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The Practical Mind

ADOPT THE BABY YOU WANT by Michael Sullivan with Susan Schultz (Simon & Schuster: $18.95)

September 02, 1990|KAREN STABINER

This is a seemingly informative but finally skewed primer on adoption. The author is a lawyer who happens to own three private adoption agencies. The problem is that you have to know something about adoption to evaluate the book's shortcomings, and most of the people who will likely buy it do so to learn. Their lack of information and years spent battling fertility problems make them a particularly vulnerable audience.

Sullivan is an advocate for the adoptive parents, and in a can-do manner, he examines the myriad ways, beyond the biological, in which people can bring a child into their lives. He is frank about all the work adoptive parents have to do--from the emotional acceptance of their inability to conceive to the nuts and bolts of finding a child. He acknowledges that there are wrong reasons for adoption, and challenges would-be parents to walk away if their motives are less than pure.

Would that human behavior were as straightforward as the author's descriptions of it. But this book does not dwell on the ramifications, social or emotional, of adoption; Sullivan is interested in finding solutions. Only a reader who has had, or knows of, a bad experience will spy the subtle sadness between the lines, the economic realities that have turned much adoption into a best-that-money-can-buy proposition.

Which is not to say that adoption isn't a glorious solution for some people. It clearly is. But Sullivan hedges to make the transaction seem easier than it might (or, some would argue, should) be. In one section, he explains what to expect when a social worker appears to do a home study. The worker will inquire about the parents' reasons for adopting--and while Sullivan counsels, "You shouldn't have to rehearse or guess the right answer; your response should be a natural one," he also lists five "acceptable answers" and warns the reader away from a few that could mean trouble. So if you follow Sullivan's map, you stand a better chance of getting a child, even if your instincts might otherwise have betrayed you.

The reading list at the back looks ample, but it includes none of the literature that focuses on the long-term effects on adoptive parents, birth parents and children.

If we are truly concerned about the welfare of the child in this situation--if one set of parents gives her up and another set claims her, both in the name of giving her a good life--then shouldn't everyone involved be as educated as possible? Ignoring the more difficult aspects of the transition does not make them go away; Sullivan's businesslike approach is too superficial to be of lasting value.

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