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Featured Alumni: Amanda Baden ’69

“It means so much to me to try to help those who were adopted and are now coping with all of its [adoption] complexities.”—Amanda Baden, Hong Kong

Amanda Baden, Ph.D. was adopted from Hong Kong in 1969 to a family in central Pennsylvania when she was just over a year old. Her sister, also from Hong Kong, was adopted two years before.  “She and I are not biological, but it helped because we grew up in such a homogeneous area,” said Baden. “We were the only Chinese people in our area other than the owners of the single Chinese restaurant in town.”

In addition to her sister, Amanda’s niece and daughter were also adopted from China.  “Our family has more Asian people in it now than white people!” said Baden. “It’s a funny shift for my mom as my dad passed away five years ago.  We tell her that we have adopted her now!”

Amanda is an associate professor in a graduate counselor education program at Montclair State University (MSU) in New Jersey. She also operates her own practice in New York as a licensed psychologist.  Amanda is a well-known advocate for adoption and adoption research and is co-chair of the St. Johns University Adoption Conference, a biennial conference that is put on in collaboration with MSU.

Like many, when Amanda entered college she didn’t intend to study what her professional career later came to be.  She began college as an architectural engineering major and later considered industrial organizational psych and law, very different from where she ended up.  “It wasn’t until I took courses in multicultural counseling and started thinking about these issues and how they apply to transracial adoptees that I found my niche, so ultimately I think it just happened,” said Amanda.  Not until she started to think about her doctoral work did Amanda realize that she wanted to study adoption.

Amanda is widely known in the adoption community for her work surrounding transracial adoption and research.  Her earliest professional work was to understand the identity experiences of transracial adoptees.  “My mentor, Dr. Robbie Jean Steward, and I spent hours discussing this model and formulating it,” said Amanda.  “We ended up with a model that considers race and culture separately and allows for the fact that there is not a linear movement of adoptees but rather statuses that depict their relationship to their racial group movement and that of their parents.”  The model accounts for the unique relationships that transracial adoptees have with their birth culture.

This year Amanda will co-chair the 7th biennial conference, entitled, “Best Interest of the Child?” Race, Religion and Rescue in Adoption. Scholars from around the country will participate.  This year, the conference will host an array of notable presenters including, David Smolin, Jae Ran Kim, Darron Smith, Susan Harris O’Conner, Erin Siegal and others who have made important contributions. “We have adult adoptee professionals

who have the qualified and lived experience that can really inform participants,” said Baden.

The conference began in the year 2000 at the urging of an alumnus of St. Johns University.  As a new professor, Amanda did a colloquium on her work and connected with Dr. Rafael Javier who asked her to join the planning committee.  “The conferences have developed from one day to two and a half,” said Amanda.  “We realized that so many therapists (psychologists, social workers, counselors etc.) never have any real training on adoption-related issues…Our mission is to educate and to train clinicians and workers.”

Each year the conference aims to educate attendees about the dynamics between adoptees and adoptive families in the context of motivation for adoption and the effects of individual experiences among the adoption triad. “We recognize that people adopt for many reasons, including life circumstances as well as religious beliefs and humanitarian ideals,” said Amanda.  “Our concerns are that adoptive parents might not be prepared and aware of the complexities of adoption and that when race, religion and rescue missions intersect in adoption, problems can occur unless very thoughtful and well-prepared families and social workers work as a team. We are critiquing and challenging our preconceptions and hoping to make real progress with all of this.”

For more information about Amanda Baden, her research and published works please visit: http://www.transracialadoption.net/About/About.html

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