Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Dream Come True - Termination of Parental Rights in Korea

It took over 15 years to accomplish this in Korea, and the dream has finally been achieved at last.

The Korean National Assembly has just passed a new bill yesterday (December 29, 2011) that would allow more children to be available for adoption by terminating the parental rights.  The new law allows the following:  1) The termination of parental rights to those parents that have given up their parental relationship with their children for three years, especially those children in 280 institutions in Korea, 2) Termination of parental rights for those parents that abuse or neglect their children or unfit to raise them, and 3) That all adoption decisions will be handled by the Children's Court, and that any adoption disruptions must go through a due process of the law through the Children's Court. 
Also, the law raised the adoptable age of a minor from 15 to 18.   This new law will go into effect on July 1, 2013.

Up to now, the knowledge that an orphan has been registered into a family after the birth disqualified children from being available for adoption. This for fear that somewhere in Korea may live a parent of an orphan, and that parent may someday come back to reclaim the child. Currently only the children that have been officially relinquished by their birthmothers, or by the orphanage directors who could sign the relinquishment papers for those children that didn't have any birth registry records, were allowed to be adopted.

Over the years, thousands of children had to grow up into their adulthood as orphans because of their family registry binded them into the families that weren't there for them.  For example, a child is born and the birth family registers the child into the family.  But due to various reasons such as economic hardship or marital conflict, the birth parents decide to put the child into an orphanage, promising that they will someday come back to reclaim the child if their economic or marriage conditions improve.  It is typical that the child will never hear from the birth parents again.  The child has been physically abandoned, but not adoptable due to the fact that he was registered into a family, and due to a fact that somewhere there is a birth parent in Korea that might one day come back to reclaim the child.  In the mean time the child grows up in the orphanage, and never once visited or contacted by his birth parent, and is forced out of the orphanage when he turns 18.  I cannot forget a comment by an orphanage director who really cared for her children.  She said, “The fact that there are birth parents living somewhere in Korea has been the most detrimental to children’s rights to grow up in homes.”

This is a very typical scenario of most of the orphans in Korea.  While many parents promise to take their children back once their condition at home improve, in truth they have abandoned their children completely.  I have been told around 80% of the orphans living in various institutions fall into this category.  Now the orphans will have chance to have families of their own.  Thanks to the new law that was just passed. 

I mentioned at the beginning that it took 15 years to accomplish this.  I first mentioned this issue to the visiting Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) officials at the KAAN Conference in 1997 held at Los Angeles using a message written on a piece of paper.  While the Ministry went through many personnel changes, I never failed to mention this again and again and again each time I visited Korea.  I talked with my MPAK members, and talked with a few professors and a few lawmakers as well.  MPAK has been at the forefront to push for this change for the past 15 years.

In the year 2000, at the very first MPAK National Conference to Promote Domestic Adoption in Korea, we at MPAK put together the Ten Propositions to the Korean Government improve the domestic adoption in Korea ( 대정부건의안).  As of today, nine of those propositions came true. One of them was the establishment of the National Adoption Day, which became reality in 2006, and yesterday’s passage on the termination of parental rights became our ninth proposition that became reality.  I will post in another blog what the other eight propositions were. 

I would like to give a special thanks to Mrs. Han, Youn Hee of MPAK Korea president who shared this same vision and pushed for this many years, and to all the MPAK members who worked as one body to be a voice for so many voiceless children in Korea.  While the three years wait before the parental rights termination is still too long (whereas in the US depending on states the wait is between six to 15 months), nevertheless it is a start. 

I would also like to thank all the adoption agencies that shared the same values and saw the needs of many children and came to their rescue time and time again despite all the criticisms they had to endure over the years. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Adoption Finalized for Benjamin

It took seven months to do it.
Benjamin is now officially declared as our son and proudly bears the last name "Morrison".
Our family stood before a judge and Hyeondong Lee became Benjamin Lee Morrison.

I give sincere thanks to Dillon International for being very helpful from the very start of the application process.
I also like to express a hearty thanks to the Eastern agency in Korea for taking on a difficult adoption case that is so characteristic of adopting older kids from institutions, that other agencies in Korea don't want to get involved with.

Many of you may have been wondering how Benjamin is doing since he was adopted seven months ago as a fourteen years old boy from Korea.  He lived all his fourteen years at an orphanage.
To make the long story short, he is doing very well, and is doing great in school also.
We had some challenging moments (the first five months were very difficult).
I plan to share with the readers some of those difficulties we faced in later blogs, and share how we were able to cope and come out of it.  I hope we are out of it.

But there is no denying that there has been some tremendous changes in his attitude and in his behavior.  We are very fortunate and we thank God that we have come so far.

But for now, I just want to share with you that Benjamin's adoption has been finalized.

Our whole family went to the court to witness Benjamin officially being declared as our son.  Ben's grandparents also joined in this special occasion.  Ben is holding the Certificate of Family Membership given by the court.

The adoption finalization was granted by the Hon. John Henning, the judge that swore us in.  What's interesting was though, this was the same judge that finalized our Joseph (behind Ben next to Mom) 10 years ago.  I introduced Joseph to him saying that he finalized Joseph's adoption when he was four years old.  The judge was pleasantly surprised to see our family again after ten years.

Benjamin with Mom and Dad, holding his Certificate of Family Membership

The Morrison Kids - Outside the Courthouse

Ever playful kids - (L to R) Jane, Joseph, and Helen.  Good thing they didn't do this inside the court room.

Monday, December 5, 2011

North Korean Refugee Adoption Act


Please visit the following link to help the homeless children in North Korea.

This announcement is by Sandra Oh, a Korean-American actress.  Please respond to her plea by signing your petition at:

Sign your petition at  It is very easy for you to sign.

The contents in says:

As a constituent of yours, I urge you to support the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2011 (H.R. 1464/ S.416).

In 1961, Dr. Arthur Schneider adopted Sam Han-Schneider by means of a private bill S.1100, which allowed, for the first time, a bachelor to adopt and bring a foreign child to the United States. Sam Han-Schneider is the founder of Han-Schneider International Children's Foundation, which provides for orphans in need around the world today.

The North Korean Refugee Adoption Act, if passed, would allow Americans to adopt refugee orphans who have fled the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to neighboring countries such as Mongolia, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. These children are struggling in harsh circumstances, and run the risk of being sent back to DPRK. According to the World Food Program, DPRK faces regular food shortages, and one in three North Korean children under five are chronically malnourished.

