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Land of Gazillion Adoptees interviews Kevin Ost-Vollmers, aka, “Good Kevin” chats with “Angry Kevin” about those meddling “angry adoptees”

Enter the crazy internal dialogue of Kevin Ost-Vollmers.  Enjoy.
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Land of Gazillion Adoptees: When it launched, your blog had a field day going after the Minnesota based Children’s Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS), one of the most recognized adoption agencies in the US.  You haven’t said much about the agency in awhile.  What’s up with that?

Kevin: Here’s my three part answer to your question.  First of all, there is a lot of other stuff to discuss on LGA, namely all of the glorious stuff adult adoptees here in Minnesota and beyond are doing.  CHSFS is just a blip on the LGA radar.

Second, critiquing CHSFS is almost too easy.  Let’s face it.  Even though it has a long history here in Minnesota and some still consider it one of the “premiere adoption agencies,” CHSFS in the past few years has been reduced to just another agency that has had the “placements/referrals is everything” business model bite them in the face during the recession (at the expense of some truly great employees).  The words of an adoptee friend, who once vehemently supported CHSFS, sums it up well: “I don’t expect anything from CHSFS anymore.”

Third, CHSFS has no interest in engaging LGA and so why bother attempting any kind of open dialogue?  Believe me.  We’ve given the leadership at CHSFS ample opportunities to respond to some of my more scathing remarks, but the agency leadership has treated me like all of those other “angry adoptees.”  They ignore me.  This, of course, isn’t a surprise.  Ignoring “angry adoptees” is a tactic taken by most adoption agencies.  From their perspective, responding to critiques, charges, etc., leveled by adoptees against them would only legitimize the said critiques, charges, etc.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Speaking of angry, is it true that the current CEO/President of CHSFS referred to you as an “angry adoptee”?

Kevin: I’m not 100% sure, but (legitimate) grapevine conversations indicate that she referred to me as an “angry adoptee” while talking with a prominent person in the Minnesota adoption community.  I kind of made a stink about it last year, but, to be honest, I don’t really care what she thinks of me.

With all that said, however, I’m am not a fan of adoption agencies and adoption professionals’ use of the “angry adoptee” label.  Here are some reasons why.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, for agency types the “angry adoptee” label is code for irrational, unstable, emotional, needs mental health counseling, not to be taken seriously, and so forth.  It is a way to dismiss critically thinking adult adoptees who have VERY legitimate thoughts, perspectives, and ideas about the problematic worldwide institutionalization of adoption; “angry adoptees” are pathological.

The “angry adoptee” label is divisive.  For example, the label is used to drive a wedge between prospective adoptive parents and critically thinking adult adoptees.  “Those angry (pathological) adoptees who want to end South Korean intercountry adoption are trying to keep you away from the child you desperately wish to welcome into your home.  They want to shatter your dreams and the dreams of the hundreds of thousands of orphans who want a permanent, loving home.”  During the time that I was at CHSFS, the agency and its famous former employee Hyun Sook Han, did just that when Adoptee Solidarity Korea (ASK) first became active.

The “angry adoptee” label at times drives a wedge between adoptees.  Similar to other words and phrases (birthmother, birthfather, etc.) created by adoption professionals, many adoptees have appropriated “angry adoptee” into their vocabulary.  A case in point is the blog Diary of a Not-So-Angry Asian Adoptee.  To paraphrase a fawning Dawn Davenport, a self described “leading expert in adoption, infertility, and orphan care,” the Diary of a Not-So-Angry Asian Adoptee is accessible, inviting, warm, eloquent, and adoptive parent friendly – the counter to the “stridency of some adoptee blogger[s].”

