Picking

Sigh, summer is over.  School has officially begun in my town and while the heat is hardly abating, there is no denying the end of summer.  The only saving grace is that the mosquitoes will follow suit.  My boys got lots of bites this year.  It was the first year they were very aware of the bites and picked at them and scratched to their woeful content.  Not trying to be gross, but I think it is one of the rites of passage as a kid enjoying a great summer, picking at mosquito bites hardly waiting for them to scab over.  My legs are still scarred from a few that were so hard to resist.

Where am I going with this?  I have a picking issue that has not earned its grown up wings and flown away.  I can’t resist picking at the media and their constant promotion of celebrities and their becoming adoptive parents.  I accept our obsession with celebrities and their babies.  The entire world has been ‘baby-bump’ watching Prince William and Kate Middleton the second they gave their second kiss on the balcony on their wedding day.  Celebs and their babies are big business.  I get it, I get the fascination.  I will admit to snatching a peek at People magazines piled up in my waiting room.  I know their existence is one reason a few of my clients come early to sit and take it all in.

I just wish when a celebrity adopted a child, it was done a bit differently…a bit less heroic.  Let’s face it, they are creating family just like everyone else.  It is a selfish narcissistic desire, itch if you will, to become a parent.  But I keep getting that nitpicky sensation whenever I see another White celebrity holding a child of color in their arms.  I especially have a hard time with it when I know they are not adopting their child in the same way other adoptive parents are adopting their babies.  They aren’t doing group sessions with other prospective adoptive parents.  They aren’t trudging all over town laboring over the paperwork.  They are the ones getting the expedited, private, totally non-transparent process.  That bothers me.  What bothers me more is when a couple flagrantly bypasses regulations I know to be deal breakers for the typical adopting parent.  Say, for example, the three year marriage rule for Korea.  I have worked in the Korean adoption program, I have colleagues and friends who have worked in this program too and this rule of being married three years is hard and fast.  I know I am picking at something pointless.  And I know People magazine is hardly THE source for accurate information.  But if a wedding is flashed all over their pages and the next year, they are adopting a child from Korea.  I start picking and nitpicking.

When that same couple now is being honored for an Angel in Adoption from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I am being super picky!  I remember when the CCAI was CCA and the whole Angels in Adoption was created.  The lists of honoraries have been eye-roll worthy and I never coveted an Angel myself.  I am hardly the type to be invited to something next to people like Bruce Willis and Muhammed Ali.  But that’s ok, I am not sure why they are honored either.  There is no real write up on the website about why these people are getting honored but only for their raising “awareness of children without homes” or making “contributions in the field of adoption and foster care.”  How are they doing this when they are being so mute about their charitable giving?  Again, I am picking.  Now, I know that famous people are wonderfully effective for shining a light on issues of dire importance.  But when the only thing we hear about is that they adopted a child, I hardly find that worthy of such accolades.  Donating to the agency that gave them their baby doesn’t count.  Not even if that money gives a single mother in Korea a chance to parent her children or a mixed raced child a fighting chance to go to school.

I also think that showering such honor to people who adopt a child is an insult to the those others who are working in the field of adoption, family preservation, research and advocacy.  There is nothing on the Angels in Adoption website homepage on those organizations.  Not as glamourous, but I believe it far more noteworthy.

So, here’s to the MN Center for Advanced Studies on Child Welfare and others like them getting Angels this year but not mentioned aloud.  It is an honor for the likes of Katherine Heigl, Ne-Yo and People to be in YOUR presence.  Drink lots, look pretty, mingle with the fancy people and bask in the light that will shine on all your hard work for one evening!

Advertisements

Legitimacy

I love blue eyes.  I love hazel eyes.  I even love brown eyes.  But mine are so dark, you can’t even see the pupil.  I became aware of this during 8th grade science class when we had to watch how light effects our pupils, my partner couldn’t see anything.  No change was visible.  Yet another reason I didn’t love my eyes.  We always want what we don’t have.

