Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Reflections on Ferguson, and on Raising Black Children

St. Louis on Nov. 23, 2014 Alexey Furman—Demotix/Corbis. Posted from TIME.com
Even before yesterdays decision on Michael Brown, I've talked at great length with a lot of Ethiopian adoptees about what it means to be Ethiopian and black in America. Adoptive parents often talk about making sure their children are aware of Ethiopian culture, but there is a much bigger issue here.
It's one thing for Ethiopians in Ethiopia to raise their children as Ethiopians. It's completely different for white parents raising adopted Ethiopian children in the United States.

By adopting an Ethiopian child, what obligations do you have to your children? How embracing will you be of black culture? Will you take the path of least resistance and teach your children to only take pride in their Ethiopian heritage, or will you acknowledge the realities of being black?

White America will not give your Ethiopian child a pass. Your child will be subject to racial bigotry and unjust laws. Your child will be pulled over by the police. Your child will be admired for speaking good English, as if that's a novelty. Your child will look like the majority population in U.S. prisons. Your child will rarely see herself in fashion magazines as being beautiful.

It's not enough to eat doro wat at an Ethiopian restaurant or listen to Teddy Afro. Ethiopian children deserve to be raised with black role models surrounding them, loving them, and teaching them. We Ethiopian adoptees are Black in America. I am proud to be black, and to be Ethiopian. I want young Ethiopian adoptees to fully understand their truth.

Please stay tuned to your Fox channel in Washington D.C. tomorrow as Aselefech will be interviewed on her perspective of living life as an adoptee for #flipthescript

Aselefech is an adult adoptee who arrived from Ethiopia to the U.S. in 1994 at 6 years of age, along with her twin sister. She is finishing up her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland, College Park as a Family Sciences major. In her personal life, she has presented at workshops and Heritage Camps, interned for adoption based agencies, and spoken on panels on issues of race and what it means to grow up in a transracial family. In the past and currently she works with NGOs, such as Ethiopia Reads, to give back to her country of origin. Her dream is creating a world where no child needs to be adopted, where all children are safe, loved, and educated.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Insight for Allies

Definition from Merriam-Webster.com

It's been a big month for Adoption. #NAAM and #flipthescript have raised the level of dialogue, with the many voices of adoptees building to a chorus. Our song is beautiful, and it is drawing an audience: this site has more than tripled its readership in the past month alone. It's hard to say exactly who all our new readers are, but very likely a large portion of you are here because you love an adopted person.  Here at Lost Daughters, you have an opportunity do more than just love us, but also to truly see ushear us, and know us

Adoptees are your sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, teachers, students, mothers, and fathers. You are here because you already are or want to become an adoptee ally. We all stand to gain from this alliance.

What does it mean to be an ally? Merriam-Webster defines an ally as one who joins another person or group in order to get or give support. The LGBT community prominently leverages the straight ally community to combat homophobia and support equal rights. In the same way, an adoptee ally can be anyone who supports the voice of adoptees, promotes equal rights for adopted people, or challenges discrimination of all types. 

And just what is it that adopted people need allies for?  What do we want that we don't already have? Here is a short list, and by no means is it exhaustive:

Validation. We want to speak and be heard. We want to know we are not alone in this rich, complex, but often isolating experience. We want to be recognized as the true experts on the adopted life. We want the freedom to speak our truths without decrement to our relationships. However we each, individually, have been impacted by adoption and choose to express it, we have a right to the validity of our perspectives.  Hear us, respect us, and give us freedom to live authentically.

Equal Rights. This means access to the basic documentation that most people take for granted, such as original birth certificates and medical history. Those of us who were raised our whole lives as Americans should not fear deportation if our parents failed to complete the required citizenship paperwork. We are sick of being treated as second-rate citizens and perpetual children when it comes to accessing the information that comes freely to most non-adopted people.

Honesty. Many of our adoptee identities have been built on lies. We became paper orphans to feed a hungry adoption industry with no regard for family preservation. We were told we were born in our parents' hearts, that biology doesn't matter, that God meant for us to be taken from one mother and given to another, that we're better off in this new life. Adoptive parents who remain in wiling ignorance come back to the well, waiting for another healthy infant when truly deserving children already live in surrogate homes. When we search for the truth, we are answered with lies and equivocation. We call for adoption to be ethical and reserved for children who truly need homes.  

Better post-adoption support. When adoption is necessary, we want our hard lessons to be applied to the next generation. Many adopted people are well adjusted and happy -- they don't write, speak, counsel, and tweet about adoption. But many do, and the reason is because we don't want our hard-fought battles to have been meaningless. We want adoption services to extend beyond the a couple post-placement social worker visits. 

"Insight for Allies" is a new column designed to help non-adoptees navigate the adoption world from the perspective of adoptees. We are your sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, teachers, students, mothers, and fathers. We are diverse in our experiences, attitudes, opinions, and emotions -- but in many ways we're all in the same boat. Our hope is that we can navigate these turbulent waters together.  

I contribute to the Lost Daughters blog and several adoption-related anthologies, all in development. I wrote for the now-retired blogs Faiths and Illusions and Grown in My Heart.  I have an American family that raised me and a Korean family that lost and found me. Both families met in 2013.  I live with my husband, Brett, and four children (3 biological, 1 adopted) in Southern California. Find me at www.soojungjo.com or on Facebook as Soojung Jo.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

ROUND TABLE: What Does Your Mother Think? (Part 2) #FlipTheScript

When I hear, "What do your parents think?" ...of my search, my reunion, my writing about my views on adoption...my shoulders tighten up a bit. It implies that I should have my parents' permission, that I shouldn't speak on my own.

