AKA- What a Find!

Submitted by Kathryn Shelley, founding member and continued supporter of AKA.

I like to think of our quirky band of AKA founders as pioneers in a revolution on the Texas frontier. We were a daring bunch, dedicated to the adopted person’s basic right to full genetic access. We questioned long-held beliefs in the Texas legislature, some powerhouse adoption agencies, family members and society at large. The Internet was barely in existence, enlightened adoption book titles could be counted on a couple of hands and none of us had ever experienced the support system we were dreaming of.

There was shy me who paid an underground network to provide my original mother’s birth certificate. By revealing her place of birth and her parent’s names, a doorway eventually opened to my own cast of characters, leading me to the real people behind the lines of my own face and a profoundly deepened self-understanding.

The year was 1991. We sat in Nancy Johnson’s living room conjuring up the idea of AKA – this new organization dedicated to bringing together adopted people, birth and adoptive parents along with professionals. More than a support group, we wanted to be an educational resource. Our combined energy was electrifying. That year we invented the mission statement, clarified philosophy, cranked out bylaws and submitted the nonprofit application.

I’ll never forget the thrill of that first official AKA meeting. We all thought another group had stolen our downtown conference room. There was standing room only as sixty or so people crammed into a space meant for 30. AKA was and is a dream come true, certainly one proud accomplishment that I share with Gene and Barbara Sinclair, Cindy Stocking, Jim Rockwell, Nancy Johnson, Betty Kampa, Bob Pennybacker, Lisa Sneed, Shawn Hardy and Rich and Rona Pogrund.

We needed the gift of like-minded people from all parts of the triad along with wise professionals. We needed each other’s validation while we rode out the disapproval and fear of others along with the self-doubt sure to happen when uncovering missing facts and unraveling myths about adoption. It is true that the truth will set you free, but first it will rock your boat. We wanted to lay a more humane foundation for adoption’s next generation, work still so very needed.

Adoption is an extreme experience – the subject of Greek myth and Biblical story for good reason. Adoption and AKA – both have proved to be my most valuable template for the positive difference it makes when people acknowledge as truthfully as possible our complex and messy lives. I am so thankful for AKA – the lifelong friends it gave me, its programs and conferences, its current leadership and its continued mission of encouraging everyone in adoption to not build walls, but to honor all the connections that make us who we are.