If you asked me who I wanted to marry when I was a senior in high school, he was tall, blonde and blue eyed.  I wanted that sort of American look and a slim percentage of a chance my child will have light eyes and wavy hair.  Never in a million years could you have convinced me that I would ever fall in love, let alone marry, a Korean man.  Ok, for those who know him, his hair is uncannily curly! But alas, my boys have straight dark hair and the darkest of eyes.  I adore that about them now…but back then, they were but a glimmer in the darkest recesses of my mind’s eye.

Fast forward to my life as a post-adoption social worker organizing workshops for adoptive parents.  I was growing weary of the panels of adoptees coming to share their stories.  I loved the stories and so did the audience.  It seems a room full of adopted parents are ravenous for our stories and even more ravenous for our accolades afterwards that they are doing just the right thing because they can check off their list all the things our parents didn’t do for us way back when.  In wanting some focus, I thought of themes adoptees could come, speak and share about.  Dating and relationships was just such a topic and I knew it was by far the most personal of personal.  I wanted to do this for many reason, notwithstanding the many times I have had to field such ridiculous comments like – We are Jewish, it is important she find a nice Jewish boy, but she keeps bringing home those other Latino boys from across the tracks.  Yes.  you read correctly.  Finding adoptees willing to share such a personal experiences as how and whom they found to love was a huge ask.  But find I did and I think I was more changed than anyone.

I know I am showing my age with what I write here.  I hope I am.  There was a panelist, an Asian adoptee, who shared her experiences of dating Asian men.  She was married to a Caucasian man.  I rightfully guessed that the bone of contention in those past relationships was her being adopted.  It usually was and it usually was the demise of the relationship as no good Asian boy would date, let alone think about marrying, an adoptee.  One guy’s mother accused her of trying to gain legitimacy as an Asian person through her son.  That statement struck me dumb for a minute.

By the time this panel came into my life, I had already gone through the heartache of dating a few Korean boys whose mothers refused to let me in their homes because of my being adopted.  And, I was already married to that wavy haired, dark eyed Korean man.  Our very long courtship was over and the main sticking point of my adoption status was water under the bridge.  After all, I was self sufficient, went to a good college, had a couple of degrees after my name and was taller than my father-in-law. I kid.  I seemed to have found one of the few guys who really had no worry that his parents would come around to accepting me.

Honestly, it was never lost on me that my relationship was a mixed raced relationship of sorts.  Everything I learned about being Korean was either from a book or my year in Korea.  Even now, I work diligently to maintain my Korean and bring things into my home that is Korean.  The consequences of my shortsightedness as far as being a Korean daughter-in-law took quite a few more years of misunderstandings, confusion, tears and wrinkled foreheads of wonder.  Tales of Korean Mothers-In-Law are infamous.  Just look at the blog – Kimchi Mamas – there is a whole section just on Mothers-In-Law!  While I was frustrated that I wasn’t cut a little more slack for not having been raised in a Korean home, it never dawned on me that my Korean identity was legitimized by having a Korean husband.  I was not more Korean because of whom I married.  If that was the case, I missed that “How-To” book.

I always knew I was Korean.  The whole world knew it too.  It is that very part of me that caused such derision growing up. Instead, being married to a Korean man has forced me to be far more vigilant in how I identify myself so I don’t lose the hyphenated aspect of my identity.  The American and Adopted part of me are equally essential to determine what box to put me in.

What my truth really was back then was this…  As an adolescent girl wanting so desperately to fit in, I believed an All American blonde haired, blue eyed boy would legitimize ME as an American.  He would make my Korean face disappear.  No one would look at me strangely and wonder if I spoke English, if I was American enough.  He would be my proof that I belonged here.  How youthfully superficial is that?  I see that now.  I can also now see my very Korean looking sister and her tall, fair complected, light haired husband and only see love.  I love hearing my nephew declare that he looks more Korean than his sister.  And I can now see that I found love in the form of a person who looks just like me, legitimately.

