Bringing hope, voice, and healing to life's journey
Therapist. Speaker. Educator. Consultant. Advocate. Writer. Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW-S, CTS, LCPAA, PLLC has worked in the field of child welfare since 1999 ranging from child placement internationally, domestically, kinship, and through the foster care system as well as an CPS investigator with TX DFPS.
"While we have made historical progress, the beliefs and oppression that underpin racism persist; it is, as the AAP statement calls it, a “socially transmitted disease.”
And it truly is a disease. Racism and its effects can lead to chronic stress for children. And chronic stress leads to actual changes in hormones that cause inflammation in the body, a marker of chronic disease. Stress that a mother experiences during pregnancy can affect children even before they are born. Despite improvements in health care, racial disparities exist in infant mortality as well as low birthweight."
Combatting systemic racism is not merely a morality issue, but a public health issue which begins at a very young age for children of color (this includes adoptees of color).
health.harvard.edu The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement regarding the “socially transmitted disease” of racism. Its negative effects harm children in multiple areas, including education, health care, employment, and the justice system.
Wow. This is what divesting privilege is while addressing systemic racism.
Wow! R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Mad props to Joaquin Phoenix for refusing to accept his BAFTA best acting award because of the lack of diversity and the systemic racism it represents. He said no one wants handouts and preferential treatment like what we give ourselves every year. Hahaha!
Expand your mind and awareness.
npr.org Black History Month is here, and it's the perfect time to catch up on stories about the hidden heroes and buried history of black America.
Mindfulness that dismisses the impacts of oppression is oppressive.
Client holding marginalized identities (particularly clients of color): When I leave my home, I'm afraid something will happen to me.
Therapist without cultural lens: Let's focus on your breathing remembering that it hasn't happened yet. We can reframe the situation utilizing DBT skills....or Somatic Experiencing....or EMDR that distress level to zero...or TF-CBT.
Therapist with cultural lens: Tell me more about what it has been like to walk in the world as you--especially with your held identities. Oppression sucks. We'll work on grounding strategies later, but let's talk about how this feels--because it's real.
I have been quiet in this space for a while. With so much happening socio-politically, we all need time for rest and rejuvenation.
More to come related to several events that have impacted the adoption community, mental health, and beyond.
:In 1858, the San Francisco Evening Bulletin published an editorial that stated, “If we are compelled to have Negroes and Chinamen among us, it is better, of course, that they should be educated. But teach them separately from our Caucasian blood pure. We want no mongrel race of moral and mental hybrids to people the mountains and valleys of California.” In 1859, the Chinese were officially excluded from San Francisco public schools."
nextshark.com With all the anti-immigration rhetoric in the news today, it's more important than ever to brush up on our history, so here are 15 shocking facts on Asian American history that you've probably never heard about.
The erasure of an entire group from mainstream media, film, and the arts is a distinct form of racial oppression.
The absolute dismissal of the Asian body absent of unique narrative, depth, or individuality reinforces the one-dimensional, monolithic caricature of an entire people.
Everytime I see complex character development, storytelling absent of Asian-only backdrops (because we exist in every context), and bold Asian representation I am moved.
I watched "Joy Luck Club" over a 100 times as a teen--until the VHS finally gave out. Why? I'd never seen Asian womxn represented onscreen--as real, dynamic, lead actresses, and with stories to tell. I saw parts of my life in their stories and images.
It is a privilege to see historical visages of yourself represented as predominantly competent, powerful, heroic, savvy, intelligent, humorous, dramatic, flawed, normalized, and cast as a lead that breaks model minority toxicity into a million jagged pieces.
It is damaging when internalized messages about your people are reinforced as the side-kick, seductress, gangster, passive, Mulan, martial arts, servant, or tokenized butt of a joke.
time.com Writer Charles Yu on growing up Asian in America
"Private adoption agencies like Holt and Eastern Welfare Society did have resources, but in to utilize them, the mothers would have to give up their children for adoption. Even if they refused to sign away their rights, they would be pressured to do so after giving birth. A representative from the agency would sit them down and say, "How do you think you're going to care for this child? You're a single mom. You're not married." They would then show the mothers pictures of families in the United States, saying, "If you give up your baby, they can live in a good house with a nice family and go to university. This is your duty as a mother."
Consider donating. Elevate the voices of first mothers worldwide.
m.koreatimes.co.kr Women are powerful. Perhaps at the most arcane and Jungian level, we are creators. If one of us chooses to give birth, our communities are reminded of the immense, life-giving power a female body can possess. Perhaps that is why motherhood is idealized in so many cultures - at least, until it challe...
"In one photo, a group of Asian women are laughing in a nail salon, while white women give them pedicures. In another photo, a Latino woman is on the phone, ignoring the white maid pouring her a cup of tea. In the third, a white girl stares up at row upon row of black dolls in a toy shop."
