Full show notes: https://www.adopteeson.com/listen/108
Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye
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Haley - You are listening to Adoptees On, the podcast where adoptees discuss the adoption experience. This is episode 108, live special recordings from the American Adoption Congress Conference. I’m your host Haley Radke. Today’s episode is just as the title suggests to you. We are doing a recap of the AAC conference that happened the first week of April 2019, in Washington D.C. which had amazing weather, beautiful cherry blossoms, and my husband and I were able to be in the city for one full week. It was amazing, I had so much fun exploring the city and checking out museums and eating really delicious food, and meeting incredible people at the conference. And so today we are gonna do a bunch of different things. And I’m gonna kinda take you through the conference with me. And I’m gonna introduce you to some people, you’re gonna hear some familiar voices, I’m gonna share a clip of my keynote speech, we are gonna talk about the highs and the lows, and I think it’ll give you a really good picture of what any conference like this could be like for you. If this is something that maybe you really wanna connect in person with other adopted people. Would this be a good fit for you? Maybe you are an adoption professional and you’re like, I don’t know, I really wanna listen to adoptee voices but is an event like this for me? Maybe you’re an adoptive parent and you’re kinda like, oh my gosh, I get a lot of adoptee voices on Haley’s show, is this really something that I would want to attend? Maybe you’re a first parent and you wanna start doing some legislative work and you don’t really know how to start. There’s something for everybody at an event like this. It was a really, really, there was a jammed packed schedule. So many different sessions and I think you’re gonna get a good picture of that as I talk to different attendees and presenters. And so let’s get to it. Okay, these first couple on the spot interviews, one is a familiar voice to you, which we’re gonna start with first. And these ladies are both adopted people, both presented and we talk just a little bit about their experience at the conference, what they were sharing and why they think you should attend an event like this.
Janet – I’m Janet Nordine, a Marriage and Family therapist from Las Vegas, Nevada.
Haley – And why did you come to this conference?
Janet – I wanted to come and present on disenfranchised grief because I think it’s something that in adoption land, we don’t normally talk about. We all feel it and we all experience it or we don’t know how to name it, so I wanted to come and share my thoughts and experiences with that topic.
Haley – And you’re presenting today, so you haven’t –
Janet – Yes.
Haley – Okay now.
Janet – In an hour.
Haley – You’ve been on this show before so you told us that you’re also a play therapist. So what did you bring along?
Janet – I brought bubbles, I brought toys --
Haley – Which you blew in my face.
Janet – I did! And you popped with both your fingers that you brought with you. I brought some fidgets to put on the chairs for the attendees of my class so in case feelings get brought up, they can do something with their hands and fidget around a little bit.
Haley – Okay, I love that. Okay, cool. So what is the fidget that, like give me an example, like fidget spinners?
Janet – I have some squishy balls, there’s some things that you can manipulate with your hands, there’s some clicky buttons.
Haley – I could have used that in some of the sessions already.
Janet – I can get them out for you if you wanna play with them.
Haley – Okay, cool. So what are your impressions of the conference? You’ve been, gone to different sessions and keynotes.
Janet – You know overall I’ve been really impressed with the conference. The workshops I’ve attended have been applicable to my personal life and my professional life which is what I would hope a conference would do for me as an adoptee and as a therapist. I’ve learned some new techniques, I’ve learned some new statistics, I’ve learned about adoptees that struggle. You know, and the serial killer.
Haley – Oh my gosh.
Janet – That was the best, I had no idea.
Haley – So interesting.
Janet – So now I want to research more about that and learn some more.
Haley – Okay, that was Dr. Tracy Carlis, her session. Look her up, she’s really interesting.
Janet – So overall it’s been really great, the food has been good. The location has been great, it’s been fun to be in D.C.
Haley – Yeah, so we went out to dinner last night with some friends and that was just like, so fun. So it was 5 adoptees all at the table, and we did not stop talking.
Janet – We didn’t, it was awesome. We didn’t have to explain anything to each other, we just could say what you’re thinking and feeling, experiencing and nobody had to ask questions, it’s awesome.
Haley - And I love that we, we ran the gamut of topics. And I won't break confidentiality around the dinner table.
