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Call for Papers

Orphanhood, Foster Care and Adoption in Youth Media:
A Special Issue of Children’s Literature Association Quarterly
Edited by Sarah Park Dahlen and Lies Wesseling

Deadline: November 1, 2014

This special issue of ChLAQ will focus on the different ways in which orphanhood, foster care, and adoption have been depicted in media for youth past and present. We also aim to take perspectives from birth countries and birth parents into account. We invite papers that both extend and disrupt existing adoption discourses, including but not limited to:

– the cultural construction of “adoptability”: constructions of children in need (deserving/undeserving children); of birth parents, foster parents and adoptive parents (deserving/undeserving parents)
– presence/absence of birth parents and birth countries in Western stories of adoption and fostering
– the genres of orphan narratives: the sentimental novel and beyond
– adultism and the hidden adult in orphan narratives
– the (ab)uses of children’s literature as a socialization tool in raising and educating adoptees
– representations of intercountry adoption in birth countries
– the politics of belonging; intersectional perspectives on race, class, nation, gender and sexuality in orphanhood, foster care and adoption
– the adoptees write back: adoptees’ perspectives on the cultural construction of orphanhood and adoptability
– the impact of narratives and visual art (action art, intervention art, etc.) on adoption laws, policies, and practices

Papers should conform to the usual style of ChLAQ and be between 5,000-7,000 words in length. Queries and completed essays should be sent to Sarah Park Dahlen and Lies Wesseling (chlaq.adopt@gmail.com) by November 1, 2014. The selected articles will appear in ChLAQ in 2015.

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In contrast to Monday’s MPR program on the decline of international adoption that was comprised entirely of non-adoptees (see my previous post on this topic), today’s MPR panel, brought about by vocal and articulate adoptees criticizing MPR’s choice of panelists, is comprised entirely of adoptees:

[Full disclosure: Kim and JaeRan are dear friends of mine. They are legit rock stars.]
 

My only criticism is this: Tom Weber focused the conversation on race and racism for 40 minutes. JaeRan Kim, Kim Park Nelson and Kelly Fern totally rocked it with their answers to his questions, but why didn’t he ask them on their thoughts about the decline of international adoption? 

[update/note: for new readers, this is full disclosure that I myself am not an adopted Korean. I am a Korean American daughter of immigrant Korean parents. I am an assistant professor at St. Catherine University in the Master of Library and Information Science Program, and I study representations of adoption in children’s literature and adoptee information seeking behaviors. I consider myself an ally and advocate for adoptees and ethical adoption.]

Yes, it’s true. I blog mostly when I’m really annoyed. There’s a whole lot more to the background of international adoption than I can post here, but for a brief background at least on the Republic of Korea, check out Dr. Kim Park Nelson‘s “Mapping Multiple Histories of Korean American Transnational Adoption.”

Recently we have seen several articles regarding the “precipitous decline” in international adoptions; one reason for these declines is that there has been so much documented corruption, child trafficking, questionable behaviors, etc., in international adoption, so some countries have shut down their adoption programs – and rightly so. Countries have decreased the numbers of children they make available for adoption because they are trying to care for the children within their own countries, mostly by way of domestic adoption programs, which is a nice thought but fails to address the root problem of why so many children are being orphaned/made into “legal” or “social” orphans in the first place. Another reason may be that birth mothers are being incredibly brave and choosing to raise their children as single mothers. These are all valid and good reasons to decrease the numbers of children adopted internationally. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-adoption. Adoption is and should be a good thing and a great way for a child to find a home. But in recent decades the institution has spiraled out of control and created a market for children that has broken up many existing families. So I’m actually anti-unethical adoption. Anyway, back to the main topic at hand.

Today MPR had another program on the decline of international adoption . Here’s the panel of 4, as stated on the MPR Daily Circuit page:

  • (adoptive father) Dana Johnson: Professor of pediatrics in the division of neonatology at the University of Minnesota, founded the International Adoption Clinic
  • (adoptive mother) Maureen Warren: President of Children’s Home Society
  • Jodi Harpstead: Chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota
  • (adoptive father) David McKoskey: Adoptive father, professional computer programmer and adjunct professor of computer science at St. Catherine University (full disclosure: David has guest lectured in my LIS7530 Internet Fundamentals and Design class – and done a fantastic job of it.)

