Adoption: Room for One More?
by Jaymie Stuart Wolfe
Adoption has long been held up by the Church as a generous response of love to a child who for whatever reason is not able to be raised by his or her biological parents. Most recently, Pope Francis said in Amoris Laetitia:
Adopting a child is an act of love, offering the gift of family to someone who has none.…Those who accept the challenge of adopting and accepting someone unconditionally and gratuitously become channels of God’s love (no. 179).
But as any adoptive parent – or family trying to adopt – will tell you, getting from point A (interest in adoption) to point B (actually bringing a child home) is a journey requiring much faith, prayer, discernment, financial sacrifice, and ultimately trust in God’s guidance and providence.
In her book Adoption: Room for One More? adoptive mother Jaymie Stuart Wolfe situates adoption squarely within Christian parameters, as a call from God that must be discerned and followed in faith.
Wolfe structured her book to have the feel of a daily devotional. Each short chapter begins with a Scripture verse or two, followed by a reflection on the verse(s) in light of adoption and our faith. The author then gives a portion of her family’s adoption journey, or sometimes another family’s journey, followed by practical advice on that chapter’s topic. The chapters close with a few reflection questions for families discerning or actively pursuing adoption and their family and friends, and a prayer.
The structure of Adoption: Room for One More? nicely complements its purpose of helping families discern whether they are called to adopt, and if so, what answer to give to all of the many questions within the adoption process. Wolfe lays out the chapters in roughly chronological order, from the foundational question of “Why Adopt?” through discerning domestic or international, one child or a sibling set, special needs (and what kinds), through bringing a child home and learning to be a family together. Each stage, and each decision, requires prayer and discernment and, as Wolfe recommends, a healthy dose of prudence amidst all of the strong emotions surfaced by the adoption process.
The fact that Wolfe writes from the perspective of an adoptive mother is a strength of the book. Rather than simply looking in from the outside, she and her family have lived the adoption journey through to bringing their daughter home from Russia and beyond. This gives the reader a sense of trust in the advice she offers at every stage, such as:
The decision to adopt a child must be made in unity and peace (p. 9).
Adoption is not for everyone. There is no shame in coming to realize that it isn’t the right choice for you or your family (p. 31).
Waiting [to adopt] gives you time for real preparation. It is a sabbatical for both learning and rest (p. 99).
At the same time, Adoption: Room for One More? may prove to be more helpful to readers who are in a similar situation to Wolfe: already parents (hence, “room for one more?”) and adopting an older child from another country. Especially toward the latter chapters, with a focus on “Home Together” after adopting, the content would not be easily applicable to first-time parents adopting an infant, for example. In addition, certain aspects of the domestic adoption process were not discussed much or at all, such as preparing a profile book to be shown to prospective birthparents or the dynamic of the post-birth revocation period, which in many states allows up to a month for birthparents to revoke their adoption consent. Perhaps here more stories from families who have experienced these aspects of adoption, with their specific challenges, would have been good to include.
Several chapters may also leave the reader who is serious about discerning adoption, or who is already partway along the adoption journey, wanting to learn more—for example, more specific information about the process of attachment and bonding with adopted children of various ages, or about the effects of prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol on children. While Adoption: Room for One More? does not present itself as a comprehensive guide to all aspects of adoption, a list of further resources (books, websites, scholarly studies on adoption, etc.) would be helpful to prospective adoptive parents who desire to learn more.
While not providing – nor claiming to provide – everything a family would need to pursue adoption, Adoption: Room for One More? serves a valuable purpose of grounding the decision to adopt in the necessary foundation of faith and discernment, and of encouraging all families to consider adoption. As Pope Francis says so beautifully, adoption “expresses a particular kind of fruitfulness in the marriage experience” and helps all of us see the great gift of children and their need for the love of a family (Amoris Laetitia, no. 180).
About the Reviewer
Bethany Meola is the assistant director of the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. She and her husband Dan strive to live a life of family prayer together in their home in Maryland.
Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.