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Adoptees as parents: How Korean American adoptees talk about ethnicity, race, and adoption

Korean adoptee parenting study - JaeRan Kim

Each year University of Washington Tacoma invites faculty to present on their research and I was fortunate to be asked to participate in this year’s Lightening Talk. These are very short presentations (5 minutes!) with timed slides. It was challenging to condense a research study into 20 slides in five minutes, but here is a video of my presentation, highlighting the findings of our study on Korean adoptee parenting.

For more information about this study, please click here.

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Article in The Roundtable

I wanted to share the first official written article related to my dissertation study for the National Resource Center Adoption (NRCFA) publication, The Roundtable. My article is on page 12, titled Internationally Adopted Children with Disabilities in Out-of-Home Care: Emerging Research on Adoptive Parent Perspectives. You can download the article here.

Springing ahead

After what felt like a steady stream of non-stop polar-vortexes unleashing a record-breaking winter upon my state, I am almost giddy with the melting snow and warmer weather, even if we still receive a day here or there with some snow. At least whatever snow or wind-chill we get now is quickly gone. In springing-ahead for daylight savings, I am springing ahead with my research and work.

Thanks to the wonderful participants who have been part of my study, I am finally finished collecting interviews and am working night and day to analyze and write. I’ve had so many a-ha moments listening to the adoptive parents in my study. I may be earnest in hoping that their experiences will help change how adoptions are currently done. There have certainly been several paradigm-shifting insights gleaned from these parent’s experiences. I am already thinking ahead to a couple of follow-up studies I will likely pursue based on this study.

Onward I go –

Seeking participants for a study on internationally adopted children with disabilities

paper doll family holding hands

I have reached that stage in my doctoral program where I am finally embarking on my research project. I am seeking participants for my study on the placement stability of internationally adopted children with disabilities.

Are you an adoptive parent of an internationally adopted child with a disability?

Since the finalization of your child’s adoption, has the child been placed – either temporarily or permanently – in a group home, residential treatment center, foster care or another adoptive family?

If so, I am interested in speaking with you.

Who: Minnesota adoptive parents whose internationally adopted child:

  • Is currently between 6 and 21 years of age
  • Has a disability diagnosed at least 6-months ago (or more) by a medical professional, mental health professional, or school professional for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) including (but not limited to):
    • Intellectual/Developmental disability including Austism Spectrum Disorders
    • FASD
    • Mental health disability
    • Learning disability
    • Physical or medical disability including sensory (vision/hearing) impairment
  • Is currently, or has in the past, been placed in any of the following for any period of time other than a respite or 72-hour hold:
    • Shelter
    • Foster care
    • Residential treatment center
    • Group home
    • Hospital treatment center
    • With another caregiver (in legal or informal transfer of custody)
    • With another adoptive family after a dissolution of the adoption

What is involved: I am asking adoptive parents for about 60 to 90 minutes of their time to interview them about their experiences. Participation is voluntary and your information will be protected and confidential. Your participation in this study will never be disclosed.

Why: Adopting a child with disabilities can be both challenging and rewarding. Parents who have adopted children from outside the United States with mental health and intellectual/developmental disabilities sometimes struggle to find appropriate pre- adoption education and/or post-adoption support to help them manage the challenges of parenting a child with a disability. The purpose of this study is to inform adoption practices and improve adoption supports for families that adopted children with disabilities.

How: To participate in this study, or to find out more information about this study, please contact JaeRan Kim at jaerankim@gmail.com or 612-626-3831. You may download the FLYER Placement stability for intercountry adoptees and distribute to others who may be interested in participating in this study.

For up to date information on this research project, please visit my research site – at JaeRan Kim Research. Thank you for your consideration!

This study has been approved by the University of Minnesota Institutional Review Board #1301P26761

Great quote

“Those who define the questions to be asked define the parameters of the answers, and it is the parameters of the questions and the ensuing answers that function as the lens by which people view reality.”

Karger, H.J. (1983). Science, research and social work: Who controls the profession? Social Work, 28, 200-205.

What I’m reading

For the past week, I have been busy reading about mixed-methods research design as I work on my dissertation research proposal. Here is what I’ve been busy reading:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whose voice is telling the story?