Janet – What happens at the table stays at the table.
Haley – That’s right, yeah. But like we were laughing together, making fun of each other, telling stories where we almost cried, it was the whole thing. So special. What would you say to someone who has not been to a conference?
Janet – I would say, give the American Adoption Congress Conference a chance. I've really been impressed with what I’ve learned here, the calibre of speakers, the quality of what they had to bring. Next year, they’ve already announced it’ll be in San Diego, so I’m really excited it will be on my coast and I can drive there. So yeah, just come, and enjoy.
Haley – Okay.
Liz – I’m Liz DeBetta and I’m from New York City and I live in Salt Lake City now.
Haley – Okay, and what do you do there?
Liz – Teach English at a University.
Haley - And so what brought you to the conference?
Liz - So I’m an adoptee and I was really interested in connecting with other adoptees and people working in adoption and other members of the constellation. And also sharing some of my own work that I’m doing with regard to helping adoptees heal from some of the trauma.
Haley - So what did you, you presented at a session. What did you present on?
Liz - So my session was called Expressing the Primal Wound, Poetry as Healer. And so I talk a little bit about the research that’s available, about how expressive writing and poetry in particular can be a way of restructuring different emotions and giving them a place to live outside of our bodies. And through my own story, which is that I started writing poetry when I was 14, because I was in a lot of pain, and a teacher recommended that I think about writing poetry. Which I thought was dumb at the time, but then actually started writing and it became a way for me to articulate things that I didn’t have a way to say otherwise. Um, and so I’ve written poetry for many, many years. And if I go back to all those early poems, I can see very clearly all the themes of feeling lost, and alone and confused and like something is missing. And so, what I like to tell people now, is that I was writing my future. ‘Cause now that’s become a big part of my work. I do a lot of research on adoption and writing about adoption in order to help myself heal but also to help other people heal.
Haley - I totally wanna talk to you more about that, we’ll have to do another show. Can you tell me, of the sessions you went to, I know I saw you around, you were going to lots of things, was there anything really memorable or really valuable that you’re gonna take home with you?
Liz - I think, I’m gonna sort of defer to my session that I presented this morning, just because at the end of it, we did, the group did some writing, and I asked people in the room to write. And then to share their writing and it was, it was really powerful for me because we had adoptees in the room, we had adoptive parents and we had first parents. And so we got to hear these really incredibly powerful poems from all these different perspectives, that helped some of us who are adoptees, realize how much love adoptive parents have. And that sometimes we don’t accept it. And that, for some of, a couple of us, we had a moment of like, oh it’s okay to accept that much love, right? And then we, so just hearing these different perspectives was just really profoundly moving for me.
Haley - Right. And I know you had a special moment last night, what was that?
Liz - So, last night I got to meet my sister for the first time. We have the same mom. And we’re only a year apart in age and she’s only, I’ve only met my birth mother. So she’s only the second biological relative that I’ve met. And it was, I think I’m still processing it, I don’t, I think… we spent like 4 hours at dinner and we have, we have some very similar personalities. We like the same food, we even ordered the same meal.
Haley - Love that. Love the synchronicity things. That’s so special. Okay, last question. For another adoptive person like yourself who hasn’t been to a conference like this before, what would you say?
Liz - I would say do it. Find a way to connect with the community, with other people who might have something to teach you, you know? I know I’ve learned a lot from so many people this week and just listening to stories. And I think that other adoptees could really benefit from being in a space where there’s so much openness and generosity of spirit and people willing to share their experiences as a way of transmitting truth and knowledge about the realities of what we all live with on a daily basis.
Haley - Right, thank you so much.
Liz - Thank you!
