“I find it interesting that even in the latter part of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st, when it comes to adoption, the experts are still considered to be social workers and adoptive parents. When people think about adoption, it’s usually in the context of babies and kids, but some of those first generation of international adoptees are actually grandparents.” – Kat Turner
Since reconnecting with her over Facebook and Google+, Kat, a mother of two very talented young women, has taught me some stuff. First of all, she’s schooled me on the virtues of G+ and made me feel as though I’m WAY behind all things tech. Second, she’s reminded me of something many of us KADs forget: we have short memories. Korean adoptees from her “generation” (her words!) started the mini gatherings, which many adoptees, including yours truly, take for granted. KADs from her “generation” launched the Gatherings back in 1999. (I tip my hat to you, Susan Cox.) And as you’ll see, Kat’s former Minnesota adoptee “colleagues” had a great vision for the Resource Committee of Adopted Adults (RCAA), which is housed out of Children’s Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS).
Thanks, Kat. I need the reminder as much as anyone else.
Land of Gazillion Adoptees: How many mini-gatherings did you host while you were in MN?
Kat: I hosted the first official mini gathering in Minneapolis back in the fall of 2000. They started when a small group of eight Korean adoptees (KADs) decided to go to Korea together. When they met in Chicago in February 2000 to plan their trip, a bunch more of us KADs literally crashed their weekend! There were 25-30 people just hanging out and having fun. At Sunday brunch someone mentioned something about wanting to go to Dallas sometime. Because I had lived there at one time, I was nominated to plan an official event – something we would actually put the word out about to invite other KADs.
We called them mini gatherings because most of us had met at the original Gathering held in Washington DC in 1999, which brought the first generation of Korean Adoptees together. Once I started to really think about planning the event, I couldn’t envision doing it anywhere other than Minneapolis – not just because I lived there, but because Minnesota has over 15,000 Korean adoptees, the largest number anywhere in the country.
For a couple of years we were averaging a mini gathering about every six months—LA, NYC, Denver, and Portland. We went back to Chicago again and I did a total of three in Minneapolis, the last one was 2004, where I met you. After that the torch kind of passed on to the young guns and I think there’s still one every year or so.
Land of Gazillion Adoptees: You were one of the first members of the Resource Committee of Adopted Adults (RCAA). What did you think of the group back then and what do you think of its current form?
Kat: You came to me with the initial idea for the RCAA. One of the topics we had discussed during the last mini gathering I hosted in Minneapolis was, “What, if anything, do we owe the next generation of adoptees?” These mini gatherings were great fun, but there was also a lot of serious discussion going on. While we saw progress with some of the KAD issues for the younger generation, there was too much that remained the same, and the general consensus was that the younger generation shouldn’t have to wait until they were our age to feel good about their identity.
The RCAA was meant to give adult adoptees a voice. We wanted to try to bridge the gap between adoptees, the adoption agencies and adoptive parents, and to be more present for the next generation. There was a nice mix of wonderful adoptees from various backgrounds who were excited for this opportunity and the group outlined a vision with solid guidelines for what we wanted the RCAA to represent. Ironically, this also turned out to be my first negative experience with an adoption agency. We went through some real struggles trying to maintain the original purpose of why the group was brought together in the first place—whether it was red tape behind the scenes or just the agency’s need to try to control us, our voice was not being heard without a lot of debate (sometimes quite intense debate).
My favorite memory of that time was the introductory fundraiser we put together. The planning sessions were a great excuse to have a bunch of potlucks, and the event introduced the RCAA to the adoption community in a very positive way. We had set it up so there would be a lot of interaction between the members of the RCAA and the adoptive parents and their kids. We actually “sold out” the event and we had a lot of positive feedback from the adoptive parents, which was a step in the right direction for two of the three main goals we had envisioned for the group.
Shortly after that, I ended up resigning because, at that point in my life, the bureaucracy was just too much. I didn’t like who I had to be, to fight for what we wanted. I don’t honestly know what the RCAA is like now, but I have a couple of good friends who continued to work the cause and so I applaud their efforts.
Land of Gazillion Adoptees: You’ve moved away from being an active member of the adoptee community. Do you miss it?
It’s been several years since I attended anything adoptee related. Part of it is probably burnout. Part of it is time related. But part of it is because I’ve grown to a comfort level where the need is not so strong, and I mean that in a good way. Facebook is nice because I can still keep in touch with all my KAD friends. However, it’s not the same as being with them in person. So yes, I do miss it. And, as I like to say, sometimes I just need a good KAD fix!
Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Word to that, and a huge shout out to the folks of “your generation.”