Monday, March 19, 2012

Adoption Law Revision Draws Fire

An interesting article that deals with the impact of the new adoption laws.
This article is from The Korea Herald, posted 3-18-12.
Adoption Law Revision Draws Fire
A government plan to prevent birth mothers from giving up their babies for adoption too quickly may cause such women greater distress, experts say.

They say that the measures could cause greater distress to mothers by allowing them time to get attached to their babies. They also fear the emergence of a black market for adoption as the government makes it increasingly difficult to place babies for adoption.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced its revised adoption law on March 9, under which adoption will be allowed after seven days have passed since birth.

During those seven days, the mother will receive mandatory counseling on available parenting support.

The plan also requires adoption agencies to spend five month seeking a domestic adoption before looking overseas.

Adoption agencies will also be required to check aspiring adoptive families’ criminal records, particularly for child abuse or sexual violence. Adoptive parents will have to complete mandatory education on parenting before adopting, while city and district offices will no longer be able to grant adoptions with just the relevant documents. Adoption will first be permitted by the family courts.

The ministry plans to complete the legislation procedures to enforce the measures in August.

Officials said the plan is aimed at keeping children with their biological mothers where possible, and to encourage adoption in Korea rather than abroad.

“Our priority in revising the adoption law is guaranteeing a friendly environment for children. Their rights will be respected under the revisions,” said Lee Kyung-eun, a ministry official. 

However, others called the provision requiring birth mothers to keep babies for seven days after birth cruel.

“It is generally understood that mothers decide whether or not to keep the baby before labor. So, the planned revision will just add to the distress,” a social worker at an organization for single mothers said.

She said poor single mothers stay in the hospital or a maternity center for an average of three days after natural childbirth, before placing their baby for adoption. When their normal life resumes, at least on the surface, they pretend as if the birth never happened.

“Birth mothers will likely feel more of a sense of guilt about adoption, because of the seven-day mandatory deliberation, which may complicate the adoption process. Under the new system, if legislated, we may see a gloomy scenario of mothers just abandoning their babies after birth and disappearing,” she said.

Another social worker at a different organization said that the clause requiring family courts to approve adoption could create a black market for adoption.

In Korea, more than 70 percent of domestic adoptions are kept private and secret to the adopted child.

“Going to the court means that adoption becomes a public matter which will undergo all the legal steps. Then, adoptive parents will find it difficult to keep their adoption private and secret. They would rather look for single moms who are willing to put their babies for adoption out of the court,” she said.

“The court permission system is likely to make adoption public. Considering that the public still prefer keeping adoption secret, the plan is premature and stressful for those involved.”

Some social workers said they had pointed out possible problems to the authorities but their concerns were dismissed.

Government officials, however, stress that their plan to make adoption harder is focused on the child and that mothers should have a greater sense of responsibility.

They also said that many single mothers tend to make the life time decision right after birth without giving any thought to motherhood.

“Rep. Choi Young-hee of the Democratic United Party, who initiated the revision, called for a 30-day deliberation but we have reduced it to a week,” said Kim Mi-kyung, a ministry official.

Other countries have such a deliberation period. It is 24-72 hours in the U.S. and up to six weeks in the U.K.

“We are aware of the criticism. Let’s focus on the babies. Keeping them with their birth mothers is definitely best for newborns,” Kim said.

By Bae Ji-sook


  1. President Obama will be in Seoul this weekend (see - wonder if anyone here has any "inside" way to get this onto his agenda for a 30 second discussion with President Lee?

  2. I just sent a plea to the President to discuss this when he's there. I'm sure it's not his highest priority, but if enough people write, soon, perhaps there is a chance that he will bring it up (remember, this affects not only US families, but other nations with large Korean adoptee populations - UK, Canada, and Australia). You can write the president via his website here:

  3. I think the deliberation period with mandatory parenting support counseling is a good idea. It will help to ensure that mothers who want to raise their children know all their options and are not being pressured to give up their child. I also believe that with these safe guards being implemented, and having the process for domestic adoption being cleaned up, they should remove the quotas on international adoption and allow children who will be adopted internationally go home to their parents without having to wait for an arbitrarily limited travel permit.

  4. They still didn't eliminate the quota system. They should stop turning a blind eye to thousands of kids left at the orphanage with no hope of ever having a family of their own. I really wish the decision makers learn the awful living conditions most of these kids must bear. And the harsh reality awaiting them after they leave the orphanages.

  5. Is there any sense that the more stingent requirements for domestic adoptions (i.e., criminal history checks, court approval, etc.) will actually result in an initial decrease in domestic adoptions? If so, are the current revisions strong enough to actually result in more mothers being able to keep their children (on both a financial and social level)? Is there any reason to fear that the number of children living in orphanages will actually rise as a result of the new law?