Haley – The conference began with a keynote speech from Sharon Kaplan Roszia. And she gave us a tour of the history of the American Adoption Congress and she took us through the past, present and future, looking at the AAC and adoption and why the AAC was formed in the first place. And the big part of that is, opening up unrestricted access to adopted people’s original birth certificates and adoption files. There was a big theme throughout the conference at many different sessions of how to do that legislative work. I was able to go to a session by Erica Curry Van Ee and Melissa Nicholson, both of whom who have been on the show before, and they shared some of their work, what they’re doing in Michigan and it was a really, really fun session. There was lots of brainstorming about why the adoptee voice has been silent for so long, and what we can do to change that. So I’m really looking forward, Erica promised me, that she will be compiling some of those responses and sharing it in some fashion in the future. So when that comes out, I will let you know. But right now we’re gonna hear from a couple of attendees and presenters that were really there to focus on the legislative tracks presented at the AAC. This first clip is from the keynote and Q&A given by New York Assemblyman, Robert C. Carroll.
Robert – People still deserve to know where they came from. And it doesn’t mean that you know, there are gonna be big family reunions, doesn’t that mean that it’s gonna mean that people are gonna have relationships or, it’s gonna fix you know, old problems. It just, you know, I’m a lawyer. The law’s supposed to be fair.
Shawna - My name is Shawna Hodgson, I’m from Houston Texas.
Haley - And what brought you to the conference?
Shawna - Well, friendship and community, people I work with year round. I get to see them once or twice a year, so that’s a huge motivator for me.
Haley - And are you an adopted person?
Shawna - I’m an adopted person, yep.
Haley - So did you go to any of the sessions this weekend? Did you enjoy it?
Shawna - I did! I did. Yours, I did. I presented with Tim Monti-Wohlpart on legislation, we are from York and Texas. Gregory Luce, Clair McGettrick was awesome.
Haley - So you work to move legislation forward for OBCs.
Shawna - I do.
Haley - So where you able to connect with a lot of people who are doing like-minded things?
Shawna - A few. Yeah, a few.
Haley - Did you learn anything from Claire’s session like what they’ve done in Ireland, and your work here?
Shawna - Absolutely.
Haley - Like what?
Shawna - Just the way that they focus on the systematic discrimination against adoptees. Just the way, even just in the language that they use. Their presentation and how they kind of encapsulate that discrimination within the system, it really spoke to me.
Haley - The other thing she said that I thought was fascinating was, taking out the personal psychological impact from our arguments.
Shawna - Absolutely, thanks for bringing that up.
Haley - Do you have any thoughts on that?
Shawna - No, I totally agree. I don’t think she said that do diminish the, what we experience regarding trauma or anything like that about our adoption. But I do agree with her, that needs to be separate when we present the issue of human and civil rights violations.
Haley - Well how she set it up, was right, we say those things, they’re like oh, they’re broken people, there’s something wrong with you, we don’t wanna listen to you.
Shawna - Right, we’re pathologized.
Haley - Yeah. Okay.
Shawna - I agree.
Haley – What would you say to someone who hasn’t been to a conference like this before? What would you say, would you encourage them to come?
Shawna - Absolutely. Absolutely. The more of us here, the more of us together in one room, the more impact we’re gonna have in the community. And we have to know each other and meet each other and talk. For that to happen.
Any other thoughts?
Haley - Thanks for being here, no I’m just grateful that you’re here! Thank you.
Gregory – I’m Gregory Luce from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Haley – And what brought you to the conference?
Gregory - The big thing is I’m a D.C. adoptee, was born and adopted here.
Haley - Oh!
Gregory - Also I was presenting on the history of adoptee rights.
Haley - And tell me about your Twitter handle.
Gregory - My Twitter handle, AdopteeLaw? Yeah.
Haley - What made you start that?
Gregory – It’s just part of when I started my law firm in the law center, I just wanted to, these days you have to have social media as a presence.
Haley - I think you’re really fun on Twitter.
Gregory - I like to have some fun, and you have to have fun on Twitter. I even tweeted out a photo today of the crowd that was at my presentation. It was just like a stock photo of some concert crowd.
Haley - Okay, I haven’t seen that I’m gonna have to go look at that.
Gregory - So I mean, I think you have to have humor in the work that we do. And I think we lack, there’s a lack of humor in all the stuff that we do, both in the advocacy work but also in the just the day to day work you have to do as an adoptee.
Haley - Yes.
Gregory - And so the more humor we can have, the better.
Haley - Yeah, totally.
Gregory - And I think people understand the issues much easier that way too. Typically.