Moving forward

The Olympics was full ON in my house.  To which, the TV has been awfully quiet this week.  My big guy has already mourned the loss even though it meant his TV watching repetoire has resumed.  It’s been a little over a week since the Summer Olympics in London has ended.  Michael Phelps has won back my USA spirit but Oscar Pestorius of South Africa took my heart.  There was great debate when the US Women’s Volleyball team played South Korea.  Who do we root for?  Even more, why was I cheering for an athlete who was not from either of those countries?  Greatness, sportsmanship, grace, victory was sweet no matter who was playing.  This is the first year my boys are old enough to tolerate the epic nature of the Olympics.  It was great fun.

Now that it is all over, I can only imagine what the athletes must be feeling.  Is there a letdown after the euphoria of being a part of THE international arena?  Phelps said of the last Olympics, he went through a slump afterwards, a bit of a depression.  I can relate.

A great athlete?  I am not.  But I can appreciate the work up to a great conference, an audience with a national representative, speaking in front of the President of South Korea.  When you have but minutes to persuade and look informed enough to be called upon again, it is a marathon preparing for these mental feats of public speaking.  So my silence these last few weeks have been just that, a bit of a letdown, a decompressing.

Day to day, I live a rather ordinary existence.  Sweatpants, tee shirt, barefeet existence of a mother breading chicken for lunch, yelling to get off the IPAD and the perpetual plea to stop tormenting the dog.  So, when the time comes for me to clean up and choose the right non-suit thing to wear it is nerve wracking.  To mobilize the family into “Mommy has to go on a business trip”-mode is a marathon all unto itself.  I don’t know how other Mothers do this on a  regular basis.  I will need to color even more white hairs on my head.  A hot mess is what comes to mind during the preparation process.

Then come the moments, the times when I forget that I am anything but a social worker.  Singularly focused on not messing up, my heart starts pumping so hard and my hands start to shake.  To get a chance to speak about adoption in the context of the work I do is the 100M dash!  The first of two events, meeting with the Special Advisor to Children’s Issues, Susan Jacobs.  Make no mistake, this is a smart woman who is brilliant at the craft of disarming any adversary, diplomatic enough to hear your perspective and straight forward to let you know she is a human being above all else.  No notes, she spoke and responded to the issues.  I like her.  I especially like her proclivity for a well made handbag.  I like her because she is real, she does not pretend to be more important and does not let you feel like you were just patted on the hand and pushed along.  Still, she did not say all that the participants in the room had wished.  She made no excuse that her task at hand right now is Universal Accreditation and getting other nation states to work on full ascension to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.

What I appreciated most about the meeting was that every one of us invited to come and speak on adoption issues was an adopted person.  But it was not that identity that walked into the room first.  It was our credentials as professionals that were acknowledged.  We were not there to talk about our stories, our challenges or our families.  It might have been disappointing for the others in the room waiting to hear a great tale, but it was wonderful for me to be seen for what I do, not who I am.  What I got out of that meeting was that this was the beginning.  An odd concept really that this is the first time such a meeting happened at all.  It is perhaps my biggest bone of contention that this continues to occur – the adopted person is the last to be heard from.  What were we waiting for? We are citizens of this country just like everyone else.  Adoptive parents and agency representatives come demanding facetime with the Ambassador.  It is not lost on me that it took an adopted person on staff to make this a reality.  This shouldn’t be.  We were invited to call, to email, to stay in touch.  Time waits for no man.  I intend to stay in touch.

Second event, the meeting with CCAI – The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.  Declassified Adoptee said it all when it comes to this meeting.  Again, the same reality from my point of view.  This would never have happened had it not been an adoptee agitating, blasting and being downright pestering to get us an audience.  I am left with the same thought, what’s wrong with us?  Why do we wait?  What are we waiting for?  We are not children anymore, why do we wait to be called upon?