Right now, it is extremely difficult to bring refugee children to the United States.  One American family on the east coast is currently working to secure the adoption of two orphaned siblings from DPRK. The adoption process for them could take anywhere from three to 10 years, and approval is not guaranteed. The passage of this Act would reduce the waiting time for families seeking to adopt refugee orphans.

This is not simply an adoption issue, or a Korean American issue. Refugee orphans do not have access to food and clean water, and are vulnerable to human trafficking and deportation. The North Korean Refugee Adoption Act would lessen the burden on parents in the United States who wish to provide a safe and caring home for refugee orphans.
Please vote in favor of the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act (H.R. 1464 and S. 416).

Thank you for your support.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Grand scheme of adopting – Getting in front of the adoption line

Note:  This article was originally posted in the Chicago Tribune on November 20, 2011. It is posted in this blog with permission from Jae-Ha Kim, who wrote the article.  Jae-Ha Kim is a syndicated columnist that gives credit to MPAK for her being able to adopt.
Jae-Ha and her husband Denton with Kyle
By Jae-Ha Kim
November 20, 2011
A couple years ago, actress Katherine Heigl and her husband adopted a little baby girl from South Korea. No one would say that they didn't deserve to be parents. But what some folks — myself included — found curious was that they had been married for less than two years when they were matched with their child.
Who cares? Well, Korea cares, actually. One of the requirements for foreigners to adopt Korean children is that they have to be heterosexuals who have been married for at least three years.
I know this for a fact, because when my husband and I had started our adoption process — with the same agency that Heigl used — we were told that we would not be able to adopt from Korea because (1) we hadn't been married long enough and (2) by the time we had been married long enough, we'd be too old to adopt from Korea.
OK, not we. Me. I'd be too old. That agency's cutoff age was 43. (Darn. Now ya'll know I'm older than 43.)
I pointed out to the agency that I was born in Korea, spoke the language and would be able to raise the child with a sense of his or her birth culture. So perhaps Korea might make an exception. An employee of the agency told me, "None of that matters. You won't be able to adopt."
Thanks goodness we didn't give up. With a minimal amount of research, I found out that this woman wasn't telling the complete truth. Whether it was because she didn't know any better or just didn't care enough is debatable. But we learned that Korea offered a little more leeway — especially when it came to age — for adoptive parents of Korean heritage.
After my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary, we got cracking. After all, neither one of us — especially me — was getting any younger. Through a work contact's cousin, who was married to a reporter who was working in Seoul at the time, who had just covered a news conference about adoption, I found Steve Morrison. Morrison is this awesome adoptee who founded Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea. He put me in touch with another adoption agency. This agency ultimately worked with us so that we could adopt the cutest, smartest and most awesome baby boy in the world.
This is a long-winded way of backing into a peeve of mine. I find it really irritating when you are accused of being unsupportive if you happen to disagree with someone else's opinion. On a public adoption bulletin board, I — along with some other adoptive parents — wondered how Heigl and her husband had been able to circumvent the marriage requirement. Not that I fault them for jumping at the opportunity to bring home their child sooner rather than later. But why were they given special treatment?
Several of us mused that perhaps, maybe just perhaps, Heigl's celebrity status had something to do with getting to jump to the front of the line. Yes, the child had a health issue (that has been rectified). But the same could be said for the child we would've adopted through that agency. Heigl also has a sister, who was adopted from Korea, so maybe that gave her an advantage. Who really knows?
But I found it surprising that there were quite a few posters who took our questioning of the system to mean that we hated Heigl and were just downright bitter. One woman (though I suppose it could've been a man) posted: "Unless you know her it's lame to say she has special treatment."
Oh, I'm sorry. Because we all know that celebrities never receive special treatment. Ever.
Another said she was new to the forum and was disappointed at how mean some people were. To tell you the truth, that just made me want to kick her while wearing my pointiest shoes.
I could make some snarky assumptions as to why Heigl might receive special treatment. But the end result is that an orphan found loving parents in Heigl and her hubby. And for that I'm grateful.
I'm even more grateful that things worked out the way they did for us. Because if that first agency hadn't given us erroneous information that delayed our process, we would have been matched with a different child.
I don't believe that things happen for a reason. Or that things were meant to be. I don't believe much in fate, either.
But I can't imagine life without my beautiful son. I'm sure that's a sentiment that Heigl and I share about our children.
For what it's worth, I had wanted to get Heigl's take for this piece, but her publicist declined the interview request. Fair enough. She's a busy lady.
And because I tend to get angry emails when I write articles that aren't 100 percent glowing about celebrities, let me just say: Yes, I'm fully aware that Heigl is prettier, younger, thinner and infinitely wealthier than I am. But … My husband is smoking hot, and I think that's a pretty fair equalizer in the grand scheme of things.

Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune

Monday, November 28, 2011

MPAK National Conference to Promote Domestic Adoption in Korea

I have been back to the States two weeks ago, and hadn't had a time to post my trip to Korea until now.
MPAK had its 11th Annual National Conference to Promote Domestic Adoption in Korea.  It is 11th year instead of 12th year since we skipped one year due to SARs influenza that spread through Korea two years ago, and the government advised against people congregating.

This year's conference was at Jeonju, a city three hours southwest of Seoul.
The conference drew approximately 600 people from all over Korea. 
Mainly the MPAK adoptive families came by bus loads from Busan, Kwangju, Seoul, etc.
The conference was held at the Jeonju University, which had a beautiful campus on a hillside.

The group photo of the people that remained to take the picture after the conference.

The city of Jeonju is very beautiful, as the city prides in the traditionally famous Korean dish called, "Jeonju Bibimbap", which is a mixture of lots of vegetables with rice with sesame seed oil and hot bean paste in a hot stone pot. The city also prides in establishing a section of the city with many traditional style houses or buildings to use as hotels or restaurants, and our group stayed one night in such a place.  The road to Jeonju was also a pleasant one except for a few spots of traffic jams.

The Road to Jeonju

As we entered the Jeonju University campus, several banners hung on the side of the streets to announce our MPAK events, and they hung there as if to welcome us.  The banner states, "An Event of Love and Happiness, Adoption! A Field of Celebration "  This was held on November 12, 2011.

Fun activities like crafts were offered to children as they got ready for the conference.

