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What Every Adoptive Parent Needs to Know

By Kate Cremer-Vogel, and Dan and Cassie RichardsMountain Ridge; $19.95



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What Every Adoptive Parent Needs to Know (Mountain Ridge; $19.95), by Kate Cremer-Vogel, and Dan and Cassie Richards, is not a happily-ever-after tale. Instead, it is partly an engrossing family drama and partly a how-to manual. Husband and wife Dan and Cassie adopted a baby and a toddler from Korea in the early 1970s and, subsequently, struggled with their children's severe behavioral problems, which stemmed, in part, from depression and a lack of attachment. The anguished parents tried one technique after another, and visited counselor after counselor. Only after their children were grown did the couple come to understand their needs as adoptees.

This is a page-turning narrative, though sometimes you want to shake Cassie and Dan, and say, "Can't you see how much she needs you?" or "Do you ever talk to your child about adoption? These kids never even see another Korean!"

I have to say that, in all fairness, the couple's story isn't uncommon. It reflects the sketchy adoption education of the 1970s and 1980s--before attachment disorders had been identified and the importance of racial identity became known.

There is advice here that is important to all families. The resources section offers "empathetic parenting" techniques, which stress understanding what the child is truly saying through his behaviors, and accepting how little control he has over those behaviors. Advice about dealing  with lying and stealing is also helpful. The usefulness of making checklists of your shortcomings and strengths, however, is debatable--don't we all see ourselves as flexible and nurturing?

In presenting the tougher side of adoption, What Every Adoptive Parent Needs to Know may be a daunting read for those considering adoption, especially for those in the process of adopting an infant. For those thinking about adopting an older child, or those who are currently struggling with their children, this story of mending a child's hurt will provide guidance, as well as insight.

Reviewed by MaryAnn Curran, vice president of social services and U.S. adoption for World Association for Children and Parents, in Seattle.

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