Family Matters / Edition 1

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Overview

Adoption is a hot topic--played out in the news and on TV talk shows, in advice columns and tell-all tales--but for the 25 million Americans who are members of the adoption triad of adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents, the true story of adoption has not been told until now. Family Matters cuts through the sealed records, changing policies, and conflicting agendas that have obscured the history of adoption in America and reveals how the practice and attitudes about it have evolved from colonial days to the present.

Amid recent controversies over sealed adoption records and open adoption, it is ever more apparent that secrecy and disclosure are the defining issues in American adoptions--and these are also the central concerns of E. Wayne Carp's book. Mining a vast range of sources (including for the first time confidential case records of a twentieth-century adoption agency), Carp makes a startling discovery: openness, not secrecy, has been the norm in adoption for most of our history; sealed records were a post-World War II aberration, resulting from the convergence of several unusual cultural, demographic, and social trends.

Pursuing this idea, Family Matters offers surprising insights into various notions that have affected the course of adoption, among them Americans' complex feelings about biological kinship versus socially constructed families; the stigma of adoption, used at times to promote both openness and secrecy; and, finally, suspect psychoanalytic concepts, such as "genealogical bewilderment," and bogus medical terms, such as "adopted child syndrome," that paint all parties to adoption as psychologically damaged.

With an unswerving gaze and incisive analysis, Carp brings clarity to a subject often muddled by extreme emotions and competing agendas. His book is essential reading for adoptees and their adoptive and biological families, and for the countless others who follow their fortunes.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

Family Matters is...a solid contribution to understanding adoption in the United States today. E. Wayne Carp...attempts to explain why social engineers have constantly tinkered with adoption policy since the turn of the century.
— Judith Newman

Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic

This book offers a comprehensive review of the history of secrecy and disclosure in adoption in the United States. The focus of the book is an examination of the historical context of the current practice of closed adoption records.
— Carol Baumann

Boston Globe

For the estimated 25 million Americans who are part of the adoption 'triad,' as it is called these days—that is adoptees, adoptive parents,
and birth parents—and anyone else interested in the topic, Family Matters could be the most revelatory book written on the subject.
— Diane Daniel

American Historical Review

This book is a thoroughly researched, solidly grounded, and gracefully written academic study that is comprehensive in scope and detailed in analysis. Carp integrates primary and secondary materials into a smooth and readable narrative and is a reliable guide through the adoption wars of the late twentieth century. Undoubtedly, the book will be the standard work on the history of adoption for many years to come; it belongs in all major libraries. Students of social history, family history, cultural history, and the history of childhood will want to consult this work.

— Joseph M. Hawes

International Journal of Law
Wayne Carp's book offers the opportunity to explore the development of openness within adoption through the study of empirical data. With its focus firmly on adoption practice in the USA, Wayne Carp's book is, in many ways, a highly significant and unusual contribution to the growing literature on secrecy...The material Carp draws on to develop his thesis is varied and interesting...[and] the book provides an interesting historical account of one aspect of openness within adoption.
— Jo Reeves
The Stranger

Carp weaves reviews of state codes and legislation, oral history, media analysis, and overviews of the popular literature of adoption into an incredible, detailed account. Unlike many writers, Carp is more interesting when he is more detailed. His take on our love affair with psychoanalysis in the 1940s and its deleterious effects on adoption customs, and his analysis of the media coverage of the Adoption Rights Movement in the 1970s is meticulous and fascinating.

— Kevin Patnik

Adopted Child

Family Matters is one of those books that may change thinking, policy, and practice...It is a work that is balanced, absorbing, and provocative, and is a major contribution to both social history and adoption.

— Lois Melina

Reviews in American History

E. Wayne Carp's groundbreaking book reveals how and why the information practices implicated in child adoption have changed dramatically over the course of modern U.S. history...The first and most basic service that Family Matters provides is to explode the myth that secrecy is a persistent presence in adoption history...Family Matters would be important even if its sole accomplishment were to guide readers through the tortured history of adoption records. But it goes beyond the sheer fact of facts themselves to consider the fluid and multifaceted meanings of information...Carp offers a deliberately measured view of the constituencies on both sides of the 'adoption records wars'...Family Matters is uncommon among books on this topic; it has no passionate ideological ax to grind about what families are and where children belong.

