How to Bring Friends and Family "In On It" When You Are Adopting

How to Bring Friends and Family "In On It" When You Are Adopting

Elizabeth O’Toole and her husband have adopted all three of their children, ages nine, seven and five.  During the adoption process, especially as they were preparing to adopt their first child, O’Toole spent a lot of time explaining things to her closest circle of family and friends.

Explaining why they were adopting, explaining how they were adopting, explaining what it involves and how it works and what is required and how it feels, etc.

“I was on my own steep learning curve,” O’Toole told me, “and I was also trying to explain it to our family members.  I really recognized that I was not the only one who would need adoption education.”

It was vitally important to O’Toole to have her family’s support and involvement.  After years of joining in joyful preparations for her nieces and nephews, she wanted everyone to partake in the development of her nuclear family.

She commented, “I wanted these people along.  They were along for graduation, a wedding, choosing a house — they were the people I was closest to –and I wanted them along for the process.  We wanted them to be in on it.”

And so O’Toole has found a way to help adoptive parents bring their loved ones into the circle of adoption.  She wrote In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You To Know About Adoption. A Guide for Family and Friends, an adoption book specifically designed for “all the others who are along for the ride”.

“I was always trying to explain, reinterpret, summarize for other people about the adoption process, and I thought it would be nice for them to have their own tool,” O’Toole told me.  She completed the book when her youngest was a toddler, although she wished it had been available to her during their adoption journey!

One side of O’Toole’s family was more open to the adoption process than the other side.  Apparently, this is not uncommon, as O’Toole learned during her research.  “When I was interviewing people for the book,” she told me, “I realized that grandparents bring their own expectations and dreams to the families of their children.”

When infertility or losses or simple desire for a different kind of family enter the picture, grandparents and adult siblings need to go through their own process of acceptance.  In On It gracefully explores the role that grief plays in the adoption process.

About choosing to adopt, O’Toole writes:

“It should not be assumed that every parent will go to any length, try any procedure, to have a genetic connection to their child.” (I read this and remembered how many people asked me if we had tried in vitro before adopting Katie).

In On It reminds friends and family that “If infertility is a reason for adoption, understand that adoption is not conceding defeat.  Rather, adoption is committing to another path.  At this point, whether or not adoption was your loved ones’ initial choice for achieving parenthood no longer really matters.”

In On It is wonderfully frank.  O’Toole addresses head-on the types of issues that some family and friends are afraid to talk about, such as the complexities that arise when white parents adopt children who are not white.  If you are adopting a child of a different race than you, I highly recommend giving this book to your close family and friends as a roadmap.

Some adoptive parents may be wondering if the book will be applicable to their specific adoption scenario.  The answer is a resounding yes.

In conducting research for In On It, O’Toole used multiple sources.  She recorded conversations with her immediate circle of contacts.  She also distributed a written questionnaire and used discussion groups through Adoptive Families Magazine.

Many people responded to answering questionnaires and, in the process of creating a resource that would be helpful to people in all different adoption situations, O’Toole had at least twenty people through Adoptive Families Magazine read the manuscript.

The result is a book that speaks to numerous adoption situations – international adoption, domestic adoption, foster care adoption, infant adoption, older child adoption – and competently addresses the unique concerns associated with each.

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