Challenging the narrative of adoption: Who tells the story?
The narratives around adoption narratives are changing, led by the voices involved. This Adoption Week Scotland, we look at what the award-winning project Whatever Next? tells us about how we can learn from each other and international adoption.
Whatever Next? is an award-winning adoptee-led project which was started in January 2021 by three Chinese adoptees – Addie, Hannah and Jo - who met in Edinburgh at the tail end of 2019. Since then, Whatever Next?, which focuses on how adoption is talked about and represented, has made appearances on BBC Radio Scotland, LBC, and in the Herald Scotland, and is currently working with Solus Productions on a podcast and Adoption UK on a series of webinars. In this blog post, they share some of their thoughts on how discussion surrounding adoption is changing and how they navigate this.
The three of us, Addie, Hannah and Jo met in Edinburgh. Addie had posted on a Facebook group designed for UK-based Chinese adoptees to see if there was anybody in Edinburgh who fancied meeting up in person. Our first few meetings started as cups of coffee and cake dotted around the various cafes of Edinburgh and the project initially began as an experiment to see how some of our views on certain topics about adoption might shift as we grew older. We began recording a few of these with the idea that it might be interesting to listen back to these in a couple of years' time.
Since that first recorded conversation, Whatever Next? has grown far beyond anything we could have imagined and it has been both a great privilege and experience to bring our conversations to other adoptees as well as friends, family and loved ones outside “the adoptive triad” (birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptee).
Three aims we try to strive towards in our work are bridging gaps in dialogues with those outside of the adoption triad; documenting changes in our own thoughts surrounding adoption as we learn more and grow older; and challenging traditional adoption narratives while showcasing the diversity of opinions within the global adoptive community.
More often than not, conversations concerning the lived experiences of adoptees and the issues they face are kept within adoptee-to-adoptee spaces. This may be positive in that it allows adoptees to be open and transparent with each other while creating connections within the community, however, we want to bring these conversations into mainstream dialogues. Within this, social media is both a blessing and a curse, operating as both a facilitator and ‘sound-tunneller’ of conversations. We want to encourage adoptees to spark conversations about adoption with those around them in order to help combat this while promoting understanding of adoptee experiences and reducing taboo, myths and stigma. Being an adoptee is a lifelong journey and we want to try to make it less of an isolating experience for those who may not be connected to adoptee communities and especially for those who may be interracial adoptees.
Additionally, we noticed within the portrayal of adoption within the media, there is the tendency to view adoptee experiences as a monolith. One of the things we wish to highlight in our work is the diversity of thought, opinion and lived experiences across the adoptee community. Even across the three of us, there is a great range in our personal lives and upbringings.
An example narrative that we try to challenge is that all adoptees are lucky and/or broken. This is something we experienced being told growing up and which subsequently impacted our understanding of being adopted, which we are now trying to unlearn.
The conversations surrounding adoption are changing. The current socio-political climate has shifted in recent years to begin to include and centre marginalised voices. Throughout the generational and international range of adoptees, there is an overall movement towards adoptee-led discussion away from previous cultures of silence that promotes a greater understanding of the intersectional elements of adoption. Whatever Next? hopes to continue this as best we can, working alongside organisations such as Adoption UK and Adoption Scotland, and writing a blog post for CELCIS.
For more information about Whatever Next? visit www.whatevernext2020.co.uk
Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin at @whatevernext2020
Linktree (All projects): https://linktr.ee/whatevernext/
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