Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mid-March Update

KOREAN CULTURE DAY: APRIL 5, 2014 Korean Culture Day is being planned for Saturday, April 5, 2014. Please be sure to rsvp soon so that we can better plan for the event. We will have activities for the kids and information sessions for the adults. The Hanji Crew will also be here for our event. Please rsvp at the link below. RSVP today. https://ftkamadison.wufoo.com/forms/ftka-annual-korean-culture-day/ Below you will find an interview with Prof. Sara Docan-Morgan. She is one of our guest speakers for this year’s Korean Culture Day. Please read the interview and learn a little bit about Sara and what she brings to the table. We hope to see you all there!

 FTKA Conversation with Prof. Sara Docan-Morgan (UW-LaCrosse, Communications Professor)  
Tell us more about your background and your family. How old were you when you were adopted? Where did you grow up? I was adopted when I was 4 months old and grew up in Fargo, ND and Aberdeen, SD. My parents also had my sisters, who were not adopted, and were 6 and 10 when I arrived. Although my parents have since passed away, my sisters and I remain close.  

What drew you to studying Korean adoption communication issues? As a Communication scholar, I am interested in how people's relationships are built and maintained through the messages they exchange. Growing up where I did, there were a lot of micro aggressions, such as "Where are you really from?" "Your English is really good!" "Have you met your REAL parents?" and also some overt racism. In my PhD program, I developed a desire to understand the extent to which these types of interactions were common, and what they meant to other Korean adoptees.  

What are some of the common communication challenges that you have seen in trans-racially adoptive families? I think that one of the biggest challenges is that race is a difficult topic to discuss and that adoptive parents may not know when/how to discuss it with their children. In addition, adoptees find themselves wanting to "blend in," so that it is challenging for them to talk about race and being different, too. I think that a broader issue is that society continues to see adoption as being "second best" and not "normal," and these assumptions come out in comments and questions that may seem harmless but are actually quite hurtful, especially as they accumulate over time.  

What have you seen as some of the reasons/ motivations behind "topic avoidance" between adoptees and their adoptive parents? My research has found that adoptees sometimes perceive that their adoptive parents won't understand issues related to race (e.g., being teased about race). Or, other times, adoptees have reported that they've tried to talk about race with their parents, but their parents haven't responded in empathetic, supportive ways. And, as I mentioned above, sometimes adoptees are just so focused on trying to blend in, that they themselves try not to think about race. But some adoptees don't want to talk about race or adoption at all, so it really varies from person to person, and parents have to work to treat each of their children as individuals.  

What advice can you give parents on opening the lines of communication with their children? The Korean adoptees that I've talked to have said that it's important for parents to bring up the topic of race. They don't need to do it all the time, but they should indicate to their children that it's safe to talk about these things and that it doesn't threaten their relationship in any way. Respond with empathy and support, and collaborate with your child on strategies for how to respond.

 Have you searched for your birth family? Tell us about that experience. My birth family found me in 2001. They contacted KSS, who contacted LSS, my adoption agency, who contacted me. I was in shock. We exchanged letters, but I wasn't ready to meet them at that time. I ended up meeting them in 2009. It was my mother, two older brothers, and an older sister, and their families. The reunion was wonderful and overwhelming. We met up with them again in 2013, and I can't wait to spend more time with them, whenever that happens. I am lucky in that they are understanding about cultural differences and very warm and caring.  

What is one take away that your birth family research has shown to date? The big thing is that meeting one's birth family is a beginning point, rather than an end. Over the years, people's relationships with their birth families have ups and downs and changes. Cultural beliefs about family and gender roles can cause misunderstandings, but overall, all of my participants were glad they searched and reunited.  

To hear more from Prof. Docan-Morgan, please join us for FTKA’s annual Korean Culture Day, Saturday, April 5th. Registration is from 8:30-9:00 a.m., with activities for all ages from 9:00-12:30 pm at St. Andrew Church, 6815 Schneider Road, Middleton, WI. This event is open to non-FTKA members.

 FTKA CAMPING TRIP: Save the date for the 4th annual FTKA campout! We have reserved a group site at Lake Kegonsa State Park in Stoughton on September 19th and 20th. Join us for the weekend or for the day. More details to come! If you are interested in joining us please email Yvonne Onsager at: onsagerfamily@gmail.com Join us for the weekend or for the day. More details to come!