Moonbounces, a stilt walker with balloons, many happy kids enjoyed various activities.
Face paintings for kids

Stage was decorated with fancy ballooons

A senior citizen harmonica band started the event.  They kept wanting to play more music, but we kindly had step in to stop them hogging up the time - only lmited time for other programs.
Adopted children from MPAK-Jeonju put on a traditional dance performance that delighted all those in the audience.
Brian Shin, who is from Aliso Vijeo, CA, delivered a moving story of his adoption experience that was a highlight of the event.  He and his wife Kathy have adopted three children from Korea.  Although Brian lives in the US, the story of adoption is a common bond that unites adoptive parents, and they were blessed through his story.

The audience listens to Brian Shin's adoption story

MPAK Adoptee Children's Choir consists of all adopted children, and they practice weekly.  I believe this is one of a kind of choir group, all consisting of adopted children that I have not seen elsewhere in the world. There is a potential that this choir may visit the US to perform next year, but financing their trip is the biggest challenge.

All in all, the amount of efforts and details put into such conference was an enormous undertaking.  The event will most likely result in helping more children find homes.  I would like to thank MPAK staff in Korea for their hard works and all the volunteers that helped.  But most of all I would like sincerely thank all the adoptive families that drove long distance to come together to celebrate adoption from all over Korea.

In the fall of 2000, when I organized the 1st conference to promote domestic in Korea, a special pastor couple attended the conference out of curiosity after seeing a banner in the street announcing our event.  They were so moved by our event and immediately adopted a baby girl within weeks of time.  That baby is standing at the far right in the picture above (tallest girl).  Her name is Suha Kim, whose story was featured earlier at:

Adoption is Love. 
Adoption is Born of Hearts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adoptee Deportation Issue

Adoptees that don't have the US citizenships are being deported by the USCIS.

This is the letter I wrote to the US Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who sits on a committee for the US Department of Homeland Security that oversees the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Dear Hon. Landrieu,

My name is Steve Morrison and I remember meeting you at the Adoptee Gathering in DC in 1999.  Susan Cox organized the event and she is like my older sister and very close.

Two weeks ago I visited Korea and had a chance to have a meeting with the officials in the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW).  I have a real good relationship with MOHW as I have been promoting domestic adoption and also by Korean-Americans to reach out and adopt homeless children for over ten years.  I am also an adoptee and the founder of Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea (MPAK),

During my visit with MOHW, I was told by the officials a couple of adoptees that had the issue of not getting the US citizenship and were living in Korea.  They asked me if I could do something for them when I return back to the States. 

One adoptee was living in Korea voluntarily (Matthew Scherer), and the other one was deported.  His Korean name is Mr. Mo, Jungbo (MOHW didn't know his American name).  Mr. Mo was deported after his criminal activities in the US with drugs, and he quickly ran out of money in Korea and became a homeless man in Itaewon. 

His story was brought to light and the Korean media featured his story and many people in Korea have expressed outrage at the US.  Also the people were outraged at the MOHW for sending him to the US to be adopted, and the officials took a lot of heat from the public.

Korea is at a juncture where its intercountry adoption (ICA) program is continually being criticized and scrutinized with many questions on when it should continue or not.  Some anti-adoption groups have used this incident to speak against ICA, and criticized the Korean government (mainly MOHW) for allowing this to happen.

My reaction to the deportation issue was of disbelief.  I wondered how a person that was legally adopted into the US as a child could be deported back to Korea just because his parents did not apply for a US citizenship. This despite whether an adoptee has a criminal history or not.

Especially for an adoptee who doesn't speak the language or know of the culture, I could not believe that USCIS would deport him without due consideration as to how he legally entered the country, and that it wasn't his fault for not being registered as a citizen. I felt that USCIS was very callous and inhumane for the way they handled Mr. Mo's case. 

After hearing from the MOHW officials on the plight of Mr. Mo, I remember saying to them, "This is not right, and this is not the America I know."

After I came back to the States, I found to my delight, there was a petition drive already on the way.  The drive was put out by the Korean Focus through '' website that is underway.

I urge you to support this peitition and be a voice for adoptees that are not US citizens for no fault of their own, and be a force in stopping the unfair deportations of adoptees.  Thank you very much for your time and I believe you can make a difference in this issue.  Thank you.

Steve Morrison

Link to sign petition:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Recent Misinformation in Korean Media in Adoption

Recently there have been flood of articles in the Korean media with big headlines that claimed, "The Number of Korean Children Adopted to the US, Embarrassingly No. 1 After 17 Years - Why?" (美입양 한국아동 수, 17년만에 다시 부끄   러운 세계 1위… 왜?). 

This article was first published by the Chosun Ilbo (Chosun Daily) and the article in Korean can be found at the following link:
The article said that Korea has retaken the lead as the number one exporter of Korean children to the US after 17 years.  And this article spread among the Korean media like a fire.  I read the same contents over and over on other media outlets. 

The article erroneously stated that China, which is the biggest sender of children to the US with around 2589 children (Oct 2010 to Sep 2011 Data) had 48 children adopted by the US citizens and the rest (2541) were adopted through the US to other countries.  By the same token, the adoptions of the Korean children to the US families during the same period was 734 children.  The article went on to say that in the similar fashion, the 2nd place was Philippines (216), Uganda (196), India (168), and Ethiopia (126)...etc.  So Korea with 734 children placed in the US was far above the other countries, and the reporter falsely misinterpreted data and published the erroneous article.

When I first read this article, I knew immediately that the contents did not make sense.  Why would the US have the Chinese children to come to the US and re-send them overseas for adoption?  All 2541 children?  Something did not make sense as I knew the entire 2589 Chinese children were adopted by the US families.  So I went digging and went into the US Departement of Homeland Security and found out the following facts in:

In the table with the title "IMMIGRANT ORPHANS ADOPTED BY U.S. CITIZENS BY GENDER, AGE, AND REGION AND COUNTRY OF BIRTH: FISCAL YEAR 2010", I list a few countries with the number of children adopted by the US citizens (Note: this is entire 2010 data, not the same period used by the Chosun Ilbo using Oct 2010 - Sep 2011), so the numbers will be different.

