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"We Celebrate Adoption" Open House

 

"We Celebrate Adoption" was an open-house forum in which UMass students, faculty, and staff came together with members of the community to explore topics related to adoption through presentations and conversation.

 

 

Topics included:

  • Foster care

  • Mental health

  • Loss and adoption

  • International and domestic adoption

  • Stigma

  • Race, ethnicity, and identity

  • Law and adoption

 

This event was organized by students from the UMass Student Adoption Advisory Board and UMass Adoption Mentoring Partnership in collaboration with the Rudd Adoption Research Program.

 

To view more photos from the event, click here!

 

As part of the event, several current and former Adoption Mentoring Partnership mentors spoke about their experiences with the program. Below are transcripts from their speeches:

 

Andrew Drinkwater

     AMP, for me, has been nothing short of life changing. Beyond the mentoring aspect of the program, which I cherish with all of my heart, the classroom setting that I would retreat to once every two weeks became the greatest blessing that I could have ever asked for. AMP was the first adoption-centric space I had ever inhabited. Before AMP, I spoke quite little of adoption outside of the close confines of my family. And yet, from those first slightly awkward meetings with Karin and Jocelyn, that small, cramped, stuffy little room in the basement of Tobin where our classes met became a sanctuary. It became a weird home that I never knew that I needed before I stepped foot into it. Out of that classroom came incredible, incredible conversations, late-night adventures with with my cohort, and lifelong friendships that I am infinitely grateful for. What AMP gave me, in these respects, is impossible to understate because a part of my heart will always remain here, at UMass and with AMP, and I want to say a thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who helped put me on the path to finding the program.

     The community that AMP immersed me in is in full display here tonight. And tonight, with all of us coming together to be part of this special celebration from such diverse backgrounds, is truly a testament to the nature of adoption itself. The diversity of our community stands as a beacon of hope for a world that too often attempts to dictate our identities by how we look or how we speak, or even by whom we look like and whom we speak like.

     It can be difficult to see how we fit into the rigid boxes that society assigns to us or into the narratives that people see fit to chain us to. But tonight gives me hope. To quote from an article that Jenny and I found while researching, “The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not to react.” So, together, let’s reclaim control over our identities and over our self-perceptions. I challenge you to reject the rigid categorizations and embrace your full experiences and sense of self; you all have unique stories to tell and lives to share that no matter how much other people can try, can never be denied. Your truth is your truth.

     And this is another part of what makes this event so incredible. We are bringing our experiences, our struggles, the truths of our collective adoptive lives, to the forefront of our community consciousness.

     Now, tonight marks a culmination of months of planning for this event and years of building an adoptive community here at UMass. But after realizing what we are capable of, we must not allow tonight to be the end of our efforts to raise awareness of the issues that our community faces.

     We, as adoptees, not despite our unique lived experiences but because of them, have so much to offer to this world, and the world in turn has so much that it can learn from us. About race and culture, identity and basic human empathy. About family. About love.

     And in this present historical moment, as forces of fear, anger, othering, and hate seem to be rising across the world, we can no longer afford to remain silent. It is not just our privilege but now our obligation to stand up together and speak out against the injustices that threaten our rights and our lives as members of the adoptive community. When able to and comfortable doing so, we must share our experiences and our truths with the world, and now, more than ever before, we must act to preserve the rights fought for by those who came before us and safeguard these rights for our children and for all future generations of adoptive families. We have come so far as a community, but we still have much work left to do. So let us rise up and, using AMP as a model and inspiration, support one another in our efforts to create a brighter future for all adoptees and their families. Thank you.

Ana Gremli

     My name is Ana Gremli and I am a recent graduate of UMass with a degree in early childhood education. I was internationally adopted from Chisinau Moldova, a small country in Eastern Europe next to Romania and Ukraine, when I was two years old. I have known I was adopted for as long as I can remember, but it wasn't until attending UMass where I fully internalized and understood what it meant to be adopted. When I was younger I used to love telling people I was adopted because it made me different. A common response though was, "you can't be adopted; you look too much like your parents." After hearing that "X" number of times, I started to doubt whether I was adopted and whether Moldova actually existed. I began to think that maybe my parents told me I was adopted just so I would feel special. After all, I really did look like my parents. Being apart of the Adoption Mentoring Partnership (AMP) helped me realize that my parents weren't just being nice and that the reason other children said mean things to me was because they didn't understand what it meant to be adopted. Joining AMP helped me become confident in myself to share my story and become an advocate to help others understand adoption. Now I am able to understand what it means for me to be adopted and how being adopted has shaped me into the person I am today. I loved being able to meet other college students who were adopted who had similar and different experiences to me growing up. I learned a lot about domestic adoption and adoption through the foster care system because I had never met anyone other than international adoptees before coming to college. One aspect of the Adoption Mentoring Partnership I really enjoyed was how we talked about ALL aspects of adoption. We talked about the joyful parts of adoption, but we were also in a safe space where we could share the dark and ugly sides of adoption. I remember sharing with my cohort about how when I was younger I was trying to process what it meant to be adopted and I had asked my (adoptive) mom if she had stolen me. After my (adoptive) mom tried to explain that I was not stolen, I concluded that I was not stolen, I was bought. Also wrong. It took many conversations for me to be able to understand the concept of adoption, but shortly after I knew how special it was that my parents chose to adopt me and give me a chance at a better life than I would have had if I was in the orphanage in Moldova. My (adoptive) mom and I also had many fights growing up. One in particular when I was ten years old ended in be calling my mom the "B" word and thinking I would be better off in Moldova with my (birth) mom than in America with my (adoptive) mom. A lot of tears were shed, but my (adoptive) mom and I worked through that challenge as well. I appreciate that I was able to be vulnerable and share these stories with my cohort and my teacher and I felt love and support from all of them. Some students agreed and said they had experienced similar situations either at school or at home, and Karin, my teacher at the time validated my feelings and experiences and shared other sources with us where other adoptees experienced similar situations. It was a great space to open up a conversation about some of the tougher issues surrounding adoption. Overall being apart of this program has helped me appreciate and be proud of my adoption, connect with other adopted college students, and I felt supported and equipped to mentor a younger fellow adoptee within the community.

Sarah Ivy

     Hello everyone and thank you for coming tonight! my name is Sarah Ivy and I was adopted from South Korea when I was 5 month old. There are six children in my family. Half of us are adopted and half are by birth. I was the second to be adopted, so fortunately I always felt comfortable in family surroundings. I am also fortunate to have never felt out of place in school or deal with a lot of the stigmas surrounding adoption. Despite this, there was still a longing to meet other adoptees and meet others my age with similar experiences. I spent 7 of my childhood summers going to my adoption agency’s camp. Holt Camp was where I was first exposed to many other adoption stories and experiences. I quickly learned that all experiences are different, but we all have one commonality and feel similar emotions toward growing up as adoptees. Every summer after I left camp, I longed to meet more adoptees who had similar experiences as me, but I never found it. Fast forward to freshmen year of college, my best friend, Jessica was presented with the AMP program by Jen Dolan in one of her Psych lectures. She gave me the handout and I signed up and set up an interview right away. My experience since then has been nothing but positive. My little, Karana, and I are a perfect match and it’s been rewarding and fun being involved in this program. I never expected my years at UMass to be defined and influenced so heavily by adoption, but the AMP program has opened my eyes to a ton of different areas of research I had no idea about. AMP was a safe and intimate setting that allowed for us adoptees to come together and share our feelings and stories surrounding adoption. It was here where we felt a unique connection with people we may have not met on campus had it not been for the AMP program.