Caring for Your Adopted Child–An Essential Guide for Parents

William E. Cayley, MD, MDiv

Fam Med. 2019;51(9):784-785.

DOI: 10.22454/FamMed.2019.375399

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Book Title: Caring for Your Adopted Child–An Essential Guide for Parents

Book Author: Elaine E. Schulte, Robin L. Michaelson

Publication Information: Itasca, IL, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2019, 212 pp., $16.95, paperback

Parenting a new child is a daunting task, even more so when adoption is part of the story. Those of us who are adoptive parents have faced the double uncertainties of what to do with the new little life (or lives!) entrusted to our care, and how to account for, adapt to, or respond to the events and traumas our little one(s) already experienced. While there is no one-size-fits-all instruction manual, Caring for Your Adopted Child provides a welcome and needed introductory resource.

The author team brings a useful combination of skills and experiences. Dr Schulte is an adoptive parent, a practicing pediatrician, and a specialist in adoption medicine1,2; Ms Michaelson is an adoptive parent and a writer who has worked on childcare books for the general public. Together these two authors have assembled a text that provides useful medical, social, and parenting information in an accessible writing style with extensive use of side-bar boxes addressing particular issues or listing relevant resources.

The book’s nine chapters progress chronologically through the experience of the adoptive parent, from “Getting Ready to Bring Your Child Home” (Chapter 1), through “Your Child’s First Pediatric Visit” (Chapter 3), “Health Issues and Conditions” (Chapter 5), a chapter on “Attachment” (Chapter 6), and ending by addressing “Talking About Adoption.” The extensive use of quotes from adoptive parents as well as the authors’ own reminiscences ground the material in the day-to-day reality of the adoptive experience.

This is not an exhaustive resource, and each of the topics covered deserves a full text in its own right for in-depth treatment. Instead, each of the chapters provides an introduction to the topic at hand that is accessible enough for the lay-parent reader to understand, yet with sufficient relevant detail to be useful for clinicians. None of the topics covered should be completely new to any clinician caring for children, but each chapter provides sufficient detail to help clinicians begin to understand the social and medical complexities of adoption.

While resources for further information are discussed throughout the text, including books, magazines, web sites, and other organizations, the list of resources at the end of the book is rather brief. A future edition of this book might be improved by a more extensive collection of resource recommendations in a final appendix. Additionally, particularly for lay parent readers, it would be useful for future editions to acknowledge and support the role of family physicians in providing childhood medical care. Consulting with a pediatrician adoption specialist, as recommended in the book, is an important step for all adoptive parents; however since family physicians care for approximately one-third of the childhood population in the United States,3 it is also important to help prospective parents understand that for routine primary care it is the qualifications and experience of the physician that matter, not necessarily the specialty.

This text could provide a solid introduction to adoption issues for medical learners (whether residents or students), and a useful overview for any practicing clinician taking on newly adopted patients. Prospective and current adoptive parents would also find this a useful and accessible text. Other books may give more depth on particular issues, but the introductory breadth of this book makes it excellent foundational reading. The adventurous clinician could even consider organizing an educational book group for new adoptive parents around the chapters of this book.

Children do not come with instructions, but for parents or clinicians venturing into the territory of adoption, this is a readable, practical, and useful introduction.



  1. Schulte EE, Springer SH. Health care in the first year after international adoption. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2005 Oct;52(5):1331-49, vii.
  2. Jones VF, Schulte EE; Committee on Early Childhood; Council on Foster Care, Adoption, and Kinship Care. The pediatrician’s role in supporting adoptive families. Pediatrics. 2012;130(4):e1040-e1049.
  3. Phillips RL Jr, Bazemore AW, Dodoo MS, Shipman SA, Green LA. Family physicians in the child health care workforce: opportunities for collaboration in improving the health of children. Pediatrics. 2006 Sep;118(3):1200-6.

Lead Author

William E. Cayley, MD, MDiv

Affiliations: University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Prevea Family Medicine Residency, Eau Claire, WI

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