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Somebody's Child: Stories from the Private Files of an Adoption Attorney

by Randi BarrowPerigee; $14.95

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As an adoption attorney, I picked up Randi Barrow’s new book wondering what I could learn from her files that I did not know from my own. As I read, I found her stories fascinating. Barrow follows each case with a discussion of the points it raises, and many of the points rang true to me. Readers who are not adoption attorneys may be surprised by some of Barrow’s assertions. For example, she states that perhaps 85 percent of the adoptions of newborns in this country are done through the independent (non-agency) process. She also says she has never heard a birthmother express a desire for more time to revoke a consent once it was signed after the child’s birth.

One caveat: Laws vary from state to state, and, not surprisingly, authors tend to be influenced by the culture of adoption in the state where they live. Barrow practices in California, one of the few states that officially allow adoption facilitators to operate. Adoption agencies and attorneys are licensed and regulated; facilitators are not. Barrow advocates the use of facilitators, yet some of the stories she presents show the danger of allowing them to take money from prospective adopters without legal oversight.

Of course, the vast majority of independent adoptions do not involve the complications Barrow chronicles, and she doesn’t claim that her stories are representative. The negative examples, however, lead her to suggest sensible changes that could promote better adoption practice. I hope this book gains a wide readership, especially among those in a position to change adoption laws.

Reviewed by Mark T. McDermott, J.D., an attorney and adoptive parent in Washington, D.C. He is past president of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and currently serves as the Academy’s Legislative Chairman.

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