Advice to agencies/organizations that seek wisdom from adult adoptees

. . . on behalf of all my fellow TRA’s and adult adoptees – pay us what we’re worth.

We are really tired of being asked to speak on your panel, write for your newsletter, contribute to your organization, all pro-bono.

You appeal to us by telling us how much it will mean to your children.

How much it will mean to you.

We like hearing that, to be sure. But you guys are exploiting us!

Trust me, we’re completely used to being asked to be an Adoption Poster Child. Of course we want to help out. We even dig deep, talk about the saddest times in our lives, the hardest times when we dealt with feelings of abandonment, racism, strained relationships with adoptive parents.  We give you advice, we talk about what would have been better for us, we answer your questions, we allow ourselves to be under the microscope.

But if we’re traveling across the country for one of your conferences, so that you can hear those pearls of wisdom from our lips, remember that we’re taking time off of work, leaving our homes and families, and spending the money to go where you are. The least you could do is compensate us like you would Mr. or Ms. Social Work/Adoption Professional.

Especially since we’re supposedly giving you the information that means so much to your kids.

The extra guilt trip bestowed on us for not caring enough about our future TRA sisters and brothers is hurtful. That’s why for so long, we’ve gone out of our ways to help you guys out. It’s kind of irritating that now that I’ve got that alphabet listing behind my name, I’m credible and certified enough to get paid invitations, but I still get solicitations on a weekly basis to help out my fellow – adoptee? Except that it’s not the adoptees who are asking. It’s the adoptive parents or the adoption agencies.

Money is an issue for everyone – I know that we are in time of cutbacks and belt-tightening. But it’s wrong to ask adoptees to come, bare their soul for you, share all the hard things they’ve experienced, and lay themselves vulnerable – all for the "gratitude" of being questioned, disliked and sometimes even harassed for speaking up.

So, on behalf of my many friends who email me, asking me if they should participate in yet another panel, another newsletter, another workshop or another conference for an adoption agency or adoptive parent group for free, I am speaking out for all of us.

How many of you are willing to lay your life bare and raw for an audience for the compensation of a handshake, parking validation and perhaps a stale cookie and coffee in the back of the room?

So when we say no, it’s not because we don’t care about your children. It’s not that we don’t care about the future adoptees. It’s just not our job to be at everyone’s beck and call to help out adoptive parents or adoption agencies for free. The irony is that for many of us, once we’ve spoken once or twice, people start to refer us to other parent or agency organizations. Some of us get requests on a weekly basis. Not only did we have no choice or say in our adoption experience, those of us who want to help others now have to deal with the politics of choosing who we are willing to work for free.

Most of us are willing to do a panel once in a while, or a piece for a newsletter. But remember, please. We just shouldn’t have to do it all for free. We want to be taken seriously, and with respect. And if you really want to hear what we have to say, you’ll put your money where your request is.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

16 thoughts

  1. Thank you for this!!! For a while there I really began to think my middle name was volunteer. I have mostly put a stop to it with the exception of a few upcoming panels I had already “volunteered” for.
    It is a matter of respect. For the love of Pete a couple of dollars thrown our way for gas (after driving for hours) would even be nice! It’s just not right.

  2. Aw Jae Ran, we could never in a million years pay you what you and your words are TRULY worth. I wish we could. And I am SO grateful and glad for the time you will be spending with our organization.

  3. YES.
    What you said, exactly, gurl. Thank you for vocalizing and speaking out about what I am currently struggling with. I’m trying to make my 30s all about no-more-guilt, but their are powerful forces urging me to keep on laying it on…

  4. I am glad you wrote this, too. It is very important for you to say very candidly: “I love speaking to adoption groups, my fee or honorarium is $____ plus expenses.” I learned this years ago in my situation and it works. You are worth it!!!! Sometimes they say we can’t pay that but we could pay this. Or they say, we have no funds for that and you can graciously say “I am sorry to hear that. Best of luck.” Either way, YOU win because your value is not diminished. And what you have to share is valuable.

  5. Hi, off the topic of this post, I just read your chapter in the book about Korean Americans and Christianity and it was really good! My family and I have a little girl adopted from Korea and 2 biol kids and we attend a Korean Methodist church, I am going to give the book to my pastor. He is a second generation Korean american and I think he would really like the book. We live in a city about 300,000 and have 2 Korean christian churches (presbyterian and methodist, and a Chinese Christian Church. We are the only adoptive family at our church but their are not many Korean adoptees (my daughter’s age (3yo) in the area, there are several KAD’s) and I figured that was why. There are many Chinese adoptees in this area. A friend of mine is an elder in the Chinese Christian Church and I said to her one day that I bet she had alot of adoptive families in her church and she said they none. I was shocked. It has been one of the best things we have done, to join a church that allows us to learn about Korean culture and have Korean people for my children to look up to. As you mention in the book, it is religion, community, spirituality and fellowship all in one. I have invited other adoptive families and the responses have been upsetting, one family said they just wouldn’t feel comfortable. I wanted to say, what about your child!

  6. Good point! That being said… we would love to have an adoptee guest blog (that can be ongoing)on our new website, Adoption Under One Roof, which is trying hard to be an inclusive adoption website. We aren’t making any money yet except a few cents from adsense?!?!, so can’t pay, but we want it known that we are equally open to all members of the triad and you are invited!!
    Lisa S.

  7. OMG – I can’t believe I’m actually reading the comment above me after reading this post. Is she actually asking you to volunteer your time for free after what you just wrote?
    And yes, I agree with every word of your post.

  8. Wow! The similarities in what you wrote and what I wrote on my blog recently are scary! One of my readers suggested I read your blog because it was so in-line with what I said.
    I have been talking to a few other TRAs who speak and think it is time we all got together and began taking control over this. Creating a network where we could all help each other instead of leaving what we get paid, when and where, may be beneficial to all of us.
    I would love to discuss this further with you.

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