I posted this back in 2017. Still just as relevant when we navigate race, class, gender, power and privilege.
qz.com "The best pictures ask questions but don’t necessarily answer them."
"For people of color, these conversations are nothing new; they are a requirement in communities where experiences of racism, bias, and bigotry are a part of everyday life. But for many white people who have never been burdened by a system built specifically to keep us down, these conversations can seem confusing, uncomfortable, and awkward, which is makes them even more necessary. If you're not sure how to talk about issues of race in America, try picking up one of the many incredible books about race instead of asking people of color to explain it to you."
Elevate your mind and the voices of BIPOC writers.
This is an excellent list to expand your library.
bustle.com In today's current political and cultural climate, it's crucial that everyday Americans are engaging in important conversations about race, bias, discrimination, and privilege. For people of color, these conversations are nothing new; they are a…
"This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we would do his memory justice by honoring all of his legacy. Not just the parts that make white Americans comfortable."
teenvogue.com Let's do his memory justice.
This MLK day, let’s go deeper than quoting the version of Dr. King that makes everyone feel comfortable and doesn’t challenge us to do better.
I want to challenge you to read more than the I have a dream sp*ech. Why don’t you make today the beginning of a deep dive into King’s work. The King Institute is a great place to start.
I recommend you read the hate mail that he received. The things that people said to him are very similar to the things that people say today both to activists and in public forums.
I also challenge you to read some of the books that he wrote and the books written about him.
Search for and watch the Eyes on the Prize documentary (it’s in a few different places and I believe that there is a website that you can watch it for free with a free registration). Also, watch African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.
Dr. King did not die so we could get warm fuzzy feelings talking about how “far” we’ve come, especially when the same type of stuff that he fought to change is still happening.
Schools are more segregated now than they were then. Police brutality is still a thing. Segregation is still a thing, they just took down (most of) the signs. The Klan is still marching. White supremacist groups still exist and they’re growing. Black people are still being told to give yo their seats on public transportation. Black folks are still barred from voting in many places in this country. I could go on.
So don’t sit around today and act like we’ve somehow arrived at King’s dream just because black people can p*e in the same public toilet as you, and we’ve had a black president so it’s all hunky dory. It ain’t.
You can choose to be part of the problem or you can make room for those who are working toward the solution.
Quoting Dr. King today doesn’t excuse you from fighting against white supremacy the other 364 days of the year. Show up for black people every day and not just today.
Consider this great training in Denver, CO!
"There is still space and time to register for the Denver training January 24th. Come find out what you didn't know you didn't know about sexual trauma - impacts, referring for care, what to say/not say, and how to prevent it by doing what you can to change the world around you and being an active bystander. $50 for a lot of helpful information (people frequently tell me "I didn't know how often I was working with survivors; I didn't know I should be asking that"). Though it is geared toward therapeutic professionals, it's open to the public and all are welcome to attend. See you there!" --Kathryn Perkins, LCSW
eventbrite.com Many clinicians do not realize how frequently they are working with survivors of sexual trauma. Although trauma-informed workshops abound, sexual trauma is often not addressed in depth. And what you don’t know can hurt you (and your clients). Experiences of sexual violence and harassment are so wi...
Celebrating this historical milestone for NY adoptees!
Adoptee's lives did not begin at placement. Access to our history and documents is a human right for generations to come.
Standing in solidarity with adoptees, first families, and allies in hope that access to original birth certificates become a legal right to all.
governor.ny.gov Governor Cuomo announced that more than 3,600 adoptees, outside of New York City, aged 18 or older have filed applications since January 15, 2020 to receive a certified copy of their original, or pre-adoption, birth certificate.
Lots of indignity by WAPs who are asked to provide additional docs verifying legal parental status of their adopt kids of color.
I get the anger, but here's the harsh reality:
Some WAPs are also rehoming kids of color underground (sometimes to complete strangers without any legal documentation) and these kids are showing up in ERs, MDs, therapist, occupational, and educational spaces without ANY legal standing with caretakers who cannot give permission for ongoing med care.
These kids have a right to care, safety and security (and NOT be rehomed). Providers cannot provide ongoing med attention without parental permission to treat minors.
Wish the same outrage and action was there everytime an adoptee is rehomed, rather than general defense, apathy, or "that's horrible"--and little else that truly bends the system that allows rehoming in most states.
What to do:
1) Reasearch rehomimg laws in your state.
2) Call or write your state and federal legislator.
3) Know where/who donations are actually going so it funding is not inadvertently supporting rehoming.
4) Speak out against rehoming.
"Which means if you know someone who is adopted, how much have you listened to them? Scratch that. Did you even give them the support for them to speak honestly and vulnerably about their feelings about being adopted? Or did you, as a non-adopted person, still use your proximity to someone who is adopted to narrate all adoptee’s experiences? Details are why each adopted experience is unique. Yes, you may find common themes or feelings, but you can’t stereotype adoptee lives. Just like with any marginalized group, there is no one way to live the group’s experience."
