KANSAS CITY, Mo — A community of Asian-adoptees are raising awareness about harmful adoption narratives.
Adaline Bara, Josephine Jay and Hannah Feben-Smith co-founded a multimedia platform called Whatever Next?
Through Whatever Next?, adoptees can find emotional, racial and educational support.
It was born out of raw conversations about race and adoption, among three friends who share a common story.
“It’s just to open up dialogues, not only between adoptees to each other, but for adoptees to open up dialogues with their families,” Bara said. “Asian-adoptees, we’re so scattered across the world that it’s hard to connect with people.”
Whatever Next? aims to educate the public on harmful adoption narratives and stigmas through conversation.
These open dialogues are spoken through podcasts, written through online stories and shared at community events.
“A lot of the times it is ether portrayed as adoption is love or adoption is trauma, and I think that everybody’s adoption story is different,” Bara said.
The three co-founders are also writing a book about traditional adoption narratives and how they affect adoptees in their younger lives.
They have the potential to pity adoptees or tell their stories through the heroic lens of their adoptive parents.
Bara says this can be harmful, and it is important to give the children a voice so that they can feel ownership of their unique anecdotes.
“Adoptees grow up, I mean we’re adults. We have lives. Adoptees become moms themselves and parents and grandparents," Bars said. "It’s a lifelong journey and I just want people to know that it’s so much more complex than a sad movie."
Hanna Lee, a Korean-adoptee, was raised in Topeka, Kansas, by a white family. She only saw people who looked like her in nail salons and Asian restaurants.
Often, people’s perception of her did not match what she saw in the mirror.
“Anytime I would try to speak about race to someone, I would get shut down a lot by ‘Well I don’t know what you are talking about, you are white,’ or ‘I don’t know why that bothers you, you are white,'” Lee said.
Lee’s identity crisis came to a boiling point at the height of pandemic-related hate crimes against Asians.
She wrote a book called "The Ones Who Misbehave" to process her anger and confusion.
It took three decades for Lee to find the other half of her identity, but she says redirecting where she looked for support was the beginning of a life-long journey.
She found Bara and an overwhelming amount of people who were accepting of her.
“I felt like I had been forced out of my identity and the communities I would have belonged in for so long,” Lee said. “I couldn’t ignore it anymore, I couldn’t pretend anymore. So I wasn’t expecting to go on this journey, but I’m glad I did. I feel whole.”