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Book Review: Beneath the Mask

Beneath the Mask: Understanding Adopted Teens by Debbie Riley with John Meeks

Book review by Griselda Santillan-Mejia, MA


Beneath the Mask: Understanding Adopted Teens by Debbie Riley with John Meeks is a book written not only for those parenting teens, but also to prepare all adoptive parents for the teenage years. It is also a great resource for professionals working with adoptive children and families. The author, Debbie Riley, is a counselor and executive director of the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.). She used a combination of many years of experience counseling adopted children, along with knowledge gained from her education, to write this book. She focuses on the “stuck spots” that teens who are adopted are more likely to experience. The reality is that sadness, depression, anger, poor attachment, and anxiety are all normal reactions to grief and loss, which all adoptive children experience. She takes the time to give information about the above-mentioned reactions to grief but also about how to help teens through the realities of having a difficult birth family history, not having the full story of their family of origin, transracial adoption challenges, feeling different because they were adopted, and not feeling like they fit in with their adoptive family. This book also provides tools that parents can utilize with their adopted children to help them cope with the difficult reality that their birth family could not care for them, which often creates the feeling of rejection in adopted youth. The book is written in a way that makes it easy to read and understand. Ms. Riley also included various case studies to help parents have a full picture and a better understanding of what teens are experiencing or dealing with as they often struggle internally and do not have the appropriate language to express it. To help provide support for adopted teens, Ms. Riley has written a workbook, Beneath the Mask for Teen Adoptees, designed to help teens and young adults share their stories and feelings about their adoption story. This book has great exercises, journaling pages, and various thought-provoking activities that help provide tools and insight for navigating the "stuck spots" independently, with their adoptive parents, or their therapist.


For similar articles, please see our Spring 2024 Newsletter.


Photo by C.A.S.E.- Center for Adoption Support and Education

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