Our Origin Story
IAMAdoptee was born out of the desire to create the community Joy and Tom were seeking: a place for intercountry adoptees to connect and provide resources for each other, all the while making the seeking a little easier and less alone.
The Beginning (1997)
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.
Together, they teamed up to create a Youth Mentorship Program which continues today.
Since, their friendship has gone from attending years of adoptee functions, speaking on panels, serving the Korean adoptee community to traveling to Korea, navigating their relationships with their birth families, attending each others’ weddings and raising their families; they each have 2 sons!
Cultivating Community Connection
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.
Co-Founder: Tom Kaplan
Tom Kaplan left the board of IAMAdoptee in January 2020, however remains co-founder of IAMAdoptee. Tom’s vision and hope for a community of adoptees for adoptees remains strong.
IAMAdoptee is grateful for Tom’s dedication, resources and enthusiasm to help other intercountry 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.
Co-Founder: Joy Lieberthal Rho
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.
In developing IAMAdoptee, Joy wondered, maybe there could be a way for her to create this resource as well as a community of fellow helpers.