Upcoming conferences

It’s been a while, but as National Adoption Month comes to a close today, I wanted to pass on a couple of items that you might be interested in.

The Indiana Adoption Network is hosting a conference this coming April, so save the dates! You can learn more about the organization through their newsletter, and the website. The conference, to be held April 21-22 2017 in Bloomington, Indiana, has the theme, “Building Bridges.” For more information about the conference and to register, click here.

Another conference to keep in mind is the California Adoption Conference hosted by Pact, An Adoption Alliance. This conference will be held March 24-25 2017 in Oakland, CA, includes a Professional Training Day (March 24th) and an all-audience day (March 25th). For more information about the conference and to register (opens January, 2017), click here.

Finally, I want to thank Healthline for naming Harlow’s Monkey one of the best adoptee blogs of 2016! I am very honored and appreciate the recognition – especially since I am in some great company! Please visit Healthline and see their full list of top adoptee blogs.

The Best Adoptee Blogs of 2016
Healthline

KAAN 2016

Header5

I’m looking forward to being at the Korean Adoptee Adoptive Family Network (KAAN) conference coming up this weekend in Pittsburgh. KAAN was founded in 1999, and serves  Korean-born adoptees of all ages,their families through birth, adoption or marriage, other Koreans and Korean-Americans, social workers, adoptees from other backgrounds, community leaders, and more. Each year the conference is located in a different place so that local Korean adoptee-affiliated community members can participate.

The sessions I’ll be participating in include:

Luncheon and Midday Keynote: Legacies of Korean Adoption on Global Child Welfare with Oh Myo Kim PhD.

  • By 2004, it is estimated that the number of intercountry adoptions had reached almost 45,000 adoptions per year (an increase of 42 percent from 1980). While the establishment of a global adoption network has no doubt reshaped the demographics of receiving countries, it has also had often overlooked implications for sending communities. Through three case studies (South Korea, Guatemala, and Uganda), this presentation will explore the following questions:
    1) What cultural, social, and economic factors allowed for the movement of children across national borders?
    2) What has been the impact of international adoption on local sending communities?
    3) Lastly, what support can Korean adoptees offer as members of a larger international adoptee community?

 

 

Am I Ready To Search for My Birth Family? With Aeriel A. Ashlee M.Ed.Jannie Kruse, and Hollee McGinnis MSW, PhD candidate
  • Beginning the search for your birth family is a big step. How can you tell if you are ready for the range of emotions and answers you might find? Join in this frank conversation with other adoptees. Leaders will share some of their experiences and give advice on how to prepare.

 

Re-centering Our Conversations About Race with Erica GehringerKatie Bozek Ph.D., LMFT, and Susan Harris O’Connor MSW

  • Many mainstream conceptions and narratives of race focus on white people’s feelings and experiences. Intended for more €œintermediate€ and €œadvanced audiences, this session aims to challenge these narratives by recentering our conversations around people of color, the people most negatively and directly affected by race-relations in the United States. Comprised of adoptees from different professional angles, we will discuss behavioral, educational, and media techniques that can be used to “retrain” ourselves to not allow the conversation to derail back to a white audience.

 

Heartbroken

Photo: Benson Kua. Image used through Wikimedia Commons

Some ways you can help the victims of the Pulse shooting and their families.

 

 

Updates

One of my mini-goals has been to get back into blogging, both here and at my other blog. But after such a long absence, it’s kind of like facing a blank page with no idea where to begin. Where does a person even begin to try to recap?!? I have been procrastinating until I had coffee with a colleague I admire who mentioned my blog, and that has inspired me to start up again. It’s not that I have nothing to say, anyone who knows me knows I can’t stop talking about child welfare and adoption. Maybe it’s that I have SO much to say, I just don’t even know where to begin.

I thought maybe what might help me get back into the groove would be to create a list of topics that I want to write about now that the hectic academic year is winding down, so here it is – my list of topics that I’ll hopefully be writing about over the next couple of months while on my summer schedule.

  • What I’ve been researching and writing about
  • Adoption and child welfare related books and articles that have inspired or interested me
  • News stories related to adoption I have some opinions about
  • My virtual Adoption and Permanency syllabus (based on a course I developed for MSW students with some additional thoughts and resources)
  • Updating my resource page

So for the few folks still checking back, “hello!” I hope all has been well in your worlds!