1.  China     3,361
2.  Ethiopia  2,548
3.  Russia     1,079
4.  Korea     875
5.  Ukraine   445
6.  Taiwan    277
7.  India       249

Note the title of the table says, "...ADOPTED BY THE U.S. CITIZENS..." meaning that these children did not go through the US to be placed in other countries like the Chosun Ilbo claims, but they were adopted by the US citizens.

Upon checking this fact I contacted the Ministry of the Health and Welfare (MOHW) and the adoption agencies in Korea to let them know that the article was in gross error, and expressed my concern that this article may cause anouther uproar to end the intercountry adoption in Korea.  They said that they were busy all day long in answering various questions by media and others.  Essentially, they had to spend all day long to put out the fire so to speak. 

MOHW talked with the reporter of the Chosun Ilbo and found that the initial error was due to the wrong translation by the reporter who wrote the story.  It turned out that he got confused with the terminology of  "finalized in overseas" and "finalized in the US".  He misunderstood that "finalized in overseas' meant that the children were actually sent abroad instead of the adoption being finalized in overseas so that children could come to the US.  Apparently there is different finalization process depending on the countries that children come from.

The reporter admitted his mistake.  But the damage has already been done.  Thankfully the MOHW and the agencies in Korea have been doing good job in trying to control the misinformation that was caused by the reporter who was too eager to jump into a false conclusion without fully checking the facts.  I supposed this sort of things happen all the time in the media world.

My only hope is that this wave of misinformation will pass away quickly, and pray that no children will be suffered from not having family of their own due to this article.  And you know that media rarely apologizes for their mistakes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

For Those in Southern California - An Invitation

For those of you who live in Southern California area, you are welcome to attend the following event hosted by the Golobal Cultural Club in LA that wish to provide "Korean Culture Day" for adoptees and their families.  This is open to all (whether you are Korean heritage or not) who have adopted Korean children from 10:30AM - 1:00PM.  There will be lots of food, traditional dance, song, and they will also provide gifts to all adoptees.  I plan to be there and have been asked to speak a few words to the people.  This should not conflict with the 12th Annual MPAK Christmas Gathering scheduled for 5PM on the same day in Cerritos, CA.

Global Cultural Club Presents...

Wonderful Korean Culture Day

    Invitee: Adoptee (No age restrictions) and their Families
       First 25 Families Registered Only
(Registration must be met by Nov. 20th for preparing)
    Saturday, December 3, 2011   10:30 am – 1:00 pm
    Korean Education Center, LA
       680 Wilshire Place 2FL, LA, CA 90005
       Korean Traditional Dance, Song, etc. Presentation
              Korean Cultural Experience (Traditional Bow, Games, Songs, etc.)
              Korean Food, Korean Dresses, Gifts, & Magic Show
    Talent Show! There will be awards to participants.
           Register (Names of Attendees, telephone, address, email)
Telephone: 213) 388-9191, 213) 448-7646

Hosted By:        Global Cultural Club

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Korea Herald Debate: Should Overseas Adoptions Continue?

This debate was posted in The Korea Herald on October 31, 2001.  The link to the paper is at:
But I posted the same contents in this blog as the link seems to take real long time to bring up the article as there are many advertisements that seems to slow down the download.
Correction:  The number 220,000 kids sent overseas is not correct.  The actual number is 165,000 as of 2010 data by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
With Korea’s reputation as a ‘baby exporter’ ...
Should overseas adoptions continue?

Korea’s 220,000 kids overseas
South Korea has the world’s oldest overseas adoption program, having sent an estimated 220,000 children abroad. In the aftermath of the Korean War, overseas adoptions were largely a mechanism for children to escape poverty and destitution, but in the decades that followed, societal attitudes were the primary driver of the phenomenon. Up to 90 percent of children born to unwed women are placed for adoption, reflecting the stigma that still surrounds out-of-wedlock pregnancy and single motherhood. Last year, Korea accounted for 13 percent of all overseas adoptions worldwide.

But things are changing. For the first time ever, 2007 saw more children adopted in Korea than overseas, indicating the weakening of society’s emphasis on maintaining bloodlines. In July the law on overseas adoption was revised, making the process more difficult, and seeking in the process to end the image of Korea as a “child exporter.” The law gave adoptees greater access to their birth records, introduced a seven-day deliberation period for women to decide whether to keep the child or give it up for adoption and made birth registration mandatory, aiming to end secret adoptions.

YES:Homeless kids deserve a better chance

I strongly believe that inter-country adoption, or ICA, needs to continue indefinitely in Korea because the children have a fundamental right to grow up in loving families, whether they are adopted in Korea or overseas. Every effort should be made for birth families to raise their own children, and the next priority should be given to place them in homes domestically, and the remaining children should have the chance to have their own families overseas. I also believe that the ICA needs to come to an end someday, but now is not the time as there are so many children growing up in institutions who need homes. The ICA should only be discontinued when there are no more children to be sent abroad.

Unfortunately, the overall mood and climate on adoption in Korea over the past few years has been shifting drastically away from being viewed as positive. Some Korea-based adult adoptee organizations have joined forces to bring about the demise of both inter-country and domestic adoption by advocating the ending of adoptions in Korea as well. They have used the terms such as “Baby-Exporting Nation” to deliberately embarrass Korea into reacting against ICA, and as Korea wants to save face in the international community, they have adopted policies to gradually squeeze the life out of ICA by reducing the number of children leaving Korea by 10 percent each year. Essentially what Korea is doing is sweeping the issue of homeless children under a mat by putting them in institutions and hoping they will save face in the international community. This is very sad, and comes at the expense of voiceless children that are moved around like pawns in a chessboard.

According to the statistics released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Korea, in 2010 there were 8,590 children that became homeless in Korea. About 67 percent of these children became homeless due to poverty, divorce, abuse and abandonment, and the other 33 percent of the children were births by unwed mothers. Of all the homeless children, 1,462 were placed domestically while 1,013 children were inter-country placements. The remaining 6,115 children were placed in 280 institutions throughout Korea. Birth mothers have all the time in the world to reclaim their children if they wanted to, but the fact is they rarely do, and the children grow into adulthood in the institutions. So the claim by the anti-adoption group that adoption is the cause of separation between children and their birth mothers is plainly wrong. No matter what the argument is, it is abuse on a massive scale when you block the opportunity for children to have their own families by forcing them to live in the institutions.