Haley – I mean, interjecting about myself, that’s you know, one reason why I took a standup class.
Gregory - Right, exactly, I can totally see that.
Haley - Okay, back to conference stuff. Were there any sessions that you went to that you found really helpful?
Gregory - Yeah, Claire McGettrick’s session was, it kind of blew my mind. It made me think bigger on the issue as opposed to smaller. I mean, she, which, and I think she’s right to shift the focus from a psychopathological focus of who adoptees are and recontextualized it into social, sociological. How we’re categorized, and how because of that categorization, how we’re treated.
Haley - Right.
Gregory - Which I thought was phenomenal, especially in the world of, and she’s talking about with legislation. In that world of access to original birth certificates and adoption records.
Haley - How about just connecting with other people? How is that?
Gregory - Well that’s really the strength, I mean that’s why ultimately you come, because you’re hanging out in the lobby or you're going, taking a walk, and you’re meeting people that you typically only interact with on Facebook messenger or Twitter. And you get to see their faces and maybe even people that you’ve disagreed with pretty strongly in the past, but you get to see more context to their experience, who they are and where they’re coming from. And you go back with that, in trying to figure out how do we find common ground?
Haley – I love just having conversation with another adoptee I’ve never met and you just instantly go to the deeper stuff. That’s what I’ve felt.
Gregory - True, very true. To the point sometimes that you need to walk away, not walk away from that conversation, but okay, let’s talk about like, how the NCAA tournament or—
Haley – Are we gonna cry in front of each other? Is that like, too soon?
Gregory - Yeah, but no, I agree. But it is, it’s something that you’re, I think with any group that comes together that have a commonality that’s very true. You’re comfortable talking about things that you find aggravating to talk to people about who don’t understand. And I had that conversation with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law here who live in Maryland. And it was a very different conversation about adoptee rights than when they could sit down with someone here. They just didn't fully understand it and were asking some of the same questions that you get so tired of hearing. And tired of answering.
Haley - What would you say that’s never been to an event like this?
Gregory – I’d give it a chance, come. Because as with all conferences, especially one that’s around and has a real good focus on what I’m interested in which is adoptee rights, but there are other focuses as well. You’re gonna meet people that are gonna make you, especially my case, think bigger and think outside of what you’ve been thinking in the past. You always get something out of it. And it’s either, and it’s always typically in one or two presentations, not all of them are stellar, they never are.
Haley - Ouch!
Gregory - No, but that’s true! Some are, I mean that’s just the way it goes, some are clunkers and some are, and it’s just, it may not even be how the presentation, it may just not resonate with you.
Haley - Yeah.
Gregory - But those that do, you take those away.
Haley - There are some lines and things that I’ll probably remember forever, because it had such impact.
Gregory - Exactly.
Haley - Thanks so much!
Gregory – Thank you!
Claire – My name is Claire McGettrick and I am a PhD scholar at the school of sociology in University College Dublin. And I am also a cofounder of Adoptions Rights Alliance.
Haley – And what brought you to the conference?
Claire - So I wanted to present a paper on the preliminary research findings and also to kind of introduce my research to the American adoption world. To exchange ideas with adoption academics and adoption activists here and see what we can learn from each other.
Haley - And how has your experience been?
Claire - It’s been fantastic, it’s been really interesting to have a meeting of so many different minds and different perspectives and yes, I’ve come away with a lot of food for thought.
Haley - Yeah. Well I was in your session, it was excellent. And no joke, I’ve talked to a few adoptees who said that yours was your favorite.
Claire - Oh thank you.
Haley - And they learned a lot from you. And so I would echo that. It was so interesting and one of the funniest things you presented, I thought, was how they advertise DNA testing as Find Your Criminal Ancestry. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Claire - Yes, so one of the points that I make is the, you know, in sort of Ancestry, Family tree DNA, Find My Past, all of these genealogical, some of the DNA-based sites, they advertise to find your ancestors. But I don’t know what it’s like in the US and Canada, but in Ireland and the UK, certainly, a big part of that is people are encouraged to find their criminal ancestors. And if you can find skeletons in the closet, it’s a really sort of, it’s considered a bonus, you know? You know, you find a criminal in your past. And I just think it’s extraordinary that you know, when that’s juxtaposed against adopted people, who simply want basic pieces of information about themselves. That, that is denied of them. So it’s, I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition we’ve got going on right now. It’s still happening and it’s very, it’s interesting to see those contradictions play out, certainly in Ireland and presumably here in the US.
