Director of adoption institute focuses on fighting stigmas early

Liz Laubscher

Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, spoke in the Kiva Friday afternoon about the issues facing adoption. CAITLIN PRARAT DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Dan Kloock

Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, gave people the opportunity to learn about adoption’s current stigma when he spoke Friday in the Kiva.

Pertman used examples, stories and light-hearted jokes to express the need for people to learn about the increasingly popular topic during his speech, “Adoption in the Schools: A Lot to Learn.”

“Introducing adoption as a subject that people talk about out loud as fabulous,” Pertman said. “Introducing it at a university level means that maybe we are going to filter down and do it everywhere, and I think it is critically important that we do it everywhere.”

Pertman’s goal is to help people understand adoption and the misconceptions society has about those who are adopted. Pertman said one of the biggest misconceptions is the language used toward adoption.

He explained some positive phrases and some most commonly used, inaccurate phrases. Pertman said adopted people are just that — people.

Many times adopted individuals are called adopted children, but children grow up. Also, there are problems with the way parents are expressed. He said there aren’t “real” or “natural” parents, but birth or biological parents.

Pertman said the most important thing that can be done is educating people, especially in schools. He said those people don’t get training in adoption issues, and yet they are expected to get the subject right when they discuss it.Copy editor 2 10/21/07 who are ‘those people’ teachers?

“Lots of people wonder, how do you add anything more to curriculum than we’ve already got?” Pertman said. “Well, we’ve done it. We’ve done it over and over again with issues relating to gender, relating to race, relating to disability, relating to lots of things that you can put under the umbrella of diversity inclusion. We do it because it is the right thing to do for a lot of people, and I am convinced that (adoption) is one of the subjects where we need to do it.”

He said it’s not only important for people to understand adoption so they can talk about it properly, it is important for them to know so they can better understand adopted individuals.

“Adoption . is a significant piece of people’s identity,” Pertman said. “Just as race is, culture is, religion is. People come in parts, and this is an important one.”

Pertman also said children don’t always understand their own identity, and when other people don’t understand it, it doesn’t make it any easier for the child. He said when those issues occur, children act out because they are confused and don’t know how to express their feelings.

Pertman said, in the past decade, adoption issues have improved enormously. He said adoptions are more honest, fewer people are lying to their children and progress is being made in the right direction. But it still has a long way to go.

“If we are going to have adoption, let’s get it right,” Pertman said. “Let’s make it ethical. Let’s make the practice humane. And, make sure it serves everybody who it is supposed to serve.”

For more information about Pertman and adoption issues, visit

Contact social services reporter Liz Laubscher at [email protected].