Tag Archives: book review

When Independence is a Problem

July 26, 2011

Just a few weeks ago, on the 4th of July, America again celebrated its independence. The very word “independence” evokes positive images and sentiments worthy of celebration: the freedom to be who one chooses, the ability to carve one’s own path, the right to determine one’s own destiny. For one group in our country, however, independence seldom affords any of those opportunities: the nearly 28,000 youth who “age out” of foster care each year.

These young men and women are legally emancipated to make it on their own, but usually without families or resources to help them, so they are left to travel a road to nowhere. In disproportionate numbers, they wind up pregnant, on the street, out of school, or in jail.

State governments typically take custody of these boys and girls as children because they were being abused or neglected, with the implicit promise that they will be given safer, better lives. But too many wind up being shuttled from home to home, from school to school. Too many are never returned to their original families or moved into new ones, are never connected with adults who stick with them and guide them, and are never provided with the developmental, emotional and social benefits that are best achieved through permanency. And then, when they reach the age of 18 or 21, they are granted their independence.

Simply put, as a society, we have failed them.

A new report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, entitled “Never Too Old,” points out that while adoptions of younger children from foster care have been rising significantly, the success rate for older ones remains anemic. The report examines the array of state and federal initiatives that focus on these youth – and finds many to be  effective or promising – but concludes that far more needs to be done; suggests that these young people should become a national priority; and recommends steps to achieve greater progress for them.

In keeping with the Institute’s focus on permanency for all children, “Never Too Old” looks not just at adoption, but at reunification, subsidized guardianship, long-term foster care, and other effective approaches that can achieve lasting, supportive connections. The Institute’s recommendations, based on over a year of research and analysis, include:

  • Increase recruitment, support and utilization of relatives as permanency resources for youth, both through adoption and subsidized guardianships
  • Work for true permanency for every youth, meaning a family or enduring adult connection; emancipation, “independent living” and the like should be last resorts – not goals.
  • Assess controversial steps such as restoring the rights of biological parents whose children were removed from their homes, and conduct more research into what works and doesn’t.

How many of us believe our sons and daughters – even when they have had stable upbringings in affluent families, have received solid educations and have blossomed into thoughtful, mature young people – are ready to make it alone in the world without guidance, resources or support from family members or other adults?

A core conclusion in the Adoption Institute report, based on research and experience, is that permanent, emotionally sustaining and committed relationships are imperative for all youth to reach self-sufficiency and to thrive in early adulthood. Yet the proportion of those in foster care who are being granted their “independence,” without any such help, has grown from about 7 percent in FY 1998 to 11 percent in FY 2010.

For our country, the social and economic consequences of this national embarrassment are significant. For the young people who urgently need our help, the toll is incalculable.

What a Week on the West Coast!

June 13, 2011

I sometimes joke (though it’s no joke) that I advocate for children by leaving my own! I try hard to make my business trips as short as possible, but I sure didn’t succeed last week; in fact, I was gone Monday through Saturday, cramming in as many meetings, educational presentations, media appearances and book-promotion events as possible to further the mission of the unique organization that I’m so proud to lead  (www.adoptioninstitute.org).

Other than being a bit tired – this have-suitcase/will-travel stuff is really for younger souls – I’m feeling good about what I was able to accomplish. I’m also feeling grateful that my son and daughter are teenagers, so they virtually didn’t notice I was gone. Yes, I’m kidding; I know they noticed but, as much as I love them, I also know they didn’t mind so much and, by now, they also understand my work is all about making the world a better place for them and all the people like them.

So … here are just few highlights, minus the boring business stuff:

  • Tuesday, June 7: Started the day with an appearance on “Sacramento & Co.,” a morning show on ABC (see it here: http://tinyurl.com/News10Pertman), then led a luncheon discussion on LGBT adoption issues, sponsored by the Our Family Coalition in San Francisco; and ended the day by attending/speaking at a book-launch party for “Adoption Nation,” which was hosted by my friend and Institute supporter Reese Relfe at the spectacular home of her mother, Genelle. Big thanks to Reese, Genelle and all the other folks who made this wonderful event happen.
  • Thursday, June 9:  A thought-provoking meeting with two senior execs at the Williams Institute at UCLA, followed that evening by an invitation-only event at the Los Angeles home of two more friends and Institute supporters, Helaine and Glenn Ross, to whom I’m very grateful. There was lots of good discussion there about the Adoption Institute and my book, as well as great conversation with guests who included the actors Nia Vardalos, Ian Gomez and Scott Lowell, as well as many terrific people without screen credits to their names.
  • Friday, June 10: I hadn’t known it, but there are live, “televised” news programs on the web, and I was invited for an interview on one; here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/FoxPertman. That evening, we had a terrific crowd show up for a public reading/signing of “Adoption Nation” at the Jeanie Madsen Gallery in Santa Monica. The discussion was lively and engaging – largely focusing yet again on the work of the Adoption Institute, as well as on the personal stories of the people who attended – and I feel very lucky and grateful to Jeanie for her generosity in donating such a beautiful venue. Thanks as well to the two Mias; you know who you are!
  • Saturday, June 11: I woke up way too early thinking of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. You know: “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home . . .” And off to the airport I went.

Join Me for a – Fun – Book Event in Santa Monica!

June 2, 2011:

Dear Friends in Southern California:

Please join me on Friday, June 10, from 6:00 – 8:00pm at a book-signing party for “Adoption Nation.” It will be held at the Jeanie Madsen Gallery at 1431 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and wine will be provided. Join me for a reading, Q&A and lots of good conversation. Stay for 15 minutes or longer – but please attend if you can.

This event is open to the public (and more is better when it comes to book events!), so I’d be grateful if you would email, text, tweet and call your friends, colleagues, relatives and complete strangers to invite them as well.

For more info: mleonard@adoptioninstitute.org.


An Unlikely Crusader: Book Review by Ellen Glazer

As a veteran journalist at the Boston Globe, Adam Pertman had it made. At 48, with 20 plus years experience and several major awards to his credit, Pertman could pretty much pick and choose his assignments. And so he wore a variety of journalistic hats, ranging from California Bureau chief to restaurant reviewer. In each capacity, Pertman made it his mandate to write with clarity and accuracy and by all measures, he did so successfully. He did not seek to fundamentally alter the way that people think. At least not until recently. Then things changed.

Click here to read the full review.

Come Unity Book Review by Allison Martin

Review by Allison Martin

I recently read a cartoon in the Sunday comics with the “humorous” punch line that the difference in a teenager’s sleep patterns from his parents might indicate he was adopted. This confused view of adoption highlights just how important a book like Adoption Nation is for the adoption community. In Adoption Nation : How the Adoption Revolution Is Transforming America, Adam Pertman explores the attitudes toward adoption in our society, present and past, and examines the impact of these attitudes on the lives of the adoption triad members (adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents). A reporter for the Boston Globe for many years and the adoptive father of two children, Adam Pertman is well versed in the popular attitudes and issues of adoption. Adoption Nation is based on a collection of articles he wrote for the Globe, which earned a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize.

Click here to read the full review.