Haley - Yeah, absolutely. I thought you framed it so well. And I don’t want to get into too much of your presentation, because I’d love to have you back to talk about it. One last thing, would you say to other adoptees, would you recommend coming to a conference like this, what’s been your experience that way?
Claire - I think that meeting others with different perspectives is always important. It’s you know, and I think it would be very difficult to come away from a situation like this not having fresh perspectives. So I would encourage anybody who is in the world of adoption to certainly come to conferences like this, around the world. And because we all have something to learn from each other. We’re all coming at it from our own angle and I think each of us has something to bring to the table.
Haley – At a conference like this, there are all kinds of reasons for people attending. There are adoption professionals coming who actually want to do adoption in an ethical manner. There are adoptive parents coming who really want to learn from adopted people and first parents what their experiences have been and how they can best raise their children who have now been adopted and what can they do to best support them. There are other professionals that work with adopted children or adopted adults or first parents. Or any member of the adoption constellation, and they want to get new techniques, they wanna know the latest in neuroscience, they want to be cutting edge of their practice so that they can help people the best way they can. So in addition to adopted people and first parents and legislative work, all kinds, all kinds of reasons for people to attend. So we’re gonna hear now from someone who is actually working in the adoption field, who has great concerns about the ethics of adoption that is practiced in her state of Florida. And we had some off the record conversations that were very illuminating to me. But I trust that Audra is really invested in knowing the other side of adoption and how she can help impact the industry to make it better and more ethical. And we’re also gonna hear from an adoptive parent who is super invested in hearing from adopted people. And you guys, he flew all the way from Israel to Washington D.C., to hear from adopted people. And it’s just amazing. So we’re gonna listen to them and their experience at the conference. And whether or not they think that you should attend.
Audra – My name’s Audra Coons and I’m from Tampa, Florida.
Haley – And what brought you to the conference?
Audra - I think there’s a few things that brought me here. One was to connect with professionals who are practicing ethical, are doing ethical practices and who are up to date with research and what we need to be telling the world about adoption.
Haley – ‘Cause you’re a social worker.
Audra - I am a social worker. And so that was a big part of it. The second part was definitely to hear adoptee voices. And I think that was very helpful in this conference to hear that voice and also from birth first mothers. And those were the two biggest reasons for attending the conference.
Haley - And you also presented a session.
Audra - Yes, so my colleague and I partnered in a session on how and when to talk to your child about adoption. And so a lot of our work is within preplanning, and education and support from the beginning before we’re deciding that that’s a choice and as we go through that process, really as a goal to promote healing and giving that reinformation, since with the history of adoption, we’ve seen that was not how things were going. And so we, in our presentation, we talked a lot about ways to talk about adoption from a developmental perspective. So from infancy, all the way up to adulthood.
Haley - And I know you attended a lot of sessions, I saw you around. Do you have any favorite things you learned or really great takeaways that you wanna share?
Audra - Yeah, for sure. I think some of the reunion topics were very, very valuable. But I think a combination of those real life stories with the scientific aspects, so there were definitely other conferences on trauma, or neuroscience or different things that I think it’s really important to have both of those.
Haley - Any other like, things that you’re like, we’re definitely going to incorporate this into our practice or we need to be thinking about this or?
Audra - Yeah, definitely, I think that you know, one of the reasons why we come to conferences is kind of rejuvenate, is to get our brains thinking and you know, new ideas and what are we missing? And so we’ve recognized and know that birth mother’s voice is not being heard enough. But as well as adoptees, but I think this conference really allowed us to say, you know, our support and education that we’re doing has to be child centered, completely around that. And while our work has been that, I don’t think it was presented in that way enough. And so really to come back to the adoptee because then we can help everyone and we center around that.
