Skip to content

Calling all “angsty adoptees”

Says the search term used to link to this blog.That’s a new one for me.

I guess it’s a change from being called an “angry adoptee.”

I wonder when I’ll be considered a “gangster adoptee.”I’ll get my fedora and zoot suit ready.

It’s all in the same continuum of challenging the status quo.

Define “better off”

From this week’s PostSecret.

Her sister’s kids might be better of in their foster home, but what a poor standard to use as a measure. I hope these kids find a better situation than that.

Re/view: Choosing ethnicity, negotiating race

When you are part of a small and specific population, you tend to be hyper-aware of representations of “your group.” So when I heard about Mia Tuan and Jiannbin Lee Shiao’s book, Choosing Ethnicity, Negotiating Race: Korean Adoptees in America, I immediately put out a query to my Korean American friends to see if anyone had heard of the authors or this book.

Since 2006, I have been keeping track of the “call for participants” for research on Korean adoptees that I’ve come across through different venues (most often list-serves and organization newsletters). Since I’ve started counting, there have been 23 calls specifically involving Korean adoptees and another five for transracial adoptees (ETA: that have put out widespread calls for participants- there have been several others I have been aware of that did not advertise or use the internet to find their sample).

Of those, 11 studies specifically involved looking at racial identity; 9 studies sought to understand the Korean adoptee “experience” and 4 were what I call “well-being” or “adjustment” studies. While I get that racial identity is a huge part of understanding the transracial/international/Korean-adoptee experience, I’m waiting for research that stops pathologizing us and am hopeful that more research like Eleana Kim’s work will come out that centers the adoptee as the agent of change and action, not merely a passive subject of study.

There are many aspects of the Korean adoptee experience that are not being studied or researched. I swing between feeling that “my community” is saturated with research while at the same time acknowledging that there is so much more to be learned and understood. Continue Reading →

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor was a “celebrity adopter” but unlike today’s celebrities, never made a big deal about it. In fact, it was hard for me to find a photo of her with her daughter! She died today at age 79. Condolences to her family.

 

Elizabeth Taylor with daughter Maria Burton

 

 

Treating difference

– otherwise known as the post in which I ruminate on the “other” and whether inclusion or exclusion is the answer.**

We (those of us who fit in to a dominant group) like to tell people who don’t (the other) how they should live. And then we often expect gratitude from them for our generosity in thinking about their “best interests.”

One of the books I’m currently reading is “Developmental Disabilities and Child Welfare.” by Ronald Hughes and Judith Rycus. This book, published in 1998, is a good primer for anyone looking to become more informed about how child welfare professionals need to understand and respond to children in the child welfare system with disabilities. While reading this book earlier today, I was struck by the author’s discussion about the importance of the inclusion of children with disabilities into mainstream settings (here I believe they mostly are referring to educational settings, but could definitely be expanded to all settings in which typically developing children interact).

The authors stress that segregation is a disservice to both individuals with disabilities as well as to society in large, because for the individual it 1) denies the person the opportunity to be part of the same world as anyone else, 2) it sends a message that they inherently can’t participate in the same activities as the rest of society, and 3) singles them out for special treatment rather than treating them as their typically-abled peers.

The disadvantage to society at large is that segregation perpetuates the stereotypes and myths about persons with disabilities, and that society will not recognize the many contributions that are made to society by persons with disabilities . The authors write, “An extension of this myth is that people with disabilities prefer life and activities with ‘their own kind.’ It is true that years of segregation can contribute to feelings of anxiety and fear when a person with a disability is confronted with an integrated environment…This myth is often a rationalization to cover and reinforce our own discomfort in the presence of persons with disabilities” (p.23).Continue Reading →

What I’m Reading

Here are the books I’m currently reading (not including all the articles I’m reading for my current literature review!)

