Proposal on Common Ground in Adoption: Not Chosen By NCFA/JCICS

I submitted a proposal, “Finding Common Ground in Adoption Policy and Practices,” for the annual NCFA/JCICS conference. It was not chosen. I am disappointed, primarily because the conference participants will not get to hear my insightful, accomplished co-panelists (three transracial adoptees from the US, Colombia, and Ethiopia) speak on a vital topic.

NCFA is the National Council For Adoption, and JCICS is the Joint Council on International Children’s Services. This June, they are hosting a national conference together, titled “Putting Family First: From Family Strengthening to Adoption.”

My partners included Aselefech Evans, an Ethiopian adoptee who is also my daughter. She is a founder of Ethiopian Adoptees of the Diaspora. Aselefech and three other Ethiopian adoptees recently created a powerful video for Black History Month about racial identity: black, African, Ethiopian, African-American, immigrant? The video, “I Am Black History,” is available here.  Another panelist was Susan Branco Alvarado, soon to be Ph.D. with a dissertation on “School Counselors Working with Transracially Adopted Students.” Susan is a Colombian adoptee, and a licensed therapist specializing in adoption. The third panelist was Nicole Soojung Callahan, a Korean adoptee born in the US. Her recent adoption-related articles are “Did You Ever Mind It?: On Race and Adoption” and “Friendship and Race and Knowing Your Place,” reflecting on her experiences as a transracial adoptee. She is currently the assistant editor of; her writing has appeared in Slate, the New York Times, Salon,, and elsewhere.

My proposal partnered with three adult adoptees because adoptive parents like me have held the microphone way too long in adoption forums, and because I believe deeply in the value of adult adoptees’ perspectives and experiences. I also would genuinely like to see positive movement toward common ground in adoption policies and practices. My co-panelists would have brought thoughtful, extensive expertise to the discussion.

International adoptions are declining. Adult adoptees are speaking out about falsehoods in their adoption paperwork, their struggles with racism, and their distrust of the adoption process. Adoption agencies are closing. At least one has been indicted by the US Department of Justice for fraud and corruption. TV shows and mainstream news articles critique adoption in an almost visceral way. The adoption community is increasingly angry, antagonistic, and divided.

All of that prompted my proposal on “Finding Common Ground in Adoption Policy and Perspectives.” You can read the proposal here, including more biographical information.

Final thoughts:

  • The attendees at the NCFA/JCICS conference have lost the opportunity to hear the wisdom and insights of three adult adoptees who would bring a critical but balanced viewpoint, and not the traditional narrative which dismisses the genuine, increasingly vocal concerns of many adult adoptees. NCFA and JCICS have been criticized for not including adult adoptees in policy discussions and for dismissing them if their voices were too critical. As one colleague said to me, “We adoptees and our allies are going to keep pushing back on policies that aren’t in our interest and well-being.”
  • While I easily admit that I have spoken out against some of the policies and practices of NCFA and JCICS, this proposal was intended to create a conversation about differences, and see if we could find positive, common ground in our community. I still see that as a viable, important goal. My co-panelists and I have already been offered some new opportunities, and look forward to new conversations.

NCFA and JCICS have every right to make the selections they want. I will continue to partner with adult adoptees and first parents on workshops, publications, and videos. Adoptees and first/birth families will continue to take over the microphones that adoptive parents and adoption agencies have held in the past, and will increasingly speak their truths, rightfully demanding change. Let’s move ahead.

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8 thoughts on “Proposal on Common Ground in Adoption: Not Chosen By NCFA/JCICS

  1. Pingback: Predicting the Future of Intercountry Adoption at the JCICS-NCFA 2015 Conference | Light of Day Stories

  2. Pingback: International Adoption in 2030: Predicting the Future | Light of Day Stories

  3. Yes, disappointing that they didn’t select 3 very knowledgeable, intelligent, and well-spoken adoptees, but yes, adoptees and first families will continue to speak, write, and be heard. If you haven’t heard, you’re all invited to tomorrow’s Re-Launch Party (March 1st). The anthology, AdoptionLand, by several also remarkable adoptees and first families from around the world will be available. Please feel free to attend and support the too-often silenced voices in AdoptionLand. Support strength, courage, voices and solidarity of adoptees and our families.

  4. It’s disappointing this was overlooked. As a foster/adoptive parent, it’s untenable how little we get hear from adoptees. Their insights are invaluable to me. Thank you for your work on this, despite the frustrations involved.

  5. Perhaps you can find another venue for what sounds like a very valuable contribution to the discussion of adoption practice. Adoptive parents (I am one) need to let down their guard and acknowledge that they don’t know everything, even about their children, and first mothers (I am one) need to be recognized for their suffering and loss. Adoptees need to be listened to and accorded the rights of every American citizen, namely access to their own information, and prospective adoptive parents need to realize that adoption is not about them. A child’s interest must come first.

  6. I attended a community showing of the film ‘Stuck’ 2 years ago. What struck me at that event is called to mind by this story: In adoption, anyone who rejects the simplistic frame ‘adoption=good’ finds herself talking past those who embrace it.

    Often, just raising questions about any aspect of any adoption–even the one you paid for yourself–is derided as ‘sour grapes’. I’ve had people ask me if my child ‘has problems’, like I’m a dissatisfied consumer, and suggest that we must not really love her or we’d ‘forget about where she came from’.

    Point being, I’d have been astonished had NCFA accepted your proposal. They are lobbying organizations. But that points up a troubling truth: I’m not sure where and how to reach PAPs and APs with alternative views without some cooperation from JCICS/NCFA-level orgs. They’re the people who are funding the system we have, and industry boosters want them to hear the simple version, but I’m convinced that real reform is not possible without APs/PAPs.

    So…I’ll be interested in hearing about any opportunities to hear this presentation.

    • Indeed, I was not surprised (nor were my co-panelists) to be turned down. And I agree that reform will likely involve adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents: they have traditionally held the power. and obviously are a vital part of the community. That said, I believe that future significant reform will come primarily from the adoptee and first parent community. There has already been a sea change in adoption policy in a short time. CHIFF’s failure is an example of legislation that, in past years, would have sailed through the Congress.

      I look forward to seeing who JCICS/NCFA have accepted for the conference, which should be known in a month or so.

      In the meantime, thank you for your interest in hearing the presentation. We are looking into a video conversation or other format, perhaps a couple of articles. Lots of opportunities.

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