An #importedAsians POV: Katie Bozek
The Universal Asian spoke with Katie Bozek, the Executive Director of the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network (KAAN). We first introduced KAAN, their mission, and organizational activities in October, 2020.
Can you tell us about KAAN and how you became involved in this organization?
KAAN was founded in April 1998 through a leadership summit that revealed the need for Korean Americans, adoptees and adoptive parents to be connected. The conference is a unique experience to help build a community which blossomed into a place with professionals, researchers, adoptees, adoptive parents, the Korean-American community, etc. This has been an all volunteer-run organization for 22 years but we’re growing by size and membership and now have ASL interpreters and youth programs.
KAAN itself came out of a leadership summit in 1998. I was one of the local coordinators for KAAN 2013, and stepped into the role of Executive Director at KAAN in 2018 as the first Korean adoptee. Since the pandemic, we have hosted virtual happy hours and community conversations where we discuss pertinent issues within our community and connect this to broader concepts.
What emotions do the holidays bring up for you?
Holidays in general are layered, and they mean different things for different people. Any holiday can bring a variety of emotions, especially Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and birthdays. It’s important to identify and validate your emotions during these times, but it’s equally important to realize emotions are only temporary.
What have you found to be the most effective methods of communicating white privilege to white family members? What do you do when a family member doesn’t want to talk about white privilege?
You must recognize there are limits to what you can do. Adoptees want our families to understand our experiences, and we believe if our families cared for us then they would make an effort to learn. It is not necessarily an issue of caring or not caring, but being able to have empathy and listen to understand the other person. It’s important to set boundaries—meaning do not continually put yourself in situations where they will continue to invalidate you.
There is no one effective method for communicating white privilege, it comes down to how open the person is. Sometimes they simply aren’t ready for it. Families have a tendency to have a fixed mindset that views adoptees as kids, so when we bring up important topics they may be more dismissive.
How do you think adoption affects attachment style? How do you create secure relationships?
It is an individual basis, but adoptees commonly share the experience of being continually dismissed and invalidated. Outsiders are constantly asking questions and families sometimes avoid open communication. Creating secure attachments is a lot of difficult work to heal from the trauma, microaggressions, and, often, abandonment issues.
What advice would you give adoptees who aren’t comfortable with their identity?
Starting somewhere and making that first step is vital—our blog is a great place to start! It is important to recognize that you are not alone, and be vigilant of [sic] where you live. Tapping into the adoptee community may be difficult depending on your location, but there are also a variety of resources to connect to virtually!
What are some of your 2021 goals?
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because I believe everyday is a “New Year.” Every day is a new opportunity, and I’m focusing on being intentionally connected. It’s difficult to stay connected with people through the current pandemic, busy schedules, and life events. Also, I want to emphasize the “intentionally” connection, because there’s a difference between a Facebook connection and mailing someone personal notes or talking on the phone or video chat.
I’m also focusing on how we, KAAN, stay connected as a community and make it meaningful during these times. During the KAAN Conference they had their own space and were able to connect with the other attendees. We want to make sure they feel comfortable, and we love to follow-up after the conference. We are working through how to replicate those hallway conversations that occur outside of the conference?
What advice would you give to your younger self as a woman of color and adoptee?
You need to do the work and can’t forget to stay grounded. Find your community; accept yourself, no matter what! Give yourself permission to ask all the difficult questions and think through different answers.
What is the best way to get involved for the readers who are interested in KAAN?