Surviving your dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process, by Kjell Erik Rudestam & Rae R. Newton

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing ethnicity, negotiating race: Korean adoptees in America, by Mia Tuan and Jiannbin Lee Shiao

 

 

 

 

 

Feminism for real: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism, edited by Jessica Yee

 

 

 

 

 

 

Developmental Disabilities and child welfare, by Ronald C. Hughes & Judith S. Rycus

 

 

 

 

 

Formed families: Adoption of children with handicaps, edited by Laraine Masters Glidden

 

 

 

 

 

Kornel Esti: A novel, by Dezso Kosztolanyi

Subject or Object

Photo by Luigi Diamanti

I’m re-posting a blog post I wrote about three years ago on my other blog, that I initially titled “Life in the Fishbowl.” I wrote this post when I was reading a lot of academic books and peer-review articles about transracial and transnational adoption written by academics and adoptive parents (more on that later) and reflecting about how they relate to me, the subject and/or object of study. When I wrote this post I had been accepted into my current doctoral program, so I was also conscious about the research I was about to undertake and what the perspective(s) would be from “the other side” of the research.

As I’ve made my journey through school, one of the things I’ve been struck by is how little discussion there has been overall about insider/outsider issues – not just in terms of research (and what discussion I’ve had on insider/outsider research has been mostly contained in my qualitative research class) but also in practice.

In some areas of the “helping professions” there is a lot of emphasis on practitioner insider knowledge. Chemical dependency treatment and domestic violence are two areas in which it seems that a personal experience as a client is considered expertise. This is not so in child welfare, where my research areas reside, or in disability studies (my collateral area). I have met a very small handful of practitioners or researchers that come to child welfare as a client of child welfare services. That is, there is a very small group of foster care alum or adopted persons or birth families that have been *in the system* as a client of child welfare services that currently work within these systems as professionals. The most often recognized member of the foster/adoption “triad” that works in the child welfare system is the foster or adoptive parent – who are in some ways overrepresented – and they are often  put up on a pedestal as bastions of knowledge because of their lived experience.

But what about the now grown-up children and/or the birth parent, how do we contribute to this knowledge base? Well, unfortunately we are often considered suspect. Two things happen frequently when we talk about system changes that we think need to happen: 1) we are tokenized and 2) our objectivity is questioned, and we are told our personal experiences are merely one story, irrelevant to the larger body of peer-reviewed, quasi-experimental, large nationally representative data set that found X, Y or Z. I have told this story before – I was once told by an adoption professional that my lived experience as a transracial, transnational adopted person did not make me an expert on adoption. Somehow, this person believed that their experience as a professional made them more of an expert on my own lived experience than mine. This is what is frustrates me about the social work profession.

It is interesting to me that adoptive/foster parents aren’t considered to be subjective. In fact, in the social work and psychology field many research studies about adoption are conducted by adoptive parents who fill dual roles as parent and academic. Some even mention their adoptive parent status or their personal experiences within the articles they publish. Where are the research studies by adult adoptees and/or formerly fostered persons? Are we silent on our status? And if so, why? Have others experienced what I have – when wrestling with insider/outsider questions in research and practice – been told I was “too close” to the topic and that I should find another area of research? (My guess is that similar to other areas of research/practice, such as mental health, social work professionals with insider knowledge have also largely remained silent. How sad. I find role models like Kay Redfield Jamison very inspiring).

Some of us choose to work within the system as an agent of change. Others take a more grass-roots approach, organizing to put pressure on the policies and procedures from outside the system. In my adult life, working on behalf of the rights of adopted and fostered persons, I have taken both approaches at different (and sometimes at the same) times.

Personally, I don’t think the solution to these hard questions about how one approaches research and practice from within a population that one is also a member of should be to choose something else. I think that we need to dive in to the ethical dilemmas that are inherent – remembering that there are also ethical issues when researching people that are members of a group in which we know nothing about. Two sides, perhaps, of the same quandary – how much of our own experiences (or lack of) go in to our research and practice? And how reflective are we of our positionality?

And with that question, here is the re-post from April, 2008 on my former blog, Harlow’s Monkey:

Continue Reading →

The future of social work?

This past month I’ve had a few conversations with fellow social work graduate students of color. I have wanted to write an honest post for some time now about what it is like on a daily basis to be a social worker of color and navigating through this profession that professes to be about equality, empowerment and social justice but often continues to perpetuate oppression for any of us who are not White, straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied, middle-class, native-born, English-speaking, non-Christian and/or highly educated (and woe to any who claim more than one of these identities or statuses).

