Created by adoptees for adoptees, IAMAdoptee seeks to curate an online community of resources to help navigate the lived experience of being an intercountry adopted person.
IAMAdoptee comes from the knowledge that helping each other helps ourselves. No matter where you are in your discovery of your intercountry adoption identity, IAMAdoptee serves as a guide throughout your journey by creating a roadmap of ways intercountry adoption has impacted over a million adoptees.
IAMAdoptee is an act of service to the adoptee community; a place for an intercountry adopted person to find a way to connect with others through reading or viewing works of adopted people, meeting others who are adopted, being provoked or evoked by those who have a shared lived experience.
Knowing our stories are constructed through our perceptions and our feelings, IAMAdoptee was conceived in 2015 to create a space for the intercountry adopted person to help navigate the many ways adoption impacted the roadmap of our lives. The essential ingredient to this project was the curation of resources and information by fellow intercountry adoptees. Who better than us to help us? The impact of our adoption story, the knowledge that we too have walked a similar path has been the most significant catalyst to helping another adoptee.
IAMAdoptee, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, is a place for the intercountry adopted person to find ways to connect by reading or viewing works of adopted people; by providing information on ways adoptees can engage in the community and by cultivating a virtual home for adoptees to help each other navigate through life. Our campaigns will take deep dives into particular areas of life specific to the international adopted person such as “engaging with the worldview of the international adoptee”, “finding and connecting with the adoptee community” and “seeking counsel and support.”
Over the last 25 years, I have been immersed in the adoption world in order to better understand how I got to where I did and what to make of it all. From working with adoptees to create an adoptee led organization to working in adoption policy and practice, I’ve had the privilege of being at the creation level of the first adoptee led mentorship program to the first international gathering of Korean and Vietnamese adoptees. But, it has been the experience of decades of conversations as a therapist and counselor that has informed so much of the vision for IAMAdoptee. The intimacy of the counseling space has taught me that the desire to understand and be understood is lifelong and hits the most intimate spaces of our hearts and consciousness. It will be through this lens, as an adoptee and clinician that I have come to see IAMAdoptee’s unique position in helping to serve my community.
I welcome you to IAMAdoptee and invite you to share IAMAdoptee with others as we curate a body of resources for the international adoptee community to help know that “we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives, we are each of us unique.” (Dr. Oliver Sachs)
Joy Lieberthal Rho, LCSW
aka Song Eun-Hee
Joy Lieberthal Rho and Thomas Kaplan met in 1997 shortly after the incorporation of Also-Known-As, Inc. in New York City, a non-profit volunteer organization created for international adoptees. We teamed up to create the Youth Mentorship Program which we are so proud to know continues today. Our friendship has gone from attending years of adoptee functions, speaking on panels, serving the Korean adoptee community to traveling to Korea, navigating our relationships with our birth families, attending each others’ weddings and raising our boys; we each have 2!
Over the last 20 years, social media has become the seminal way for international adoptees to connect and create community. As adoptees, we still thrill when we make a connection with another adoptee. It never gets old! Because these connections become intimate fast, Tom wanted to find a way for adoptees to find each other easier, meet and connect.
Joy has really never left the adoptee community, primarily working as a therapist specializing in issues related to adoption, identity and family. In the intimacy of the therapeutic relationship, she would hear repeatedly – are there others like me, are there others who have the same experience as I did, is there a good book for me to read, is there any research being done on adoptees, have you seen this documentary on adoption, do you know any organizations for adoptees, how can I travel to my birth country, how do I begin my search for birth family, where can I learn to speak my birth language? Navigating a sense of what it means to be an intercountry adoptee has depended on word of mouth or the perseverance of the individual adoptee to find resources on their own. She wondered, maybe there could be a way for her to create this resource as well as a community of fellow helpers.
IAMAdoptee was born out of the desire to create the community Joy and Tom were seeking, a place to connect and provide resources for people like us all the while making the seeking a little easier and less alone. Tom Kaplan left the board of IAMAdoptee in January, 2020. Tom remains co-founder of IAMAdoptee. His vision and hope for a community of adoptees for adoptees remains strong. We are grateful for his dedication, resources and enthusiasm to help other adoptees feel less alone. He is an integral part of the history of IAMAdoptee and the legacy of the work he furthered in creating an online community will remain.
Meet the Team
Joy Lieberthal Rho (Song Eun-Hee) is a Korean adoptee, social worker, advocate and mother of 2. She grew up in New York. She has been in reunion with her Korean mother since 1994.
Whitney Fritz is a Korean adoptee who has been in reunion with her birth family since 2010. She is married to Lee, a fellow KAD, and together they run a popular adoptee blog, titled We the Lees. The two reside in Baltimore, MD.
Meet The Board
Joy Lin Arness
Joy Lin Arness is adopted from Hefei, Anhui, China. She spent her childhood in Idaho, but later moved to Las Vegas where she is a graphic designer. Joy has not been back to China since her adoption but hopes to visit her birthplace sometime soon.
Hollee McGinnis, MSW, PhD
Hollee A. McGinnis, MSW, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Social Work. She is a prominent scholar, policy expert, and community organizer on adoption and child welfare. Her research examines social and cultural determinants of children’s mental health, with a focus on improving outcomes for youth and adults with histories of childhood trauma and involvement in systems of child welfare locally and globally. Prior to obtaining her doctorate in social work at Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. McGinnis was the policy director at the Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national organization focused on adoption policy and practice in the U.S., where she headed a national study on adoption and racial identity among adopted adults. She received her Master of Science from Columbia University School of Social Work (New York City) and completed a post-master’s clinical social work fellowship at the Yale University Child Study Center. In 1996, she founded Also-Known-As, Inc., a non-profit adult intercountry adoptee organization providing post-adoption services to international adoptees and adoptive families. Dr. McGinnis speaks regularly at national conferences and organizations, and has numerous published scholarly articles, book chapters, and essays. In 2008 she was recognized by the U.S. government with a Congressional Angel in Adoption award for her work in adoption. She is regularly sought out by the news media, including interviews about her research on South Korea’s child welfare system and the overseas Korean adoptees by the New York Times Magazine, BBC News, and NPR.
Jennifer Mehltretter (Wu Yen-Ming)
Jennifer is adopted from Taiwan, grew up in New Jersey and now resides in Washington state. She has always known known and been in contact with her birth family in Taiwan. She is an advocate of leadership development and equity and inclusion work.
Kathy Carney Sacco, LCSW-C
Kathy Carney Sacco is a child and family advocate with over 20 years’ experience in both the private and public sectors. She is currently the Vice President of International Children’s Policy at First Focus on Children. She works on First Focus’ efforts to harness the power of governments, NGOs, and corporations to partner and help children all over the world to improve their well-being and reach their full potential. Kathy worked for nearly eight years at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, shaping and leading policies related to child protection, intercountry adoption, and international parental child abduction. Previously, she facilitated foster care and intercountry adoptions for 13 years. In her work on various agency boards, Kathy advocated for ethical adoption practices and the expansion of post adoption services.
Kathy was adopted from Korea at age five along with her biological sister. She is a licensed clinical social worker who obtained her Master of Social Work from Arizona State University. She resides in Baltimore, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.