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Meet Your AC Member: Grace Newton

Name: Grace Newton

Gender Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Where do you call home? Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2017 - Taken by Allen Majors at the KAAN gala dinner


Tell us a little about yourself. How do you spend your time outside of KAAN?

Currently, I am a graduate student in Social Work at the Brown School at Washington University in Saint Louis, which means I spend most of my time in class, in practicum, doing homework, or doing work for my research fellowship. In my free time, I like to cook, paint, read, write letters, and spend time with my friends and family. I'm also a beginning ukulele player, and in non-COVID times, I love traveling. Outside of my involvement with KAAN, I think about adoption a lot, too. For the last 7 years, I've authored a blog called Red Thread Broken (redthreadbroken.wordpress.com), where I write about personal reflections on my adoption experience as well as reactions to adoption portrayals in the media and broader adoptions issues.


What is your role on the Advisory Council?

Advisory Council Member/ & Communications Team Member

Nanjing, China, 1997/2015 - I had the chance to reunite with the woman who was my nanny during my stay at the Nanjing Social Welfare Institute in 2007 on my first trip back to China and again when I returned to my hometown for a study abroad semester. The picture on the left is from when I was adopted, and the picture on the right is from our 2015 reunion.


How did you hear about KAAN? How did you decide to get involved in the AC?

I heard about KAAN in 2014, when the conference was in Minnesota. I was living in Minneapolis that summer and decided to attend at the last minute. I wasn't sure if KAAN was a place for me, since I'm not a Korean adoptee, but I was welcomed warmly and encouraged to continue participating through volunteering, presenting conference sessions, and in 2018, I was invited to join the Advisory Council. I thought that becoming involved with the Advisory Council would be a great way to give back to an organization that has given me so much and would allow me to build upon leadership skills that the conference has given me the opportunity to develop in other ways.


How many KAAN conferences have you attended?

5 (6 if you count the recent KAAN Connect)

Seoul, South Korea, 2017 - Several friends of mine from different periods of my life had moved to Seoul around the same time, including a couple of repatriated Korean adoptees. I decided it was a good time to visit them and see Korea. I have been so influenced by Korean adoptees, and it was wonderful to experience this part of my friends’ culture.


What issues/topics related to adoption are you most interested in? (e.g., What types of topics have you presented on or attended at previous KAAN conferences?)

On a macro level, I am really interested in kinship care models of family preservation and following the global shift toward deinstitutionalization. It’s interesting, and in some ways unsettling, to see a lot of prominent adoption agencies begin to realign their missions to focus on deinstitutionalization and domestic, in-country efforts, which appear to be where the field of global child protection is heading next. On a micro level, I’m also fascinated by identity formation and multicultural identity integration, as well as issues over the life course for adoptees. There is so little research on adoptees in various life stages beyond childhood. Finally, my practicum this upcoming semester is at a child grief center that supports children and families following the death of a parent or sometimes a sibling. I hope to integrate what I learn in this role with grieving children and apply themes to the bereavement process adoptees go through and use this knowledge to bolster family preservation work, so that children don’t have to grieve the loss of their family unnecessarily. If we began to look at adoption as a grief journey instead of a celebration of family (which family?), I think healing for adoptees could be supported rather than disenfranchised.


Topics I’ve presented on at KAAN: navigating shifting adoptive mother/daughter relationships in young adulthood (2019), the #FliptheScript movement (2019), the role of Christianity in international adoption (2018), forming a group for transracially adopted teens (2018), the similarities among adoptees of different countries of origin (2017), writing as a form of resiliency with the Lost Daughters (2015), Gazillion Voices magazine (2014)


What do you love most about the KAAN community?

KAAN allowed me to visualize a future for myself. I know I’ve talked about it before, but my first KAAN Conference was where I saw middle-aged Asian adoptees for the first time. They were dentists, professors, therapists, architects, and had a number of other roles. It sounds silly to say because I always intellectually knew I was going to become an adult, but meeting all of these older (than me) adoptees allowed me to truly visualize my future self in a new way. The connections I made at KAAN have extended beyond the weekends that we’re all together. People from the KAAN community have helped me grow personally, professionally, and academically through conversations about work, family, reunion and through resume reading, networking, and ongoing mentorship. KAAN is truly such a vibrant, giving community.

Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2018 - Every year at KAAN, I look forward to having an opportunity to see old friends and people I’ve co-presented with on panels, including this fabulous group of women.


What a fun or random fact people might not know about you?

I am a cat person living with a dog!


Anything else you'd like to share with the KAAN community?

I hope that any adoptees who are unsure if KAAN is an appropriate and positive place for them will consider attending. I am not a Korean adoptee but have been influenced strongly by Korean adoptees in the development of my adoptee identity and found so many commonalities in our collective experiences. The KAAN conference has been life-changing for me, and I want other adoptees to experience this, as well.


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