The process of adopting children from foster care can be daunting. Jean Minton wrote All the Sweeter to provide potential parents with examples of families who have successfully navigated the process. “When I considered starting a family with the help of the foster-to-adopt process, I was looking for information on families who had been through it,” she says. “I didn’t find anything quite like what I was looking for, so decided to write it myself.”
In the early 2000s, Jean was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi when HIV was spreading quickly through sub-saharan Africa, leaving many children orphaned after their parents died from AIDS. While in Malawi, she cared for many kids without parents. These children led Jean to consider adoption as a way to build her own family. Back in the US ten years later, Jean wanted to serve on a non-profit board of directors and figured an organization committed to providing homes to children in need would be a good fit. She began researching non-profit boards and found AASK (Adopt A Special Kid), where she served on the board of directors until AASK merged with Lilliput several years ago. Through her service at AASK and eventual work with Lilliput Families, she attended events and heard many heart-warming stories from parents that had been raising adopted kids. The idea of building her own family through the foster-to-adopt process cemented its place in her heart and the idea of writing a book full of these inspiring stories began to take shape.
All the Sweeter contains the stories of 12 families – their experiences searching for a child, navigating the adoption process, and eventually raising their kids. Of course, every family’s story is wonderfully unique, laden with joy at times and some serious challenges at others.
There were also some common themes that surfaced during the family interviews. Jean decided to further research these topics and eventually wrote five thematic chapters. Those chapters discuss how to talk with children about adoption, transracial families, adopting kids with a history of trauma, the diversity of families, and relationships with birth parents.
With every interview came insights and the opportunity to share them with people. Jean hopes to reach prospective parents, those in the adoption process, and professionals in the adoption field.
In discussing what she’d learned in writing All the Sweeter, Jean says an important take-away is that there is no such thing as the perfect parent. “Carolyn Nash, an adoptive parent and the author of Raising Abel, told herself that she just had to be ‘good enough,” said Jean. “That is an important message to any parent, and especially to those who may think they need to be perfect in order to adopt children from foster care.”
She also shared that it’s important to know our own personal boundaries. Many prospective parents face questions that will require a bit of introspection:
Will a child with special needs fit within my family’s (or my) parenting capabilities? Will I be able to raise a child that is 8 years old or should I start with one that’s 1 or 2? Is there a specific gender that I can raise?
Jean said, “Several families in All the Sweeter suggested knowing one’s own boundaries and being OK with saying ‘no’ when matched with a child or children that falls outside one’s parameters.”
As important, she continues, “is during the decision-making process, asking if the parameters we set for ourselves are actually the most important ones. Many families said that the child or children they adopted wasn’t exactly what they had in mind when they began the process, suggesting that those initial ‘boundaries’ aren’t actually as critical as we may believe.”
All the Sweeter was published on May 7th, 2019. Upcoming events include:
The Avid Reader (Davis), June 14th, 7:30 PM
The Orangevale Library: June 15th, 1 PM
Events will have refreshments, the book for sale, a talk, and someone from a local foster-adopt agency in the case that you have specific questions that Jean can't answer. Visitors are encouraged to RSVP via the links above.
Please keep an eye on the events page as there will likely be more events in the next few months.