So what would have been the alternatives if children were not adopted through ICA? Orphans growing up in Korea have historically faced incredible challenges as they are subject to strong social stigma. Compared to ordinary children with families, orphans in Korea experience what I call “status discrimination.” By status discrimination, I am referring the denial of opportunities for good education and good jobs that orphans experience, not only because they lack the financial and social support of a family, but additionally because society discriminates against them simply because they are orphans.

In the old days, 3-5 percent of orphans were able to go to college. Although educational opportunities for orphans have increased in recent years, they still fall significantly below the educational opportunities of ordinary Korean children with families. By contrast, approximately 70 percent of Korean adoptees in the U.S. and Europe receive a four-year college education or above.

Orphans in Korea must leave orphanages when they turn 18 years old. Often these orphans are emerging from the orphanage just out of high school, with very few marketable skills. These young adult orphans are usually given a onetime allowance of anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. This meager allowance runs out very quickly. With no financial or family support available, going to college is impossible. These young adults go through extreme hardship once they leave the orphanages. Most work long hours in low-paying and are vigilant to keep their backgrounds a secret, for fear of status discrimination.

This is the reason why inter-country adoption should continue. Sure, it is an embarrassment in the international community of wealthy countries to admit that Korea still needs to send children abroad. However, it is even a greater embarrassment for Korea to put these children into institutions just to save face. Korean nationals must stop criticizing inter-country adoption and look at themselves for the problem of not wanting to adopt their own children in the first place. 

By Stephen C. Morrison

Steve C. Morrison is an adoptee and the founder of the Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea, currently working as a senior project engineer at the Aerospace Corporation on GPS III satellite program. Morrison lived in an orphanage for eight years before being adopted to the U.S. at age 14. To contact MPAK, visit: (English) or (Korean) or ― Ed.

NO: Single moms need support

Korea, along with China, has sent the highest number of children overseas for adoption. The actual number is uncertain but it is reasonable to believe around 200,000 children have been adopted abroad. This means that many Koreans are affected by the adoption issue. Sweden is one of the countries that has the highest number of Korean adoptees.

When overseas adoptions started during the Korean War, the primary goal was to save orphans and offer us a new and better life in a Western country. Later on the main reason was poverty. Today, however, the main reasons are a lack of political will to support unwed mothers and discrimination against these mothers and their children.

As a Korean adoptee who has grown up in a Western country, I acknowledge that war and poverty are good reasons for international adoption. Based on my upbringing in Sweden, I find it hard to accept discrimination toward unwed mothers and the lack of a social welfare system as good reasons for why Korea still is one of the biggest providers of adoptees, especially since Korea today has one of the world’s strongest economies.

In Sweden, many unwed mothers receive financial support if needed and therefore have good opportunities to raise their children. The old-fashioned idea that unwed mothers are bad women does not exist in Sweden anymore. Also, I am convinced that as long as Korea continues to adopt children away, the development of support to unwed mothers will continue to change very slowly. This conclusion is supported by well-known adoption researchers such as Rosemary Sarri among others, who argue that the Korean government has chosen overseas adoption before domestic solutions.

Another pro-adoption argument often heard is that children to unwed moms as well as domestically adopted children meet discrimination by the wider society. Even though this might be a good argument, international adoption is no guarantee that the adoptee will do well and be well-treated in the new country. Instead, international adoptees also meet prejudice in their new home countries.

One example of common prejudice against Korean adoptees is that the birth mothers are prostitutes. This idea is, for example, still spread by the biggest adoption agency in Sweden.

The biggest adoption study, which includes more than 10,000 international adoptees, shows that adoptees are overrepresented in drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicides and criminality. Other studies show that international adoptees also are more likely to be single parents, have little education and meet discrimination on the labor market. These studies show that life as an international adoptee is not necessarily easy.

While Koreans are very proud over their country’s rapid economic growth, successful companies and a well-educated younger generation, this is not the picture of Korea among many Westerners. Instead, many of them believe that Korea, like all other countries that send children overseas for adoption, is poor and that Koreans lack basic education.

This condescending opinion will continue to exist as long as Korea continues to export their baby problem instead of finding a domestic solution like other developed countries.

As a Korean adoptee, I am ashamed of Korean society for continuing to discriminate against unwed women and the Korean government for betraying their children.

After being engaged in different associations for Korean adoptees for almost 10 years I dare say that inter-country adoption is not always a good solution. Instead it is time for the Korean government and Korean society to find domestic solutions for the mums and their children.

A bad economy and being undeveloped are no longer arguments for overseas adoption. Today, however, the only reasons are sexism and an obsession with bloodlines, views that modern societies abandoned a long time ago. As long as Korea continues to export the “child problem” instead of solving it, the country will continue to have bad reputation among Westerners while children and their mothers will continue to be treated badly by Korean society.

By Hanna Sofia Jung Johansson

Hanna Sofia Jung Johansson, an associated professor of sociology and researcher at the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, was found in Sungdong District in 1976 by the police. She was given the name Kim Jung-yul and was adopted to Sweden by the Social Welfare Society in August 1976. She holds a B.A. in political science and a Ph.D. in science and technology studies and has published several texts on adoption. ― Ed.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Defense of Adoption

I wrote this essay about this time last year.  I wrote it because adoption is under attack by several anti-adoption factions in Korea and a few in the US.  I wanted to provide a voice In Defense of Adoption.

