Patience for Policy

There is something incredibly frustrating to sit in a room talking to politicians, law makers and policy people.  They think in a totally different way.  They speak English in a way that feels like smoke and mirrors.  I love the nuances of the English langauge, but feel far too plainspoken when around these people.  I walk away wanting to be assured that I had some effect on the way they think about adoption, the process, the challenges or the changes that are needed.  There are no assurances.  To do this work on such a marcolevel, it seems you need to be wired with an endless source of hope and optimism and belief in the future not in days, but in years.  In the adoptee world, there seems to be the rare person who wants to go through the eternally laborious process of policy reform.  There seems to be no immediate gratification in playing policy.  When there is someone willing to take the helm, they are received with the ugly unforgivable task of trying to be the representative voice of international adoptees.  It invites criticism of the worst kind, by our very own.

Wondering why this is, the only thing I came up with is that it might be a reflection of the way we were raised.  So many of us grew up feeling like we were “the only one” in our family, in our extended family, in our community, in our school, in our houses of worship.  We were/are identified as special, unique, individual.  For as long as I have been speaking on issues of adoptees, I know I always say, “no two adoptees have the same story….we need to honor the individual stories of adult adoptees.”  Perhaps this sense of exclusivity is one reason it is so hard to coalesce, conform, agree on a single message.  Perpetuating this “one person, one story” concept may be our demise?

I was president of an adult adoptee organization in NY and we tried to create a chapter of the organization in another state.  It challenged every diplomatic muscle in my brain and still it failed.  What I learned was that being adopted may not be enough of a unifier.  As unique as our DNA and the families we were raised in, so too may be our ways of looking at adoption, the process and the things that need to change.  In trying to collect our voices, there are times it feels to conform to a single message feels egregious, intolerable and very unspecial.  Is it fair to pressure ourselves into asking us to play fair among a group always treated in terms of the singular?  Layered on top of that, some of us work from a cultural construct of perpetuating the individual into cultures where there is conformity and sacrificing the person for the community like in South Korea.

I was finding myself at a bit of a loss as to how best to function.  I want to respond to everything from deportation to adoption law to demanding a seat at the table with other big policy advocates.  And then, I still want to have the immediate gratification of seeing change in a person, a teenager, a family.  It took an old friend to remind me that I can only control me and hope to change one person at a time.  While my little blog world can give me a high of feeling like my words have power in the global sense, I think it best to tackle the issues that impact me the most.  I am right there to sign a petition and field phone calls of friends in higher places.  And I will continue to comment in this venue about how changes personally effect a person like me.  That has to feel enough. Perhaps the best way to think about policy is to collect the stories and write about it from time to time.  In the collecting, perhaps there will emerge a voice with mutliple harmonies to push change in the right direction.

So, here is my stab at continuing the conversation of a policy issue dear to this adoptee’s heart.  Have you read the Korean Herald article this week? 

I wish Korea would stop reacting and really makes some systematic change.  Having a reconsideration period is good only in as much as the prospective birthmother has resources, support and the will to understand and accept that she has support.  I am not seeing any support for such measures in this article by the people who are on the frontlines doing the work.  There was no real mention of what kind of support or how a woman will be able to access such support once she leaves the hospital.  Does anyone out there have an article that might reflects such insight?  Changing the process of adoption while pushing for more domestic adoptions feels like an overreach.  When adoptions are still so confidential, how will Korea be able to vet families willing to be educated?  I am failing to see how all of this is a “Friendly environment for children?”  It seems the officials are using buzz words like “focus on the babies” as a way to convince us that they are doing just that.

4 thoughts on “Patience for Policy

  1. Thanks Joy, you unburdened me of my own concerns, questions and challenges to the policies outlined in that article, by writing every one of them down – so now I dont have to! Thats the lovely thing about fiding folks who you can share perspectives with -they make your list of things to do shorter!

  2. What struck me in this article, and is always in my mind when similar topics related to U.S. domestic adoption are discussed, is that all the support in the world won’t help a woman if her family, friends and society as a whole continue to shame, shun, criticize and ostracize her and her child. I haven’t had the opportunity to hear a lot of Korean mothers’ stories firsthand, but the ones I have heard all include an element of abandonment and rejection by close family and friends.

    I think the small changes now as first steps toward chaging these very deeply help family attitudes. Wish the changes would happen faster, but at least things are moving – albeit slowly – in the right direction.

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