A Korean Adoption Conference Highlights Working Together Across the Community

CAMP HILL, PA - This summer, Grand Rapids add to its list of accomplishments serving as the hot spot for national conversations on race, culture, and international adoption. Adoptees, parents, authors, and leaders of grassroots groups from across the country and beyond will converge there August 2-4 for a unique event that is part inspiration, part academy, and part reunion. The focus of KAAN 2013: Working Together will be Korean adoption, but members of other adoptive communities will find relevance as well.

The conference boasts a lineup including three accomplished keynotes: Carissa Woodwyk, who will discuss the importance of listening to adoptees, Dr. John Raible, who will address how the adoption community can work together as allies against oppression and on behalf of social justice, and Robyn Afrik, who will inspire attendees to take what they have learned at KAAN to adopt a new consciousness within their home communities. The weekend includes the screening of a number of relevant films, including: Waterwalk, Vincent Who?, and Somewhere Between. Keegan "Seoul" Loye, owner of Grand Rapids' 61Syx Teknique Street Dance Academy, will also teach and perform.

A slate of over thirty sessions delve into such topics as search and reunion, racial identity, white privilege, nurturing of cultural ties, bullying, specific parenting advice for adoptive parents, and recent legal issues pertaining to adoptees. Youth and childcare programs with adoptee mentors are offered. Dancers will perform as part of KAAN's fifteenth anniversary gala dinner, taking place Saturday night during the conference. Vendors, exhibits, support groups, and a showcase of adoptee artists round out the weekend.

A unique aspect of this conference is its ability to bring together individuals and groups from across many perspectives of adoption. Adoptees are the largest attendance demographic and similarly represented in leadership and speaker positions. Family members-parents, spouses, and children-are also actively engaged. Koreans and Korean Americans without direct ties to adoption participate as well, recognizing the many common experiences they hold with adoptees and desiring to support them on their journeys. Social workers, agency employees, organization leaders, and others come together to give KAAN its dynamic blend of personalities and perspectives.
KAAN has always welcomed involvement from adoptees of other backgrounds and is building upon that heritage this year. One of the conference's featured films-Somewhere Between-highlights the perspectives of a number of young Chinese-born adoptees. "Transracial Adoption: Commonalities Across Countries," a large panel presentation planned for the conference, includes the voices of adoptee leaders from not only South Korea but Vietnam, India, and Colombia as well.
Members of the local community have embraced the idea of this conference and are working toward its success. An active team of local professionals are tackling publicity tasks and fundraising initiatives with enthusiasm. Part of KAAN's goal is to strengthen the local community. Through working together to plan and stage the conference, these groups can build deeper relationships and a sense of common purpose. Members of area groups Korean Adoptees of Western Michigan, Families of International Children, Hahn-In Christian Reformed Church, Living Water Church, and others are pitching in to provide a warm western Michigan welcome. Opportunities to exhibit at the conference, place an ad in the conference magazine, attend the gala dinner, and more are available to interested community members. Of course, attendance at the full conference is an open option as well.

KAAN-the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network-is the national conference sponsor. KAAN is a project of The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, fiscal sponsor. KAAN was founded in 1998 to help build a national adoption community, seeking to understand and improve the lives of adoptees and their families. Annual conferences travel throughout the country and in 2006 even took place in South Korea. New Michigan attendees will meet conference regulars and visitors from Korea, including representatives of three of the main adoption agencies and several adoptee groups. They will also encounter interesting people conducting important work right here in western Michigan.

This summer's conference, KAAN's fifteenth, takes place at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids from August 2-4, 2013. Online registration, advertising and sponsorship opportunities, and more can be found at www.kaanet.corg

Separate dinner tickets can also be purchased for the Saturday evening. Questions? Contact local promotions coordinator Abigail Bradley at 616.406.6279/ bradleystudios123@gmail.comor national director Stacy Schroeder at 717.574.3629/

Courtesy: KAAN