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209 - NCFA Adult Adoptee Survey
Episode 20916th June 2023 • Who Am I Really? • Damon L. Davis
00:00:00 00:23:21

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Dr. Ryan Hanlon, Pres. & CEO of the National Council For Adoption shares a special update about the adult adoptee survey. This is the third in a three part series, Profiles In Adoption.

If you're an adult adoptee in the U.S. please make time to share your adoption experience on the survey. You can find the survey on the NCFA website.

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[00:00:00] Damon: Hey, it's Damon. And I'm bringing you a special, quick episode of the, who am I really podcast because I want to make sure my adult adoptees receive this timely information. I got an email about an adult adoptee survey that I wanted to make sure you're aware of without further ado. Here's Ryan Hanlon To tell you more about N C F a and the mission of their adoption survey work, Ryan and I start off with an explanation of who NCF is and what they do.


To promote adoption related issues. For example, we do research research reports. I think we're gonna be talking about that some today. But we [00:01:00] also put out a lot of educational collateral, a lot of educational resources for members of the adoption community. Free articles, webinars, with social work CE associated with them, for professionals, for adoptive families for adopted.

Individuals themselves so that they have a place to go for information and then we advocate for these issues on Capitol Hill and in the states on adoption related, you know, policy matters.


[00:01:33] Ryan: I, I think that's roughly correct. Yeah. We, we want to help everyone who's connected with adoption, expectant parents, birth parents, adoptive families, adopted individuals themselves, and then we often work with adoption professionals on their practices ensuring that they have good resources and training and are serving the community well.



[00:02:08] Ryan: That's a question we get a lot and we often are referring them out to some of our partners who do that work.

So the group that comes to mind for me is Case, the Center On Adoption Support and Education. They do excellent in that regard, and so we'd be referring out to them and, and their network. Or we'll often work with our partners across the us and if, if someone calls or emails us and says they're looking for a adoption competent therapist in their state, we can work within our network with agencies and other professionals in that state to say, who are the best providers?

Who do you know of in this area? So we're looking to help refer out to, to those providers directly. N C F A wouldn't do it that work. We'd be looking to partner with those who do.


[00:03:07] Ryan: to you.

Yeah, that's exactly right. Needs of the person and. And, and often it is very location specific. So having, you know, really good providers in one area doesn't mean there's gonna be somebody else, you know, in another states or even sometimes, you know, across the state. And so there's a need to have people on the ground with the knowledge of what resources are in that community.


I'd love for you to tell me a little bit more about yourself.

What's your title? What do you do at N C F A and and what is your work about?


Organizations to provide these resources to the community. My [00:04:00] role here as the president is to really be involved in all aspects of what we're doing, the administrative oversight of our organization, fundraising. But then I am involved with the research. I'm involved with building out some of the educational material and involved with some of the advocacy work that we do as well.



So tell me a little bit about the profiles in adoption research project broadly, and then I'd love for us to talk a little bit about this adoptee focused survey.


Sure. Profiles and adoption is a three-part where we are hearing directly from those in the adoption community. were often meeting with lawmakers, members of the media and others who would ask us questions, who's adopting, who's being adopted? And, and we sometimes didn't have answers to very straightforward questions.

we released last year in May,:

And focuses on many different aspects of the adoptive household and the experiences post-adoption for that family and for the Adoptees who were growing up in those [00:06:00] homes.

We asked about, you know, a number of different domains within the adoptive household. How are they incorporating racing culture?

What's the educational experiences like, including receiving educational accommodations like an i e P or a 5 0 4 plan? What the experiences were like in terms of if their children had received a diagnosis of some sort or re receiving therapeutic services of some sort. And we asked about the parents' adoption experience, what the experience was like in terms of whether cost was a barrier what the experience was like in terms of the providers they were working with.

they're going through their [:

Mm-hmm. So Damon, that was part one, part two, we're actually really excited. We're gonna be releasing it next week. And we heard from birth parents in the US and these are birth parents who made voluntary. Placements a relinquishment. So this is not from the foster care system. This is those who were part of a private domestic adoption.

And we heard from over:

for adoption.

ould prefer first parents or [:

We wanted to know what do they prefer? And and so that was one of the, you know, many questions that we included. And then Damon, you referenced the email you got. We are are just starting data collection for part three where we hear from adopted individuals themselves. And we're really excited about this.

end of the month of, of June,:



And I couldn't help thinking as you were speaking [00:09:00] that. It would be interesting to see where there are questions that are related to each other in the adoptive parents survey and the adoptee survey to see where there are correlations between certain things. So, you know, for, I'm totally making this up and this is not, this is not a real question, but you know, if both surveys had on it, Was your adoption experience, good, bad, or indifferent?

It would be interesting to compare across the two sets, right? Do, did you know 59% of parents say they had a great experience, but only, you know, 39% of adoptees say they had a great experience? I totally made those stats up, but just the idea that there could be a couple of. Comparator data points would be really valuable.

And I guess maybe I'll just ask you is that something that you guys are examining at all is sort of a cross section of the data to see how they correlate with each other? Yes


We can compare their responses to adoption specific questions, including their experiences. So something like satisfaction for the decision making. That's an easier question to ask adoptive parents and birth parents than it is adoptees because adoptees don't actually often participate in that decision making process.

