Friday, July 12, 2013

Birthmother Re-Contact and the Finalization Process

Most of you who have been involved with adoptions from Korea are well aware of the “Seven-Day” consent of adoption rule under the Special Adoption Law (SAL).  Right after the birth of a child, the birthmother is required to keep the baby for seven days (with expenses covered by the Korean government during this seven day period ranging anywhere from $300 - $650).  No coverage after the seven day period is over, but I am sure there are some other programs that birthmothers can benefit.
At the end of the seven day period, most birthmothers give up their children for adoption with assurance that even though their babies have been registered into their family record, these records will be erased once the adoption happens. 

However, the records stay permanently for those children that don’t get adopted.  This is the reason why so many birthmothers have abandoned their babies on the streets, trash bins, restrooms, and in some cases killed, and many abandoned through the Baby Box, because there is no guarantee of their anonymity under the Special Adoption Law (SAL).

Despite the fact that the birthmothers are given the seven days waiting period, they are given far more extra chances to make up their minds throughout the adoption process until the time of the final ruling of adoption by the family court.  This may mean a birthmother may be able to reclaim her child when the child is over two years old. 
Imagine a birthmother that relinquished her child after seven days, and claims back her child over two years later when finding out that her child is about to be adopted.  As difficult as this is for the child and for the birthmother, who has brought upon herself a dramatic change by her decision, it isn’t easy for anyone.  It certainly wouldn’t be easy for the adoptive parents that have waited over two years to bring the child home, and them feeling like the child has been snatched from their hands is not an overstatement.  But nobody, not even the adoptive parents can refute the fact that the birthmother has the right to her child.  Birthmothers may not always be the best person to raise their children in terms of financially, socially, or emotionally, but they have the rights that no one can take away.  That’s the right we all have on our children as well.

For the EPs that were approved in 2012, and now should have all been or going through the family court, these cases were not under the new law where birthmothers were given the seven days reconsideration period.  Because the birthmothers were not given this reconsideration period, the birthmothers have been contacted prior to submission of the EPs to the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) to give them the extra chance.  The birthmothers are asked if they still wish to place their children for adoption.  While the MOHW does not do this, the agencies are preparing for the family court appearances by contacting the birthmothers ahead of time.  The agencies confirm the birthmothers’ addresses, and in some cases not able to contact or find them.  But their efforts are recorded in the documents submitted to the family court. 
Once in the court, the judges review the cases, and the adoptive parents are summoned to the Court.  At which time the parents travel to Korea to stand before the judges (a collection of questions asked by the judges in another blog).  After this initial interview the families are at their liberty to go back to their home country or remain in Korea for the duration, which takes around 4-6 weeks. 

The family court sends the certified letters to the birthmothers.  The letters notify the birthmothers that there are court hearings on their children being adopted.  They are not given any information on the adoptive families.  The letters also notify the birthmothers that there is a 14-day appeal period, during which time they have the freedom to change their minds.  The birthmothers need to sign the receipt of the letters.  If they don’t respond, another letters are sent. 
If a birthmother still does not respond, the court sets aside two weeks to locate her, and if she can’t be found (or does not wish to be found), the original relinquishment signed by her will stand.  At this time the court informs the agencies of their intent to proceed with the finalization of adoption, the adoptive family is notified of their travel to go back to Korea to pick up the child, or if they are already in Korea they are notified of this by the agencies.

21 comments:

  1. Steve, can you clarify what you mean by, "This may mean a birthmother may be able to reclaim her child when the child is over two years old"?

    Is that why some birthmothers are changing their minds, because the child has turned two and the records then become anonymous? I'm a little confused. Thanks!

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    1. It simply means that a birthmother essentially has all the chance to reclaim her child from birth until the family court finalizes the adoption in Korea. So the seven-day waiting is essentially meaningless.
      No,the birthmother is not changing her mind because the child has turned two. They can change any time from birth until the finalization.

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    2. Oh okay, I see what you're saying. I totally agree! They have the entire waiting period to change their minds, so I've wondered many times why it would make sense to add a 7 or 14 day appeal period when she can essentially "appeal" or change her mind at any point.

      If the birthmother replies that she indeed still wants to relinquish, do they go ahead and allow for the appeal period anyway?

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    3. Yes, during the 14 days if a birthmother changes her mind, she gets to keep her child. The 14 days waiting period is an appeal period set in the Korean family law that not only applies to adoption, but to other areas of contention - such as divorce, asset settlements, custody rights, and other family rulings.

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  2. Would you be able to share more about the domestic numbers for this year? Our agency has confirmed the 2/3 ratio that you previously posted about.

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    1. As of now I don't the number, but I have inquired this from Korea.

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  3. Will agencies also be contacting birthmothers whose children were born after the SAL went into effect? It seems better to have birthmothers notified and given a choice to reclaim their child well before the Court appearance step. What a heart break, as well as a financial hardship, to travel to Seoul for Court only to loose the child you held so long in your heart and return with empty arms.

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    1. The process is really to address the SAL, and they are tailoring the 2012 EP cases to fit the SAL requirements. I think the birthmothers are being contacted during the EP before it reaches the family court.