Support the Adoptee Citizenship Act S.2275!

I have exciting news to share, and a call for your support.

On Tuesday the bipartisan bill S. 2275 Adoptee Citizenship Act was formally introduced in the Senate by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and co-authors Senator Dan Coates (R-IN) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). This is legislation that many of us in the adoptee community have been seeking. Back in 2012, this was one of our main talking points that we brought to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Initiative (CCAI) meeting of adoptees and legislative staff.

The Adoptee Citizenship Act:

  1. Gives retroactive citizenship to all international adoptees regardless of when they were adopted, ensuring that all intercountry adoptees are citizens of the U.S. – even those adopted prior to the 2000 Child Citizenship Act
  2. Gives a clear pathway for deported adoptees, who’ve served their time/resolved their criminal histories, to come back to the US.

In essence, the bill fixes the loophole in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 which only granted citizenship for children brought to the U.S. for adoption who were under 18 years old at the time, creating a situation where those adopted at a time when our adoptive parents had to naturalize us to become a citizen fell through the cracks.

We know there are thousands of adoptees whose adoptive parents did not follow through with their naturalization and thus, risk deportation. This bill is significant for the thousands of adoptees who, through no fault of their own, were not given their citizenship promised to them by the US government, their adoptive parents, and adoption agencies. The bill also provides a pathway for deported adoptees who have already been deported or who are currently detained because they lack citizenship.

But there is still work to be done and legislators need to hear from you about why this needs to pass. What we need from you:

  • Call your lawmakers. Go to this website created by 18 Million Rising.
  • When contacting your legislators, we are asking that you don’t discuss this in terms of adoptee rights or immigration rights. We are asking that you frame it as “righting a wrong, and remedying a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.” Please tell your legislators that you support the bill as it corrects the CCA 2000.
  • Spread the word. Although we believe the bill has a strong chance of passing, it still needs to go through committee before it’s sent to the floor for a vote. The more Senators hear from you, their constituents, the better. Please tell everyone who is an ally to call.

This bill is a significant accomplishment for the adoptee community. It is the first legislation pertaining to adoptees that was crafted by and significantly informed by adoptees. We are so thankful that Senators Klobuchar, Coates and Merkley responded to our call for action and understood that this has been an injustice for thousands of intercountry adoptees. I am also beyond grateful for the adoptees and adoptive parents that have put in countless hours of work into working with the legislators who authored this bill.

Please spread the word and tell your friends and family to call your legislators to support S.2275!

Powerpoint slides for Pact presentation on adoptee activism

I just wrapped up several days of working at Pact camp in California where I presented three times. My keynote on Saturday was on adoptee activism and interrupting white supremacy.

One of my main messages is that adoptees should be the ones controlling the discourse about adoption and that adoption professionals and non-adopted persons should be supporting adoptees rather than attempting to silence us.

Additionally, transracial adoptees in particular need for adoptive parents, adoption professionals and non-adopted persons to stand up against the individual and systemic racism and oppression of our communities. I challenged the adoptive parents at Pact camp to go beyond the complacency of being an “ally” and instead become interruptors of white supremacy.

For the families who wanted the slides, I am posting them here for you to download. Please contact me if you need clarification on any of the slides.

Pact slides Adoptee activism 2015

Transracial adoptees speak out on the co-opting of “transracial” in the Rachel Dolezal case

Over the past few days I was honored to be part of a group of adoptees and adoptee allies in forming the response below about the inappropriate usage of the term “transracial” applied to the Rachel Dolezal case. I myself played a very small role in this response, and am thankful to have been included.

I am working on an individual response to this as well, taking a deeper look at the transracial adoption aspects of Dolezal’s family.

In addition to the great list compiled by Dr. Kimberly McKee, I have resources as well. Please see:

My recommended reading list for professionals and parents are here and here.

An Open Letter: Why Co-opting “Transracial” in the Case of Rachel Dolezal is Problematic

June 16, 2015

Please direct all media inquiries to Kimberly McKee, PhD at mckee.kimberly@gmail.com.