I wrote a lengthy post today, but ended up erasing it all. See, I realize that I might just come across as whiny. Inevitably, as I’ve had these conversations more often than I care to, I’ll just be called “angry” or “reverse racist,” that I only see the negative side of things and that I’m ignoring all the good that has been done in the name of social work and social workers. That I’m not recognizing that they just want to HELP PEOPLE.

In my experience,there are two kinds of social workers. Those who want to “help people” and those who want to “work for social justice.”

My fear is that this is actually the future of social work.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
[if video does not play, click here.]
Or this

Vodpod videos no longer available.

We have a long way to go, Baby

Today is International Women’s Day. Did you know it was the centennial anniversary of IWD? Yeah, I didn’t. I read a lot of news blogs and websites, and let’s just say here in the U.S. there has been sparse publicity or discussion about this yearly event, surprising because it is the 100 year anniversary.

In other countries, especially Europe, International Women’s Day is much more celebrated and talked about. Here in the U.S., it is pretty much a non-issue.

On the IWD website, I watched a video about how women in Russia receive flowers and “more compliments than even on their birthdays” each March 8th. Yet I couldn’t help thinking, who cares about flowers and compliments, when women and girls still receive less pay for equal work, are at grossly disproportionate risk for sexual and physical violence, and have higher poverty rates. And while we, in the U.S., talk endlessly about the reproductive rights of women around the world, here at home women are also facing challenges to our reproductive rights.

So, please, men – if you really want to support women on International Women’s Day, skip the flowers (especially since the majority of the cut-flowers in the U.S. come from the South American floriculture industry) and compliments.

Instead, be our ally. Take a stand for equal pay for equal work. Intervene when men make jokes about domestic and sexual violence against women (yes, that includes not giving Charlie Sheen a pass or purchasing shirts like this). Tell our Congresspersons that you support women’s reproductive rights.

Don’t put us on a pedestal.

Rather, stand with us in solidarity.

Could you make it?

In the past twenty-plus years that I have been a working adult, there have only been two short periods of time in which I had full-time, above minimum-wage, benefits-earning employment. There are a number of reasons for this – the major one being that I did not have a college degree until I was 35 years old. I worked a lot of retail jobs or jobs where I took care of other people, often those who were vulnerable, such as adults in a group home or day care settings. My first full-time with benefits job was as a tailor for a major department store, so although I had benefits I still made only slightly above minimum wage and a huge portion of my earnings went to daycare expenses. Employment at most of my jobs meant working nights and/or weekends.  I remember when I first started my first full-time, post-MSW job in a child welfare organization and had weekends off and finally realized what everyone else meant by looking forward to the weekend.

Last night I had an appointment with a tax accountant. Last year was the first time I used a professional to complete my taxes. Just the idea of having the privilege of paying someone to do my taxes made me reflect on my employment history and what it means to be a middle-class person.

This past week, my friend and colleague Ericka tweeted about this website, a joint effort between McKinney and Urban Ministries of Durham called SPENT.

The aim of this interactive activity is to get people to think about homelessness and poverty and how, even trying to do the “right” things, a person can find themselves spiraling into poverty. Through SPENT, players are asked to make choices with their opportunities and money should they find themselves suddenly unemployed with only $1000 in the bank. Will they make it through the month with any money left?

I’ve been lucky – I had a partner who has always had stable employment and that helped. In addition, with the exception of when our daughter was born and we didn’t have enough insurance to cover the hospital bills which meant we were paying off hospital bills for years, for the most part since then we have been fairly healthy and have not had significant out of pocket health care bills. Somehow we always managed. There were times when between the two of us we worked four to five full and part-time jobs at one time in order to make ends meet; when we were hoped the $50 after paying our bills was enough to cover our expenses until next payday – like gas for our shared car (considering ourselves lucky if it didn’t break down); when I learned how to stretch our groceries, and only bought thrift-store clothing – and not because it was the “fashion” but because we had no other option.

I often wonder, when I encounter new MSW students, how many of them have personally known poverty. I wonder if they know what it is like be poor. I have been poor, but I have never been in poverty.

I love this interactive game, and I think it’s a brilliant combination of social media technology and social justice education. I think every BSW and MSW student should play this game and it should be required in social work programs.

To try SPENT for yourself, click here.