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209 – NCFA Adult Adoptee Survey

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.

Who Am I Really?

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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.

[00:00:29] Ryan: N CFA's, national Council for Adoption. We work nationwide and, and globally in the sense that we are, are focused on all types of adoption. So we focus on adoption from foster care, private domestic adoption and intercountry adoption. And we work with partner organizations and agencies and attorneys and, other advocacy organizations.

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.

[00:01:25] Damon: So what I think I'm hearing is adoption. An adoptee rights advocacy? Is that roughly correct?

[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.


[00:01:52] Damon: Really cool. One question that I didn't prepare you for but comes to mind for me in the moment is sometimes folks are looking [00:02:00] for. Adoption, competent therapists and things like that, do you sometimes get connected to resources along those lines in the therapy space?

[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.

[00:02:50] Damon: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. The partnerships are, So valuable, right? You want to focus in on the areas that you are most proficient at and let everybody else focus in on the areas that they are most [00:03:00] proficient at, and those partnerships end up being valuable because you can refer people back and forth to your, your resources as they apply

[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.

[00:03:28] Damon: Mm-hmm. That sounds really good. Thank you for that clarity. I'm now interested in you, Mr. Ryan.

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?

[00:03:40] Ryan: So I'm the president and c e o here at nnc, f a and we have a, a team of, of seven folks. We're small but mighty, and we we're focusing on those areas, research, education, and advocacy, and partnership with other.

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.


[00:04:17] Damon: cool. So part of the reason I wanted to hop on with you so quickly was because I got an email in my email box that basically said, Ncfa is working on an adoption research project, Profiles and Adoption is what it's called. And I wanted to hear a little bit more about this project because the email that I got specifically says that you have an adoptee focused survey.

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.

[00:04:51] Ryan: Damon, thank you. This is a, a great opportunity to talk to your audience many of whom are adoptees and, and let them know about this. So I really [00:05:00] appreciate that and appreciate you considering, you know, taking the survey yourself.

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.

And so we set out to, to be able to get better information by serving a large section of the community. So part one, we heard from adoptive parents. We heard from actually over 4,400. Adoptive parents who were parenting over 6,600 adoptees. So a huge sample that we heard from in that regard. That was a report, a research report that we released last year in May, 2022.

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.

We put all of that in the report. All of it is publicly available and free. For anyone in the community, the hope is that we'll learn from this and we'll set expectations for future families and what it takes to prepare for adoption and to, to to be a adoptive family. And, and, and For adoption providers that they could use that report to help set expectations for prospective adoptive families as they're going through their [00:07:00] process.

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 1100 birth mothers. We heard from 239 birth fathers. We also did three focus groups with birth mothers, and so we got really rich. In-depth information from them about their experiences. We, we asked a lot of demographic questions just to better understand who they are. We asked about their satisfaction with the decision they made

for adoption.

We asked about the stigma that they've experienced and really a broad range of questions. One of the questions we asked was, what terminology do you prefer? What do you like to be called? some birth parents, like that term, birth parents. Others would prefer first parents or [00:08:00] other terminology.

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.

The survey's gonna be open at least through the end of the month of, of June, 2023. And this is something I've, I've been looking forward to for a while, is being able to hear from adoptees in their experience. And so you know, this is the exciting part is we're we're finally gonna get this information and be able to, to see how, how folks are responding to the questions that we asked.


[00:08:40] Damon: I'm glad that you're excited cuz I'm excited for it. You know, a, a lot of times the adopted person doesn't get to have much of a say in many components of adoption. So for a survey to come out that is going to focus on our perspectives and our experiences, I think is incredibly valuable.

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

[00:09:59] Ryan: and [00:10:00] no. So many of the questions are similar that we ask between actually all, all three of those surveys. So we can, you know, compare different demographics.

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.

And if so, were they met? It's a question we asked birth parents. Unfortunately, a lot of birth parents had needs that were met, but, but many, you know, had needs that weren't met. And so there's room for us to [00:11:00] improve there. And we asked like your, your question about the adoptive parents experience.

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?

