Interview with Karen J. Foli and John R. Thompson

QUESTION: Tell us a bit about how THE POST-ADOPTION BLUES came to be? Where did the idea for this book come from?

JOHN: Being adoptive parents, the idea of the book is somewhat personal, but the scope of THE POST-ADOPTION BLUES is much more expansive than what happened to our family.
KAREN: I would agree. I struggled with issues during the post-adoption period of our youngest child, Annie. But we realized that our experiences were not uncommon and in fact, the post-adoption issues we dealt with represented the experiences of many families. We realized that there was a void in the literature, in the scientific community, and society's conversations. We wanted to fill that space.

QUESTION: So how did you go from realizing that "there needs to be a book for adoptive parents" to having a publisher agree to partner with you to create a book?

KAREN: I think having published my first book, LIKE SOUND THROUGH WATER, helped me understand the process of book publishing, from drafting the book proposal to making a case for the book in the marketplace. Our agent, Jodie Rhodes, was again our champion in getting the proposal to the right editor's desk. Lou Cinquino, our editor at Rodale Books, did an outstanding job of helping us sculpt our thoughts into a coherent whole. And of course, John's expertise with parents and these issues was invaluable.
JOHN: I think people need to realize the commitment one makes when taking on such a project. From the proposal to finished book, we worked on this project for about three years.

QUESTION: What does this book offer adoptive parents?

JOHN: The information in this book offers adoptive parents the opportunity to express their post-adoption emotions in a legitimate, credible way, and to have this expression met with nonjudgmental ears. And when we speak of post-adoption stress and depression, we now understand it doesn't mean the parent who feels these emotions is being disloyal to the institution of adoption or her child.
KAREN: I think that's the most important aspect of our work: that families can open up their hearts in a way they couldn't before. The parents we spoke with stated over and over again that not only were their emotions difficult to understand, but the reverberations of those emotions-guilt and shame-were equally difficult to cope with.

QUESTION: You're saying that with this book, adoptive parents will be able to talk about how they feel, even if they believe those emotions are "bad"?

KAREN: I think the presence of this book will make it much easier for adoptive parents to open up. And more than that, they can now feel they aren't alone. Feeling the crushing weight of isolation and feeling different from others can be devastating, especially when we speak to how a woman perceives herself as a parent. Many of the parents were stricken with self-blame and loathing.
JOHN: Not emotions conducive to a healthy family environment. It becomes a cycle: stress and/or depression strike. In addition to that stress and/or depression, the parents berate themselves for feeling this way, not being in control, etc. The parent becomes less interactive with the family. The family, including siblings, suffers tremendously. Bottom line for Karen and I: we want our book to strengthen adoptive parents and families.

QUESTION: Let's talk about the premise to the book: How expectations set up adoptive parents for emotional struggles. Please explain.

KAREN: We believe that adoptive parents come to the parenting table with lots of expectations, some of these expectations may be conscious and some of them may not be. For example, because of the intense scrutiny an adoptive parent undergoes during the adoption process, often the adoptive parent greets her child with the expectation of being some kind of super-parent. She has told the social worker how good of a parent she plans on being. She has made promises to the birthmother and birthfather and to herself. Often times, these expectations are simply no match for the reality that presents itself.
JOHN: We're about reality parenting. With three children in today's world, we wanted this book to be as real as we could. The parents we interviewed were so generous in their time and sharing. We would do a disservice to them not to endorse how real the world can be. And how beautiful it can be as well.

QUESTION: You've made reference to the parent as "she" quite a bit. Is this book mainly geared toward mothers?

JOHN: No, definitely. We made sure this book would address fathers. Aside from the general chapters that integrate fathers into the discussion, there is an entire chapter about how adoptive fathers think and feel, and about how men and depression present differently than women and depression.
KAREN: I think that piece has been missing in parenting discussions. Fathers have been left out many times. We wanted to make sure the fathers' voices were heard.

QUESTION: Do you think your book will discourage individuals from adopting?

JOHN: Quite honestly, we think not. However, if an individual is unsure about the next step for her and she decides not to pursue adoption, then we feel this is probably the right decision. Many people choose not to parent, and we respect that decision.
KAREN: I think the question, though, brings up a good point. THE POST-ADOPTION BLUES is a book not only for parents who HAVE adopted, but those who are considering adoption. This book literally describes triumph and hope. Parents who dealt with major issues and found healing are at the heart of this book.

QUESTION: What about the adoption professional? Do you see them as part of your audience?

JOHN: Yes, I think the adoption professional can use this book as a way of preparing the adoptive parent for possibilities and the "what ifs" that are in their minds. This book faces those "what ifs" and that wall of fear and trepidation. We include chapters on how to assess for post-adoption depression and recommend a tool for this evaluation. We compare post-adoption depression with postpartum depression. Remarkably, there are many similarities. Also, we wanted to include the description of the expectations, AND what an adoptive parent could DO when faced with stress and depression.
KAREN: The coping strategies are the gems of this book, held in place by the gold of acceptance. The reader can learn how to change her behaviors and appreciate herself and her family with a more accepting heart.

© 2004 Karen J. Foli Contact Karen