Creating Community for Adoptees During COVID-19

Updated: May 12, 2020

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many adoptees around the world are experiencing isolation from their friends and family. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have caused many adoptees to feel disconnected from the communities that they rely on for support. Additionally, many in-person adoption gatherings and annual conferences are being cancelled or postponed to ensure that adoptees and their families can stay healthy.

Since the traditional forms of community are being disrupted, creating community for adoptees is now more important than ever. Many adoptee groups, like KAAN, KAtCH (Korean Adoptees of Chicago), and AKA (Also Known As) have started organizing virtual spaces for members of the adoption community to stay connected, support one another, and process their experiences related to COVID-19. In the following roundtable discussion, leaders from KAAN, KAtCh, and AKA discuss the importance of creating community for adoptees during COVID-19, share resources to help adoptees stay connected, and highlight ways that adoptees can get connected through their organizations.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your organization.

Katie: My name is Katie Bozek and I am the President/Executive Director of the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network (KAAN). KAAN was created after a summit 22nd years ago that included the Korean Consulate, and members of the adoptee triad. From that came the annual conference as a way to stay informed and connected with each other. Over the years KAAN has evolved to include an Advisory Council, expanded programming at the conference, and continues to evolve in what is offered in addition to the annual conference.

Chris: My name is Chris Detrych, and I serve on the board of Korean Adoptees of Chicago (KATCH). I have known fellow adoptees throughout my life, but became more intentional with my involvement when I joined KATCH. The best way I've been able to describe KATCH is as something I didn't know that was missing from my life until after I found it. It filled a void that I am still exploring. I've grown up significantly during my time with KATCH, finding words and ideas to validate my own narrative. I want other adoptees to experience a similar discovery within themselves - because of the adoptee community, I'm beginning to finally see myself - and that is why I continue to participate.

Jacquelyn: My name is Jacquelyn Wells and I’m the Director of Community Outreach for New York’s transnational adoptee non-profit organization/community, Also Known As Inc. (AKA). One of my roles is to help conduct AKA’s social media and virtual event planning!

From what you’ve seen, how has COVID-19 impacted the adoptee community?

Katie: In order to protect the health and safety of our attendees KAAN made the difficult and heartbreaking decision to cancel the conference this year. The annual conference has served as our one time of year to physically gather and be together. As a result, KAAN has been working through and exploring different ways to utilize more “virtual” gathering spaces for the community. This is a new territory for us, and I am excited about what it means for continuing to explore ways to connect with the community throughout the year, in addition to the conference. For adoptees in general, connecting with the community has evolved over the years. In the beginning it looked like gatherings of those in the local community, and that expanded with social media and the ability to connect with adoptees locally, and around the world. The Facebook groups have served as a stepping stone for many in their journey in connecting with the community. The community spaces that are available now have taken on a different meaning and look now that many of us are under stay-at-home (quarantine) executive orders from our states because of COVID-19. I have seen many of the local groups organizing virtual events and opportunities to connect with one another that may not otherwise have been utilized.

Chris: People have already mentioned anti-Asian sentiment and the suspension of local gatherings, so I'll mention something else specific to adoptees: adoptees have found it difficult to connect with their birth family, and to visit their birth country. The uncertainty of when the next opportunity will come for either activity has created anxiety among the community.

Jacquelyn: Due to COVID-19, AKA has had to cancel/postpone many of our events including adoptee-only forums, fundraisers, parties, the mentorship program, our annual community building picnic, and film screenings. We’ve found that many of our events were safe spaces for adoptees to feel heard and to belong, and we felt devastated to not have anywhere for our community to gather during these trying times. We have successfully created and hosted 4 very well attended virtual events where people gathered online so far, and we have more in the works.

Why is it important to create community spaces for adoptees during this time?

Katie: Community space has always been important to the adoptee community. It provides us with the space to share experiences, share knowledge and understanding and provide validation and affirmation that many of us lacked before connecting with the adoptee community. For many adoptees there are different relationship nuances that exist within their families. I have heard adoptees from time to time comment on how the adoptee community feels like family, and during this time of anxiety, uncertainty and isolation it is more important than ever to be able to reach out and connect with those that you consider part of your support network. I think a lot of the conversations now are centered around the racism that they are experiencing and how it is connected to COVID-19.

Chris: Asian adoptees in particular are dealing with two viruses: COVID-19 and prejudice against Asians. Creating space for adoptees to process discrimination and feelings of otherness is important because it's easy to feel isolated, especially as an Asian in a predominantly White space.

Jacquelyn: During our virtual events, we have noticed a lot of adoptees find it to be a safespace to open up about the racism they’ve faced due to COVID, share thoughts about feeling alone/being trapped inside, brainstorm ideas to remedy anxiety or tips for wellness, and vent about family issues. We have received very positive feedback and I see a lot of smiling faces at the end of each event. Also, these community spaces during COVID remind our community that we are still here for them, and we have a lot of fun! Although we are apart, we can lift one another’s spirits virtually!

What are some ways that adoptees can stay connected with the larger adoptee community during this time?