— Ellen Herman

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Carp's study represents interdisciplinary history at its best...Carp tells an important, compelling story of tremendous interest to historians as well as anyone else who has participated in the adoption process. It will also appeal to general readers who will be moved and enlightened by his powerful anaylsis of how Americans think about adoption.

— Elaine Tyler May

Adoption Quarterly

This history is of particular importance because it corrects errors in some nearly universally held misunderstandings of how adoption practice has evolved.

— Patricia Irwin Johnson

Social Service Review

This book...should have broad appeal and may be of critical importance to those whose family boundaries have been changed by adoption.
— Kenneth W. Watson

Booklist

Carp cuts through emotionalism, bad social science, and fraudulent psychology to defend a rational middle ground, supporting search-and-consent systems and voluntary adoption registers that allow information to flow with mutual agreement but do not threaten vulnerable parents or children with unwelcome intrusions. Intelligent and balanced, this treatment of a sensitive issue deserves widespread attention.

— Bryce Christensen

New York Times Book Review - Judith Newman
Family Matters is...a solid contribution to understanding adoption in the United States today. E. Wayne Carp...attempts to explain why social engineers have constantly tinkered with adoption policy since the turn of the century.
Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic - Carol Baumann
This book offers a comprehensive review of the history of secrecy and disclosure in adoption in the United States. The focus of the book is an examination of the historical context of the current practice of closed adoption records.
Boston Globe - Diane Daniel
For the estimated 25 million Americans who are part of the adoption 'triad,' as it is called these days--that is adoptees, adoptive parents,
and birth parents--and anyone else interested in the topic, Family Matters could be the most revelatory book written on the subject.
American Historical Review - Joseph M. Hawes
This book is a thoroughly researched, solidly grounded, and gracefully written academic study that is comprehensive in scope and detailed in analysis. Carp integrates primary and secondary materials into a smooth and readable narrative and is a reliable guide through the adoption wars of the late twentieth century. Undoubtedly, the book will be the standard work on the history of adoption for many years to come; it belongs in all major libraries. Students of social history, family history, cultural history, and the history of childhood will want to consult this work.
International Journal of Law, Policy, and Family - Jo Reeves
Wayne Carp's book offers the opportunity to explore the development of openness within adoption through the study of empirical data. With its focus firmly on adoption practice in the USA, Wayne Carp's book is, in many ways, a highly significant and unusual contribution to the growing literature on secrecy...The material Carp draws on to develop his thesis is varied and interesting...[and] the book provides an interesting historical account of one aspect of openness within adoption.
The Stranger - Kevin Patnik
Carp weaves reviews of state codes and legislation, oral history, media analysis, and overviews of the popular literature of adoption into an incredible, detailed account. Unlike many writers, Carp is more interesting when he is more detailed. His take on our love affair with psychoanalysis in the 1940s and its deleterious effects on adoption customs, and his analysis of the media coverage of the Adoption Rights Movement in the 1970s is meticulous and fascinating.
Adopted Child - Lois Melina
Family Matters is one of those books that may change thinking, policy, and practice...It is a work that is balanced, absorbing, and provocative, and is a major contribution to both social history and adoption.
Reviews in American History - Ellen Herman
E. Wayne Carp's groundbreaking book reveals how and why the information practices implicated in child adoption have changed dramatically over the course of modern U.S. history...The first and most basic service that Family Matters provides is to explode the myth that secrecy is a persistent presence in adoption history...Family Matters would be important even if its sole accomplishment were to guide readers through the tortured history of adoption records. But it goes beyond the sheer fact of facts themselves to consider the fluid and multifaceted meanings of information...Carp offers a deliberately measured view of the constituencies on both sides of the 'adoption records wars'...Family Matters is uncommon among books on this topic; it has no passionate ideological ax to grind about what families are and where children belong.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History - Elaine Tyler May
Carp's study represents interdisciplinary history at its best...Carp tells an important, compelling story of tremendous interest to historians as well as anyone else who has participated in the adoption process. It will also appeal to general readers who will be moved and enlightened by his powerful anaylsis of how Americans think about adoption.
Adoption Quarterly - Patricia Irwin Johnson
This history is of particular importance because it corrects errors in some nearly universally held misunderstandings of how adoption practice has evolved.
Social Service Review - Kenneth W. Watson
This book...should have broad appeal and may be of critical importance to those whose family boundaries have been changed by adoption.