Haley - Okay, so talking to another professional like yourself who’s not attended an event like this before, what would you say?
Audra - I would definitely say, I think conferences are very valuable for a lot of the reasons that I just shared. It rejuvenates us, it motivates us, it helps us come up with new ideas. On the other hand, researching and looking at the conferences that you’re going to and making sure that that’s the audience and content that you’re looking for. Because you know, it’s a lot to come to a conference and be here for 3 days, so really to do the research on, and there’s so many conferences. Which is gonna be the most beneficial for me?
Haley - Great, thank you so much!
Audra - Thank you!
Benny – Okay, my name is Benny Saville, I’m from Israel, and I’m an adoptive parent.
Haley – And what brought you to the conference?
Benny - Well, in my private life, I’m the chairman of the organization that represents the adoptive community in Israel. Adoptive community I mean, birth parents, adoptees and adoptive parents. I think we’ve reached the stage that we have to reach out to them more things about adoption. And I’m very happy I came to the conference because I got a very broad variety of views from even from different countries.
Haley - So what were some of the sessions you went to or some of the memorable things that you’re gonna be taking back with you?
Benny - Well, I can’t pick out one. Take the last session that Sue gave.
Haley – Just to interject real quick, this Sue is Dr. Sue Green from Australia and I heard nothing but great things about her all weekend. People loved her session, learned a ton from her, and I hope to have her on the show to share some of her expertise with us in the near future.
Benny – Which was very exciting in the way Australia relates to adoption. And gave me a new perspective of a permanent family without adoption, or maybe without given a new birth certificate. And I said I think the meetings, I had a very, very long session with Sharon Kaplan Roszia, a 2 and a half hour talk with her which mind blowing.
Haley - She was the first keynote, yeah.
Benny - She was the first keynote.
Haley - Yeah, fascinating woman.
Benny - Lot of knowledge and a lot of experience and a very clear perspective of adoption. Even though she’s old school, very, very up to date.
Haley - So you must have lots of plans brewing in your head.
Benny I really have to digest everything I’ve got, I hope I’ve digested it before I come to San Diego.
Haley - Okay, so you’re planning?
Benny - I’m planning, talk to my wife about it.
Haley - I mean, that’s quite the trip. So talk another adoptive parent who hasn’t come to an event like this, why is it so important?
Benny – First of all we’ve got to understand our kids. When we adopt kids, and I’ve got 6 kids, 4 biological, and 2 biological in another way, that we’ve adopted. All kids are biological. But parenting an adopted child is different. And we’ve got to realize and know, and understand better how our kids and what they’re going through, what they might go through. And first it makes us better parents. And the other thing is I want to make the world better so I want to try and change things in Israel, I want to change the way we treat adoption, the way we treat adoptees, the way we treat birth parents. And these are things we’re doing. And we just have to get better practices.
Haley – Thank you, anything else that you wanna say about the conference or your trip here? How’s Washington, how’s Washington, D.C.
Benny - Washington this time of the year is fabulous.
Haley - April, and the cherry blossoms are out, did you get to go outside?
Benny - Yes, I had to take that. Wednesday I went out, but otherwise I was here, attended every session I could.
Haley - Oh my goodness, yeah, there’s so much. Great, thank you so much for sharing.
Benny - Thank you.