This past weekend the world took to social media to dissect the events surrounding Rachel Dolezal, the former president of Spokane’s NAACP chapter who came under heavy scrutiny for falsely representing herself as black. As part of this real-time discussion, the term transracial is being co-opted to describe Dolezal identifying as black despite being born white.

As members of the adoption community — particularly those of us who identify as transracial adoptees — we are deeply alarmed by the gross mischaracterization of this term. We find the misuse of “transracial,” describing the phenomenon of a white woman assuming perceived markers of “blackness” in order to pass as “black,” to be erroneous, ahistorical, and dangerous.

Transracial is a term that has long since been defined as the adoption of a child that is of a different race than the adoptive parents. The term most often refers to children of color adopted by white families in the Global North, and has been extensively examined and documented for more than 50 years by academics and members of the adoption triad: adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents.

Dolezal and others have perpetuated the false notion that a person can simply choose to identify as a different race or ethnicity. As extensive evidence-based research and first-person narratives have shown, we do not live in a so-called “post-racial society.” Damaging forces like racism make it virtually impossible for those with black or brown bodies to simply “put on” or “take off” race in the same or similar manner that Dolezal has employed. For transracial adoptees, navigating and negotiating the racism in our families, schools, and communities is a regular and compulsory part of our lives.

We also join others who have raised concerns about the misappropriation of the word “trans,” and the analogy made between Dolezal’s deception and the experiences of transgender people. For transgender people who have struggled to live their truths in the face of horrific violence and discrimination, we reject this flawed comparison and find it to be irresponsible and offensive.

As our collective cultural awareness and knowledge of racial and gender identities continue to evolve, it is clear that our understanding of them, as well as our understanding of the relationship between them, is outmoded and in need of better expression. The widespread and acute public response to Dolezal signals the pressing need for critical thinkers of all backgrounds to turn their attention to refining language and theory to better reflect our ever-changing lived experiences.

Writer and adoptee Lisa Marie Rollins recently wrote about Dolezal’s deception and how it derails meaningful conversations about adoption and race. As Rollins explains, the process of transracial adoptees asserting ourselves as people of color is often challenged by either white people or the very communities that mirror our racial and ethnic identities.

In Dolezal’s interview on NBC’s Today show, she justified passing as “black” in order to be recognized as her son’s parent. This questionable and even extreme approach to parenting goes against how families with transracial adoptees should actually tackle issues related to race. Scholars including Barbara Katz Rothman, Heather Jacobson, and Kristi Brian, among others, have examined how adoptive parents incorporate and support familial understanding of their children’s birth culture.

Adoption scholar Dr. John Raible affirms how a deeper consciousness of issues related to race may occur among white families with transracial adoptees. But this does not mean that white parents become people of color in the process. Instead, adoptive families need to create spaces for transracial adoptees to explore and construct their own identities.

Many of us in the adoption community have experienced the complex, tenuous, and life-long process of claiming our authenticity, making Dolezal’s claims and the current discussion all the more destructive.

We invite people to become active allies of transracial adoptees. It begins by listening. Actively listen to those who speak about and from the transracial adoption experience.

If you are an ally, we challenge you to examine the various ways that you appropriate our voices, cultures, and identities. Stand behind those of us who are working to dismantle this racist narrative that abuses, discredits, and erases the lives of transracial adoptees, and erases an entire field of academic inquiry. And use your privilege to lift up marginalized voices that need to be heard.

Finally, we encourage people to take time and explore the many articles, organizations, and experts who have worked on transracial adoption issues in order to educate themselves on this important current issue.

Co-opting the term transracial to describe Dolezal’s behavior exposes the deep denial and erasure of decades of research, writing, and art of transracial adoptees. That’s why we need everyone to stop trying to make this new definition of “transracial” happen. It’s not (and should not) be a thing.