Booklist - Bryce Christensen
Carp cuts through emotionalism, bad social science, and fraudulent psychology to defend a rational middle ground, supporting search-and-consent systems and voluntary adoption registers that allow information to flow with mutual agreement but do not threaten vulnerable parents or children with unwelcome intrusions. Intelligent and balanced, this treatment of a sensitive issue deserves widespread attention.
Judith Newman
...[A] solid contribution to understanding adoption in the United States today... —The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Do adoptees have the right to the identities of their biological parents? Carp traces the complicated history of adoption and attitudes to it to show how and why attitudes changed. Adoption of children not related by blood was not common in this country until the 20th century. And while adoption proceedings were usually conducted with "discretion," they were not legally confidential. It wasn't until the Progressive Era that reformers, hoping to remove the social and (thanks to eugenicists) biological stigma of illegitimacy, successfully pressed for legal secrecy. After WWII, confidentiality gave way to obsessive secrecy as adoption officials feared biological parents might interfere with the new adoptive family and adoptive parents feared the insecurity and stigma of telling an adopted child the truth. But in the 1960s and '70s, changing sexual mores diminished the shame of illegitimacy and the adoption rights movement (ARM) rebelled against decades of sealed records, demanding instead openness and disclosure in adoption. Through the 1980s and '90s, the traditional secretive adoption became increasingly vilified, with wrongful adoption lawsuits and the "Baby M" custody case. But, as Carp notes, ARM's desire for complete openness in adoption records has come against "an insuperable obstacle"birth mothers' right to privacy. The most fascinating aspect of this very accessible study is the ups and downs of the often questionable belief in the primacy of blood ties. Bringing clarity, historical perspective and objectivity, historian Carp offers a book that deserves the attention of anyone with an interest in adoption.
Library Journal
In this lucid and thought-provoking book, Carp reviews the controversies surrounding the management of adoption records in the United States. Identifying the concerns of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents, Carp surveys changing social attitudes toward the importance of family history, governmentally dictated secrecy, and the recognition of often conflicting rights of everyone involved in the adoption triad. Over the decades, government-supported, legally mandated concealment has prevailed, but the rise of search and reunion groups, adoption registries, newsletters, Internet bulletin boards, and web sites as well as experimental consensual open adoptions are beginning to force the records open. The debate continues (see, e.g., Katarina Wegar, Adoption, Identity, and Kinship, LJ 4/1/97), and Carp makes an important contribution. -- Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY College of Technology, Alfred, New York
Library Journal
In this lucid and thought-provoking book, Carp reviews the controversies surrounding the management of adoption records in the United States. Identifying the concerns of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents, Carp surveys changing social attitudes toward the importance of family history, governmentally dictated secrecy, and the recognition of often conflicting rights of everyone involved in the adoption triad. Over the decades, government-supported, legally mandated concealment has prevailed, but the rise of search and reunion groups, adoption registries, newsletters, Internet bulletin boards, and web sites as well as experimental consensual open adoptions are beginning to force the records open. The debate continues (see, e.g., Katarina Wegar, Adoption, Identity, and Kinship, LJ 4/1/97), and Carp makes an important contribution. -- Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY College of Technology, Alfred, New York
Judith Newman
...[A] solid contribution to understanding adoption in the United States today... -- The New York Times Book Review
Bryce Christensen
Carp cuts through emotionalism, bad social science, and fraudulent psychology to defend a rational middle ground, supporting search-and-consent systems and voluntary adoption registers that allow information to flow with mutual agreement but do not threaten vulnerable parents or children with unwelcome intrusions. Intelligent and balanced, this treatment of a sensitive issue deserves widespread attention. -- Booklist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674001862
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1998
  • Edition description: 1ST HARVAR
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 322
  • Product dimensions: 0.67 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

E.Wayne Carp is Professor of History at Pacific Lutheran University.
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Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • A Note on Language

  • The Rise of Adoption
  • The Origins of Adoption Records
  • When Adoption Was No Secret
  • The Ephemeral Age of Secrecy
  • The Emergence of the Adoption Rights Movement
  • The Adoption Records Wars
  • From Open Records to Open Adoption
  • Epilogue: The Prospects for Adoption

  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

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