I learned a new word in this process.  Stakeholder.  Thus far, the stakeholders are the ones who get invited to the meetings, are privy to the updates of changes in policy and bend the ear of legislators.  In order to be at the table, you must be a stakeholder in the form of an organization, group or collective.  The only adopted people who customarily attend are those representing organizations that support international adoption and want to see it continue.  I have no issue on this representation, just because we are adopted does not mean we are the same, believe the same nor have the same agenda.  But it was curious that it takes an adoptee to be a bee in a bonnet, unwelcome at first, to give voice to others who have a different stake in the adoption process.  The rest of the stakeholders are adoptive parents either in the form of directors of trade organizations or actual legislators.  I don’t think there are any Congressional representatives who are a part of CCAI who are also adopted.  This truly baffles me.  And during this lull, I have been ruminating over just why that continues to be so.

Perhaps it is part of that narrative burden we adoptees carry around with us?  The part where we are identified by the moment we, as children, come into our families.  Adoptive parents get their wish, they become parents and are forever the parents regardless of whether we adoptees stay connected to them.  Our birthparents remain too, as parents to us, regardless of whether we reunite or not.  So, while they are stakeholders in this adoption world, it seems to me, we should be the major stakeholders.  We have the most at stake.  If an adoption goes well, we are the success story.  If not, we are the victims or the damaged ones.

That is as far as my brain got before shutting down.  I got into a slump.  Being home makes it so easy to forget what just happened.  Within hours, I am back in my sweatpants and getting down to the business of running a household, walking the puppy for the tenth time and trying to read Harry Potter to keep up with P.  My euphoria of “change maker!” has to be put on hold for a bit.  Perhaps that is the real reason we adoptees have not mobilized in the same way.  It is hard to live life and change life at the same time.  Resetting my compass means that at times advocacy, adoption, work is not number one on the list.  Harry Potter is far too exciting to put down just yet!

This time it feels different though.  My trip to Washington was amazing and fruitful.  Things are moving forward with new players in the mix.  I am glad I got invited to the party.

Collaborate? Resist?

The average 5 year old has the attention span of about 5-8 minutes.  A 7 year old, a little longer.  Go past that timeframe, you have lost them and start sounding like that voice from the Peanuts cartoon – wa wa wa… The average adult attention span?  About 15-20 minutes.  I will have 10 minutes.

I have the chance to be heard by the “important” people who influence the policies in international adoption and shape the way the industry is conducted, monitored and ultimately held accountable.  I don’t think these meetings are unprecedented, but from my vantage point, it will be quite a visual.  A room full of adopted people who have spent the better part of their adult life talking about, researching, criticising, working in and for the field of adoption or child welfare.  My first thought is rather crude – will we all look alike to them?  Not in the racist way, but in the way that one looks out in a crowd and sees en masse not being able to distinguish individual faces.  Will we all sound the same?  There is a certain pitch people get when they are anxious, passionate and enthused.  Is it important that we be united or diverse in our alotted 10 minutes?  I am inclined to believe it is our diversity that is our strength.

What is the message?  What will they walk away thinking, feeling? They, the ones who influence the change-makers and choose how information will be delivered to them.  Will we be categorized as angry, crazy, too idealistic, too pessimistic, clueless, too entitled?

One of the most common questions I get from others who are adopted is, am I crazy?  I know I have felt that way often.  When all around you is one way and you think another, it is crazy making.  Some adoptees even call themselves aliens in a foreign land.  Well, at the end of this week, the “aliens” will be landing in Washington, DC.  For two days, we will have a chance to be seen and heard.  For two meetings, we are the majority in the room and already knowing some bits of each person, crazy doesn’t come to mind.  But passion does.  I am thrilled.