Signed,

Kimberly McKee, PhD
Assistant Director/Advisory Council Member, KAAN (the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network)
Grand Rapids, MI

Krista Benson
PhD Candidate, The Ohio State University
Adoptee Ally

Katie Bozek, Ph.D., LMFT
Transitions Therapy, PLLC
Grand Rapids, MI

Erin Alice Cowling, PhD
Hampden-Sydney College
Adoptee Ally

Martha M. Crawford, LCSW
Adoptive Parent, Psychotherapist
Author, What a Shrink Thinks blog

Sarah Park Dahlen, PhD
St. Catherine University
Adoptee wife, ally and researcher
Minneapolis, MN
www.sarahpark.com

April Dinwoodie
Chief Executive and transracial adoptee
The Donaldson Adoption Institute
www.adoptioninstitute.org

Erica Gehringer
Land of Gazillion Adoptees
Ypsilanti, MI

Shannon Gibney
Writer, Educator, Activist, Adoptee, Co-Chair, MN Chapter of Adopted & Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora (AFAAD)
Minneapolis, MN

Shelise Keum Mee Gieseke
Land of Gazillion Adoptees

Rosita González
Transracial Adoptee, Author, Artist, Lost Daughters Editor
Madison, WI

Susan Harris O’Connor, MSW
Practitioner, Educator
Author, The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee
National Solo Performance Artist of her Racial Identity Theory narrative
New England Regional Director of American Adoption Congress
Massachusetts

JaeRan Kim, PhD, LISW
Researcher, educator, and author of Harlow’s Monkey blog
Minneapolis, MN

Andy Marra | 홍현진
LGBT advocate and writer
New York, NY

Lisa Marie Rollins
PhD Candidate, University of California, Berkeley
Writer, Playwright, Researcher
Founder, Adopted & Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora
Oakland, CA

Matthew Salesses
PhD Candidate, University of Houston
Author of The Hundred-Year Flood, Different Racisms: On Stereotypes, the Individual, and Asian American Masculinity
Houston, TX

Stacy L. Schroeder
Adoptive Parent, Sibling of Adoptee, and Adoptee Ally
Executive Director/ President, KAAN (the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network)
Camp Hill, PA

Dwight Smith
Transracial Adoptee
Pact’s Adult Adoptees & Foster Alums of Color Advisory Board member
Advocate/Mentor for Bay Area adoptees and foster youth of color

Julie Stromberg
Author, Editor
Lost Daughters, Board Member
Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights

Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston, MSS, LSW
Adoptee, Author, The Declassified Adoptee blog, Founder, Lost Daughters, Founder, Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights
Greater Philadelphia Area

Angela Tucker
Transracial Adoptee, Author, Speaker
www.closuredocumentary.com
www.theadoptedlife.com
Seattle, WA

Kevin Haebeom Vollmers
Executive Director, Gazillion Strong

This letter was originally at Medium and has been cross-posted here with permission. In addition, please see the following articles that have referenced this open letter or sites that linked/posted to the statement. The response has been overwhelming, and I will continue to update this as more come in as best as I can.
Thank you to the many others who linked on Facebook, tweeted, and shared the link to the Open Letter!

Review: The Hundred Year Flood by Matthew Salesses

hundred year One of my personal goals this year is to read more books by authors of color, and to that end I’ve committed to reading only fiction by authors of color. I was excited to receive an advanced copy of friend and fellow Korean adoptee writer Matthew Salesses’ new novel, The Hundred Year Flood.  I am a big fan of Salesses’ writing. I enjoyed Matthew’s books, I‘m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, Different Racisms, and his essays on the Good Men Project and recently published on The Offing. Matthew is one of the most prolific and productive writers I know! I don’t know how he balances all of his different projects (in addition to his teaching, his PhD candidacy and his family). I read The Hundred Year Flood on a recent weekend trip, mostly on the plane. I seriously paused a couple of pages into the first chapter to just savor and admire the poetry of Matthew’s prose. Matthew’s writing is beautiful. The main character in this novel is 22-year old Thomas, known as Tee, a Korean adoptee. The novel is set in both present time where Tee recovers in the hospital, and in flashbacks set in Prague where Tee has been spending the past year in search of himself and where Tee receive the injury that leads to the current hospital stay. There are now many memoirs written by Korean adoptees but I’ve been frustrated and disappointed with the limited portrayals of Korean adoptees in fiction over the years, particularly by non-adopted Asian American writers like in these novels. I think I’m always wary about how Korean Adoptees are presented in fiction because they often feel very stereotyped to me, and so focused on the adoption part that it seems there is nothing else to them. I feel strongly that adoptees are so much more than their adoptee identity and yet it has not been easy to find representation in either film or on the page that adequately gives us nuance and complexity. So I was appreciative that while adoption does play part of Tee’s journey, it is not all of it; finally we get to read a story about a person whose adoption status is one aspect of their identity and their story, not the sum game. I won’t say much more about the plot of the story in hopes you will get the book for yourself and read it. I will say that much of Salesses’ writing is just my cup of tea (sorry, couldn’t help it!) all the way around. I liked the splashes of magical realism and the unique and powerful imagery in the writing and was sad when I finished reading, wanting more of Tee’s story. Which is always a good thing, to end wanting more. The Hundred Year Flood will be available in August.

