Members of adoption triangles-adoptees, birthparents, and adopting parents-must struggle with difficult and sometimes heartrending issues. Should adopted children be enabled to trace their biological parents? Does the individual's right to self-discovery outweigh ather's wish for confidentiality? In this thoughtful book, sociologist Katarina Wegar offers a new perspective on adoption and the search debate, placing them within a social context. She argues that Americans who are embroiled in adoption controversies have failed to understand how much the debate, adoption research, and the experience of adoption itself are affected by persistent social beliefs that adopted children are different from and somehow inferior to children reared by their biological families. Wegar begins by considering the historical and legal development of adoption and of sealed-records policies, showing how kinship ideology, the helping professions, and gender issues intersect to frame adoption policies and the ongoing debate. Drawing on articles in social work and mental health journals, activist newsletters, and autobiographies by search activists, as well as on popular images of adoption portrayed in talk shows and other media, she analyzes the rhetoric to reveal the unconscious biases that exist. She concludes with a discussion of ways in which adoption reformers can avoid perpetuating harmful and confining images of those who participate in adoption.
Tomas Venclova is professor of Russian and East European Literatures at Yale University.