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Adult Adoptees: The True Leaders in Adoption

I’ve said it before.  I’ll say it again.  Adoptees, not adoption agencies, are moving the conversation forward.  Would you like some evidence, dear reader?

Agency professionals rehash old stuff over and over again.  Dr. John Raible wrote the following after reflecting upon the last North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) Conference:

“What is challenging when attending NACAC conferences… Seeing some of the same presenters and experts (mostly APs) offering the very same sessions that they offered five, ten, and even fifteen years ago. Haven’t they learned anything new? Don’t they have something innovative or revolutionary to offer? Frustration at the depressingly slow rate of change, over the decades.” (source)

Adoptees, though, push our cause into new disciplines and environments.

National Communication Association (NCA) Conference Roundtable Discussion
“Communication Studies on International Adoption: Voices, Issues, and Impact” 

Sunday, November 20, 2011
9:30 AM  – 10:45 AM
Sheraton New Orleans
Room: Southdown – Fourth Floor

International adoption is a new field in communication, which studies intercultural/cross cultural communication in the context of family communication. It also extended family communication to a global perspective.

The goal of the panel is to begin conversation that will last well beyond NCA and create a supportive network of colleagues and location of research resources.  It is also an important step in helping to better and more clearly articulate what our discipline can and should do in regards to having scholarly (and non-scholarly) impact on, and contribution to, the research and practices of international adoption.

This Panel sincerely invites audience to participate in the discussion.  Please check the panel web page at and feel free to send us your suggestions and comments by typing in the section “Add new comments” on this page.  We are looking forward to meeting you at the NCA, and hearing from you after the convention.

Contact person:
Joyce Chen, Ph.D. Communication Studies, University of Northern Iowa
Email: chen @

Panel chair:
Bert Ballard, Ph.D Communication Division, Pepperdine University

Bert Ballard, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Communication Division at Pepperdine University where he researches adoptee identity, and adoptive family communication along with communication ethics.  He has been published in a variety of scholarly journals including the Journal of Family Communication, Qualitative Inquiry, the International Review of Qualitative Research, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Academic Quarterly, and New Directions for Teaching and Learning.  He has co-founded two adoptee-led organizations, is an advisor and cast member on the recently released Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam (, co-writes a comic on adoption (, and is editor of Pieces of Me: Who do I Want to Be?, an edited collected of voices for and by adopted teenagers from around the world.  He is the co-chair of the Intercountry Adoption Summit, a gathering to bring together countries and academics to discuss the current and future state of international and transracial adoption (  He was a significant contributor and certified trainer of a Transracial Adoption and Foster Care Parent Curriculum (  Bert is a frequent speaker around the world at scholarly and professional adoption conferences, adoption family “culture” camps, adoption trainings, adoptive parent events, and adoptee-only gatherings.  He is an adoptee from Vietnam evacuated during Operation Babylift in 1975, and an adoptive parent to a 2-year old son from Vietnam.

My personal story of being adopted and adopting can be found at:–documentary-on-vietnamese-orphans-has-local-touch

Ballard, R. L. (in press). I heard the call, but he wasn’t actually there: Sacred communication with my new son. International Review of Qualitative Research.

Ballard, R. L. & Ballard, S. J. (2011). From narrative inheritance to narrative momentum: Past, present, and future stories in an international adoptive family. Journal of Family Communication, 11(2), 69-84.


2 Comments on Adult Adoptees: The True Leaders in Adoption

  1. John Raible said – “Having my intuitive sense validated that something is fundamentally wrong with adoption, because it allows mothers to reject children, and that the rejection of the child by its mother (even in the womb!) causes lifelong consequences and pain that must be addressed eventually”
    I yesterday at the opportunity to give evidence to the Australian Government Senate Inquiry into forced adoption. I could not speak for adoptees but I spoke about adoptees and the damage of adoption.Other adoptees presented evidence and made submissions.It was expected that the Inquiry would be about mothers and the discovery has been made that adoption is about adoptees!! As a fellow adoptee remarked this week, Occupy Adoption!! It is about us, about our experiences and our trauma, losses and lives.

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