Thoughtfully read Brittany Nash's (a fellow TRA) powerful words. And then read again.
Proximity does not grant expertise or voice over another's lived experience. Recognizing the difference between proximity vs. direct, lived experience is essential.
brittanynash.com This blog is going to start with at a simple statement and it is: Your proximity to someone doesn't mean you know more. This seems pretty obvious, but sometimes it just needs to be explained and addressed. While I am going to frame this specifically around adoption, it honestly, this a
"This might seem funny at first, but the underlying message is clear: Asian people aren’t seen as human beings; they are calculating machines. Asians are literally objectified, seen as capable of doing things at a sp*ed and scale that “normal” people can’t do. In other words, they are dehumanized."
chicagoreporter.com Overt racism is easy to spot. But more subtle forms based on false narratives can be equally dehumanizing – and it's no joke.
It is a tremendous privilege to be a keynote presenter for Theraplay Institute's International Conference.
Come join us!
theraplay.org Theraplay is building strong families and emotionally healthy children and adults through Theraplay training, treatment, advocacy, and research.
Asians upholding anti-Blackness contribute to oppression.
Asian adoptees are no exception. In fact many fail to see the intersectionality between their oppressive experiences and the benefits they hold as Asians raised in wytness.
This must be constantly deconstructed, dismantled, and called in. If not, the harmful and violent impacts against the Black community perpetuated by Asians goes unchecked.
Too often Asians get defensive when their anti-Black biases are confronted. Asians must continually undo these internalized toxic beliefs against the Black community by acknowledging their privilege and wyt adjacency.
There are valid and historical reasons why many in the Black community do not trust Asian spaces.
Western, wyt culture has done a tremendous job creating and encouraging a history of pitting racial minorities against each other.
Decolonizing those effects is intentional, complex, and hard work, but it must be done.
I have posted this before and want to post again. Dr. Kim Park Nelson's work is one of the most comprehensive books that encapsulates an unflinching and comprehensive look within the Korean adoptee, transracial, and transcultural adoption experience.
"The first Korean adoptees were powerful symbols of American superiority in the Cold War; as Korean adoption continued, adoptees' visibility as Asians faded as they became a geopolitical success story—all-American children in loving white families. In Invisible Asians, Kim Park Nelson analyzes the processes by which Korean American adoptees’ have been rendered racially invisible, and how that invisibility facilitates their treatment as exceptional subjects within the context of American race relations and in government policies. Invisible Asians draws on the life stories of more than sixty adult Korean adoptees in three locations: Minnesota, home to the largest concentration of Korean adoptees in the United States; the Pacific Northwest, where many of the first Korean adoptees were raised; and Seoul, home to hundreds of adult adoptees who have returned to South Korea to live and work. Their experiences underpin a critical examination of research and policy making about transnational adoption from the 1950s to the present day. Park Nelson connects the invisibility of Korean adoptees to the ambiguous racial positioning of Asian Americans in American culture, and explores the implications of invisibility for Korean adoptees as they navigate race, culture, and nationality. Raised in white families, they are ideal racial subjects in support of the trope of “colorblindness” as a “cure for racism” in America, and continue to enjoy the most privileged legal status in terms of immigration and naturalization of any immigrant group, built on regulations created specifically to facilitate the transfer of foreign children to American families."
amazon.com The first Korean adoptees were powerful symbols of American superiority in the Cold War; as Korean adoption continued, adoptees' visibility as Asians faded as they became a geopolitical success story—all-American children in loving white families. In Invisible Asians, Kim Park Nelson analy...
Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW-S, CTS, LCPAA, PLLC has worked in the field of child welfare since 1999. She is a Texas Board-certified clinical social worker and supervisor and a licensed child placing administrator through the State of Texas. She is a Certified Trauma Specialist through The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children®. She trained at the Adult Attachment Interview Institute under Drs. Mary Main, Ph.D, and Erik Hesse, Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. She is a Certified Theraplay® Therapist through the Theraplay® Institute in Evanston, Illionis. She is an EMDR therapist through the EMDRIA Institute. She is an adjunct professor of Social Work at Collin College in Plano, Texas. She is trained in TBRI® and the Empowered to Connect Parent Training. She has been featured in the Washington Post, Reuters, Dallas Child, Land of Gazillion Adoptees, and Dan Rather's rehoming documentary, "Unwanted in America." She is a contributing columnist for Adoption Today. She graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with her Master of Science in Social Work. Her passion is bringing education, advocacy, and awareness to the complex issues surrounding adoption and foster care--and giving voice to all members of the triad. It is not one voice that carries, but many.
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