Recommended Children’s Adoption Book: ABC, Adoption & Me

Recommended Children’s Adoption Book: ABC, Adoption & Me

Several months ago, I sat down on the couch with my girls to read a new children’s adoption book, ABC, Adoption & Me.  It is written in the simple style of an ABC definition book, but the concepts contain a depth than is not often found in a children’s adoption book.  All three of my girls – ranging in age from 4 to 11, remained engaged and interested as we read each page.

The drawings are cartoon-style, which appealed to my oldest, who adores graphic novels. There was one image in which I found the expression of a character hard to decipher, and we used it as a chance to talk about what he might be feeling.  Gayle H. Swift wrote this book with her daughter, Casey Anne Swift, and it is clear that the voice of an adoptee is dominant in this book, not the voice of an adoptive parent.

I invited Gayle H. Swift to share her own words with you in response to three questions of mine. Her thoughtful and detailed answers do not surprise me, because it was clear to me that much thought went into each succinct line of the book.  I highly recommend this book and hope that you check it out!

Portrait of an Adoption: Why did you write ABC, Adoption & Me?

Gayle H. Swift: Casey and I share a deep passion for books. She teaches second grade and I am a coach that specializes in working with adoptive families. We are both constantly looking for great books to share with each other and the families with whom we work. It was inevitable that we would discuss adoption books—the ones we remember from her childhood as well as newer publications.

There are plenty of books that celebrate adoption. Most focus primarily on parental joy and on reassuring children on how much they were wanted and how thrilled parents were to welcome them into the family. As an adoptive family, we well knew that rosy picture presents only part of the adoption story. Adoption is complicated and kids deserve books that address that complexity in a way that validates and supports their complete experience.

Our greatest joy—adopting our children—is rooted in loss, their removal from their birth families. The security and pleasure of being raised in a loving home is a huge blessing. But the grace of that blessing does not erase the reality of the loss in which it began. Most adoption books only focus on the many good things that adoption brings to a child. They gloss over or ignore the challenging parts.

We wrote ABC, Adoption & Me to fill this need. ABC is upbeat, but honest; it celebrates the gifts that flow from adoption and also notes and validates the hard parts. ABC treats the many facets of adoption in a factual way. This normalizes the adoptee’s curiosity. Conversations flow easily. This fosters connection with the people on whom kids most depend—their parents. ABC shows kids that it is safe to talk about the messy stuff. It invites intimate conversations through these genuine explorations. Parents provide the loving support, the compass that children need as they learn what it means to be adopted. Parents who are brave enough to have the difficult conversation truly live an encompassing and compassionate love for their children. They open a safe space that radiates acceptance and understanding and provide a sturdy base on which they will depend.

Portrait of an Adoption: For what ages do you recommend this book?

Gayle H. Swift: We believe it is suitable for four- to ten-year-olds. We chose the ABC approach because of its easy familiarity to everyone—young, older and in between. Very non-threatening. Kids are immediately at ease with the format. This comfort level reassures them. We introduce the content, letter by letter in simple phrases that express the adoptee’s point of view.

For example, “Be is for bellybutton. Everyone has one …” At first blush, this statement doesn’t feel important. But many adoptees mistakenly believe they were hatched or were born for an airplane or that their lives didn’t truly begin until they entered their adoptive family. So this clears up that misunderstanding. And, it lays the groundwork for more mature and conversations like growing inside a birth mother, etc.

As kids age, the content of the book continues to be relevant because they can and will infer deeper meaning to the simple facts first discussed in these pages. Exposing kids to them when they were young blunts some of the pain. For example, “Q is for Questions . . . People may ask me about my adoption. I can decide if I want to answer them or not.” Eventually children will experience people asking them about their adoption. When kids are little, usually they are fairly comfortable with any questions they receive.

Over the years, as children understand more about the realities of adoption, they may feel uncomfortable or “different” when people ask questions. Indeed the questions may be intrusive and hurtful. This page of the book introduces the concept of setting boundaries and teaches kids that just because a question is asked, they are not obligated to share private information. Again, this is a concept that they will grow to understand with greater and greater depth.

Portrait of an Adoption: How can you explain what an AQ is to someone new to adoption?

Gayle H. Swift: AQ is a term we coined at GIFT Family Services (Growing Intentional Families Together.” It encompasses the belief that adoptive parenting requires some unique parenting strategies: parenting with an adoption spin. AQ stands for Adoption-attunement Quotient. It focuses on strengthening relationships first. As Karen Purvis, author of The Connected Child says, “Connect. Then correct.”

One of the simplest examples is the practice of “Time Out.”  This strategy works very well with kids whose lives have been untouched by trauma/loss and are being raised by their biological families. But for adopted children, the experience of being isolated echoes the separation from their birth family. It connects misbehavior with a fear of parental loss. Adoptive parents definitely do not want to reinforce that fear. Friends and family may chide parents for rejecting traditional parenting methods. High AQ parents understand they must do what is best for the unique needs of an adopted child.

Families that embrace AQ, understand that adoptive parenting is as good as but different from parenting children born to a family. It adds an element of sensitivity to the adopted child’s unique needs.

AQ (Adoption-attunement Quotient):

  • Adoption-sensitive parenting techniques
  • Sound adoption language
  • Knowledge of the attachment process
  • Consideration of grief and loss issues
  • Respect for birth parents
  • Modeling healthy boundaries
  • Educating family, friends and teachers on adoption
  • Remembering that a child’s story belongs to him
  • Recognizing that adoption is a family experience
  • Encouraging playfulness and good humor as a family value
  • Integrating a child’s birth heritage

Thank you to Gayle and Casey for this important addition to children’s adoption books!  I have seen each of my children pick this book up from the bookshelf and reread it multiple times, no doubt gleaning new information each time.

Gayle H. Swift is the 
co-founder of GIFT Family Services and the co-author of ABC, Adoption & Me: A Multicultural Picture book

Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, the award-winning author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear

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