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First Person

Modern family guy

A revised edition of 'Adoption Nation' by Newton's Adam Pertman, 58, shows how attitudes have changed.

By Jenn Abelson
April 3, 2011

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Your book was first published a decade ago. What’s changed? What hasn’t?

Americans now understand that adoption surrounds them. We [still] haven’t done a good job in a school setting. You see it in assignments to bring in baby pictures. Well, the little girl who was in an orphanage until she was 3 doesn’t have a picture.

You say there are fewer babies available to adopt in the States, partly because the stigma of single motherhood has lessened.

Exactly right, along with birth control and abortion.

That’s one reason for the high cost?

Yes. Ballpark for a domestic infant adoption is $20,000 to $40,000.

What’s caused the huge drop in international adoptions?

Adoptions from abroad are down by about 10,000 from their peak in 2004. There was corruption in Guatemala, and that nation closed. There was a Tennessee woman who returned her adopted son to Russia, and that led Russian politicians to wonder whether they should be allowing American adoption.

There’s also still debate here over gays and lesbians adopting.

The war is over, but the battle is still being fought. There are states that still don’t allow [it]. But the reality is, you can’t turn back the clock.

Why are there so many reunions between adopted people and their birth families?

People want to know what happened to the lives they created. And adopted children want to know where they came from.

But a change in state law still left adoptees born between 1974 and 2008 unable to access their birth records.

This was a well-intentioned “compromise” based on misinformation that deprives [these] adoptees of a fundamental right.

What has open adoption taught us?

It’s more humane and treats everyone as real human beings and not disposable ones. “Give me your child and go away” is not good policy.

You adopted two children who are now teens. Have they met their birth parents?

Both know their birth mothers and siblings. The relationships enrich our lives – I’m not saying it doesn’t make it more complicated.

(Photograph by Kayana Szymczak)

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