How I Got My Start Working in Adoption, or The Perceived Power in Initials

How I Got My Start Working in Adoption, or The Perceived Power in Initials

by Beth Kozan

reading the paperPeople sometimes ask me how I got started working in adoptions. The short version: I answered an ad in the paper for a pregnancy counselor because I needed a job, and it was a good fit for me.

One of the first tasks at my new job was stuffing envelopes with “letters of decline” to 35 other applicants who had been considered for the job; their resumes were attached to their applications. I wondered, Why me? Why was I chosen over this person who had an MSW, that person who had experience working for other adoption agencies? My new job at Arizona Children’s Association – then known as Arizona Children’s Home Association – required a Masters level degree. Founded in 1912, the Tucson agency was once an orphanage, and at the time I worked there it was primarily a residential treatment center for children with mental illness diagnoses. The agency had an active adoption program, handling infant adoptions as well as older children who needed permanent homes.

The woman who hired me (my new supervisor) said I was a little older than the typical applicant who had just finished school with the ink not quite dry on the initials behind the name. She thought the parents of teenaged clients could relate better to me than someone fresh out of college. I was puzzled. I was 35.

MSW (Master of Social Work) is the most prevalent degree in the field of adoptions, yet I had an M.Ed (Master of Education). In my preparation for a proposed workshop for the American Counseling Association, I spoke with a former professor. He laughed when he heard my title (The Alphabet Soup of Job Search) and told me that when he’d begun an internship at a Veterans Hospital in a large metropolitan center, a new sign appeared on the employee’s lounge at the hospital: Physicians ONLY. His PhD was trumped by the MD after his colleagues’ names.

After I’d worked in adoption for sixteen years, I interviewed for a job to supervise a large adoption program in Texas. The reason given for not hiring me was that the MSWs would not accept supervision by someone with an M.Ed.

Could it be that I had been hired at ACHA because I had an M.Ed and my new supervisor, with her BSW and seventeen years of field experience, felt less threatened by an M.Ed than a person with an MSW?

I am proud of the degree that helped me gain employment at the job that started my career in adoptions. I have helped build families and gained respect for women who have placed children for adoption, and I work to reform adoption to help adoptees more easily find their biological roots. My greatest compliment is represented by this exchange, shortly after I retired from agency work and joined Facebook.

Thank you for your choice of your life’s work. This was the sentence that made my day, today, when I was “found” on Facebook by a birthmother client with whom I worked 23 years ago. She wrote: “I was watching – of all things – Dr. Phil’s program about teen pregnancy. It made me think about the counselor who helped me all those years ago. If you are that person, thank you. I can only imagine all the families you have helped to make their dreams come true and the young women whose lives have been guided by you. Thank you, again, so much for your choice of life work.”


Beth Kozan is the author of the upcoming books, Adoption: More Than by Chance and Beth KozanHelping the Birth Mother You Know. Beth worked in adoption for 35 years, and retired to write. She has many more books than these titles to write and will emphasize and explore the concept of community in her additional books. “Growing up in a close agriculture-based, rural community in Texas, I felt the comfort and bonds of caring for others which is often missing in our busy lives today. Exploring and building communities for today is my writer’s goal.” Follow Beth on Facebook or vist her website, where she reviews books and films featuring adoption.

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