Enter the crazy internal dialogue of Kevin Ost-Vollmers. Enjoy.
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…