Haley – So hey. I’m in my hotel room and it is the night before my keynote speech. And my husband Nick is out at a hockey game because we’re Canadian and apparently that’s what we do. So he, let me think, he’s gone to a Capitals and a Montreal Canadians game. And that, he popped back in because we had the meetup this afternoon. And I wish I had counted. There was, I mean at least 20 people. I’ll have to go back and look at the pictures. And count, but it was a really good turnout. Of course there was some people from the conference that came down, but also a bunch of local D.C. adoptees came. Which was such a gift to be able to meet them in person, several of whom have been on the show and a couple of Adoptees Connect leaders. It was just so special. You know, I met several Patreon supporters, so thank you again for those of you who donate through Patreon. I was trying to tell each person, thank you. So if I forgot that, thank you. But I literally couldn’t do the show without supporters like that, to pay my editor. So I just had this overwhelming sense of gratitude and okay. I’m hesitating to share this but I’m going to. ‘Cause it sounds like a little bit self-involved. But it was so surreal. Because people lined up to like, talk to me. Which was so funny. It only happened like a few people, it wasn’t like a huge lineup or anything. But we, I tried to take pictures with everyone, we took a big group picture. And I tried to make sure to talk with each person. It was just so cool. I mean, there’s nothing like being with other adoptees in person. But like to have them be in person, listeners of the show, it’s just so special. And over and over and over people say, you know, the show changed my life, I’m so glad to know I’m not alone. And that’s just the biggest praise I could get. One of the reasons I started this show was because I felt so alone. And so to be able to share these stories with you, and let you know that you are certainly not the only one experiencing whatever adoptee thing you have going on, hopefully we’ve talked about it on this show or we’ll get to it soon. And you will feel heard and seen. So yeah, I’m, it’s like quarter after 9 and I’m gonna try and go to sleep. I feel like I might not sleep well ‘cause I’m nervous and excited about tomorrow. And I’m just even more fired up about the message I’m gonna bring because I’m talking about Our Voices Are the Tipping Point. And I mean, how much do we need to hear from adoptees? More than ever. It’s just critical. And so, I wonder, if people will come away tomorrow feeling like I pushed their buttons or made them angry a little. Because we need to be talking about it and there’s no room now to be complacent. And I wrote a couple of really strong calls to action and I’m hopeful it will be motivating. And not condemning. Okay, I better get to sleep but I thought I would just record real quick to let you know what I’m thinking the night before. Oh, I can’t believe it’s here.
Haley - Okay, that was fun, right? Okay, here it is. Here is a few minutes from my keynote.
Haley - Every time you let an opportunity go by, where you could have shifted the focus from “oh my gosh, adoption is the best” to “actually, it’s kind of complicated, it’s a little bit nuanced. I can tell you a little bit of my story if you’d like.” Every time you let an opportunity go by, it’s a real shame. I have those opportunities daily. I mean, based on the people in this room, I imagine you have them daily also. But minimum once a week. But you are complicit if you come from a position of power and knowledge and you choose silence. I’m asking you to stop being complicit in allowing the happy adoption narrative to continue. And I’m going to say that again. You are complicit if you come from a position of power and knowledge and you choose silence. Everyone in this room is coming from a position of knowledge because you have been in sessions all week and weekend about the whole truth about adoption. So you know, you know the stats, you have seen the impact adoption has on adoptees’ lives. So you have no excuse. When you stay silent, you are complicit in allowing the fairytale, happy clappy, story of adoption to continue.
It’s going to come at a cost. I’m not saying that you’re not going to get pushback, because that’s not true. That is disingenuous, it will come at a cost. You are going to get your feelings hurt. You are going to feel like you’re talking to a brick wall sometimes. I’m gonna guarantee right now, you’re gonna get mansplained. But guess what, it’s your job now. It’s been my job, it’s gonna continue to be my job, but it’s your job now too. Our job is to change the narrative. And if we in this room, watching at home, listening on an Mp3 later, if we aren’t brave enough to talk about the whole truth of adoption, who is? Stop pretending like everything is awesome. So whether you have adopted a kid, whether you have birthed a kid who is now adopted, whether you are the adopted person, whether you are the therapist that works with adopted kids or adoptive families or both, it’s your job now, it’s your job to tell the whole truth about adoption. And we cannot take that lightly. Every day there are people that go to meet with legislators, in the U.S, in Canada, worldwide. And they don’t understand. Why would we want adoptions records open? What’s the big deal? Why do adoptees want access to their original birth certificates and medical records? And we get denied constantly? What’s the big deal? Closed adoption was promised. We need to know where we came from. It’s a human right to know who your parents are. It’s imperative that people understand that. Adoptees are getting deported because their parents didn’t apply for citizenship. Adoptees are struggling with chronic illness. Because they don’t have their medical records. We are addicted to food, alcohol, drugs to numb our pain. Adoptees are killing themselves because we don’t know who we are. So it’s your job now to tell the whole truth about adoption ‘cause we’re dying.