In Defense of Adoption(Published in Korean Quarterly, Fall 2010, Vol 14, Num 01)
Stephen C. Morrison/MPAK
The overall mood and climate on adoption in Korea over the past few years has been shifting drastically away from being viewed as positive, to being viewed as negative. Of all the causes, the greatest impact in the Korean society has been from the work of a few adult adoptees groups that have spoken up strongly against the intercountry adoption (or ICA), and even against domestic adoption as well. Some Korea-based adult adoptee organizations have joined forces to bring about the demise of both intercountry and domestic adoption by advocating the closure of adoptions in Korea.
These organizations, in separate efforts, have accused the adoption agencies of profiting from child trafficking, adoption document forging, coercing birthmothers to give up their babies, and have blamed the Korean government for allowing this practice to go on for many years. They have also advocated that the Korean government should do more to create an environment for birthmothers to raise their own children and avoid the separation of children from their birth families. Further, they blame adoption for being the main cause of the separation of children from their birthmothers. Their position is that if adoption can be stopped or discouraged, then there will be more birthmothers that will be able to keep their own children.
Some of their demands are definitely valid and ideal. Creating an environment for birthmothers to be able to raise their own children is a good thing. Most of the groups have proposed particular steps the society could take to achieve this, such as providing single mothers with more substantial financial assistance. They have also helped single mothers’ groups and carried out programs designed to help change the negative social stigma against single mothers so that they won’t feel negative pressure from the society that often makes difficult for them to keep their children.
While I strongly support the notion that birthmothers should be able to raise their own children, I do not agree that the adoption agencies have provided adoption services over the years because of a profit motive, and I do not agree that adoption is the cause of separation between the children and their birthmothers. Indeed, I can show that the main cause of children becoming homeless in Korea is that the majority of birth families who abandon their children simply can’t or won’t raise their children. Therefore, adoption is simply a response to so many children that have already been separated, and not the initiator of the separation.
Allegations against ICA
Allegations abound against ICA, and somewhat less against domestic adoption.  Some groups allege that adoption agencies are engaging in child trafficking, which, if true, would be a criminal act. The idea of child trafficking suggests the adoption agencies have conducted fraudulent activities by forging documents to send children abroad solely for economic gain. While I do not deny that adoption agencies often had to make up adoption documents, I disagree that the intent of the agencies was done to increase profit. If any agency has sent children abroad for financial gain, then its activities are criminal and they deserve our contempt. However, I strongly believe that this was not the case; adoption services in Korea were developed for humanitarian purposes. In seeing the needs of so many homeless children, and knowing the obstacles that lie ahead for them as orphans growing up in a society with strong social stigma against them, adoption advocates have acted responsibly to find better opportunities for children to grow up in loving homes abroad.
So what about the agencies making up the adoption documents? In the old days, it was not unusual for the agencies to accept into their care many abandoned children who arrived with little or no information.  In the absence of any information, often children’s names were assigned by the agencies. In addition to names, their date of birth and the place of birth were made up as well. There were many children who had no records at all of their birth origins. Children were found on the doorsteps of orphanages, police stations, markets, clinics, and churches. Some of those children had scribbled notes attached to their clothes with only names and the date of birth, but no other information could be found.  It was very typical that children came into orphanage care with little or no information. I, for one, did not know the date of my birth when I was first admitted into an orphanage at age six; the orphanage director made up a date. He did what he had to do to establish a portion of my identity that was missing. The orphanages and the adoption agencies in care of these children assigned names, birth dates, and other information about the children because having this information was a critical step before they could be adopted, either domestically or overseas. Can this be labeled as document forging? Can this be alleged as child trafficking? Clearly this is not the case.
However, there have been some cases where orphanages or agencies did questionable things such as changing the records of children so that they could be placed for adoption. While the cases like these certainly do have the look of illegality, I strongly believe that in most situations these decisions were made for the best interest of children as the decision making authorities knew what the consequences of those children would be living in Korea as orphans. One could argue that profit may have been a motive behind in making such decisions by the agencies. Perhaps it was, or perhaps not; it really depends on what you choose to believe.
But having personally lived in an orphanage in Korea for eight long years, and being fully aware at a young age of the very limited opportunities for me in Korea as an orphan, I am fully convinced that the agencies made a humanitarian decision to give me a better opportunity.  I strongly believe that this is the driving motive of the agencies which continue to send children abroad.  People who work in these agencies are fully aware of the difficulties that orphans will endure if they grow up in the orphanages in Korea.
Allegations have also been made that the agencies have coerced unwed mothers to give up their children for adoption; this has been widely misunderstood as well. While it is true that there have been many cases where social workers in agencies have tried to talk the unwed mothers out of their desire to keep their children, there is also the other side of the coin that most people don’t think about. The social workers in the agencies are all too familiar with the difficulties facing unwed mothers to raise children in Korea. Often the social workers don’t see the determination and the desire by the unwed mothers to keep their children but only see the difficulties ahead of them for both. Most likely, the social workers are mothers themselves, and more experienced and mature than most unwed mothers. In their services to unwed mothers, they have seen many unwed mothers who decide to keep their children, only to return them later for adoptions when they realize how difficult it is for a single mom to raise a child and be accepted by the families, friends, and the community. Knowing the difficulty, social workers may feel that they are compelled to convince the unwed mothers to give up the children rather than be burdened by them at such a young age. Such motivation could easily be misunderstood.
I have also heard instances where some birthmothers relinquished their children, then later returned to reclaim their children, only to discover that those children have been assigned or sent abroad for adoption. In these instances, the agencies should have waited before assigning the children to be adopted. The revised adoption law now being considered by the legislature in South Korea includes a waiting period designed for birthmothers to reconsider their decision to place a child for adoption.  It is encouraging, however, that adoption social workers are now a lot more open to a birthmother’s desire to keep her baby.
In recent years, more and more unwed mothers are choosing to go public with their single parent status and take on the challenge of keeping their children. There is now a network of unwed mothers in South Korea called the Korea Unwed Mothers Support Network (KUMSN).
Although I am not affiliated with nor represent any adoption agency in any way, I speak as an adoptee who lived the orphanage experience. Had I not lived in the streets of Korea at age five, and then in an orphanage for eight years, I am quite sure that I would not be able to defend adoption with such conviction. Without having experienced the pain of being homeless and living in an orphanage, I could easily be persuaded to be suspicious of the agencies, as many are.
For without suffering and without having gone through the orphan life, and without understanding what happens to orphans living in Korea, it is quite understandable for adoptees to view the adoption process as a business of adoption agencies which are selling off children for profit. This misunderstanding alone would make any adoptee angry or bitter.
