Adoptive Parent Toolbox by Mike BerryIf an aspiring young person were to ask you what they needed in order to be an electrician, lawyer, teacher, mechanic, business owner, or hair dresser what would you tell them? While the needs of each profession may vary, what is common to all is that each has a “toolbox” of sorts. The mechanic has a toolbox of tools he uses to fix vehicles, the hairdresser has a toolbox of hair care items, like combs and shampoo, they use to cut hair, and the teacher has a toolbox of tools necessary to teach their students. But what about people who are considering adopting a child into their family? Is there a “toolbox” for them?

Making a toolbox for adults considering adoption is exactly what eight-time adoptive husband and wife Mike and Kristin Berry do in their new book The Adoptive Parent Toolbox: Insights & Stories for the Journey (Lulu, 2016). The Berry’s are experienced adoptive parents who blog about their advice and a host of other adoption related issues at http://www.confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com. The content they provide is honest, uncut, and extremely helpful for hope-to-be adoptive parents to those who are living it in the trenches every day.

While adoption is growing throughout the US there are plenty of people who either do not know anything about how it works or have a lot of miss-information about it in general. Many times these two realities can keep people from pursuing adoption. As a three-time adoptive father, and husband of a wife who is very active in the adoptive community, there are several reasons why this book is must read material for adults considering adoption and will it will help to further educate people about adoption.

First, the Berry’s are honest about the realities of adoption. If you read just a few posts on their popular web site you will see that they do not hold any punches. They deal with special needs and severe attachment disorders so there is no looking at adoption through rose colored glasses for them. The happily-ever-after adoption story of Annie is not the norm. When people walk into adoption thinking they are saving a child from utter despair and that bringing an orphan into their homes will be nothing but pure bliss they are in for a rude awakening. Is adoption rewarding? Yes! Does adoption change both the parents and a child? Yes! Is it all roses with no thorns? No! Having a realistic picture of what to expect is the best thing you can do for yourself and the child(ren) you are going to adopt. “If your adoption experience is fueled by fantasy you are going to struggle more than you know.” (47) The Berry’s are clear about the potential costs of adoption, the relational issues in adoption such as attachment and trauma issues, and the potential extended family and friends issues that can surface from an adoption.

Second, this book is very comprehensive. This book covers the adoption process from the stage of considering it to being in the middle of dealing with severe trauma or RAD (reactive attachment disorder). They walk you through the process of raising financial support for your adoption, choosing an adoption agency, how to handle misconceptions with others about adoption, accepting the reality of what adoption looks like on a day-to-day basis, and how to find and develop community around yourself for support.

Third, woven throughout the book are real personal stories and experiences the Berry’s have had which get to the heart of showing you what they mean. They are living in the trenches of adoption every day and they lay themselves bare for your benefit. They share their experiences of what it is like to lose a child when an adoption falls through, what its like to live with a child who has RAD, and the real tension, struggle and growth adoption can put on a marriage. Also, they share the joys and victories of adoption in the lives of their children and their own. Adopting a child is like growing roses. There are lots of thorns that can prick you but those thorns are covering a beautiful flower. Orphans come into homes with lots of thorns that have to be carefully navigated but below those thorns are beautiful roses waiting to be nurtured and grown into healthy flowers.

Finally, the Berry’s understand the true nature of adoptive work. Going against the tide of the hero label the culture imposes on adoptive parents, the Berry’s rightly understand that adoption is not about being a child’s superman or wonder woman. Adoption is not a rescue mission. It is not radical a work. It ought to be a normal part of a local and global communities work to bring hope and transformation to the least among us.

Many people get into adoption with this idea that they are a superhero on a rescue mission, That’s not true. You adopt because it’s an opportunity to change lives, not because you’re amazing and want to spread your awsomeness to others! You do it because you want to transform this world and bring hope where there is hopelessness. Remember that. (37)

Further, the Berry’s understand the nature of adoption as it is an expression of their commitment as Christ followers.

The Adoptive Parent Toolbox is a welcome addition to the small but growing number of helpful books on adoption and will provide prospective adoptive parents with the starter tools necessary to begin the journey of adoption. If someone were considering adoption and wanted to know what three books they needed to read this will now be one of those three books.

This book is for anyone connected to anyone else in the adoption world. Prospective adoptive parents need to read this before they take their first steps towards adoption. Pastors and ministry leaders need to read this in order to better understand adoption and how to minister to those families in their churches that have adopted. Extended family, like adult siblings and especially parents whose adult children have adopted, need to read this book to better understand what life for their children and new grandchildren is like.

In fact, I challenge the Berry’s to write a book for extended families and close friends of adoptive families. There is as much a need to equip these people as there is for the adoptive families themselves and the Berry’s hint at this in the book. Many times the greatest misunderstandings and potential for hurt comes from those closest to adoptive families. The more family and friends understand what is involved in adoption the better they can help and support adoptive families. Until that book is written this is the one to read.

I received this book for free from the Berry’s for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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