Seriously.  I could go on and on about the “angry adoptee” label, but I’ll end with this.  Rather than tactically treating “anger” as a dirty word to use against adoptees who don’t agree with them, adoption agencies and professionals should engage critically thinking adult adoptees from all walks of life because agency types would learn a tremendous amount.  Moreover, rather than encouraging adoptive parents and potential adoptive parents to look for the messages beyond the anger, as Davenport suggests, adoption agencies and professionals should advocate for all within our community to treat anger as a fundamental human experience, not simply a word; they should encourage their constituents to see, digest, address, and act upon adoptee anger itself.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Wow, Kevin.  A simple “yes” or “no” would have been a sufficient.

Kevin: WTF?  Dude, don’t be such a dick.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Takes one to know one, Kevin.

Kevin: True that…

10 Comments on Land of Gazillion Adoptees interviews Kevin Ost-Vollmers, aka, “Good Kevin” chats with “Angry Kevin” about those meddling “angry adoptees”

  1. Hi Kevin, Good points, especially about the divisiveness of the label “angry” adoptee. Tue that! My point was simply that some people speak in a way that helps me hear the message. (I guess I fawn over that.) Other people could hear the message by another speaker. Takes all kinds to make the world go ’round. Keep speaking. Keep listening. We need more dialog, less monolog..

    • Thanks for your comment, Dawn. I appreciate your willingness to engage in the conversation. Yes, less monologue would be a good thing.

    • You know what would help you hear the message? If you would shut up, get over yourself, and open your ears.

      Seriously: I’m not an adoptee, I don’t know you and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of you, and this probably sounds extraordinarily rude. But usually when someone “fails to hear a message,” we understand it is because their ears are not working. When it is the fault of the speaker it is due to the speaker using an unfamiliar language or not speaking loudly or clearly enough. Do you really think the average “angry adoptee” you run into is speaking Farsi or whispering at a subaudible level? No. So it would seem the fault lies with you.

      If you waited for everyone to be in a perfect mood before you would listen to them, you’d go crazy from lack of human conversation. So quit holding adoptees to a standard which you do not apply to anyone else.

  2. “Your anger is a gift…”

    I’m with Dawn. Keep speaking. Keep listening. And if you’re angry, keep expressing that anger. Thoughtfully or not. Constructively or not.

    It’s amazing that we still live in a society that wants everything to be sunshine and light all the time. Boring and counterproductive. I haven’t learned a single thing about parenting from my friends who only talk about how wonderful it is. It can’t be all “first laughter” and “first steps”. I tune those people out because I’m getting a much more balanced story from the people who combine that stuff with “first time getting a full night’s sleep in years” and “who knew something so small could produce something so horrifying?”. If I ever get to be a parent, those are the people who will have shared tools for how they survived it with their sanity intact. Those are the people to learn from; we do ourselves a disservice when we limit our perspectives to that which we’re comfortable hearing.

    “Just gimme some truth…”

  3. Well said Kevin. I’ve been meaning to write a post about the “angry” adoptee label for a while, but you hit it on the head. “It is a way to dismiss critically thinking adult adoptees who have VERY legitimate thoughts, perspectives, and ideas about the problematic worldwide institutionalization of adoption; “angry adoptees” are pathological.”

    I would also add that in doing so, they get to avoid engaging in their own thought process and shutter their minds from examining their own professions and livelihoods to see if they are a part of the problem.

  4. Well said. My first encounter with anyone who didn’t think adoption was all rainbows was with someone who would easily be labeled an ‘angry adoptee’. I was shocked at first. But I kept looking at her point of view and realized she had some very valid points. That ‘angry adoptee’ really opened my eyes. And it probably helped that I was kept despite pressure on my single mother to surrender, that I have never known my father, and that I have no reason to NEED to see adoption through rose-colored glasses. I had no reason to feel offended at the idea that adoption may not be the miracle it’s made out to be. My perspective has changed.

    Your openness is exactly what the world needs to stop idealizing the institution and start seeing things more critically. Keep spreading your message.

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  1. “Do not be silenced.  Your anger is a gift.”: African American Aaron Cunningham reflects upon those “angry adoptees” | Land of Gazillion Adoptees

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