I have come to play and not resist.  I have pulled up my big girl pants and rolled up my sleeves to be in action and collaborate!  I am nervous.  It is situations like this that I am accutely aware of what I don’t know and hope to hell I speak well on the stuff I do know.  Conference after conference, I have complained vigorously, obnoxiously, that we are not represented with any amount of respect or worth.  I have grown so weary of the placating comments, being treated as a child, I have avoided gatherings of any kind with “adoption industry people.”  No more conferences save for a couple that are coordinated by adoptees.  These meetings will bring me back to my agency days and my Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute days when I was certain I was changing people’s perspectives on what a non-crazy good adoptee was supposed to look like.  What comforts me is that I am not alone.  I will be among the many and armed with a dozen years worth of stories   A dozen years of listening to adoptees share with me their feelings, their hopes and their challenges.  I feel more empowered by them than all the work I have actually done.

I feel like there is a lot riding on these gatherings.  I hope I get to walk out feeling like we had an adult conversation with true mutual understanding.  I hope we will be viewed as experts not just a great story or interesting face with an even more interesting name.  I hope the gossip will be allayed and we all go back to our corners of the States with a sense that we are A community.  I hope this is only the beginning of many more gatherings of this kind.  And I really really hope my wishlist item gets put into action!

Taking sides

The month of May is a transition month for me.  It is when I stop doing one of my counseling jobs at a music conservatory.  Having a job that follows an academic calendar is particularly sweet when you have kids.  It is bittersweet, though, as it also means terminating with students I have known for years.  Terminations, transitions, launching into a career…all the rites of passage of the young adult person.  How poetic then that May also involved writing a paper with a colleague in the hopes it will be published in a professional journal.  The subject matter was on the work we do with adolescents and young adults who are adopted.  I hope that my friend/colleague/sister in arms will still call me and want to talk to me after all of this is done.  It took some hard emails of the personal nature to get through before the actual paper was finished.  It reminded me that we are never done communicating, negotiating and reconciling allegiances.  I think we managed to come through in-tact.

While writing this paper, the word ambivalence was used time and again.  It is not an easy concept to feel passionate about something and yet ambivalent enough to be able to empathize that there are others who feel differently.  It is however, a really wonderful developmental milestone to achieve and totally one of the hardest.  I think about when I was a teenager opining over the way things should go, opinionated about everything with that snarky tone all mothers love to hear!  Now, twenty more years under my belt, I am no less passionate but much more ambivalent.  I don’t envy teens and young adults these days…it gets harder and harder to navigate our world.  It is still hard as an adult.  To take ownership of the idea that I can love two opposing ideas at the same time? The idea that I can love that I was adopted and hate that adoption has to exist at all?  It all feels like a tongue twister.

The part I struggle with now is the outside volume of voices out there that are not as ambivalent as me.  Work, paper, kids, Spring…all were great reasons for me to take a break from the world of facebook, twitter and blogging.  There were times when I felt I had never left my adolescence when reading comments or having conversations with others who are adopted about adoption.  At times, it felt like I was stuck again.  I was left wondering if I was STILL asleep?  What was I missing?

As I have come to my understanding of being a person of color who was transplanted into a world not of my own choosing, I try to accept this as fact and move forward from there.  But now, I am wondering if this awakening means that I must only see the negative aspects of being adopted?  Does it mean that I must join my fellow adoptees to ban international adoption?  Does supporting anti-adoption rhetoric allow me passage into the world of the enlightened?  Or can I remain ambivalent?  Rather, am I being a chickenshit to not subscribe to these thoughts all the time?  Don’t get me wrong, if you talked to me a couple of weeks ago before Mother’s Day, I had plenty to be angry about.  But it ebbs and flows, it never lasts long.  That’s ok isn’t it?

I keep searching for the “IT” factor that stops me from fully embracing one way of thinking about international adoption.  Is it my temperament that won’t allow me to stay in such an emotional state?  I am not built to be fine with one perspective.  I fear that if I dwell in the “shoulds” I won’t look up and see that tomorrow has arrived.  I am too lazy to try and figure out how to stop my life in current form.  Actually, none of the former is total truth.

