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.