Such as saying, you know, adopted individuals or, you know, something else. Mm-hmm. If you know there's gonna be. differences of opinions, of course, and, and I would hope we could always [00:12:00] use the language that somebody prefers in this regard, but if we know the majority of the community likes, you know, for example, we learned from our research, the majority of birth mothers prefer the term birth mother.

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

[00:12:19] Damon: report. Yeah, I'm, I'm glad to hear you say that. I've been doing some writing and I oscillate between multiple different ways to refer to birth families, right.

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.

[00:12:52] Ryan: That's really great. Yeah. Another question. This was in the, the birth parent survey, but we asked them their views on open adoption [00:13:00] records and how they think that should be handled, because states have looked at that issue very differently. And it's, it's really fascinating.

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.

[00:13:48] Damon: That's really awesome to hear. You know, I come to this community mostly as an adoptee, but I'm also an adoptive parent, and I can see how it would be valuable to be included [00:14:00] in the creation of the survey to make it something that is sensitive, relevant, et cetera. Can you tell me a little bit about how adopted people were included in the survey creation such that we feel like it was made with us, for us, not just

[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.

It was really, you could tell it was really meaningful, just you could, see it in the email response back how meaningful it was for her that someone asked her opinion. We [00:15:00] had the, the same experience with birth parents where. They especially during the support group where, or, or the focus group, which they, they described as being like a support group.

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.

You know, one point Damon to, to talk about, when we do our research, we, we take the ethical component really seriously. And so we're not required to do this, but we [00:16:00] choose to partner with university researchers and to in advance submit through their university, it's called an I R B, their institutional review board.

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.

[00:16:49] Damon: it's really great to hear that you are taking that step of sort of academic rigor and inclusion and all of these things that are gonna make this survey valid and, [00:17:00] and, you know, an important piece of research work for folks to reference. I wanted to sort of point out what I heard you say earlier, that 4,400 adoptive parents.

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,

[00:17:56] Ryan: and I'll, I'll address that last point.

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.

And so we're avoiding social media altogether with this survey link. And we're choosing to, to email it as opposed to just posting it publicly. But folks can go to our website. We and they, they'll find our contact information, they can email us or they can put the URL in directly. So it's adoption council dot org slash adoptee survey and, and they can just go there directly to the, the survey link. One of the things, Damon, this is for any, anyone who's 18 plus and has been adopted [00:19:00] through private domestic intercountry or adoption from foster care we're not in this. In this research looking for stepparent adoption.

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.

[00:19:35] Damon: That makes perfect sense. So once again, we are not putting this online. Don't take this survey link and put it out on social media because the bots and all of the other sort of AI out there will grab it, find the survey, and start to place.

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.

If you would like to hear more about N C F A, you can go back to episode number 1 79, where Mike, the chairman of your board. Actually was my [00:21:00] guest. He's an adoptee and he's very involved in this community. And obviously as the chairman of the board of N C F A. You can hear more about Mike's story. His his episode number was 1 79, building a Personal Trust Community.

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?

[00:21:22] Ryan: Well, iga, I want to talk about all of those things. But I'm gonna end by talking about a different board chair here at N C F A. His name is Wayne Sharpe. He was our, our previous board chair a a few rotations ago.

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.

So I'm grateful to him as an adoptee who cares to hear about other adoptee stories [00:22:00] and so we, we thank him. And, and Damon, thank you for the work that you do. In sharing these stories through your podcast, which I know many of us really appreciate and look forward to. All

[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.


[00:22:22] Damon: Hey, it's me with a quick note of thanks to Ryan and N CFA for producing their three-part series profiles in adoption. If you're an adult adoptee and you would like to complete the survey, please go to adoption council dot org slash adoptee survey. Again, please. Don't post that URL on your social media to help spread the word you might help online bots and artificial intelligence. Find the survey and. Add fake or erroneous data and mess up the survey results. Please set aside time to complete the adult adoptees survey to [00:23:00] have our voices represented. And let's see if we can get more than 5,500 adoptee responses from the strength of our adoptee community.

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