Ambivalence is the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.  Yes, this is where I sit again and again. Totally unsexy and not noteworthy but my truth.

I have opted to take no side because to oppose would mean an invitation to be made wrong.  I saw the casualties of that feat too.  Instead, my silence has been my own rebellion against the onslaught I feel at times by those willing to put themselves out there and be labeled angry, disgruntled, disenfranchised, entitled…Instead, I joined the tens of thousands of other adoptees for a spell being quiet, living life and letting adoption take a back seat.  It was a nice rest…the landscape looks a little different now.  Is there room still for me?

Finding Fernanda II

http://findingfernanda.com/2012/05/breaking-associated-press-reports-us-won%e2%80%99t-return-adopted-girl-snatched-from-guatemalan-mother%e2%80%9d/

An update on the Guatemalan case of a birthmother and birthfather who are trying to fight for the return of their daughter who they allege was kidnapped.

What I found interesting in this article was the use of the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.  I am wondering if this also applies to the idea that at the time Guatemala acceded to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption prior to this incident and yet the US had not ratified.

Which brings me to the idea of universal accreditation.  Not sure why there is so much animosity about the idea of universal accreditation, so would love to learn.

Thoughts?

No words

From a recent adoption conference.  As a good friend and fellow adoptee said to me…”orphan is the new evangelical code for fundraising.”

This was posted by another adoptee who came to present at this conference.  She could not have this thing hanging on her shoulder.  Would you?

And people wonder why we adoptees are so enraged and feel so invisible…

Tribes

…everyone, no exception, must have a tribe, an alliance with which to jockey for power and territory, to demonize the enemy, to organize rallies and raise flags….tribes gave visceral comfort and pride from familiar fellowship, and a way to defend the group enthusaistically against rival groups.  It gave people a name in addition to their own and social meaning in a chaotic world….the drive to join is deeply ingrained.  – E.O. Wilson (Newsweek magazine, April 9, 2012)

I can’t wait to read the rest of this biologist’s book.  I think I read the opening three paragraphs at least four times declaring YES! each time.  I am always struck that in my profession of therapy, the presenting problem may be adoption or something else, but it always ends up being about finding and losing and finding again a definition of family and belonging.  In reading this article it affirmed for me my desire to belong to a group and label it so.  Not that I am an extremely concrete person, but I need to know what box I put myself in and who I choose to ask to join me.  And now I know, this is natural, the way we humans all do it.

However, I find myself in a conundrum.  I find, we adoptees, tend to do the complete opposite in our tribe…we faction, we subgroup, we demonize a whole lot.  We label when we repel labels, we point fingers when we hate being outcasted and we judge almost hoarding our resources leary of sharing.  I don’t think this is what a tribe is supposed to do.  Are we, adopted people, a tribe?  Or has our life experience and the tribes we were adopted into muted our common label so much that we cannot see each other?

I admit to having an intense feeling when I read adoptees decimate adoption as genocide.  I admit that I have an equally intense reaction when I hear adoptees gushing with gratitude and feeling saved through adoption.  And then I withdraw and want nothing to do with adoption, adopted people and the “A” gets shoved down the list so I don’t have to deal with it.  I also fear that I get judged pushing me further out of the group.  To those who are searching, I am the freaking lucky one who got found.  To those who are seeking, I seem to have it nicely wrapped up.  To those who are angry, I am in denial, succumbed to the dark side of happy adoptions.  To those who are grateful, I am a hypocrite.  And if I am being truly honest, I think the same of others in my own tribe too.

Despite all the judging, I love this crazy tribe of adopted people.  I love that we are so diverse and cannot get along all the time.  The compartmentalizing is a bit crazy making and perhaps the outward expression of the dischord we have inside having been transplanted at such young ages.  But I will continue to come to the group with the approach that I am meeting extended family.  Surely we can find something we can like about each other even with all the exceptions to our stories.  If anything, being adopted (present or past, depending on how we choose to see it) gives us a name.  I suppose then, that it is up to us to define our social meaning…is that we are collectively working towards?

