Adoption touches many more Americans today than even 10 years ago. A recent study says that 6 in 10 people have either thought about adopting, or know a friend or family member who is considering or had adopted. More than 120,000 children are placed each year, and a growing percentage are from overseas.
A new book, "Be My Baby: Parents and Children Talk About Adoption" (Artisan, $27.50) is a heartfelt exploration of the feelings that arise in building such relationships. Thirteen families were interviewed, and their candid responses fill this tender book. Author Gail Kinn doesn't shy from the difficulties families face, and she patiently probes issues of identity, bonding, birth parents, race and ethnicity, among others. Along with the individual stories are black-and-white photos of great poise and clarity by Ken Shung.
Not surprisingly, the people represented are wellspoken and articulate, as well as forthright. They strive to acknowledge and support their children's individuality from the start. In fact, one parent says, "I almost feel we can be more boastful about Sarah [our adopted daughter] because we're admiring her for herself, not as an extension of ourselves."
The most poignant stories come from several young-adult adoptees and from two birth mothers.
A 24-year-old Korean man, adopted as a baby by Italian American parents, says he swung between identifying himself as Italian American and as Asian. He ultimately found that he was a blend of cultures.
The stories of two biological mothers - one who got pregnant in 1962 and the other in 1996 - give the reader insights into the decisions these women made, and into their thoughts: "Unlike the child you raise, the child who you give up becomes a child of your imagination," one woman says.
The book concludes on a reassuring note about the bonds forged in adoptive families: A wise 10-year-old says, "I know one thing for sure: Your parents are your parents. The people who raise you and take care of you are your parents."
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society