Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Post adoption services: Where are they?

I want to start by linking an honest, well-written article I read this morning by an adult Korean adoptee who discusses his past experiences working in the adoption field: http://www.slanteyefortheroundeye.com/2011/03/guest-post-business-of-adoption_29.html

The article especially resonated with me as my last month of grad school fast approaches. I am studying to be a social worker and the idea of getting into the adoption field has crossed my mind countless times. I always figured that being an adoptee could add a valuable layer of perspective to my work, but last year I started feeling uncertain about it. And I realized that the ideas I had in my head about what kind of work I could do in adoption do not match with reality.

Last February I had to start looking for a 2010-2011 internship and the first place I interviewed at was an adoption agency. The whole interview turned into a huge disappointment. I was told my work would largely consist of communicating with prospective parents over the phone. I also realized that they had very few post adoption services. Oh, and to top it all off? I told the interviewer that part of my interest in the adoption field stemmed from being an adopted person myself, to which she just responded with this awkward smile, said “Oh, okay” and moved on. Her nonverbals indicated that I had said something inappropriate. I get that you should use discretion in disclosing details about yourself, but what on earth is wrong with identifying as an adoptee at an adoption agency of all places? I didn’t need a congressional medal of honor or anything. I had just hoped for a more..welcome response. Needless to say, I felt uncomfortable and ended up declining the agency. I knew deep down that it wasn’t what I really wanted to do.

What did I really want? To work with adoptees in some capacity, but I exhausted the list of internship opportunities and no one truly had what I wanted. Every adoption internship was the same—providing services to parents. I consulted with one of my professors who has a background in child welfare. He looked at me with a sigh and said, “Post adoption services just aren’t considered billable services. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s how things are right now.” Well..dang. I guess I really want to live in a cardboard box one day (prior to settling on social work, I was considering an MFA in poetry).

But back to the bigger issue at hand: where ARE the post adoption services? After reading that article, I am both enlightened and slightly dismayed. Minnesota is practically KAD country. If they cannot secure funding for post adoption services, the area I’m in certainly won’t. You don’t get money if you can’t demonstrate a need for it, but I do believe that adoptees have needs that could potentially benefit from services (counseling, support groups, linkage to community resources, help with search and reunion, even social events just to get together..). Where are the services specifically for adoptees? How did this lack become the norm? Well, not everyone would perceive a lack even existing in the first place I suppose.

One thing I have realized is that the adoption field largely serves birth parents and adoptive parents. Not sure what happened to that so-called triad, but my fear has become that adoptees do not have equal footing compared to the other two. So many people speak of adoption as a one-time event when child is united with adoptive family, but it’s a lifelong process. One day that child will grow into an adult and through it all he or she will always be an adoptee. I think I may very well be renegotiating this identity my entire life. And as much as my mom can support me, as much as we are together an adoptive family, I feel like I need to walk some parts of this journey alone. To discover what being an adoptee means for me as an individual. My mom is not adopted and cannot fully share in this, but I don’t love her any less for it. I’m just wondering where is that place that adoptees can call ours. Where are those services with us in mind as we continue to grow and new questions emerge? How can the adoption field overlook us? Someone is in a state of delusion if they thought the day I was placed into my mom's arms for the first time was the end of the story.


  1. I am from Minnesota. Yes there's tons of adoptees there. No post adoption services. Why you ask? BC most of the time we don't even know how to talk about it. and how could they help me since they don't truly know what I'm experiencing if they are white and behind a desk? I'm an identical twin, and I knew she was experiencing the same identity issues and racism that I was, but we still didn't confide in each other and talk about it until this past year when our birth parent search really kicked into high gear.

    If I had discovered a post adoption service that was run by someone who was also an adoptee. That is the only way I know I would be able to get help. Because they would understand.

    I know that Children's Home Society in MN offers a post adoption service for adoptees, but it's not their main focus, so it won't be taken as seriously as this issue is.

    Honestly, adoptees get the bad end of the deal. We make no decisions about the adoption, we experience identity problems and racism, and we get no help in figuring out how to deal with these problems. You're right, adoptive parents and the birth parents reap all the benefits. Their voices are heard.....but what about us? I don't know about other adoptees....but I'm completely messed up...

  2. Megan, I completely agree with the "we don't even know how to talk about it". Growing up, I think there were so many missed opportunities to build support and understanding. I never even told my mom about racist experiences I had as a kid until last year! And I cannot imagine what it was like to not feel able to share those experiences with a twin. It's sad. No one taught us how to prepare for any of these things or how to at least talk openly about them without shame..

    I also agree that our voices are not heard enough and one thing we can do is keep speaking up. Even if it doesn't seem like it, I think the adoption field needs to hear us as adult adoptees.

  3. I applied for a job a while back that was like an assistant to an adoption counsellor or something, I really cant remember. I didn't have the experience the posting asked for but being adopted, I applied anyway thinking my insider experience may be desirable. Yeah, not so much. I actually think non adopted professionals are afraid of adoptees. Reading both of you say that you don't know how to talk about it growing up is striking, made even more so by the thought that twins wouldn't even talk about it to each other. Wow. Maybe Soo you could start your own post adoption service, specializing in international adoptee concerns.

  4. Campbell, that's an interesting thought about non adopted professionals that I never considered..that there might actually be fear on their end in bringing us into the workplace. I guess I just have a hard time understanding how having professional training re: adoption counts for more than being adopted! Starting my own post adoption service would be a dream.. I don't feel equipped to pursue something like that in the near future, but it's definitely a possibility in the back of my mind.

  5. Great post. I had a similar experience when applying to adopt. I mentioned the fact that I was an adopted person and the response back felt weirdly indifferent. I felt so strange that I regretted mentioning it.

  6. I know that my involvement in Camp Moo Gung Hwa, a culture camp for Korean Adoptees and their families, has been such a great lifelong and life changing experience for me. I began this camp when I was 12 and was instantly connected to others. I was surrounded and immersed in a building with other kids and adults who were just like me. At camp, these awkward topics such as adoption, racism, identity, culture, and practically anything else is openly brought up, talked about, or discussed with the children and adults. I invite you to check it out and if you can, come and experience it for yourself. I know that this has been such a positive experience for me and I hope that others can find the safety, love, and acceptance of this family as well.

    And this leads me to the fact that I have realized that there is such a need for post adoptive services. I am currently in graduate school for Marriage and Family Therapy and have been focusing on the international transracial adoption community. My research has shown that there is a need for an "adoption sensitive lens" when dealing with these issues. However, there is much more to this in my opinion. I believe that this issue is multifaceted. There is the issue of being adopted AND being a transracial Korean. Many times one of these issues are addressed but I believe that the inter-workings of the complexities of these two aspects is what is essential.

  7. Hi Rachael. I browsed Camp Moo Gung Hwa's website and it sounds great. I don't know if I'll ever get a chance to travel to NC, but it actually seems very similar to a Korean culture camp a little closer to me in upstate NY called Camp Mujigae. I wish these types of programs could run year-round!

    That's awesome that you're studying to be a therapist. I'm always encouraged when I learn about other adoptees going into helping professions. Your research sounds so interesting! You bring up a good point about making a distinction between adoption issues and transracial issues. If you're ever inclined to share more of your findings, I'd love to hear them!