When I was looking for a placement for my internship, I knew I wanted to join an agency that worked in adoption. As I researched local agencies in the Indianapolis area, MLJ immediately caught my eye. I read about the work that they did and the lives that they impacted, I knew that I wanted to be involved in the work that they did! I met with two of MLJ’s Social Services team, Karlene and Angela for an interview, and we discussed international adoption, the agency, and the varying ways that they serve families and children. They introduced me to all of the wonderful staff and immediately welcomed me as a part of their team. I was ready to start that same day!
Over the last year, my time as an intern has taught me so much about international adoption, families, vulnerable children, cultural competency, and the impact of federal policy on the work that benefits families and children. I knew coming into this placement that I had limited knowledge about international adoption, but I did not realize how much I really did not know until my first week as an intern. There are so many laws, policies, regulations, and rules that have to be followed not only in the United States, but also in all of the different countries that we partner with. My first step was attempting to comprehend the laws behind the process of international adoption. Though I was not as excited to learn about policy and laws, it is necessary component to working in this field. Once I had somewhat of an understanding, I moved onto learning about culture and the populations of vulnerable children that we were serving. This part I was more than thrilled to learn about! I love exploring different cultures and learning about the varying religions, languages, customs, values, food, and history. Gaining cultural competence is so important when international work is involved for many reasons. The staff at MLJ works alongside international staff members every day. Understanding their culture, customs, styles of communication are the keys to building relationships with the international agencies. The other main reason cultural competence is so important is because all of the children we serve come from all over the world. Understanding the culture they come from is a large part in understanding who they are, our cultural and societal differences and why they may do or think certain ways. It allows us to pass on that education to families and reiterate the importance of knowing where their child is coming from and the role that culture plays into making the child who they are as a person.
I have been fortunate enough to see every stage of international adoption during my time at MLJ so far. While I have truly enjoyed all of it, I would have to say that there are two specific details of my duties that are my favorites. The first one is when we finally call a prospective adoptive family to tell them we have a proposed match of a child for them. Families have waited so long to hear those words and, if they accept the proposed match of a specific child(ren), they can finally prepare to travel and meet their child(ren) for the first time. This is always so exciting! My second favorite event is when a family brings their child home. There is always a sigh of relief when the family is finally home and united. There is no more waiting and wondering if something will be delayed, or worse, fall through all together. There is always so much joy for the families as they have finally reached their end destination, their adoption is complete, and their family is whole. That’s why I love interning with MLJ because I am able to assist in providing forever families for vulnerable children, help make families whole, and bring insurmountable joy to both families and children in need of permanent homes and parents! I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else!
Katelyn Smith is a year-long intern with MLJ Adoptions as she pursues her Master’s of Social Work through IUPUI. Upon graduation, she desires to work with vulnerable children and families.