Now she is Melanie JaeHee Chung-Sherman, a social worker and psychotherapist who has been in private practice in Allen, Texas, since 2011.
But on TulsaPeople’s November 2000 cover, she was Melanie Waisanen, a 23-year-old education services assistant working for Dillon International Inc. One of the issue’s “40 under 40,” the rising leader and Korean adoptee spoke of her calling to “help other adoptees and their families understand, celebrate and embrace their differences as individuals and as a multicultural family.”
Today Chung-Sherman says that calling has expanded as she has honed specialties working with transracial adoptees, people of color and marginalized communities. “For adopted folks, our identities are not one-dimensional in terms of our adoption experience alone,” she explains, “but that is a big part of our lives and how we navigate the world.”
Since marrying in 2004, Chung-Sherman made the decision to legally change her name to reflect her birth name and to more fully embrace her Korean identity.
The need for adoption and racially inclusive services for transracial adoptees is so significant Chung-Sherman, who is licensed to practice in Texas, is in the process of becoming licensed in four more states, including Oklahoma.
“This is such a specialized field,” she says. “In the United States, there’s only a handful of us doing this work.”
She mentors therapists in the field of child welfare, where she shares her training and experiences around foster care, adoption, mental health, identity-based stress and trauma-inclusive care.
Raised in Fort Worth, Texas, Chung-Sherman lived in Tulsa from 1999 to 2001 while working for Dillon. Though her understanding of the complexities of international adoption has since grown, the experience is informative in the work she does today.
She and her spouse live in the Dallas area with their two sons.