Review: Ghost of Sangju: A Memoir of Reconciliation

imgresMemoirs are tricky business. I have known for a long time that I would never attempt to write a memoir because they are so difficult. They must draw the reader in, excite without being overly melodramatic and yet be approachable so the reader can relate and empathize. Ghost of Sangju: A Memoir of Reconciliation by Soojung Jo, meets these criteria in both ways.

I first came upon Soojung Jo’s writing when she was blogging at Faith and IllusionsI’m not quite sure how I stumbled upon her blog, but I recall being interested in her take as both a Korean adoptee and as an adoptive parent. I was disappointed when she stopped blogging, but found her through other social media sites and remember when she reunited with her Korean family. Ghost of Sangju details her reunion but for me, it is her description of her childhood with her adoptive family that was most engaging and relatable.

imgres-1The book begins with a prologue describing the horrific events that led to her birth and relinquishment and segues into how Soojung/Raina is found by her omma, her birth mother. The remainder of the book intersperses segments of omma’s letters to Soojung with narratives of her childhood, time in the military, and being a mom. As you get to know Soojung, little by little, you also get to know her omma. Like many Korean adoptees who were adopted to rural white communities in the U.S., navigating life as a perpetual outsider, even within a family’s enveloping love, was difficult. A few sections stand out in particular. Soojung describes her adoptive mother, in particular, with such tenderness that as a reader, I could feel that maternal love emanate from the page. As a mother, I also appreciated the way Soojung describes her pregnancy and new parenting as an adoptee.

Although I have not reunited with my Korean family, I have had many friends who have, so Soonjung’s descriptions of her reunion – while unique to her family – were strikingly similar to other narratives of reunions heard firsthand or read from intercountry adoptees. That Soojung’s descriptions in this book of feeling like an outsider, of compartmentalizing her emotions, of being overwhelmed with a birth family’s desire to make up for lost time, and dealing with hurt adoptive parents are similar to many Korean adoptees’ narratives speaks to how adoption practices have largely discounted and minimized the emotional tolls that relinquishment and adoption place on everyone involved.

In the prologue, Soojung writes, “Omma has had many years to live with her ghosts…she has tasted every flavor of loss, but she never swallowed bitterness. The only reason I know about her story – our story – is because she never sowed those seeds of hate and despair.” Soojung Jo’s omma has indeed had many years of living with her ghosts, as I imagine many birth mothers, birth fathers, and extended birth relatives do; and we cannot forget that adoptees also live with these ghosts whether or not we know them. From outward appearances, Soojung is a “successful” adoptee judged by her strong leadership and business skills, distinguished military service, loving parenting and even adopting herself – yet even all these accomplishments cannot erase the losses that are inherent in adoption. An important lesson is gained through reading this memoir: that grief and loss must be acknowledged, and secrets brought to light.

Ghost of Sangju is a valuable contribution to the adoptee-memoir canon, and I recommend that adoption professionals and prospective adoptive parents in particular read this book. It might be difficult to read and tempting to discount Soojung and her omma’s story as only one story; it is one story, but it resonates because it is, in fact, many of our stories. It is time that these narratives are honored and validated, so that birth families and adoptees do not have to exist, as Soojung writes, as “a spirit suspended between two worlds and two families, to be forever in between.”

Ghost of Sangju: A Memoir of Reconciliation will be available soon through Gazillion Strong. For more information, click here.