As we build up to celebrating our 25th anniversary, we will be sharing reflections from members of the community. In this post, Martha Crawford, adoptive parent and mental health provider, shares some of her experiences with KAAN.
How/when did you first learn about KAAN?
My husband David Amarel and I first learned about KAAN during our adoption process, and set our intention to become a part of the organization as soon as was viable for our household. We attended KAAN when it was held in Boston, - I think in 2007 - for the first time with both of our kids who were too young to attend the children's program, and a beloved family friend, Ellie Conant a queer biracial Korean American, our kids godmother, who wanted to attend and helped us with the kids as all of the adults rotated through childcare and attending sessions.
We had no idea that the three of us Ellie would eventually all become presenters, that both Ellie and I would in the years ahead, help coordinate the kids' programming, and that it would become a place for our children to grow up in the presence of a supportive community full of kind and available role models.
Other projects emerged from our relationships and drew inspiration from the model and support we experienced at KAAN. David and I founded All Together Now in Brooklyn after our then 5 year old son asked for an "adoption class" with only adoptees in it, an experience he had clearly absorbed from KAAN, and wanted more regular access to. ATN ran several children's play/peer groups facilitated by adoptees and teen mentors, while adoptive parents met together in discussion largely facilitated by adult adoptees. Liz Raleigh, (who I had met at our first KAAN in Boston, now a professor at Carlton College and author of "Selling Transracial Adoption") was our first facilitator for the parent's group.
Soon after, David and I would be invited to write a column representing our perspectives as adoptive parents trying to be thoughtful allies to the adoptee community, for Gazillion Voices Magazine. The year that Gazillion Voices and KAAN took over a hotel in Minneapolis was a particularly busy one as I coordinated the kids programming as well as sat on panels for both organizations.
When was the first KAAN conference you attended?
After leaving All Together Now to a well-established leadership committee, Joy Lieberthal Rho asked if I would support the leadership team, along with Ben Oser, of Sejong Cultural Camp, which was in the process of transitioning to adoptee leadership. My familiarity with the organization emerged directly from relationships formed and strengthened at KAAN and I was honored to serve as a volunteer and help represent Sejong at KAAN for the next six years or so.
What has been your involvement in KAAN?
We attended annually as a family, David and I generally presenting alongside adoptees, each year ( until the pandemic in 2020) forging life-long friendships with adoptees and other adoptive families. When Ellie died in 2016 KAAN was extraordinarily supportive, and we were honored to be able to provide funds for several years in her name, the Ellie Conant Fund, which subsidized panels focused on the intersection of LGBTQ community and the adoptee community.
We are eternally grateful for all we have received from this extraordinary organization.
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.