A perfect storm has been brewing this summer of 2012. Perfection in that the most eclectic group of adoptees have said yes to joining forces. Individually, we have contributed to the adoption community spinning in separate universes. Again, our singular experience of being adopted has unified us. Some of us are born in the US, others born overseas, some adopted here and still others adopted elsewhere but have returned to their motherland, the USA.
So the Adoption Policy and Reform Collaborative (APRC) has been created to further support our individual efforts to change the way adoption is viewed, spoken about, thought about and legislated about. To head things off is a stellar letter that I hope you will all read.
I confess in reading the letter, supporting it and promoting it, I need to make some amends. To me, this letter provoked me to think about the ethical obligations I have to my fellow adoptees in encouraging them to speak and share their very personal stories. As a collector of stories, I have cherished them and in their retelling, try hard to honor the power and lessons learned. I readily encourage adoptees to go and talk. I loved doing the “speaking circuit” as my own narrative gained clarity. I saw the power in the messages of pain, grief, balance and insight into what it means to be an adopted person. Yet, in my earnestness to get our collective voices louder, I think there were times I failed to protect the storytellers. They had been asked to be vulnerable, cry and often times wrap it all up in a nice neat package when they weren’t ready or done being angry or pained.
This reminds me of a time when being a part of a non-profit in NYC for international adoptees we came to a crossroad. We had logged in at least a hundred hours driving all over the tri-state area speaking on panels sharing our stories and giving voice to the adopted experience. We answered the most mundane of questions like “how do you identify yourself?” to the most personal, “how do your parents feel about you now?” We answered them truthfully and earnestly grateful for one person in the room to “get it” and hopefully parent their child differently. And we did it all for free. The evolution of a paid speaker’s bureau began to take root. In the organization’s growth, we began to feel empowered to ask for money in exchange for our travel and time. The asking was extremely hard for us and we felt a bit embarrassed to ask for an honorarium just to hear about how our life turned out. In the asking, we held ourselves accountable to be agents of change for way the future generations of adoptees were going to see themselves. What I gleaned from that experience though was the knowledge that my story had value, merit and was worth a few dollars. The honorariums were an acknoweldgement of a life with achievements and a symbol of gratitude.
I still trip over myself in asking to be paid but more often than not, I am offered. Astounding. And when I am denied, I can walk away without feeling guilty or shameless. It has been over a decade since my last “speaker’s bureau” and I feel I have garnered the bona fides to be considered a professional in this field who haappens to have an interesting adoption story. But I am reminded in reading this letter by the APRC that I have more work to do in empowering the voices of adoption. In that role, it may mean that I help someone say no to sharing their story. So thank you SBA, SWH and JRK for reminding us to remain vigilant in our work.
One last apology to my fellow APRC members. This should have been sent out weeks ago. In truth, you can’t say you are an advocate and let little things like what a parent is ordering their kid for school lunch get in the way! Have to check my priorities once again.