Article in Brain, Child magazine

CoverSU10 Many thanks to Dawn Friedman for this very nuanced article, "The Myth of the Forever Family" in Brain, Child magazine about adoption myths and specifically, the best article I've read so far on the really, really difficult and complex inner-workings on a family who is considering or has considered dissolving an adoption.

I have know adult Korean adoptees who were "re-adopted" after their first placement(s) were dissolved or disrupted, and while working in a county public child welfare agency most of the children and youth on my case load had experienced multiple adoption disruptions, and a few had experienced complete dissolutions (one after 6 years with their "forever family"). The subject, as Dawn writes, is adoptions "dirty little secret." It's something that as a child welfare professional, I struggle with. How do we both encourage adoption as a form of care for children in need of placement while at the same time be honest, real, and transparent about the needs of the children without scaring away prospective adoptive parents? What kind of "marketing" are we doing in terms of soliciting the public to consider adoption?

Adoption is not just "a way to build a family." Adoption is much more complex. I sometimes think about how the military markets and advertises for recruits and the television ads they create compared to how it is in real life. In the ads on television, it's all about looking for the best, the brightest, the ones who want action and have a lot of initiative – "Be the best you can be." In reality, it appears to be more about filling the seats with warm bodies, as the recruiters to go to the high schools and talk to all the students who don't have college plans.

Okay, so neither of these scenarios tells the whole story – just like the way the public thinks about and the way adoption agencies solicit prospective adoptive parents. In reality, the military recruits and enlists both. And in adoption it is the same. We market and accept both as well. We tell adoptive parents "You don't have to be perfect" and then we expect adoptive parents to be mental health specialists, parenting specialists, educational specialists, experts on child development and oh yeah, make sure you love them like your own too. But if you can't be all those things, oh well – the kid just needs a family, because "families are better than institutions."

On the one hand what we really would like is "the best"  (and by the best I totally do NOT consider how much money prospective parents have in the bank, what their house looks like or that they are a white, heterosexual married couple. To me, the "best" is a parent that can understand and provide for the needs of a child that has likely been traumatized, hurt, neglected in some (or multiple) ways). Not parents who expect an adopted chlid to behave like a child "born to them" (whatever that means) nor a parent who is just a temporary station, i.e. a warm body, for the child. Yet, agencies are often so desperate that they're willing to take the warm bodies. Because, as we've said, over and over again, "families are better than institutions" – and that leaves us with little choice in the end when we've set ourselves up for placing children in unprepared families just because we have this idea that "families are better than institutions" and then totally blame the families when it doesn't work out.

Anyway, please read this article, and participate in the discussion that will accompany it at the Brain, Child blog. And thanks to Dawn especially for including adult adoptees in this article as well. I am quoted, as is Astrid Dabbeni from Adoption Mosaic.

HERE presentation at CHSFS

Hi folks,

The collaborators of HERE: A Visual History of Adopted Koreans in Minnesota will be presenting for a fundraiser at Children's Home Society and Family Services on June 22nd. 100% of the proceeds will go to support Russian orphans who will not be adopted. From CHSFS website:

Children’s Home Society & Family Services is pleased
to host the creative team behind the book, HERE: A Visual History of
Adopted Koreans in Minnesota.
Date: Tuesday, June 22nd
Time: 7:00-8:30 pm
Location: CHSFS, 1605 Eustis Street, St. Paul, MN
Join fellow members of the domestic and international adoption
community at Children’s Home Society & Family Services as the
agency hosts Kim Jackson, Heewon Lee, JaeRan Kim, and Kim Park Nelson,
the creative team behind the outstanding photography/oral history book HERE: A Visual History of Adopted Koreans In Minnesota.  Attendees
will have a rare opportunity to hear from all members of the creative
team about: the process that went behind creating the book; what
projects, partnerships, and promotional activities are currently
underway surrounding the book; and thoughts about a future book
series.  Refreshments will be provided.
Cost: $50.00 donation for adults; free for individuals under the
age of 18.  At the authors' request, all proceeds will go to the
Orphanage Assistance Endowment, which help support efforts that offer
orphaned children in Russia with a number of resources, from basic
needs to educational programs.  
Space is limited. Click here to register or contact Kim Herman at or 651.255.2329.
Minnesota is home to the one of the largest population, per
capita, of adopted Koreans in the world. Many of the 13,000 of us have
grown up isolated and have experienced little racial tolerance in the
urban, suburban and rural areas in which we were raised. Adoption is
often fraught with psychological and emotional tensions, and being
people of color raised in a racially Caucasian environment adds another
layer of complexity. We recognize an urgent need for us to see
ourselves represented, acknowledged, and celebrated. We are each
other’s touchstones, genetically and culturally. We are a living,
breathing part of Minnesota history. We are HERE.
With the initial assistance of the Cultural Community Partnership
starting in 2004, and through several generous donations and two more
collaborators, JaeRan Kim and Kim Park Nelson, during the evolution and
final publishing of the book project in March 2010, Kim Jackson and
Heewon Lee embarked on making their dream—a photographic portrait book
of Korean adoptees living in Minnesota—a first-of-its-kind book for its
community. This book also includes the Korean adoption history in
Minnesota and oral histories of selected participants.
Kim Jackson was adopted in 1975 from South Korea
and grew up in Northeast Minneapolis. She has traveled to Korea eight
times and began photo documenting her travels in 1998. She has worked
in the publication field for over 16 years and owns her own graphic
design business Dalros Design. She currently works full time as an art
director for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. She lives in Minneapolis with her
husband, two children, and one Beta fish.
Heewon Lee is from Gwangju, South Korea, and
immigrated to the U.S. in 1975. She has been a graphic designer for
over ten years. Heewon has also played taiko in the Twin Cities'
performing group Mu Daiko. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband,
son and two lazy cats.
JaeRan Kim, MSW, LGSW, is a social worker,
teacher, and writer. She is currently a doctoral student focusing on
child welfare and adoption. She was born in 1968 somewhere around
Daegu, South Korea, and was adopted to Minnesota in 1971. She lives
with her partner and two children in Minneapolis.
Kim Park Nelson is a scholar and educator of
Korean adoption, Asian American Studies, American race relations, and
American Studies. Between 2003 and 2006, she collected 73 oral
histories from Korean adoptees in the United States and around the
world. She also developed and taught the first college course on Korean
adoption in the United States. Her Ph.D. dissertation at the University
of Minnesota American Studies department is titled Korean Looks,
American Eyes: Korean American Adoptees, Race, Culture and Nation. This
research explores the many identities of adult Korean adoptees, as well
as the cultural, social, historical, and political significance of over
50 years of Korean adoption to the United States. She is currently an
assistant professor of American Multicultural Studies at Minnesota
State University at Moorhead.

“Blue Ribbon Babies”


I just came across a bunch of adoption-related books yesterday, one is "Blue Ribbon Babies and Labors of Love" by Christine Ward Gailey, which I'd never heard anything about! So I picked it up from the library yesterday afternoon (love having access to the university library system) and am looking forward to starting it this afternoon.

I also added/deleted some blogs in my blog roll and am working on updating my book/resource list too.

Hope everyone enjoyed the long holiday weekend break (those in the U.S. anyway). I know I'm looking forward to the summer!