Alternatives to Adoption
So what would have been the alternatives for (now adult) adoptees if they were not adopted through ICA? Orphans growing up in Korea have historically faced incredible challenges as they are subject to strong social stigma. Compared to ordinary children with families, orphans in Korea experience what I call “status discrimination.” I have heard and read about the experiences of racial discrimination as described by adoptees living in Europe or in the U.S.  But this type of discrimination is nothing compared to the status discrimination that orphans have to endure. By status discrimination, I am referring the denial of opportunities for good education and good jobs that orphans experience, not only because they lack the financial and social support of a family, but additionally because the society discriminates against them simply because they are orphans.
In the old days, three to five percent of orphans were able to go to college. Although educational opportunities for orphans have increased in recent years, they still fall significantly below educational opportunities of ordinary Korean children with families. By contrast, approximately 70 percent of Korean adoptees in the U.S. and Europe receive a four-year college education or above.
The status discrimination of orphans does not end with limited educational opportunities. If a young man with an orphan background wishes to date and marry a woman with a family, often the woman’s parents reject the man even though the woman loves him. If two men (or women) of equal ability apply for the same job, and one grew up in an orphanage and the other in a normal family, the applicant who grew up in the orphanage usually loses out.
Although the social stigma against orphans has lessened greatly over the years, it still presents a big challenge for children growing up in orphanages. Not many orphans are adopted domestically in Korea, as they are mostly older, and Korean nationals tend to prefer adopting infants, in order to keep the adoptions secret. (By “secret,” I am referring to the practice of a prospective adoptive mother going through an elaborate deception to pretend to be pregnant and/or to plan a well-timed move to another part of the country, then presenting the adopted baby as a birth child at the appropriate moment)
Orphans in Korea must leave the orphanages when they turn 18 years old. Often these orphans are emerging from the orphanage just out of high school, with very few marketable skills. Leaving the orphanages, these young adult orphans are usually given a onetime severance allowance of anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. But this meager allowance runs out very quickly.
With no financial support or family support available, going to college would be impossible. These young adults go through extreme hardship once they leave the orphanages. A few find ways to stay with friends and/or extended families, but not all of them are that fortunate. Most wind up working in low-paying jobs at which they work long hours. Some may become successful teachers, pastors, nurses, etc., but these types of successes are very few compared to others who haven’t fared so well. In many areas of their lives, adults with orphan backgrounds must be vigilant to keep their background a secret, for fear of status discrimination.
When I look at the educational accomplishments of some of the adoptees that are strongly against adoption, I have a hard time understanding how they could speak against the very system they have tremendously benefited from. Most of them have college degrees, some of them have Ph.D. degrees and some are college professors. Without being adopted overseas into an environment which supported them to that level of achievement, they most likely would not have received the education or the distinctions they now enjoy. By contrast, the orphans in Korea would die to have the same opportunities the adoptees have. Granted that one’s happiness is not determined by educational achievements; however, there can be no question that ICA has provided opportunities for many orphans that would not have been available had they remained in Korea.
Birthmothers’ Rights vs. Children’s Rights
Adoptees are not the only ones voicing opposition to adoption. Korean nationals have also voiced opposition to ICA. One in particular who is heavily involved in the anti-adoption campaign publicly remarked that adoption is a form of child abuse. They do not understand why ICA continues to this day, now that Korea is experiencing the 13th largest economy in the world, and is about to host the G20 Summit in November 2010. What they fail to realize is that the size of the economy has very little to do with people’s attitudes and hearts towards homeless children.  Koreans can be proud of their riches and economic progress, but that doesn’t mean their hearts are more open to orphans.  So it is a baseless argument to advocate for the closure of ICA simply because the country is better off economically.
A review of anti-adoption blogs or writings in the media reveals that these writers strongly suspect that adoption agencies are in it for the business or that adoption is promoted by the agencies just to stay in business. The claims are that, to maintain their businesses, the agencies all use the phrases such as “It is better for children to be in homes abroad than to live in the institutions in Korea” to solicit sympathy and support from the Korean public. They claim that this is in opposition to the agencies’ true motive to stay in the business and that if the agencies are truly interested in the children’s welfare, they should make every effort to find ways for birth families to keep their children, and pressure the Korean government to expand the foster care services and group homes using adoption as a last resort.
Some of what they claim is true; I disagree on a couple of key points. While it is true that the agencies and the government should try their best to enable birth families to stay together and look for solutions to enable birthmothers to raise their own children, I disagree that adoption should be a last resort, as they recommend. Adoption should be the second alternative to birth family preservation. Foster care, group homes and institutionalization should be used as a last resort.
I also strongly disagree with the contention that adoption agencies are all in adoption work for business purposes only. After having worked very closely with many adoption agencies in Korea as well as in the U.S. for many years, the agencies I know of are in adoption services for humanitarian purposes. They are sincerely interested in the well being of children. They also know that of all types of social programs available for children; nothing except for adoption can enable children to have families of their own, even if that means a family in another country.
The foster care system in the U.S. has been a failure, with children moving from one home to another on an average of eight moves per child before age 18. Korea is not spared from this. However, foster care can sometimes lead to adoption, and this should be encouraged. Group homes are even worse, because there is no commitment of a parent-child relationship in temporary care. Group homes are essentially miniorphanages with five or six children being cared for by adults who receive funding from the government.
No one would argue that it is better for children to grow up in institutions than to be adopted.  Further, in all of these childcare methods only one, adoption, can supply the child with a child’s most basic right ---- their right to their own family. When a homeless child is barred from an opportunity to have his own home, this is a greater child abuse than any alleged “abuse” that may occur because the child is adopted.
The anti-adoption factions in Korea have used the cause of birthmothers’ rights to speak against ICA, as well as against domestic adoption. Because they claim that adoption causes the separation of a child from the birthmother, they use the phrases such as “Family Preservation over Adoption Promotion” to make their points known. However, in their zeal to put an end to adoption by advocating birthmothers’ rights, they have focused more on birthmothers, not on the rights of children.
I believe that, while birthmothers’ rights should be advocated, it is wrong to do so by trampling on children’s rights to their own homes and families. Birthmothers are adults who have voices, and they can make certain choices for themselves, whether good or bad. But the children have no voice. Many adoptees have spoken out to advocate for their own rights and the rights of birthmothers’, but very few have chosen to speak for the rights of children to have their own homes.
Let the Data Speak for Itself
Since 2001, approximately 10,000 children have been abandoned in Korea each year, and 2009 was no exception, with 10,153 children left homeless for various reasons. According to statistics from the Ministry for Health and Welfare and Family Affairs, in 2009, there were 1,314 children (13 percent) domestically adopted within Korea, 1,125 (11 percent) adopted through ICA, 2,947 children (29 percent) were admitted to foster care programs, and 4,767 (47 percent) were admitted to institutionalized care. (see the attached figure).
