As you can see from the looks of this blog, I am not very up on the technology. No worries, I am enlisting help soon.
I am intrigued by the whole Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn world. I got more interested after the Arab Spring uprisings. It has taken me a bit to get wired. Ever since the pager and first cordless phone I was always a bit slow on the pick up. But I have noticed that the adoptee community in general has grown exponentially since MySpace and Facebook. So it’s no surprise that there are those out there who want to put policies and structure around this nebulous world wide web. Why? Adoptees are finding each other and what more, adoptees are finding birth parents and what’s even bigger than that? Birthparents aren’t waiting, aren’t lurking, they are searching and finding too.
When I first started working in adoption, I was fearful of clinical work, personally so fearful that I took a policy position and sat behind a desk. Not that that was easy or less fearsome, but in my naive head, I felt I was safe. I am so lucky I had an amazing director who pushed me out there on my first presentation to discuss the ethics in intercountry adoption at the North American Council on Adoptable Children, an international conference. Bold, right? Being at the conference I was ushered and came under the protective arm of a fellow Korean adoptee who introduced me to the important people – the adoptees who work in adoption. I didn’t realize it then, but I know now, we were a very very small community. I was a sponge, quiet and absorbing. That evening opened my eyes to a whole new world. The idea that these women, mostly, were asking the hard questions about search and reunion, when relinquishment really begins and when do adoptees ever feel that they are done feeling adopted made me so excited. Most of them were domestic adoptees and so the topic of openness in adoption was in the fore as well as access to birth records and original birth certificates. I was struck by their tenacity to find out all they could about how, when and from whom they were born. As an international adoptee, I realized I had privilege in that I knew I could seek without feeling encumbered by law. While it guaranteed me nothing, I had a right to seek. Culturally too, I had a right. I found the questions around searching to be one of understanding and less fraught with conflicting loyalties than my domestic adopted friends. In particular, the search for culture has almost become a rite of passage by now. Every summer, the mass exodus of hundreds of Korean adoptees to Korea is the norm. There are tour groups, university language courses, homestays open for us to come back. There are search groups and TV programs geared specifically for us to help us find our birth relatives. While each of us have to resolve the issues of loyalty, gratitude, family, entitlement alone, there is a way to get information in Korea and in many other countries.
Because of the laws in each of the states being different for US adoptees, there is no one course of action to search and find. Here, the navigating still feels clandestine, unacceptable, impossible and really really expensive. So to find more US families being connected through Facebook and other social media just makes sense. Rather than waiting for laws to change, I admire those who are trying this new form to get their answers.
The need for practices and policies around the use of Facebook and other social media seems to be redundant to me. Those best practice ideas so many of us have been trumpeting to anyone who will hear us remain the same. Talk, communicate, create openness and tell the truth. If there was more of that, Facebook would be not be an issue but a mere extension. In every education model out there to prepare adoptive parents the primary goal is to help them be more open, more accepting of the reality that we adoptees have a more expansive definition of family. When I worked at an adoption agency, the one workshop we did every year was “How to talk to your child about their adoption.” Another one high on the list over and over again, “Privacy vs. Secrecy.” It never failed to surprise me how often we needed to cajole, coax, coddle toward more. And to see those willing to go there, it was a game changer in the relationship between parent and child.
I think Lisa Belkin called it right, “The sands are shifting as we speak. … I don’t think the answer is more protection, I think the answer is more openness.”