Be Asking

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A couple weeks ago, the movie Instant Family was released on iTunes, and Darren and I watched it for the first time. The story is based on the experiences of the producer and his wife and other families who have instantly become parents to sibling groups through fostering to adopt. There is a point in the movie during which the character Ellie is watching her three foster children join their birth mom for a visit, and she tells her husband she feels like they’re breaking up a family. He responds that they did not remove the children from their birth mom and that they are not the ones to make the decision of whether or not her rights should be terminated. While this is correct, there are further questions we all have a responsibility to ask.

Many adoptive parents wonder, “Should my child have been adopted?” Often it is asked in the context of the parent feeling like they have failed or messed up and wondering if the child would be better off with their birth family or a different adoptive family. Ideally, this should be asked BEFORE a child is adopted, but adoptive parents often are not informed of real statistics, of real systemic issues, of corruption, and so on until they have been on the adoption journey for a while and begin to question whether their child should have ever been available for adoption in the first place. Outcomes are better for children if they can remain in their birth families. Ideally, no child should ever be adopted. We cannot go back and change whether a child was removed or whether they were placed for adoption or not, but we can and must take an honest look at systems in place for foster care and adoption and advocate for better for all children and families.

If a child is to be adopted through foster care, we should be asking:

  • Should the child have been removed in the first place? Were they removed because of cultural or economic differences?
  • Was everything possible done to preserve the birth family?
  • Was everything done to search for a relative or fictive kin caregiver for the child?

If a child is to be adopted domestically, we should be asking:

  • Were the birth parents coerced or forced into placing the child for adoption?
  • Did the birth parents lack necessary supports for parenting?
  • If necessary supports had been provided, could family members raise the child?

If a child is to be adopted internationally, we should be asking:

  • Is the child part of the 80% of children in international orphanages who are not truly orphans? Are there birth parents or family members who wanted to parent but could not due to poverty or due to the child having a health problem they could not pay for so they placed the child in the orphanage to save the child’s life? In the wake of natural disasters, or just simply living in impoverished conditions, parents and family members place their children in orphanages so they can be fed or provided with necessary healthcare. Organizations like Lumos and Love Without Boundaries have programs that are working to ensure children can stay with their families instead of being pulled from loving families and their cultures and everything and everyone they know because of poverty, disaster, or health problems.
  • Were the birth parents lied to and led to believe that they were merely sending their child to an orphanage or another country for educational purposes and that the child would be returned to them?
  • Was the child trafficked?
  • Was the child adopted from a Hague Convention Country? The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention) is an intercountry agreement that “aims to prevent the abduction, sale of, or trafficking in children, and it works to ensure that intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of children.” It helps to ensure that a suitable family was searched for in the child’s country of origin first. While the Hague Convention seeks to ensure the child’s best interest, it does not mean that more could not be done.

 

Once during a training, I recall a trainer stating that parents have a constitutional right to raise their children. This right should only be taken away under dire circumstances, and it should not be removed simply because others think they could do a better job with the child or give them more opportunity. The ability to receive a better education, take part in activities, or receive superior nutrition does not undo the trauma that removing a child from their birth family causes. Science is proving this over and over the more neuropsychology and other fields are revealing about the consequences to children, even those removed at birth.

Often adult adoptees and former foster youth question where we stand on issues as the co-founders of Transfiguring adoption, an organization that seeks to help foster and adoptive parents. Just because we seek to improve adoptive situations, it does not mean that we believe adoption is the best option. In many cases, it is not! Kids do better in their birth families. Adoption is not sunshine and rainbows. It always begins with trauma. More resources should be diverted to preserving families and preventing removal, and adoption should be a last resort.


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An Introduction to Autism for Adoptive and Foster Families: Book Review

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From the Cover of An Introduction to Autism for Adoptive and Foster Families: How to Understand and Help Your Child by Katie Hunt and Helen Rodwell:

“Written for busy foster carers and adoptive parents, this book provides a concise introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and how to support a child with a diagnosis. It emphasizes the common strengths children with ASD have, as well as offering strategies for any behavioral issues that are likely to arise, highlighting how these can be exacerbated by the care system and adoption process. The strategies include social scripts, reduction of sensory input in a child’s environment and encouraging parents to think about self-care.”


Grade:

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Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 4 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]


What Our Family Thought:

The target audience for this book is foster and adoptive families with children who are autistic, who may be receiving placement of a child with autism, or who have a reason to suspect a child in their home may be autistic. As the title suggests, this book provides an introduction to what autism is, how it is assessed, and challenges in assessing foster and adopted children. The book also provides a primer in attachment and belonging, how attachment and belonging can be damaged in foster and adopted children, and how attachment and belonging look different in autistic children. They discuss managing everyday transitions, placement transitions, and visits with birth family and how to minimize negative impacts of these transitions on autistic children. Furthermore, they provide insight into doing life story work with children who have autism and helping them with their loss and trauma. The authors share ways for caregivers to look after themselves while parenting a child with autism.

Chapter 9 in the book lists many resources for seeking information or finding professionals best suited to help. The appendix, entitled “Getting to Know my Child,” provides a detailed checklist about a child’s social communication; anxiety and feelings; social interaction; rigid and inflexible interests, behavior, and routines; everyday transitions; and sensory needs. It is really quite applicable to any child and can help caregivers in multiple ways. A prospective parent can ask current caregivers or professionals to fill it out before the child moves in so they can better prepare. A current caregiver can pass it on to a new caregiver if the child moves or to a birthparent with whom the child is reunifying. It can also be useful for a caregiver to give to teachers or other professionals who work with their child to enable them to better understand and work with the child.

The strategies and principles in this book will help any foster or adoptive parent who is parenting an autistic child, and they really apply as well to parenting any child through foster care or adoption. The book does not list a lot of specific actions to take, as the authors emphasize the fact that every child and family is different, but rather they outline seven overriding principles to guide caregivers of children with autism.

Overall, this is an insightful and informative book for caregivers who do not have a good understanding of the aforementioned topics. For those well-versed in autism and parenting children who have experienced trauma, it may provide good reminders to return to as needed over time.

*Note: The authors are from the UK, so certain foster and adoption processes or health or governmental agencies will vary for readers in other countries, but the overall principles and strategies are applicable anywhere.


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It’s Your Turn:

  1. What did you find most helpful or eye opening in this book?
  2. What changes will you make as a result of reading this book?

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