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Season 1, Episode 1: The co-editors of the Routledge Handbook of Adoption discuss how they came to be working together and their main goals in putting together the Handbook. They preview the sections of the Handbook and the topics that are included, ending with a discussion of the intended audiences for the Handbook.

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Routledge Handbook of Adoption


Emily Helder: Hello. My name is Dr. Emily Helder. I’m a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at Calvin University. And I’m here with my co-editors from the Handbook of Adoption. So I’ll let them introduce themselves as well. Elisha, will you go next?

Elisha Marr: I’m Elisha Marr and I’m an associate professor of sociology at Calvin University. I study transracial adoption and I’m working with Emily, who’s a psychologist, so that we can balance both sides of the social science understanding of adoption.

Gretchen Wrobel: Hi, I’m Dr. Gretchen Wrobel. I’m a university professor of psychology at Bethel University, and I’ve been studying adoption for quite some time. My main focus is on contact and adoption, curiosity and communication in families about adoption. And so I was glad to be part of this book.

Emily Helder: Awesome. So maybe we could start by just talking a bit about how we came to be working together. Two of us are at the same institution, but, Gretchen you’re at Bethel, . Gretchen, do you, will you, kick us off?

Gretchen Wrobel: Sure. There was a grant that was offered to have collaboration across institutions and Emily was, and Elisha, at Calvin, started the grant and asked me to be a part of that.

But I was very glad to, and the grant allowed us some time to think about how we might collaborate about the area of adoption. And part of that grant was the idea for this book and coming together for that. And it gave us an opportunity to support doing this book. So that’s how we ended up together.

Emily Helder: Yeah. Yeah. I love, especially that the book was really just the seed of the idea was in the grant. And then when Routledge reached out to you to, you know, that it fit so nicely with our work already together.

Elisha Marr: I remember having you contact me about it and say, Hey, is this something you’re interested in?

And it’s interesting because even though we work at the same university back then it was a college we study such different ends of the spectrum. Right. So I have a more macro level. The study of adoption, whether it’s, transracial, adoption rates or adoption rates in general, or, I’m trying to understand, birth mothers and their demographics, whether it’s race, class, gender, nationality.

And, and so I come from that perspective and, you are a building away and you’re coming, you come from the more psychological/counseling more micro level perspective. And so we haven’t really had an opportunity to collaborate until we had the CCCU grant and that made it possible for us to kind of come together and do something unique.

Emily Helder: I’m really very thankful for our work together and how the book came out. So why don’t we start by talking a bit about the introduction, which we all kind of wrote together as a way to introduce people to the concepts in the book, as well as put in the book a bit in context. So maybe one of the first things I’d love to talk about is why you think this book is important.

You know, there are other books on adoption. So what makes this Handbook of Adoption new, different, important compared to what’s already out there? Yeah, either of you can jump in.

Gretchen Wrobel: There are multiple perspectives. There are psychologists, there are sociologists, there are people from health fields, that there are practitioners there, and there are within that group. There are some people who have direct experience with adoption either in their own families or themselves.

So I think one of the really unique things about this book is the wide variety of perspectives in one place.

Emily Helder: Yeah, Elisha, what would you add?

Elisha Marr: What do you think is unique about this book is that, that for any type of adoption class, you can get it and use it and it’s going to be helpful if there’s such a variety of information that, if you’re teaching a class on adoption trends there’s information in here. If you’re teaching a class on, being an adoption practitioner or working in the field, there’s information in here.

If you are a person who’s simply teaching a class about, reproduction and adoption is one of the options as a reproduction. For reproduction. you could, you could have this book and there’s information in here about it. So it’s pretty comprehensive.

Emily Helder: Yeah. I, the other thing I would add too, is that, I liked that we asked all the authors to write a section of their chapter on the practical implications of their work and policy implications.

So I’m hopeful that it also feels helpful for adoptees, for adoptive families, for birth parents, that, that there’s things in there that they can glean from it that informed their practices, their life.

Elisha Marr: I initially, I immediately went to thinking about the academic context as a professor, but I think that adoption agencies should have this on their shelf, libraries, whether public or, you know, school related library should have this on their shelves, that, anyone working with, with kids and, child development and identity development should have this on their shelves as a resource.

Emily Helder: So why don’t we talk a bit about the way that we have it laid out? So, so it’s in five sections and maybe I’ll go to whoever was the person that edited the chapters in that section, to kind of describe the section, tell us a little bit more about what’s included.

So Elisha, the first section is adoption in context. Can you preview for us a bit of what’s in there?

