Harper’s intimate memoir of one family’s special needs adoption journey.
Harper (I Choose to Fight, 1984), the family’s father, candidly reflects on his family’s horrific yet beautiful journey in this compelling, but sometimes difficult, account. Many times, it seems he and his wife, Rose, and their three typically developing biological children will collapse under the strain of providing for two traumatized adopted children while preserving their own personal safety and sanity. When it seems nothing else terrible can happen, it does, and the parents, particularly the mother, come through. The Harpers respond to a plethora of diagnoses: fetal alcohol effects, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, Tourette’s syndrome and paranoid schizophrenia. These conditions require changing medications and multiple therapies, while navigating formidable bureaucracies to secure proper care for their children. Harper outlines the adoptees’ entire biological family background and the state foster care/adoption system without assessing blame, but he finally admits that he “had trouble accepting the responsibility.” When faced with institutionalizing their 12-year-old son, Harper notes that nobody told them about the severity of the child’s disabilities. The author’s honesty throughout the book, especially at his lowest points, garners the reader’s sympathy and respect. His conversational style works well when tackling such difficult subjects, including the adoptees’ sexual and substance abuse and their mental health diagnoses and treatment. Though his authority is hard to question, it’s somewhat lessened by a few typos that crop up throughout.
A revealing, heart-wrenching account about special needs adoption, the grave implications of prenatal and early childhood trauma, and the resilience of truly tough love and hope.