As usual, there are no adult adopted persons on this panel. There is no shortage of adult adoptees in Minnesota who are adoption professionals, activists, etc., that could have balanced out the perspectives and experiences represented by this panel. Earlier this morning when we learned that this program was happening, adoptees encouraged one another to call-in with their comments in order to get their voices heard. Here’s my (almost) live blogging of what went down:

What MPR talked about:

  • The declining numbers in international adoption
  • The continuing “need” for international adoption (never mind that the number of global “orphans” are conflated and inaccurate)
  • How open adoptions can change the landscape of contemporary adoption
  • The impact of the Hague Convention on international adoptions
  • How they would prefer the safety of children over volume… but when the volume increased so quickly… that attracted a lot of different agencies and operators… and there “might have been some safety and care sacrificed.”
  • The goal is to get the number rising again so children can be placed (which I read as “and also so that our finances can stabilize”)
  • They actually talked about adult adoptees who are now professionals: “Particularly adult Korean adoptees that are influencing the arts, that are influencing adoption, that are very interested in contributing to all walks of life in Minnesota” (except even though they are influencing adoption, we haven’t invited any of them to this panel).
  • That there’s a “special place in heaven” for the families who open their homes to a child. She needs to read David Smolin’s “Of Orphans and Adoption, Parents and the Poor, Exploitation and Rescue: A Scriptural and Theological Critique of the Evangelical Christian Adoption and Orphan Care Movement.
  • That prospective adoptive parents need to be patient because small delays are just that – small delays in the long run.
  • Kevin Ost-Vollmers called out MPR for not inviting adult adoptees to this panel, and MPR answered that the program focuses on the drop in adoptions and therefore they invited people who work at agencies, and rather, that adoptees could call-in with their comments. I’m not sold on this answer, as I think they need to address the root of the problem – that adoptions may happen at the expense of exploited/misinformed families, and that watching out for them should be a major priority for anyone concerned about building/maintaining healthy families.
(Some of) What call-ins from the audience talked about:
  • 1st caller: adoptee and adoptive father
  • 2nd caller: adoptive mother of Korean daughter: “adoption has really opened our family up”
  • 3rd caller: domestic adoptee who adopted internationally
  • 4th caller: domestic adoptee whose wife is adopted, father is adopted, brother is adopted, and is the adoptive father of 2 children from Ethiopia. Thinks CHS is a great organization. Drives him crazy when people say “Your girls are so lucky. We’re the lucky ones!”
  • 5th caller: asked about the role of infertility in the adoption process
  • 6th caller: KEVIN OST-VOLLMERS! Korean adoptee, blogger and adoptee activist called out MPR for not inviting Korean adoptees to the program!!! And asked another question about culture and whiteness, but I didn’t catch the whole thing because I was so excited that he actually got through the phone lines. I’m so not satisfied with MPR’s answer.

What I wish MPR had talked about:

And let’s not forget so-called “well-intentioned” Christian organizations that want to expedite and process international adoptions without following established legal procedures. Consider what the Idaho churches tried to do in Haiti after the earthquake: http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_14338123

That’s all, just some real life adoptees, birth parents, (and adoptive parents, although their stories get PLENTY of airtime already), and their real life stories. It gets better, right, MPR? Can we extend this conversation and add another program that features the voices of adult adoptees/adoptee professionals?

2012 July 11 update: As a follow up, check out the following:

2012 July 12 update: Tomorrow, this is finally happening:

Please read this Community Letter regarding the deportation of transnationally adopted persons.

Transnationally Adopted Koreans’ Information Seeking Behavior
REQUEST FOR PARTICIPATION

Introduction
My name is Sarah Park and I am an assistant professor in the Library and Information Science Program at St. Catherine University, and I am researching the information seeking behaviors of adopted Koreans. My main research question is: how do adopted Koreans go about seeking information regarding adoption and birth histories, what are some barriers, specific needs, and resources available to aid in this process? The goal of my research is to understand and frame the information behaviors of adopted Koreans, as well as analyze and highlight the needs, resources, and barriers related to information seeking.

I invite you to participate in this project of advancing knowledge about search experiences through an interview about your own search experiences. The interview will take approximately one hour and be audio-recorded. All data will be kept strictly confidential, secured behind passwords and locked cabinets/offices, and destroyed upon completion of the project.

Participant Requirements

  • Adopted Koreans age 18+ who have conducted a birth search.

If interested, please contact Sarah Park
651-690-8791 Office
spark@stkate.edu

This project is funded by the St. Catherine University Carol Easley Denny Faculty Research Grant. For more information about Sarah Park: http://sarahpark.com

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