As we build up to celebrating our 25th anniversary, we will be sharing reflections from members of the community. In this post, Kyle Ashlee, conference presenter, volunteer, partner of an adoptee, and Advisory Council member, shares some of his experiences with KAAN.
The Ashlees at Bde Maka Ska (Summer 2022)
How/when did you first learn about KAAN?
I first learned about KAAN when my wife, Aeriel, attended a conference in Minneapolis in 2015. The following year, I attended in St. Louis and have been involved in ways ever since. In addition to attending the conference, I have been a conference presenter and volunteer. Additionally, I served on the KAAN Advisory Council from 2018 to 2021, helping with education, outreach, and facilitating the KAAN blog.
How would you describe KAAN’s importance?
KAAN has had a significant impact on me and my family. From a personal perspective, I can say that KAAN, along with my patient and loving partner who identifies as a Korean Adoptee, has completely transformed how I understand adoption. As a result of the education sessions at KAAN and the many conversations that I've had with adoptees at KAAN over the years, I now understand that being an adoptee can be an incredibly salient identity for those who are adopted. Just like other aspects of identity, I've learned that being an adoptee is complex and means something different for everyone. As someone who is not an adoptee, I will never completely understand what it means to be an adoptee. But, KAAN has allowed me to make authentic connections with adoptees who were willing to share their story with me, and now as a result, I have a deeper understanding of the adoptee experience and how best to support adoptees in my life. For my family, KAAN has been an invaluable community and support network. Because of KAAN, we have made lifelong friendships with other adoptees and their families. These friends have been an important source of support for us because they understand some of the same the issues that we face everyday. Through my involvement in KAAN I've been able to talk with other adoptive partners and spouses about how we can best support the adoptees in our lives. I've been able to connect with adoptive parents through KAAN about the role that race and racism plays in the lives of adoptive families and how we can work to challenge racism. Most importantly, my relationship with my wife has deepened as a result of KAAN because I understand something about her that I could never have known before. I am truly grateful to KAAN for so many reasons, and I encourage anyone who has been impacted by adoption to get involved in one way or another!
This year marks KAAN's 25th anniversary. We look forward to continuing to connect, empower, and support members of the adoptee community for the next 25 years (and beyond!) but we need your help to do so. You can contribute to our mission by joining our 25 for 25 campaign.
Donate at this link. Suggested donations are $25, $250, and $2,500 but any amount makes an impact.