Usually the decision was made for them and so wouldn't look to, to an adoptee and say, Are you satisfied with your decision? If they don't believe they made a decision, but we would look to ask a question that would be more relevant for their actual experience. But we could ask them questions about whether or not their, their needs were met post-adoption, if the, if, if they had needs.

nd so there's room for us to [:

We asked them, you know, overall how satisfied are you? We ask something similar in all three surveys, not about the decision making, but just, you know, in their, their status as, as that member of the adoption community. So there, there will be many, I think, comparison points here. Their views towards adoption and whether a adoption can work in the best interest of, say, the adoptee or the birth parent or the adoptive parent, or perhaps, you know, all of the above.

And they can respond to those individually so we can. see what their perspectives are. I mentioned the question about asking birth parents their preferred terminology. That's one of the questions we're asking adult adoptees. You know, what's their preferred terminology? Do they like that term adoptee or would they prefer a different way?

I would hope we could always [:

So that's the language we included in the final report. If they had said to us they preferred first mother, that's what we would've reflected in our


I've heard first family, I've heard family of origin, I've heard birth family, and in my writing, I go back and forth between many of those nomenclatures because I know that different people prefer different things and, and it resonates differently with folks. So I'm glad to hear you say that you've, Made some asks of the community about how they would like to refer to themselves.


You'll see the results next week when we launch the report. But you know, one of the things that really shown through in. Throughout the report was the, the wide variety of responses that this is not a monolithic group. This is a, a very diverse group. That's my expectations of adoptees as well. I, you know, we'll see if that proves true.

But I don't think there's an, an easy way to just describe who birth parents are, who adult adoptees are. I think it's gonna be you know, really across the spectrum in terms of their perspectives and views and life experiences. And, and hopefully we'll be able to, capture that and help reflect that back through the research that we're doing.


[00:14:17] Ryan: for us.

Yeah, that, that's a really great question. And actually when you were talking earlier, you said you know, often the voice of the adoptee isn't included. And that's one of the things we heard when we did a, we did a soft launch and we sent it to adoptees that, that we knew that had participated in different types of adoption.

One of the first respondents wrote back to us, said, Hey, hey, here's, You know, my experience, here's what I think on this question. Didn't make sense. Can you tweak it? That sort of thing. But then what she wrote was really poignant. She said you know, no one has ever asked my opinion on these questions before.

omeone asked her opinion. We [:

The, the focus groups we did where they said h how meaningful it was to be able to talk about their experience and to talk to other people who had similar experiences. And so yes, we were absolutely committed to that. Damon, to answer your question from the, from the get-go, we were working with adult adoptees on drafting what questions we were gonna do.

We looked at. Already the existing literature, the existing research much of which has been done by adoptees. But, but certainly not all of it. We worked with adoptees to draft the questions, and then as I mentioned, we did a soft launch to get feedback. And that was exclusively from adoptees.

required to do this, but we [:

Which then has oversight of the research process. And so even though we're not required to do that as a nonprofit, we choose to do that because we think it gives more credibility to our work. And because we, we know that these can be sensitive questions that this That when we're working with a community that has, has at times been ostracized or left in a vulnerable situation, that we need to be really mindful of how we approach them and because we think it'll give us the ability to ensure for readers that, that we followed a, an ethical protocol and how we went about conducting the research that we did.


Responded representing 6,600 ish adoptees, and I think you got 1100 ish birth parents to respond. Part of the reason that I wanted to bring you on this podcast is out of pure competitive spirit. Oh, I love it more than the 4,400 and more than the, the 1100 to show up and participate in this survey.

So, If we can get adoptees to blow these numbers out of the water and really show up as respondents to this survey, how do we do that? Where does somebody go and find this survey online and underscore for them how to help maintain the integrity of the survey in terms of the data? Yeah,


First one of [00:18:00] the problems with putting research out. Online is that now there are all these, you know, bots and, and other technology that go in and they try and manipulate the, the survey data. So this is a, unfortunately, a common experience for those that do social science research now, is that their, their data gets hacked and they get, it gets flooded with tons of, Of false answers and it just becomes really an administrative nightmare for someone to clean up that data set.

plus and has been adopted [:

So we would say they're not gonna be eligible, but all those other types of adoption certainly would be eligible. And then we're looking for those who had that experience, you know, joining families in the US as opposed to, say someone who was adopted domestically in England or someone who's adopted from Vietnam to France, you know, something like that.

Their, their stories are important too, but we're trying to limit this to the population of adoptees in the US or with American families.


Incorrect false non-ad adoptee specific information into the survey and it'll mess it up and our [00:20:00] opinions will be reduced or in some way sort of diffused. And we want this to be sort of a pure survey. So please don't go out on social media with this link, however, As you've heard Ryan say, if you've got a newsletter that you distribute over email, many of us have podcasts, we have email blasts and things like that.

It's okay for you to send this out directly, from you to your community. Just please don't go out over social media with this. So the website again is adoption council dot org slash adoptee survey. So I really want to thank you so much, Ryan, for being here. I know we sort of brought this together so quickly, but I really wanted to make sure that you got the opportunity to talk about this survey with everybody who could potentially be involved.

your board. Actually was my [:

So, Ryan, I'm gonna give you the final word. Anything more you want to say about N C F A, about the surveys, about your, your love for data?


He's rotated off the board now after, you know, a few decades of service. He himself is an adult adoptee. He and his wife Linda, are the ones who are actually. Behind this project. They are, they are so excited about it. They provided the funding that we're able to, to do this research, and he's gonna, I know, be the, the first one to read the results when they're in.

about other adoptee stories [:

[00:22:10] Damon: right. Thanks so much, Ryan.

I appreciate you making time real quick for to be online. Thank you for your work on the survey. I appreciate it so much. Take care, man. All the best. All right. Thank you. Take care. All right, bye-bye. Bye.





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