Last week I finished reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I first heard about the book when I saw Skloot on the Colbert Report and what intrigued me most was not the science behind the story but that the cells that had gone on to impact medical science in such immeasurable ways had been taken without Lack’s knowledge and the development of ethical standards for conducting research.
Without giving away too much of the story (although most of it is now widely known) here are my thoughts. For the most part, the story is told in a compelling way, starting with the author’s imagined scenario of Henrietta’s visit to Johns Hopkins to have a”knot” checked out. Skloot tells the story of Henrietta and the impact of her cells on medical science while alternating between her history, her children’s stories, and those who played a key role in how her cells were used in medical research.

Several pages into the section of the story where author Skloot delves into Lacks’ history, I began to feel uncomfortable. Skloot discusses her methodology for creating imagined scenes based on interviews with those who knew Henrietta and extensive research but I was still uneasy about how Lacks was characterized. While I imagine that Skloot was attempting to bring Henrietta out of the shadows, so to speak, and humanize the person whose cells had been unacknowledged for so long, it seemed contrived and – exactly what Skloot didn’t want to do – exploitative.

To me, the real gem of this book is that Skloot makes public the way research involving humans has often been unethical. I took a fascinating course about moral and ethical dilemmas in family decision making a few years ago, and many of the issues Skloot brings to the surface in her book we discussed in this class; questions about who owns human tissue once it’s no longer attached to the person? When does an individual’s concerns about biomedical ethics supersede the greater good for all? Should important decisions be made by others if a person is deemed not competent or knowledgeable enough to make that decision when it comes to their health and medical procedures?Continue Reading →

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

I’ve often called research the equivalent of the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and friends are quaking in their ruby slippers at the booming voice and larger than life head of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz, only to find, thanks to Toto’s curtain-revealing revelation that the powerful Wizard is just an ordinary man.

Last week, a story was published in Psychology Today by Santoshi Kanazawa, faculty at the London School of Economics, that claimed there was objective evidence that African American women are less attractive than women of other racial and ethnic backgrounds (the original article was pulled, but you can find it here). The so-called evidence for this “finding” was, as it turns out, not objective at all. In fact, the author of the study, known for his provocative research and articles, used a data set in which the “data” about the attractiveness of African American women was based on researcher observations and ratings of the sample – in other words, it wasn’t the sample that was asked to measure attractiveness, it was the researchers who rated the sample themselves (in this case, participants in a longitudinal study that followed participants from adolescence to young adulthood).

The data Kanazawa used and obscurely referred to was taken from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health (Add Health Study). The Add Health study does not survey how American adolescents define or measure attractiveness. Rather, Kanazawa used the data in which researchers themselves “objectively” measured the participant’s attractiveness.Continue Reading →

Saturation (I can’t get no)

I’ve been working on a literature review for my specialized exam, and I have come to a familiar spot – the point where I realize that I have to stop gathering more information and get down to business with what I’ve got.

I’m the type of person who can’t quite trust that I’ve chosen the best representation of the literature. There’s always more to be found, other studies I’m sure I haven’t read, elusive material out there that I haven’t found that I’m just positive is that golden nugget I’m looking for that will tie everything all together in a nice, neat bow.

Yes, that is a large part of the reason I haven’t updated the blog! I’ve been spending most of my evenings reading and hunting down more articles and books. I think I’m finally at the point where I’ve reached saturation in the literature and nothing else I find is giving me new information. So to misquote the Rolling Stones once more, although I can’t always get what I want, sometimes I get what I need.

On to writing!!

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 →

Newbie networking

Sswrlogo
I’m currently at the SSWR conference in San Francisco. I am fortunate enough to have friends in the Bay area, so I came a few days earlier and was able to spend some time with my friends. Then, another woman in my doctoral cohort arrived on Wednesday and we checked in to the conference and hotel. The two of us are the only two in our cohort, although there are several other students here (a few on the job market, they defended or are ABD) and some faculty.

Social networking via facebook and twitter and the like is easy for me. The more difficult part is the face-to-face networking. Although it doesn’t always appear this way, I am quite shy. I’ve really stretched myself over the past ten years so now I am at the point where, with a little effort, I can approach someone and say hi, even though internally I want to run away and hide. It’s actually a lot easier to network when the stakes are low. Here at this professional conference, my roommate/colleague and I had the same plan – to check out how this conference works, what kinds of papers and posters are accepted, and to get a general layout when the personal stakes were still low. Since both of us are a few years away from being on any job market and we likely won’t be submitting things for this conference until next year, it has been easier to just “be” here.

I have a lot more things I want to process about the conference, but need to wait until I have more time. I’m off to a Child Welfare interest group round table discussion in a little bit.