Reflections from KAAN 2019 Scholarship Recipients

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

by Billy Struble, Andrea Manolov, and Heather Hauck

Attending a KAAN conference for the first time can be transformative. For Billy Struble, Andrea Manolov, and Heather Hauck, the experience was particularly monumental because they were recipients of the 2019 KAAN Registration Scholarship. Since XXXX, KAAN has provided a select number of scholarships for conference attendees who are adoptees. Particular consideration is given to first time attendees as a way to encourage growth within the KAAN community. After attending the 2019 KAAN conference in Minneapolis, Billy, Andrea, and Heather shared the following thoughts:

Billy Struble

First off, I want to say that I had an amazing time at the conference and I’m extremely appreciative to have received a partial scholarship. The conference really kicked off for me when I attended the Transracial Adoptees and Interracial Relationships session led by Aeriel and Kyle Ashlee. It was interesting to hear some of their stories as well as other attendees’ experiences of being the victim of racism or perceived racism. I often wonder if the way that people treat me sometimes is really from a place of cruelty or am I making it out to be more than what it is.

The next big topic that was a surprise to me was Examining Anti-Blackness in TRA – and Asian-American Communities. I was aware of the anti-black sentiment in Asian communities, but I was completely in the dark as to that same sentiment existing amongst adoptees. I guess it’s because of how I grew up with friends and family of all races which gave me a different perspective than other adoptees. My takeaway from the session is that most, if not all, of the anti-black sentiment is subconscious; playing up to the stereotypes without being aware of it.

Lastly, the session on Navigating Issues with Aging Adoptive Parents was cathartic because my dad is dealing with a slew of health issues. That time also opened my eyes to other adoptees that had a falling out with their parents but have had to overcome those issues because of their parents’ needs and the limited time remaining they had together. I think I’m better equipped to deal with my own family issues.

Andrea Manolov

The intentionality in KAAN Conference spaces (panels, workshops, etc.), as created for and by a multigenerational organization of mostly Korean internationally adopted people set the tone of this conference. Along with a couple of other conference attendees, I was adopted from China. My goal in attending KAAN 2019 was to seek community among fellow transnationally adopted people. As an East Asian American raised by white parents in the Midwest, many aspects of my lived experience felt understood and welcomed at KAAN.

I attended two standout workshops. The first was “Queering Adoption” which served as a general discussion space for LGBT+ folks led by three excellent facilitators. The second was “Navigating Issues with Aging Adoptive Parents.” The conversation in this room was emotionally taxing and validating in a way I never before experienced. Because parents adopting from China in the late 20th century tend to be at least a decade older than the median age of new parents, it was actually in this space that I met the few other people adopted from China at this conference. Transnational and interracial family relationships complicate g