Over the past few years, I have shared my journey being adopted. I have written about growing up with non-adopted siblings (https://www.naspa.org/blog/which-one-of-these-is-not-like-the-other), the qualitative research class that has started me on this journey towards researching my adoption story (https://www.naspa.org/blog/what-s-at-your-core), and embracing the liminal periods of life (https://www.naspa.org/blog/the-liminality-of-adoption). When introducing this idea to create a “People of NASPA IV-West” blog, Molly Pierson asked: “Can you recall a time you told someone something and chills ran through your body? Can you remember a moment where you were so passionate about something that you were yelling without realizing it?”
I remember the chills. I can recall that passion. And it started when I overheard some coworkers talking about adoption. Upon saying that I don’t (often) eavesdrop, I asked the simple question “Are you adopted?” to which they both replied “yes.” The chills. The passion. I had found them through a simple commonality with coworkers. From that fateful meeting, we have come together to form an adopted persons group, encompassing students, faculty and staff that are adopted. We get together on a monthly basis to network with other adoptees, share our stories in a safe space, and create a community of adoptees through shared experiences and language. Upon announcing our group at an all-campus get together, we have found other members who are adopted both on our branch campus and our main campus 45 minutes away. Our club has grown each meeting, and I was amazed to have 7 people at our last meeting. This may not seem like astounding numbers to the average person, but never before had I been in the same room with that many adopted persons before. While we all came from different backgrounds and different adoption stories, we could all relate and support each other.
Our adoption group hopes to educate our campus community about some important issues regarding adoption, and keep educating ourselves on various facets of the adoption process. For instance, our campus art museum held an exhibit called Foundling by artist Megan Rye that we toured to see another person’s perspective on adoption (https://www.spencerart.ku.edu/exhibition/foundling). This exhibit raises awareness about civil rights issues for immigrants and sheds light on the adoption process in the United States. It helped facilitate some good dialogue between our group members and helped us focus on adoption as a societal process and not just through our own personal lenses. We hope to bring this awareness of issues in the adoption and foster care process to our campus community through future programs and presentations.
While I can only share what I know from my own experiences, I encourage you to get to know your colleagues. Ask the tough questions. And don’t be afraid to tell your own story. Since starting this group, I have had a staff member reach out and say they found it very helpful, and they wish they had an adoption group when they were in college. We all work with students who are going through something. Not everyone is adopted. Not everyone has the same family structure or background. But when you are willing to open up about your story, it makes other people feel more comfortable to share their story. Whether you find commonalities among family structure, sports teams or food, those connections could be the difference between a student and staff member leaving your institution or staying because they have found a place where they belong. Through the simple art of conversation, I hope you can find your chills, your passion, your belonging.