Each year I complete a free reflection guide called the Year Compass. A review of the past year is the first part of this reflection exercise. Inspired by the Year Compass, I’d like to share some reflections about the past year and point you to some of the important conversations I’m looking forward to continuing in 2023.
I am guessing many of you felt the same way about 2022 as I did – that it was a rough year, in part because we were supposed to be getting “back to normal” but what even is normal anymore? And frankly, I question whether the pre-pandemic normal is one worth desiring. The pandemic exposed clearly many ways our current culture treats some of our communities as if we are disposable; as though we don’t matter. Like others in my world, I desire to be part of creating a better world post-pandemic – a world that is more justice-focused, more about mutual aid, and communities supporting each other.
Personally, I’ve started being more diligent in not using the term “normal.” Normality is supposed to be an objective term but it’s often used subjectively as a way to impose conformity. It also flattens data, by using a median or a mean data point to represent what is more honestly a spectrum of data points. Society attaches too much importance to an imagined “normal” as a standard. From my social work research perspective, I worry we spend more time trying to get individual people to behave “normally” and less time working to make the world an accessible place where everyone can get their needs met. This past year we heard over and over again that the problems of 2020 were over and we should move on. Yet again, as my social work background informs me, telling people to “move on” without addressing the root causes of what is holding people back only make things worse. It’s also unkind. We need compassion and support as we move forward, together.
In trying to get “back to normal” or even “create a new normal” I fear we have already forgotten the values and practices that contributed to or created the vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic. For me, I don’t want to get back to any “normal.” I’d rather contribute my time and sweat to collaborative expansive and compassionate projects.
With 2022 behind us, here are a few items that I found most informative, thought-provoking, and notable.
- Korean adoptees, led by Peter Møller and a Danish Korean Rights Group, successfully advocated for an investigation into corrupt adoption practices by South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
- Discussions about abolishing the child welfare system in the U.S. (termed by Dorothy Roberts as the “family policing system” – see the book mentioned below) as overall conversations about abolition increased. Joining efforts begun a few years ago by the UpEnd Movement, more adoptees began imagining adoption abolition as well as child welfare abolition. This article discusses one adoptee’s stance on adoption abolition, and I also would urge you to look at this infographic created by Lizartistry for the 2020 Allied Media Conference by several adoptee activists.
- The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court had raised adoptees’ concerns about the court overturning Roe v. Wade in part because of Coney Barrett’s comments about adoption as an alternative to abortion and the way Coney Barrett discussed her adopted Haitian children. This digital symposium edited by Dr. Gretchen Sission is an excellent place to learn more about the misleading connections between adoption and abortion.
- Familial Fitness: Disability, Adoption, and Family in Modern America by Sandra M. Sufian. This is the first book-length query into the ways disability contributes to policy and practice decisions related to adoption in the U.S.
- Contingent Kinship: The Flows and Futures of Adoption in the United States by Kathryn A. Mariner.
- The USA Today series, Broken Adoptions. This investigative series looks into the phenomenon of adoption disruptions and dissolutions.
- How Foster Children Turn Out: A Study by the State Aid Charities of New York (Sophie Van Senden Theis). This book is from 1924 and is the first-ever agency study of the outcomes of children placed through their foster care program.
- Lions Roaring, Far From Home edited by Aselefech Evans, Kassaye Berhanu-MacDonald, and Maureen McCauley. This is the first published anthology of essays by Ethiopian adoptees.
- “We Need To Take Away Children”: The Secret History of the U.S. Government’s Family-Separation Policy by Caitlin Dickerson in the Atlantic. This article is about the separation of children at the U.S. border during the Trump administration but ties into the larger story about the ways government policies create legal and social orphans.
- Raising Government Children: A History of Foster Care and the American Welfare State by Catherine Rymph. This is a terrific historical analysis of the history of the foster care system in the U.S.
- Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families–and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World by Dorothy Roberts. This is the third book in her series on how Black women in the U.S. have been institutionally harmed by policies created to control their reproduction and family/parenting.
- In light of the Supreme Court hearing on the Indian Child Welfare Act (Haaland v. Brackeen Court case), I watched the “Stay Gold, Cheesy Boy” episode of Reservation Dogs with a lot of interest. The ending is an exemplary model of mutual aid and what ICWA at it’s best can represent for indigenous young people.
What do I anticipate we will be talking about in 2023? I think there will be continued conversations about the Indian Child Welfare Act once we hear the ruling by the Supreme Court. Unless there is a major natural disaster, I see intercountry adoptions continuing to decline. I anticipate private infant adoptions will also be declining. As a result, I think we will see more connections of overlap between adoptees and Donor-conceived persons as concerns and critiques about ethics, identity, right to information continue to emerge. I think we will see more cases of adoptees demanding accountability from agencies and institutions about the illegal and unethical practices of the past. And we will only see more adoptees writing (I know of at least 5 adoptee-authored books releasing in 2023, and I’m sure there are many more!), researching, directing films, and influencing media.
It is exciting to see adoptee-created projects increasingly taking the lead and getting the attention it deserves and I hope 2023 brings even more. Thank you for joining me this far and thank you for all your follows, likes, and re-posts. I wish you a safe and welcoming transition to 2023.