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    2. This really should be done at the last possible moment. Having a child referred for 18-24 months prior and then BM reclaiming at the 11th hour is hardly good for anyone involved- not the child, not the foster families, not the agencies, not the government, not the adoptive families. For the sake of all involved, there needs to be more compassion inserted in this process. We know that one BM came back and then a week later decided she couldn't handle parenting that toddler. How horrid would that be? Yet, we will see more of this with his new law and how it is being implemented.

      I understand the new law and that BM should have rights at time to reclaim. At the same time, there should be reasonable time frame for this to be set. Just as in the US, there are time frames upon which relinquishment happens and is final.

      Let's not misunderstand-the government is doing this in response to negative media attention to adoption and they are catering to the groups that want it stopped. And so, the children will be hurt most.

      Just today, someone said they can't go to Korea to adopt a special needs child because of the excessive time in process due to this bureaucracy. This child needs and has no family and is in an orphanage but now they won't be adopted due to bureaucracy. It is so sad and unfortunate in many ways.

      No one is saying the SAL isn't a good thing. I totally agree there are and need to be policies in place (great that there is more money being contributed to the mothers after birth, great that they have 7 days to finalize this plan, etc.) What is a problem is the bureaucracy that it has created. There are currently no families from 2012 that have even travelled this year or have any hope yet of doing so. Children are and have been in foster care for years now with no end in sight. The process is not quicker, it is way slower. You now have children that have been transferred from foster family to foster family, experiencing more and more trauma along the way.

      It is sad on many levels and I pray for mercy and compassion in this entire scenario. It breaks my heart on so many levels.

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  4. So if they contact the birthmother during the EP process, why the 14-day appeal period between the court visit and the visa processing? I totally agree with Tina, it seems like this could be done prior to us travelling over on the first visit for meeting the child, court appearance, etc.

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  5. Or we can have our Court appearance through video conferencing. We also are confused why the judges can't understand the huge emotional commitment for us to travel that far, with risk, when a compromise can be done. Do you think the process is now set or is it possible for revisions to still come?

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    1. I understand how difficult this new requirement is. However, the judges will not be convinced through a video conferencing as they need to actually meet the real parent, which is you. I think this process is set, and I don't think it will revert back.

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  6. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the clarification and for keeping us up to date. Your comments capture many of my same thoughts and feelings about the process.
    Do we know if any American family has brought their child home since the new law? I believe a Swedish family has made it through the process but I am not sure about American families. I know several were in process with the courts but I don't know the latest.
    Thanks again for all yo do!

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    1. Yes, there have been a number of families whose adoptions were finalized in Korea (including waiting 14 days), and were able to bring their children home. Most of them, however, were the EPs held over from 2012. They have begun the court process for EPs released for 2013.

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    2. Thanks so much, Steve. You just made my day! :-)

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    3. How long have you been in process Jennifer? There is only two cases that just got a court date (late August). Still no court dates this week and no EP approvals. I don't know if the ministry is doing once a month EP approvals or what. It's taking 7-9 weeks right now till court submit and another 6-8 weeks for a court date. There will be lucky to get 50 children home to their forever families at this rate. More trauma, more time languishing in foster care, etc.

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  7. Any news on the current delays in Ep approvals/submissions? Many children are passing their 2nd birthday without an end in sight.

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  8. Thanks for asking that question Brant. I too am curious about the delays with EP’s. Our agency has told us that there are many EP’s that have been submitted but haven’t been approved. Why the delay in the EP’s being approved? Do you know if there are any signs that things will be sped up. Also, do you know if there have been judges (for court appearances) that have been pulled specifically for adoption or are they just trying to squeeze the adoptions process into their already busy Family court schedule?

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  9. Well, I have to admit as a waiting MOM, Referral Oct 2012, it does not feel so warm a fuzzy. Why would the BM have the right to reclaim that child during the entire process? Would't that mean that the child is not classified officially as an "orphan" If Korea is moving towards Hague acceditation, this would be completely Unacceptable. Not to mention cruel to the AF.

    I understand that they are trying to look out for the children, however this goes against what Hague stands for. What about the Adoptive parents rights? We have NONE. We have done everything that has been asked of us, bonded with the child through letters, pictures and care packages, only to have the BM change her mind at any moment? This is the reason that my husband and I did not choose domestic adoption...the 72 hour window of reconsideration after hopes were high. Our hearts could not bear it. And now, from what you say, Steve, it is happening in Korea.

    My son waits for me, and gets older and more attached to his life in Korea. We are here and ready and willing to provide a life of love and advancement. His transition will only be harder due the the beurocracy.

    I understand that the children would be best with the BM...no doubt. But who is looking out for the loving families in waiting...and waiting ...and waiting??? Nobody. Of course the child comes first....but Korea needs to look at the harsh reality of the their country's state of orphans and give them a chance to thrive in a loving home abroad. Pride is a wonderful thing when used properly.....but having children die and abandoned is dispicable.

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  10. Any statistics on which birth mother profile returns the most to reclaim their child?

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