As we build up to celebrating our 25th anniversary, we will be sharing reflections from members of the community. In this post, Joy Lieberthal Rho, Korean adoptee, conference presenter, and mental health provider, shares some of her experiences with KAAN.
How/when did you first learn about KAAN?
I learned about KAAN when it was being created by the founders of KAAN when I was a board member of Also-Known-As in NYC. The first KAAN conference I attended was in 2001? I presented the results of the First Gathering of Adult Korean Adoptees, based on a survey of the same event that was held in 1999. I was working as the policy analyst for the now defunct Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. I reconnected with KAAN about 7 years ago now, through my friendship and collaborative work with Martha Crawford and have been attending as a presenter/participant. As co-director of Sejong Camp, our group ran the youth program for kids at KAAN for several years too.
How would you describe KAAN’s importance?
I'm not sure KAAN impacted me personally or my personal adoption journey, but I have loved watching it grow and evolve to become an adoptee centric space. It is one of the only, if not only, spaces for adoptees, adoptive parents, families and children to enter and participate at all stages of awakening. There is something for everyone in the adoption constellation, allowing for private discussions among adoptees, for educating others not adopted and for opportunities to create connection and belonging. I appreciate the executive committee working so hard to teach, nurture and grow our community with such care and intention. I have brought my children, not adopted but ethnically full Korean and they have enjoyed attending the youth program. As a clinician, I strongly recommend people to go and while every adoptee space is evocative, KAAN is so whole and comprehensive. Congratulations on 25 years! It is no easy feat to be relevant and welcoming of all who are touched by adoption, especially centering the adopted person in such a meaningful way.