Rachel Kara Pérez became a Mentor in 2018. She is a multidisciplinary artist and educator who focuses her work on using the arts as a social justice tool to uplift and advocate for communities of marginalized peoples. Learn more about Rachel’s experience as an adoptee and Mentor.
What would you like to share about your background?
I was born in The Bronx, a black, mixed race, Latinx child raised in a predominantly Puerto Rican household.
How did your family share your adoption story with you?
We always had children’s books talking about adoption and my parents always expressed their respect and admiration for my birth mother for making such a difficult decision. As I grew older, I pressed for more details which had not been provided, because I felt I should have had access to them at an earlier age.
What myths or misconceptions did you encounter as an adoptee?
That being adopted is automatically something to pity or feel bad about, that everyone wants to meet their biological parents, that my parents are somehow saviors for adopting someone (which I believe is a problematic viewpoint to hold).
When did you get connected to Spence-Chapin’s Mentorship Program?
A few years ago, I went to Spence-Chapin to gather non-identifying information pertaining to my own adoption and my case worker at the time suggested that I would be a good mentor. I didn’t follow up again for a few years, but I’m glad that I did.
What has been your experience as a Mentor?
It’s been almost a surreal experience to be in a room with all adopted folks. It has made me feel less alone and grounded me in a community I had not previously felt part of.
I enjoy spending time with the Mentees, and just getting to know them individually. I appreciate their curiosities and how for quite a few of them, the Mentorship Program provides a safe space for them where they can be themselves, explore their identities, even those that go beyond adoption, and make new friends. As a Mentor I have also made new friends and been able to connect with people on a deeper level on such specific identity overlaps; that I really don’t think I could have found that anywhere else. It has also been a healing experience for me.
What advice do you share with young adoptees in the Mentorship Program?
Ask questions, regardless of who it makes uncomfortable. You have a right to your adoption story, to your history. You have a right to speak your truth. It’s ok to want to know more, and it’s also ok to not want to know. It’s an ongoing process, and it will feel different depending on the day. Hopefully, being in community with other adopted children will help you navigate this identity and provide you with a community in which you can find refuge.
Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Mentorship Program is for adopted middle and high school students. Our program empowers adoptees through friendship, building self-confidence and challenging them to discover and understand their adoption identities and experiences. To learn more about joining the Program as a Mentee or Mentor, contact us at [email protected] or sign up for our FREE Mentorship Webinar!