The figure clearly shows that there are significantly more children that are abandoned by birth families by choice, and that those families will not reclaim their children, except for in a handful of cases. They were not coerced away from the birth families. These children number over 7,600 (76 percent) not counting the children in adoptions. Birth parents have all the time in the world to go back and reclaim this 76 percent of children who are abandoned, but they don’t. If these children don’t get adopted eventually, then most of the 7,600 children will grow up in institutions. So the argument that adoption is the cause of separation between the birthmothers and children just doesn’t hold up when the facts show that so many birth parents have voluntarily abandoned these children.
As for the remaining 2,400 children that are processed through adoption, there is no reliable data to show how many unwed mothers actually wanted to keep their children. A recent survey from an unknown source in Korea found that, if socio-economic conditions were favorable, the percentage of single birthmothers wanting to keep their children in Korea was projected at 38 percent. If this percentage is accurate, then in the current situation, in which single mothers receive little or no socio/economic assistance, the percentage of unwed mothers wanting to keep their children would be far lower.
In 2009 there were 4,075 children born to unwed mothers. Thirty eight percent of this number is 1,549 children. Even very conservatively-speaking, let us assume that all 1,549 children that were adopted (both domestic and ICA) in 2009 were wanted by unwed mothers. That still leaves 8,604 children that were unwanted by their birth families due to all kinds of reasons. So to advocate for birthmothers’ rights by proposing to eliminate adoption really do a disservice to significantly greater number of children who would need homes. Adoption is not the cause of separation of birth families. Adoption is in response to already-separated children that need homes.
Not One Over the Other, but Both
There is an essential question regarding the rights of birthmothers and the rights of children. Why can’t they coexist? Why must one right be sublimated in order to make the other survive? Why does it have to be one or the other and not both? This is the struggle I have with anti-adoption groups or anti-adoption individuals.  The promotion of birthmothers’ rights and the promotion of adoption rights must go hand-in-hand and work together for the common good.
Would it not be more effective if these groups focused just on advocating birthmothers’ rights by insisting on the changes needed in society in order to allow single mothers to raise their children? Could they not focus more of their energies in speaking out against unfavorable socio/economic conditions that unwed mothers must endure in Korea? If they did, it would be a matter of time before more unwed mothers are able to keep their children and the need for adoption would be significantly reduced. Blaming adoption for the cause of unwed mothers’ woes, and insisting on the closure of adoption, can only create more suffering for children. For without adoption, the children will face institutionalized living.
Advocating for birthmothers’ rights is definitely needed. Better financial assistance for single mothers and a more favorable social environment in which single mothers may raise their children are both badly needed in Korea. Single mothers must also take on certain responsibilities in order to successfully negotiate single parenthood in Korean society. Demanding rights on the one hand but neglecting duties to raise their children on the other is an issue.
Further, it is a known fact that some birthmothers simply don’t want their children. They are either mentally or emotionally incapable of dealing with the responsibility.  Even if appropriate financial and other assistance were available to them, they still could not or would not raise their children. There have been numerous cases where birthmothers chose early on to raise their children but later decided to place them for adoption. At that point, the children would have already been registered into a birth family registry, which makes them harder to place for adoption, unless mothers willingly sign off their parental rights. This is provided that the mothers can be found and are willing to sign the relinquishment papers.
Closing Thoughts
I do believe there have been some mistakes in the ICA adoption process, through which children were sent to parents who were abusive or not capable of loving children that didn’t meet their expectations. This is a tragedy that should have been avoided, and for them, their adoption perhaps was a mistake. However, for the great majority of children adopted through ICA, their adoptions were not mistakes, and have resulted in blessings beyond measure. I am one of those who have benefited tremendously from adoption.
However, to advocate the closure of adoption (ICA or domestic) based on one’s negative experience is not the right thing to do. Just because it hasn’t worked for one does not mean that other homeless children should not have the same chance. While I share and sympathize with painful adoptive experiences some have had, I know that it is the right thing to continue with adoption, because without it there can be very little hope for children who remain in Korea as orphans.
To advocate the elimination of adoption due to some unfavorable risks that one has experienced in life is like advocating for the passage of a law that forbids children from being born because of the many risks of tragedies and pain the children may suffer in their lives. How tragic it would be if such law was enforced. Conflict and pain is not unique to adoptive families. It is quite normal in any ordinary family. We need to look at the whole adoption issue with a bigger mind and heart, and have a bigger perspective than merely focusing our attention on what has not worked. Life is full of risks, and yet we choose to bring forth lives into this world because we want to have hope and we want to love and to be loved. Adoption is much like this. Despite the risks that it brings, it is still a right thing to do for children to give them an opportunity to grow up as part of a family. This is certainly a much preferred option over institutionalized or foster care.
The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption was drafted with a belief that “what is in the best interest of children” should be the primary principle. The Hague Convention priorities state that efforts should be made for children to stay with their birth families first, and if that option is not available, then domestic adoption is the next best choice. If neither option is available, then ICA is the next best option for the children.
If South Korea signs up to join the Hague Convention, then they are signing up to continue to serve children through ICA, perhaps on a smaller scale. The foster care, group homes, institutionalization of children, in this order, should be the last resort for children.
Advocating for the rights of birthmothers is a noble thing to do, and it is really needed in Korea. I hope more birthmothers will make the courageous decision to raise their own children, but this choice comes with responsibility to stick with their decision and not give up their children later due to hardship. Also, if the anti-adoption groups or individuals focus more of their energies on changing the social ills in society that makes it difficult for birthmothers to raise their children, they will see favorable changes much sooner than they would if by concentrating on speaking against adoption.  Birthmothers’ rights and the adoption promotion must go hand-in-hand, not be opposing forces.
Adoption does not guarantee happiness or success. The very best environment does not guarantee success nor does the most unfavorable environment result in failure. But I can say with confidence that adoption provides an opportunity for children to realize their full potential in life that would otherwise be very limited if they remain in the institutionalized care in Korea.
At least for this adoptee, adoption has brought me tremendous opportunities. The best of which is my parents that loved me deeply. They had three children by birth, adopted an Amerasian from Korea, and two years later I was adopted as their fifth child. I was 14 years old when adopted. On Mother’s Day of 2009, I sent a little love letter to my mother, who is now 87. In it I wrote, “…Lastly Mom, your son Steve would like to express one more thought of love for you. If God gave me another chance to start my life all over again, I would choose the same path. I would choose the life of being homeless, go hungry, be cold, and become an orphan all over again and live in an orphanage. Yes, I would endure all those hardships again. Why? The answer is simple. It is so that I could meet you and Dad again…”