For Contemporary Issues, Fall 2008, CCA, MFA Design I became active with the Adopted Korean Association of San Francisco (AKASF). It is primarily a social group, giving adoptees the chance to connect with each other and with the larger Korean American community.
In addition to extensive research on adoption and attending AKASF events such as lunches, lectures and art shows, I also reached out to the larger Korean adoptee community in the U.S. First, I sent out disposable cameras to participants I found via the AKASF and AKASoCal mailing lists. They took photos of what adoption and family meant to them and sent them back. I participated in the camera project as well. Second, I conducted an online survey, requesting essays about adoptee experiences. This time, in addition to California participants, I reached out to adoptees in Washington state, New York, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, Hawaii and Seoul.
The quotes in this booklet come from the camera project and online survey. The photos used are from the camera project and my own collection. The timeline stories come from conversations I've had. Although every adoptee's story is different, many stories have to do with identity and isolation. By providing adoptees with an outlet for their expression, I hope to raise the visibility of the adoptee experience outside of the adoptee and Asian communities.
Adoptee culture can be, understandably, insular. However since most adoptive parents of international children are not adoptees themselves nor Asian, I felt it necessary to speak outside of those communties. It is adoptive parents who will be providing for the next generation of adoptees and because adoption is often a fulfilling experience, I believe it should continue. Giving these parents a deeper understanding of what their child might be experiencing–but are not yet mature enough to verbalize–could mean this next set of kids won't feel so lost or alone.
Helping connect adoptees and bridging the gap between adoptees and adoptive parents can also help set a support structure for an even more diverse set of adoptees. When these kids start asking questions–and they will–they might actually be able to find answers.
I plan on creating an accompanying website with more of the images and stories from the photo probes and surveys as time permits.