Thank you all for the tremendous support as I step into the role of KAAN’s executive director. I appreciate all of the comments, messages, and texts of support, excitement and encouragement.
As I step into this role, I cannot help but reflect upon the previous work that has allowed KAAN to be what it is today. I want to take a moment to thank Stacy Schroeder for all of her work over the years. Stepping into this position where I have the ability to look forward to the future speaks to the strong foundation that Stacy
Under her leadership KAAN has grown in numerous ways that are a result of the connections and relationships she has worked to maintain. Through those relationships, KAAN has flourished with a more stable financial foundation that now includes sponsorship and fundraising efforts. Through her innovation, Stacy instituted the current 12-member Advisory Council system, as well as expanded the volunteer “staff” to include more than two dozen positions. She has also worked tirelessly to find new and inclusive ways to grow the annual conference. This includes, but is not limited to, securing continuing education credits for mental health professions, providing ASL interpretation services, introducing wellness and first-time attendee supports, and seeking out exciting entertainment and performances by Korean adoptees. Under her tenure, the conference also continued to provide “adoptee only sessions” and expanded the conference magazine with articles and promotions of adoptee work. The work that Stacy has put into the conference is reflected each year in an increase in the annual conference attendance.
Beyond the measurable signs of successfully growing KAAN, Stacy has always considered herself a “servant leader” by putting the needs of others first and existing to serve KAAN. As an adoptive parent and a sibling of adoptees, Stacy has always been highly aware of her position and opportunity as ED of KAAN. Throughout her leadership, she has exhibited her commitment to elevating the adoptee voice through recruiting adoptees for staff positions and Advisory Council membership. I am eternally grateful for the work that she has done for nearly a decade.
With that being said, I would like to briefly introduce myself. My name is Katie Bozek. I am a Korean adoptee from the Cheongrang-ri area of Seoul. I was adopted when I was 6 months old to a couple in Michigan. Soon after I arrived, my parents had my brother, and then my sister. Our family was made complete when my youngest brother was adopted from Korea. I have stayed in Michigan and the same local community throughout my life. My husband and our three children definitely have put our roots down here! I attended a local college for my Bachelor’s degree, and then went on to Michigan State University for my master’s degree and Ph.D. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist and run my own private practice where I provide mental health services for children, teens, adults, couples, and families. Aside from KAAN, I also participate in professional organizations and local organizations that serve the local Asian American community.
With the announcement that I would be stepping into the role of executive director, many people have reached out. A friend who has been with me since the beginning of my adoption “journey” reached out to congratulate me and said, “We have come a long way.” I could not agree more. Growing up in a predominately white community took its toll on me, as it does for many transracial adoptees (domestic, international and transracial). As a child I would wish and pray for blonde hair and blue eyes because I hated being different. It has been a long road to get to the current level of acceptance and understanding of myself and my experience. My friend’s comment made me stop and reflect on this journey, and how I have gotten to a place in my life where I am not only excited, but also ready to step into a role where being Korean AND adopted is visible, highlighted and celebrated.
When I reflect on what has helped me along the way as I grappled with being Korean AND adopted and what that meant to me, my family, my friends, and to the broader community, it has been being in spaces that have allowed me to question, to think out loud, and being surrounded by people who have worked to understand and validate that this process of being is challenging and comes with many layers. This is what KAAN aims to do: provide that space and that understanding through community and resources to learn and understand more. It is not and never will be about “fixing” a person or finding a “right” way to understand our experience. It is about giving people the freedom to figure out what it means to them and their life without judgement.
As I look toward the future of KAAN, I would like to continue to grow the relationships that have been formed and seek out new ones that will enrich the organization. Through enriching the organization as a whole, KAAN is able to provide more resources and connections for those that we support. Involvement with local organizations is important and vital, however, engagement with a national organization also provides different types of connections and resources. Adoptees were not placed in one community; we are spread across the nation. KAAN serves as the connecting piece to the local and national communities.
I would like to invite you to reach out with suggestions and ideas of what you would like to see from KAAN. I would love to hear from everyone. From those who have been heavily involved for years, to those who sometimes read the Facebook posts. I want to hear what keeps you involved, and what has kept you from being involved. KAAN has been moving through its own transition as an organization with a new website, branding, and with me as its first Korean adoptee as executive director. With all transitions, there is room for reflection and growth and I would like to collaborate with others to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with reflections, suggestions, or areas you would want to be engaged with.
I hope you will take the time to learn more about KAAN as an organization. You can find us at WeAreKAAN.org and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by searching @WeAreKAAN.
I am excited to start a new chapter of KAAN, and hope you will join us!
Katie Bozek Executive Director of KAAN