Adoption conferencing in NYC


Right now I’m sitting in the student coffee shop/lounge area of St. John’s University in Queens, NY waiting to check in for the 8th Biennial Adoption Initiative conference. This is the third one that I have been fortunate enough to attend and the kick off to a busy month of conferencing for me. In addition to this one, I will be attending the MN Adopt conference featuring Rhonda Roorda, and presenting at the International Social Work Conference, the Society for Disability Studies conference and the Korean Adoptee Adoptive Family (KAAN) conference – and that’s just June!! I’ll also be presenting sessions for parents at the Catalyst Foundation Vietnam Culture camp. For a detailed description of the topic sessions you can click here for a full list.

I’m very excited for the presentations at this conference and looking forward to seeing how the presenters respond to the theme – power, privilege, politics and class in adoption. I appreciate the title, “sleeping giants” – more eloquent but just as apt as my usual phrase, “the elephant in the room.”

Over the past few years since I stopped regularly blogging here, I’ve still been observing and watching carefully how the world of adoption is shifting and changing – the discourse in particular has really changed. I think there are a number of reasons for this, there is not one or even a couple of things I think I can point to as a link to this change – but I feel it.

I see it in the increased ability to know what other adopted individuals are doing in terms of research, art and activism around the world. I see this shift in the way adoptive parents are stepping out loudly to protest against unethical adoption practices and to challenge their fellow adoptive parents on their privilege. I see it in the much more collaborative groups I’ve witnessed in the past couple of years, groups that have diverse people, experiences and opinions but still manage to come together to work towards a common goal. It’s been interesting to witness how much attention is given to journalists who find themselves reporting on the unethical aspects of adoption and the animosity shown to them that was previously reserved toward “angry adoptees” or the few adoptive parents that critiqued the all-rainbow-and-unicorn adoption veneer. I’ve also witnessed a subtle but growing change in the attitudes of adoption agency workers in my regular work, although there is a long way to go in this area.

My own interests in adoption research continues to change and grow. I continue to think of race but largely in terms of intersectionality, as one aspect of the adoption experience along with disability, gender and class. And since I am interested in the system – that is the larger institutional network that makes decisions about placement based on their determination of which children are and are not “adoptable” and which parents are or are not allowed/approved to parent – I am most interested right now in the role of institutions and systems that work with adopted persons and parents (birth/first and adoptive).

So all of this is to say I’m excited for the presentations coming up in the next few days, and seeing old and new friends and colleagues. My head often feels like it’s swimming with ideas, thoughts, new information to absorb and reflect upon…and this weekend won’t be any different. Look for more reports on what ideas are currently being discussed in adoption-land!

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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