encyclopedia of adoption

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by Christine Adamec

Adoption is a fascinating and complex social institution that directly affects the lives of millions of people in the United States, not only members of the adoption triad but also their extended families and the many helping professionals who facilitate adoptions.

Numerous factors directly affect adoption as an institution and as a practice, including abuse, the foster care system, infertility and teenage pregnancy.

Increasing problems of drug abuse and drug affected newborn infants, abandoned in hospitals or later abused or neglected, are of great concern to the adoption community. The "nature-nurture" argument, over whether heredity or environment is more important, has continued to intrigue scientists and the general public. As a result, The Encyclopedia of Adoption offers essays on heredity topics and also explores the impact of environment on adopted children.

Although a small percentage of adoptions are adoptions of adults by other adults, adoption is primarily about children. It is the children who are the adults of tomorrow. It has been said that the child is the parent to the adult, in that childhood experiences directly affect the adult's later values, beliefs and behavior. If this is true, then how important it must be for those both directly and peripherally involved with adoption to learn as much as possible about the adoption experience and how it affects children and their development into adults. In addition, we must consider how the children might develop if they are not adopted: if the sexually abused four-year-old girl remains in the abusive family? Or if the unwed mother who desires to make an adoption plan is talked out of it? Or if the unwed mother wants to parent her child and is talked into an unwanted adoption? Such events profoundly affect and shape the lives of the birthmother, the child and, when the child is adopted, the adopting parents.

One fact we can be sure of: hundreds of thousands of "waiting children" need adoptive families now. They don't know about rules and regulations or why they have to stay in a group home or a series of foster homes. They only know they want a family to love and care about them.

Dr. Pierce and I know of no other encyclopedic reference to adoption in print. There are directories and listings of adoption agencies, there are books for professionals on specific topics, and there are a variety of how-to books. But there is no reference book that attempts to bring together the interdisciplinary research and knowledge on adoption that has been amassed and analyzed by social scientists, social workers, lawyers, physicians and others.

We have attempted to seek out as much of the current and previous research we could identify and report on these findings to the readers. We could not hope to include every reference, every study and every aspect of adoption within one volume; however, we have provided an extensive bibliography. The Encyclopedia of Adoption also provides appendixes with listings of adoption agencies, both public and private, adoption support groups and other related agencies and organizations.

This book is meant for both the general reader and the adoption expert. As a result, jargon has been kept to a minimum, or, when the use of jargon has been necessary, clear explanations on what these terms really mean and what they imply are provided. In addition, we have also discussed the meaning and the value of terminology in adoption and how, too often, common terms and phrases that are thoughtlessly used convey an overly negative view of adoption.

Dr. Pierce and I hope this book will not only enlighten the reader but may also inspire him or her to look further into this subject, even to launch a study or investigation on some aspect of adoption that needs further exploration. In my view, adoption is a very complicated, imperfect and yet wonderful institution. Learning about adoption further advances the knowledge and understanding among those who are directly affected by adoption-adopted individuals, birthparents and adoptive parents--as well as those within our society who set the standards and the lawmakers who make the rules we live by. The children are worth every effort we can make.

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Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.

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