Monday, April 29, 2013

20 Quick Tips to Better Advocate for Yourself & Others

In my four years identifying as an activist, I have had the opportunity to learn from other experienced activists as well as engage in the discussion of theories-of-change in my academic social work experience. As an activist, you are never done learning. While I have been an activist for only a short while now, part of my learning process is to explain to others what I have learned. How can we effect positive change if we don't pass on our knowledge to others to benefit from?

The wonderful thing about so many of the tips I have written below is that they are applicable to advocacy at all levels. Meaning, they are skills that can be used whether advocating for yourself, for another individual, for a group or community, or for broad level policy changes. I have used these skills when calling utility companies to clear up discrepancies on my own household bills. I have used these skills to help clients reach resources within agencies that they need. I have also used these skills when being interviewed on the radio, writing opinion editorials, blogging, meeting with legislators and their staff, giving feedback on drafted legislation, and providing testimony for legislative hearings.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Child Catchers: a Guest Review by Sociologist Dr. Gretchen Sisson


The Child Catchers: Changing adoption, challenging God's purpose

Guest Review by Dr. Gretchen Sisson

Systems of adoption have always been enmeshed with the goals of the religious. From the Orphan Trains of the nineteenth century, run by the Protestant Children’s Aid Society, which targeted the “slum” children of Catholic Irish and Italian immigrants (living immigrants, it should be noted; the “orphan” part of the name was a misnomer or, more likely, a lie), to the maternity homes of the twentieth century, so often run by the Catholic Church and targeting the newborns of unwed mothers. For each of these organizations (and countless others doing similar work), adoption has been alternately framed as a pathway towards religious redemption for parents who have committed the sin of non-marital pregnancy, or as an opportunity for salvation for children being reared outside of the true faith. In her new book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, author Kathryn Joyce disentangles the complicated relationship between contemporary evangelical Christianity and American adoption.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Discussion of Adoption-Reconstruction Phase Theory with Dr. L. DiAnne Borders


DiAnne and her son Jacob.
Out of all of the theories that I have learned in my academic social work career, I find myself most drawn to theories described in phases and stages.  For me, they are easier to remember and often clearly lay out how individuals can evolve over time.  Theories and models don't describe everyone, but they're important to learn as a basis of understanding people and the challenges that they face. 

A few years back, I was delighted to stumble upon an article that contained a phase theory for adult adoptees.  Written by L. DiAnne Borders, Judy Penny and Francie Portnoy, it was titled Reconstruction of Adoption Issues: Delineation of Five Phases Among Adult Adoptees and published in 2007 in the Journal Of Counseling & Development.

The article described how feedback from a previous research project, where adoptees had responded in-depth about their narratives, prompted the researchers to investigate how adoptees reconstruct adoption.  After conducting research from a sample of 100 adult adoptees, the researchers had developed five (non-sequential) phases of adoption-reconstruction.  The five phases resonated with me personally and were meaningful to every adult adoptee that I shared them with.

Because life is just too short not to engage in dialogue with other professionals and individuals knowledgeable about my topics of passion (like the time I missed being able to extensively dialogue with Dr. Betty Jean Lifton because I hadn't the foggiest idea who she was at the time that she emailed me), I reached out to Dr. L. DiAnne Borders who was listed as the contact person on the 5 Phases article.  She graciously agreed to let me publish the questions I asked her here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Becoming Adoption Changemakers & Reflecting on the Dialogue After the CLPP Conference

Marisa, Amanda, Kat, Sue, and Gretchen.
This past weekend, I had the honor of being on an incredible panel at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference "From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom."  The plenary/Q&A panel was formed by sociologist, Dr. Gretchen Sisson and featured master social workers Kat Cooley (original mother) and Susan Harris O'Connor (adopted person), community organizer Marisa Howard-Karp (adoptive mother), and me.

The purpose of the panel, plain and simple, was to put adoption discourse on the table.  The word--the concept--"adoption" pops up quite frequently in reproductive justice dialogue.  Yet what does it mean to be adopted, be an original parent, or be an adoptive parent?  Our panel let our audience know a bit about what it is like to be us as well as how to support those who live adoption.  We outlined this in inter-personal ways as well as on a macro-level.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Other A-Word: A Stellar Conference Panel One Week From Today

 
One week from today, I will be speaking on a plenary panel at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy's Reproductive Justice conference. Included in the panel are Susan Harris O'Connor, MSW; Kate Livingston, PhD candidate; and community organizer, Marisa Howard Karp. The panel will be moderated by Sociologist, Dr. Gretchen Sisson.

Session title: The Other A-Word: Adoption and Reproductive Justice
1:15 to 2:45, FPH 103: Adoption has been co-opted by anti-choice advocates as a “solution” to unplanned pregnancy, teen parenting, and pregnancy in poverty, but has been almost universally neglected by the reproductive justice movement. This panel will apply an RJ framework to thinking through adoption issues, from the struggle of adoptees to access vital documentation and medical history to how race, class and gender influence the experiences of both birth and adoptive parents. Adoption is a complex process that both builds families and engenders loss. Open adoptions, in particular, make visible new forms of kinship created by adoption. Participants will discuss ways of moving towards a more ethical, better-supported system of adoption.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How Not to Shut Down Adoption Discourse--or--How to Ask Someone About Their Family


Those of us connected to adoption get asked some pretty intense questions whether from family members, friends, co-workers, or random strangers.  In fact, one of the most frequently written about topics in the larger adoption community is the "Things People Ask That They Shouldn't" variety.  The answers to the questions run the gamut from snark, to serious answers, to light-hearted replies.  More often than not, the responses send the message that people should feel badly for asking and that they shouldn't ask about adoption.  Perhaps even that they should ignore adoption.  It's not OK to ask anything.  But is shutting down adoption discourse what we really want?

It's true that many of the questions those of us connected to adoption get asked are presumptive, too personal, or even unkind.  Perhaps unintentionally so.  This blog post won't tell the adoption community how to deal with the questions or overlook what makes them uncomfortable about certain adoption-related questions.  I want to appeal to those who may some day ask an adoptee a question to do so in a way that's respectful.  I will cover adoptee-focused questions, although comparable questions may get asked of other adoption community members.

The hallmark of inappropriate questions is that they are filled with micro-aggressions--underlying messages that get sent along with the question.  Micro-aggressions reflect biases and often aren't what you meant to say at all.