I am involved in a work group that is attempting to bring an
adoption certification program to our state. This certificate program
would be a year-long curriculum for professionals working in the field
of adoption, such as adoption social workers in counties and private
agencies (both for the children and the adoptive parents) and for
therapists and mental health professionals who work with adopted
children or other members of the triad. The University will be housing
this program so MSW students could get credit or professionals in the
field can earn CEU’s (Continuing Education Units, necessary for
There is definitely a need for this. Among the three core classes
that a participant would take is one focused on the history and
practice of adoption; one on the specifics of mental health issues
around adoption; and finally a whole course on "diverse family systems"
that would definitely include transracial, international, GLBT and
other "diverse" issues around adoption. Plus, electives that would dig
deeper into some of the more needed issues.
Of the core work group, I am the only person there who is an adult
who was adopted. And, I am the only non-white person as well. And, it
goes without saying that I am the only person who was internationally
and transracially adopted (of course there are a few adoptive parents
in this group).
This is not to say that this is not a good work group, or that they
aren’t attuned to the "issues" of adoption. They are. I’m pretty quiet in this
group. As I tend to be when I first get to know people. I’ve only been
part of this work group for a month-and-a-half; a latecomer. Most of
the hard tasks have already been completed. We are now ready to launch
this proposal to the larger community and begin to raise money to start
it. I tend to observe mostly, when I’m first part of a group. I really like to see how the group dynamics are, who speaks, who says what, those kind of things. Once I get a sense of the players, I begin to participate.
This latest meeting was typical, for the most part, of the other meetings. But I have to say there was for me this moment when I realized in a
very salient way that everything that was being discussed was about me.
And in a very real and personal way.
About the adoptee.
And there I am, sitting in this group of talented and smart
professionals who (mostly) get it. And I had this "a-ha!" moment of
I was thinking about how it would be for each of them to be in the
reverse. For example, what if each of them were in a work group about
how to "work" with professional, white social workers. The group was
made up of all people of color who were adopted adults and they were
discussing all the ways in which white social workers (and therapists)
need help. Of course, we had the individual white social worker there
so they could advise the rest of us on the particular needs of the
white social worker. On the white board we’d list the psychology of
white social workers, the "culture" of white social workers, and how we
can train people better so they can work with this cultural group of
white professionals. We’d "unpack" the "culture" of white social
workers. We’d talk about the assessment tools we would create to assess
the mental and emotional behaviors of the white social workers. We’d
talk about their brain chemistry and how they developed through their
childhood and adolescence; how they might have been exposed to
pre-natal traumas or stressers that affect the way they work with
people of color. We’d talk about what it was like for them to grow up
in all-white communities and how that affected their mental health.
We’d bring out theoretical models of white social worker behaviors and
flow charts. We would discuss the latest trainings we attended on
helping white social workers realize their potential and the best
therapeutic methods that are available for treating them. Then we would
create a year-long program for people of color who interact with white
social workers, so that they could have more impact on the lives of
these white social workers.
I wonder what it would be like for the white social workers to be
the subject and object of all this scrutiny. I wonder what they would
say if a whole program was built upon their pathology. I wonder
if they would feel comfortable speaking up if they felt the work group
made assumptions. I wonder if they would cringe if someone in the group
said, "I have teenagers, I’d be open if anyone wants to adopt them" to
the chorus of chuckles from the rest of the group. I wonder if any of
them would not think it’s funny to joke about putting your kids up for
I wonder if any of them noticed I wasn’t laughing.