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The Spirit of Open Adoption Paperback – May, 1997
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An outspoken and ardent advocate for openness in adoption, James Gritter writes of the need for members of the adoption triad to emphasize services that first and foremost benefit adoptees. Open adoption serves children first by reversing the traditional hierarchy -- by treating adoptive families as resources for birthfamilies. Adoptive parents, birthparents, and adoptees come together in a spirit of extended family that helps them replace the fear, pain, shame, and loss of adoption with honor, respect, and reverence. Drawing on the profound insights of contemporary thinkers in the fields of adoption, theology, philosophy, and literature, Gritter guides the reader along a spiritual journey that explores the candor, commitment, community, and cooperation that define successful open adoptions.
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In other reviews and conversations some have called Gritter "anti-adoption" or "callous" in his handling of the subject. I cannot disagree strongly enough! The sensitivity and nuance Gritter uses in his writing is unblinking. He honestly addresses the issues of commercialization, pain, separation, identity, and joy without ever pandering to one side of the experience. The difficulty that many encounter with this book is how consistently Gritter discusses the experience of everyone involved at every step. For each step in an adoption plan Gritter elaborates upon the typical legal, social, and emotional experience of the birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptee, and occasionally even the adoption worker! Recognizing that most books on adoption are specifically written for adoptive parents it can seem that Gritter puts in a lot of unnecessary information. As a result of consistently discussing the experience of the birth parents pain is brought up consistently though out the book. If for nothing else I must applaud Gritter for this. The painful experiences of the birth mother and birth father are typically glossed over or ignored entirely.
Simply put most adoption books are written for their audience: middle to upper class Americans, college educated, early to mid 40's in age, eagerly looking forward to parenting. The pain of adoptive parents not being able to have biological children is, also, largely missing or glossed over in most other books. Gritter has written a book that is as true for the adoptive parents as a 17 year old birth parent or a 27 year old birth parent. It is inconvenient, emotionally difficult, and absolutely necessary.
If you intend to adopt, read this book. If you're curious about adoption, consider starting elsewhere, but remember this title.
It puzzled me why the author, with many years of adoption counseling experience under his belt, wouldn't use real life stories and examples to illustrate his ideas. There's almost none. Instead he pontificates and lectures; I felt talked down to.
Fortunately, our experience with Open Adoption and Family Services in Portland, Oregon was far more positive and down to earth.