Elisha Marr: Well, I really wanted to give anyone who’s opening this book, an idea of how adoption fits within the world. So usually when we think about adoption, we think we usually know someone who’s adopted and we think about their, their family.

However, adoption happens, in a larger context where, you have to think about things like the ethics of adoption and, the, the finances that, are relevant to adoption, something that we really don’t want to necessarily talk about or acknowledge, don’t like to put, dollars on human life, but there is that part is, is there.

And so that talks about that context, looking at adoption by the numbers. Right. So we have a person at the Census who is, was able to kind of go through and say, Hey, look, these are the statistics on adoption. So helping people to have a more holistic understanding of what, of where adoption is, in the context of the world, globally, and then how it might even impact , their understanding of adoption locally.

Emily Helder: Thanks so much. And then I think section two was you as well. So that’s the diversity and adoptive families.

Elisha Marr: So, and the beginning of this recording, I mentioned that I did research on transracial adoption. My degree in sociology is actually an intersectional degree. So how the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality come together to shape the lives of individuals.

I used it to look at, mainly at race and class and how that shaped the lives of individuals, but this chapter expands on that and looks at, LGBTQ families, it looks at both white parents and black parents who have adopted black children and does the comparison there. It looks at the unique experience of being a Korean adoptee and, and really just helps the readers to understand that, that all these little experiences that adoptees have, or the birth parents have, or the adoptive parents have all come together in a culmination that we can study in social science and then we can come up with some, some patterns. And, and as you said, previously, not only patterns, but we ended each chapter with the implications of that information for society and for policy and practice.

Emily Helder: Awesome. Thanks. And Gretchen, I think you took section three and were the main editor for that. So that was called lived experience. Tell us a bit about that.

Gretchen Wrobel: What we tried to do in this section, and I was really excited about it. I don’t think you could see a section like this in other books it’s like as an adopted person, what are some things that influence your day to day life. Influences how you think about yourself? What is it like to be the adopted person? And we looked at all things, many things across the spectrum. And so the first context that we had is that this lived experience within adoption kinship network. That includes adoptive parents, birth parents, and the adoptive person themselves and extended families on both the birth and adoptive sides.

So within that complexity of relationships what are some things that are influencing your day to day life? There’s many interesting chapters in here. There’s some really cutting edge chapters on what is it, what are the microaggressions of being an adopted person? Often we hear about the microaggressions in a context of race, but they’re very real in the context of adoption as well.

There is some chapters that are hard to read about adoptions that aren’t successful. But with the hope of understanding how that happens, what are some ways that could intervene earlier so that, the adoption is successful. Also there’s a chapter about a small but important area of maltreatment of adopted persons in their adoptive homes and what happens.

But on the more positive side, there are also things about how adoptive families communicate and how do people connect with each other through contact or not? What is it like to parent a child in there? What thoughts do you have to think through what are some of the additional parenting tasks, if you have an adopted child?

So, and what is it like to adopt from the welfare system, the infant private adoption? So there’s lots of things that I think impact the day to day life of the adopted person, but also their family that surrounds them. So I think this is a great section.

Emily Helder: Yeah. It’s not something I’ve seen in other books, so I’m just excited to include it.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, I primarily, was editing section four, which is the outcome section. And that really contains a variety of different outcomes from different perspectives. So we have a chapter on speech, language outcomes by speech pathologist, chapters on biological outcomes. Social functioning, behavioral, emotional, academic, really a wide range of things, as well as a really interesting chapter on adoption disruption and adoption dissolution and provide some of the stats on that and predictors and again, ways to prevent that.

And then the last section of the book is on adoption competent practice . We have a chapter that very carefully defines what it means to be an adoption competent practitioner. And then another chapter focusing on some training programs about how practitioners can become adoption competent.

And then we talk about adoption in schools and adoption education in higher ed. So there’s a variety of different chapters in there. Again, that last section, that adoption competency section, I saw in fewer books on adoption. It seems like especially the training programs are pretty new, newly available.

Gretchen Wrobel: Well, and what I think is good about our, our book too, is that we have some up and coming researchers whose research is cutting edge and new stuff. And we have some very experienced researchers that are talking about the newest aspects of their research. So I think it’s a book that allows you to get a good view on what is out there in the research world. And then again, like Emily said how that research can be interpreted for policy and practice.

Elisha Marr: And I think that one of the unique parts of the book is that even though we have people who usually write for academic audiences and have this research, the way that it’s written, someone who is maybe unfamiliar with the field of adoption could read it and generally understand it and, and I feel like it’s, it’s accessible to a variety of audiences.

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