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How #KAAN2016 Meets the Needs of … Adult Adoptees Who Were Not Born in Korea

This post is one in a series highlighting the ways our #KAAN2016 Conference, scheduled for June 24-26 in Pittsburgh, PA,  provides a wonderful place for education, dialogue, and support for various members of the adoption community.


TODAY’S WRITER: Amanda Woolston

Hi, I’m Amanda. I was adopted domestically from foster care as an infant. I am a therapist and licensed social worker. I provide therapy and consultation to children, adults, and families impacted by a variety of differences such as home/placement instability, post-adoption issues, mental illness, trauma, and Autism. Adoption has shaped my life in infinite, comprehensively unknowable ways. I love to blog, speak, and engage others on how to make adoption better for the people who live it so intimately for the entirety of their lives.

I grew up strongly identifying as “adopted” and accustomed to adoption appearing repeatedly in my narrative. My great-grandmother and grandmother are both adoptees. My dad has a lived experience of domestic infant adoption—without the official “adoption” decree. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I realized that having a lot of connections to adoption isn’t the same as having a lot of connections within adoption.

Making connections within adoption allows me to think thoughts outside of my own experience, to be of service to others, to be challenged, and to cultivate respectful partnerships with other adoptees. KAAN has been instrumental in connecting me within adoption.



I met my invitation to speak at and attend KAAN last year with pause. I am white and was aware how all too often white privilege and white fragility impose upon the safety of the spaces transracial adoptees create for themselves. What did I have to offer the KAAN community by my attendance or participation as someone who is not a Korean American adoptee? In what way could I approach a community built for and by people of color and transracial adoptive families that is nurturing, supportive, and respectful?

Go Because you Need to Learn Something New. KAAN offers ample opportunity to learn about a variety of topics. Adoption community members, allies, and professionals alike are able to absorb ideas, philosophies, art, literature and science relevant to adoption directly from those in the forefront of the work. Adoptee attendees go beyond learning what information is important or learning how they need to take action to being moved by the passions, beliefs, and narratives of the speakers themselves. Adoption spaces with a community-centric focus are able to impart education in an intimate way, offering an unparalleled learning experience.

Go Because you Need to Make Connections. Adoptees exist within a world that does not well meet our holistic, adoption-specific needs. There’s no guarantee of post-adoption support. There’s no streamlined process for accessing information. There is no mainstreamed advertisement about the unresolved policy issues we face. Our needs are highly politicized—who has their needs met and to what degree those needs are me—is dependent upon the knowledge of what supports exist and how to access them. We need to take every opportunity to have conversations, “what do you need and how can I help you?” Connecting within the adoption community, adoptees exchanging their “survive” and their “thrive” tools, is vital to the welfare of all adoptees.

Go Because the Needs of Korean American Adoptees are your Needs. My participation in the adoption community, at first, was entirely centered on aspects of adoption that impact me personally: my reunion, my birth record. Plainly, I first moved into community action for my own benefit. When we first embark out into adoption community spaces adoptees may be driven by our own needs—whatever they may be. But it’s not OK when we never move past that. Adoptees must be each others allies, and that’s so much more than simply saying we’re allies. At KAAN, it’s all of us adoptees showing up for Korean American adoptees. If the needs of Korean American adoptees aren’t met, none of our needs are met. If their voices aren’t respected, none of our voices are respected. If their work and contributions aren’t valued, none of us are valued.


MY SHORT LIST OF RECOMMENDED SESSIONS Click here for full schedule and details. There are over thirty sessions and support forums, with general sessions open to all adults and adult-adoptee-only sessions in every block. We also offer youth and childcare programming for younger adoptees and siblings or children of adoptees.

  1. The 2016 Presidential Election, Race, and Microaggressions within the Family, with Dr. Kimberly McKee. Adoptee attendees will have the opportunity to connect and exchange tools with one another on responding to and navigating racial microaggressions they encounter during election season—particularly within their adoptive families.

  2. Living With Challenges, with Shannon Jordan, Kristin Jordan, and Jaime Hooker. This workshop will highlight the intersections of adoption, race, and ability. Adoptee attendees will learn tools shared by other adoptees, for navigating barriers to their needs and wellness.

  3. LGBTQ Adoptees and Allies: Open Forum, with Michael Burdan, Kate Zielaskowski MS, Alex Myung Wager. Adoptees have the opportunity to hear the experiences of adoptee members of the LGBTQ community and discuss sexual orientation, gender identity, and being adopted in a safe space—as well as learn how to be an ally to adoptee members of the LGBTQ community.

  4. Understanding the “Good” Adoptee, with Katie Jae Naftzger LICSW. Adoptee attendees have the opportunity to confront the pervasive and iconic concept of being a “good adoptee” which impacts us all in different ways.

  5. Recentering Our Conversations About Race, with Erica Gehringer, JaeRan Kim PhD, MSW, LISW, Katie Bozek Ph.D., LMFT, and Susan Harris O’Connor MSW. Adoptee attendees can learn what to do when conversations about race and racism are re-centered onto the reactions and feelings of white people. For me, I’m going to understand ways in which my voice may be de-railing important conversations about race—and how to knock that off.


I’ll be looking for you at #KAAN2016!


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