It's hard to imagine other adults in the same situation - discussing an issue, speaking out about their experience, and then comes the first question from the audience...

"What does your mother think?"

Seems kinda ridiculous, doesn't it? But it's something adult adoptees face all the time.

The thing is, one of the reasons I am able to speak my views is that I was raised by parents who acknowledged my adoption, and realized that it effected me. I know that isn't true of many adoptees. I have so much respect and admiration for those who are able to speak about their experience even though they don't have the support of their parents.

It all made me wonder about the writers here at Lost Daughters, all these amazing adult women adoptees writing about their experience - I wanted to know what their parents think.

So, today we continue the discussion of what our parents DO think about our adoptee voice.

Cathy @CathyHeslin: How do your adoptive parents feel about your views on adoption? 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

ROUND TABLE: What Does Your Mother Think? (Part 1) #FlipTheScript

One of our recent Round Tables began: "...Some of the most common objections to any adoptee sharing any experience include "what would your parents think?"

So, we thought we would share what our parents DO think. We are a varied group, but we are all women who blog about adoption, and that means our thoughts and opinions are out there for the world to see - including our parents. Just how do our parents feel about us being vocal about our adoption experience?

Today, we continue to #FlipTheScript when we, the adoptees, ask the question of ourselves...

Cathy @CathyHeslin: How do your adoptive parents feel about your views on adoption?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Adoptees Who WON'T Be Working to #FlipTheScript This Year

Yesterday I wrote about the powerful chorus of adoptee voices participating in #FlipTheScript. Today I'd like to acknowledge that not every adoptee is joining that chorus. The following is an adaptation of a post previously published on my personal blog. I offer it with the caveat that all categorizations are simplifications. No adoptee fits into a single box. And yet, I myself can acknowledge that the following descriptions fit me at different times in my life. I suspect that other adoptees may recognize a little piece of themselves (past or present) in these descriptions as well. Others may not, and that's fine too. There is no single story of adoptee experience.

Here are some adoptees who probably won't be raising their voices for #FlipTheScript this year:

1) The early-phase adoptee who does not yet acknowledge adoption issues

Adoption processing is a lifelong journey, and many adoptees go through multiple phases during their lives. The adoptee who insists that he or she is "just fine" at age 20 may tell a completely different story at age 40 or 60 or 93.

According to Adoption-Reconstruction Phase Theory, in the first phase of adoption processing "there is no overt acknowledgment of adoption issues." But that can change with time.

As Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston acknowledges in the article linked above, "Theories and models don't describe everyone, but they're important to learn as a basis of understanding people and the challenges that they face." Amanda also writes, "The five phases resonated with me personally and were meaningful to every adult adoptee that I shared them with." They certainly resonate with me. Do they resonate with every single adoptee? Not likely. But it is important to remember that many of us who are active in the current #flipthescript campaign were once textbook phase-one adoptees.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What #FlipTheScript Means to Me: Why This November Is Like No Other

#FlipTheScript is an idea that became a conversation and then a movement. It is one of the most empowering things I've experienced since becoming vocal in the adoption community. For the past few years, I've watched adoptees struggle through November, attempting to raise our voices against the deafening din of celebration that National Adoption Month has become (its original purpose of promoting adoption from foster care overshadowed by the widespread glorification of all forms of adoption). Meanwhile, we consoled each other in private adoptee-only spaces. As the party raged on, we came together to support each other through the month-long oversimplification of our complex lives. We struggled together with assumptions that were made about us (with no one seeming to really want to hear our side of things) and with the lack of acknowledgment of our pain and loss. November was a month-long festival of triggers, and we did what we could to get through it.

This year feels different. There has been a filma New York Times article, and a string of #flipthescript tweets that make my heart sing. I've often said that adoptees don't speak with one voice but together we form a chorus. We are now past the halfway mark of this year's National Adoption Month, and the chorus is going strong, our voices rising up with increasing volume and confidence. I'm hearing the familiar voices of long-time adoptee activists and discovering new-to-me voices who have just joined in or who have been making noise, unbeknownst to me, in other arenas. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

ROUND TABLE: What are the Rules of an Adoptee-Centric Space? (part two)

In a world where some of the most common objections to any adoptee sharing any experience include "what would your parents think?" "did you have an unhappy childhood?" "don't you know she couldn't raise you?" the adoption discourse is framed with adoptees at the bottom of an upside-down triangle. At the bottom, the adoptee supports the weight of the complex experiences of two families, holding the families above them with both arms. Rather than a shared distribution of weight, adoptees are seen as entirely responsible for supporting the rest of their "triad." 

I will never forget hearing this concept for the first time at a support group. Yes, I thought. Is this why I feel like I carry so much weight when I talk about adoption?

The triangle is problematic too for its visual representation that all sides are equal in power; which, as explained at Harlow's Monkey in Shifting and Changing Structures, isn't true. JaeRan Kim went on to say that a triangle also evokes imagery of a closed family system, which adoption isn't either.

Today's adopted youth adapt their family trees into neighborhoods with houses, groves of trees, interconnected circles, or trees with many rings. In a post here, Laura Dennis wrote her family tree is an orchard. I see adoptee-centric spaces pushing back that idea of a triangle. Instead, imagine if our trees surrounded us like a grove. Defending us while providing us a platform to be seen, allowing us space to move freely in-between trunks.