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Adoption is a Family Affair!

An Interview with author Patricia Irwin Johnston

Review of Adoption is a Family AffairPatricia Johnston is an adoptive advocate, a well known publisher, mother and the author of Adoption is a Family Affair!" Adoption is a Family Affair! is an introduction to the pitfalls, misconceptions, and issues around adoption. It provides a basic "Adoption 101" for your parents or for anyone else new to the idea of adoption.

Interview By Allison Martin

What was the inspiration for your book "Adoption is a Family Affair!"?

Pat Johnston: I have been an adoptive parent for 27 years and have been working with and speaking for pre-adoptive parents in North America for over 20 years, and the biggest questions from pre-adopters have always been "How can we get our families to understand and accept adoption?" and "What do we do about the stupid comments?

Until last summer, for three years or more I was the moderator for the deciding to adopt and pre-adopt support boards at INCIID and once again these questions came up over and over and over again. Sooooo, having written a booklet called Understanding Infertility: Insights for Family and Friends that has been around a long time (revised a couple of times) and been useful to infertile couples and their extended families, it seemed to me that a small book for pre-adoptive families would be useful too. The participants on the INCIID boards helped build the table of contents and offered many anecdotes for Adoption Is a Family Affair! (In turn, royalties go to INCIID.)

How can adoptive families and those in the process educate others about adoption?

Pat Johnston: First they need to understand that those around them are several steps behind them in the process of understanding and then embracing adoption. If pre-adopters can be patient and will offer educational materials and opportunities to those close to them, they almost always DO catch up! Take them (or send them, if they aren't geographically close to you) to meetings and conferences, offer them this book and articles from the magazines like Adoptive Families and Adoption Today. Answer questions when you can and help them to understand the importance of privacy boundaries for your child and his birthfamily.

What is the best way to respond to rude comments adoptive children and families receive?

Pat Johnston: If the comment or question is not from someone close, either ignore it and move on or turn it aside (e.g. Why would you ask that?... Excuse me, do I know you?) No one has a right to intrude on your privacy, and this is a family building issue deserving of the same privacy as is family building by intercourse, conception and birth.

If the question or comment is from a neighbor, friend, or family member, then they need educating so that they will understand that this was inappropriate and shouldn't happen again. Express your surprise, and then patiently explain the correct answer--in private, not in a public place. This is another way to help all close to you understand the need for privacy boundaries.

What do adoptees need from their parents and extended families? What do you feel is essential for us to be aware of?

Pat Johnston: Acceptance and reassurance! All kids listen and hear and think about how adoption is handled at home and in situations close to them (at grandparents', at religious services, at school, etc.).

What are the most important issues in adoption today for adoptive families?

Pat Johnston: The issues haven't changed. There are many issues specific to the style or source of one's adoption, but the most important thing for all members of adoptive families to understand is the importance of each family member's need to build a sense of entitlement to one another (see

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