The last thing I did at the conference was a session with Caitriona Palmer who is just such a dear friend and I asked her to do it as a favor to me. And we were presenting on secondary rejection. Because her and I both have experienced that from our first mothers. So our structure of our presentation was, we shared our personal experience of reunion and secondary rejection. We looked back and talked about what we could have done differently and last we wrapped up with things we’ve done to help us cope with this obviously very painful loss.
Now I’m not going to dwell on this because as I told several people. Actually what happened in this session was, one of the most challenging and painful moments of my entire life. And a first mother who I was already acquainted with, interrupted our session and gave a very difficult and personal attack on both Caitriona and I, more than once during the presentation. And then at the end during the Q & A. Why I wanted to bring that to you, was after my keynote of challenging people to tell the whole truth about adoption, knowing that we likely will get pushback, how do we address this with our friends and family? And really change the narrative at a very grassroots level with our personal connections in person? Not online. How do we do that? How do we change the narrative, how do we build our community and skills and abilities to be able to do that? Looking back on what happened on our session, and how that’s not the way to change someone’s perspective. Because of the fact that this incident happened within the community who are already working to try and change the dominant adoption narrative to one of truth and transparency and highlighting the challenges, it was on a whole other level. And was discussing this with my best friend Jacqueline, and she sent me an Instagram post right away. She’s like, you have to read this because it so applies in this situation. So my best friend is a registered dietician. And she has seen, as you can imagine, there are many debates back and forth in that community on what’s the proper way to eat and what’s healthiest, et cetera. And this post is on Andrea Hardy’sInstagram and it’s a quote from Susan Watson. “Call people in instead of calling them out.” I’m gonna repeat that for you. “Call people in, instead of calling them out.” In the adoption community online, can you tell me if we are united? We as adoptees are not united, first parents are not united, adoptive parents are not united, people that are in the constellation that represent more than one member of the constellation are not united. How do we unify and build the bridges and have productive conversations and move things forward when we are eating each other alive? Online, in person, with competing events? How do we build bridges and move the work that is critical of sharing the whole truth about adoption? How do we do that? When all we’re doing is calling people out and attacking, instead of listening and sharing with the intent of also listening and learning from the other party? How do we do that? I’m not coming to you with this because I have a solution, I wanna challenge you to bring a solution. And to be a person of such high quality and integrity in the way you interact online and in person that people will want to listen to you and honor your words and learn from you. To learn the truth about your story, and how adoption has impacted you. I wanna challenge you to be that person. To call people in, instead of calling them out. Because as much time as we can spend in sessions working on legislative strategy, and learning from other countries who’ve done it before, who are doing it now, who have thought of more creative ideas and have bigger leverage and expertise than we do yet. If we are not the people of integrity in the way we carry ourselves and speak about ourselves and to other people, guess what we do? This. We hurt people, we burn bridges, and nothing gets done. And we go in circles. I’m asking you to choose to be the person that can forgive and move forward and help build the bridges. So together, we can move forward on adoptee rights and activism, sharing the adoptee voice, challenging the dominant cultural narratives, opening up records for birth certificates, for the human right and dignity that we deserve to have answers about where we came from and our medical history. I need you. I need you to step forward and be one of those people that doesn’t call people out but instead we call people in. Be mindful about how you are listening to others when you disagree. And vice versa. We need to spend more time listening and learning from each other and less time attacking. I almost walked away. I almost walked away because it was so personal and painful to hear criticisms of the same actions I beat myself up for regularly. That I almost walked away and thought, I’m never doing this again. But I’m not gonna let something like that break me and I’m hoping that if you’ve had something similar happen to you, that you will take this as an invitation to come back, come back, and help me build the bridges going forward, we’re in this together. Let’s listen and learn from each other in a productive way. We can do this, I know we can. And Adoptees On will continue to be a safe space for challenging topics, for conversations that haven’t happened before publicly, and will continue to build the bridges going forward. I’m asking you to join me in that. Tell the whole truth about adoption. We need you to. I need you to. And I need you to be mindful of how you do it. Thanks so much for listening, let’s talk again next Friday.