I keep going back to my kids when I get stuck.  I keep thinking  about what the message is that I want to convey to them? What neural pathways of communication and community do I want to create?  Is casting the net as wide as possible a good thing or overwhelming?  My big guy likes his alone time, and while I get unnerved by it, I respect it and think it rather brave of him to walk away.  My little guy is right in the middle, in the thick of things, and I admire that too.  But I am constantly pleasantly surprised that they choose to come back home, to my husband and me.  Despite their pushing of boundaries, back talk, anger, frustration, they keep coming back to their homebase.  Despite my fears of worry that they will like another family, another relative more than me, they keep looking for me.  I am their tribe.

Ok then, I get it.  For me, the tribe of adoptees has become my homebase for better or worse.  In the past 20 years, I have decided this is my tribe and it is the strength and passion of this tribe that allows me to push away and return with little ceremony.

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? http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20120318000381 

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.

Training

I spent the weekend getting trained on Attachment Focused Coding System by Reiner and Splaun (2008).  I was excited about getting this training for a few reasons.  For one, I had been feeling like an underachiever while so many of my colleagues are pursuing their Ph.D and thought getting certified in something might alleviate some of my envy.  Second, there are times when saying, “I am just a clinican” feels lacking and completely unsophisticated.  Third, I have always gravitated toward the Adult Attachment Inventory to be used as a possible tool in preparation for perspective adoptive parents.  Fourth, I have been a long “fan” of Miriam Steele ever since hearing her do a talk about attachment in children in foster care/adoption, I was intrigued.  She so compassionately showed how the parents who found more “success” in parenting a child with a complicated history were the ones who were, themselves, more securely attached human beings.  I am oversimplifying all she shared, but I walked away thinking, finally someone who is not putting the narrative burden on the child!

When this traning came up, I jumped at the chance to return to the New School for Social Research (http://www.newschool.edu/nssr/center-for-attachment-research/)  I had been there a long time ago with a family and watched with fascination as they deciphered the interactions between a newly adopted child and his parents.  As a non-researcher, I wanted to see if getting training in the administering of “story stems” might bolster my clinical understanding and interpretion of my clients and their interactions with their parents.  I have more work to do before being fully “certified.”  I have more coding to do and more thinking about the practical application of what I learned before feeling brave enough to administer anything.  It did give me more words to describe a child though and create a narrative around how he might view his parents, adoption and himself.

If there was one thing I got out of this weekend, it was something the presenter said on the first morning of her presentation..”Attachment patterns are not about the child alone.  It is about the specific parent-child relationship.” And there you go.  Can we now focus on something else besides a child’s attachement?  Can I stop feeling like I have to fix the child or work on a child so he attaches to his parents?  Can “the relationship” now be a solid third client in the room? The “attachment of the child” is quickly wearing on me and I was relieved to hear this while being in a room of post-docs and fellows, several of whom are studying Reactive Attachment Disorder in children.

I recommend any clinician to spend time with researchers in their field of choice.  They speak a different language and it is a language I was happy to familiarize myself with.  It helped me better understand the importance of words and looking at transactions between a parent and child in separate, discrete terms.  This parsing out of attaching or rejecting behaviors in a parent are actually the very negotiations a child does in reading his parents.  Learning to distinguish these nuances actually informed me of the “inner working model of a child” (another great concept!) and how he sees his world as secure, safe, dangerous, helpful or not.  It also showed the amazing resilience in children no matter how complicated their environment or situation.

My hats off to my colleagues jumping into this line of work and taking on the brutal task of analyzing and decoding our relationships.  I hope I can be in your company a little longer.  At least to provide you with a great set of data for analysis!