Friday, January 25, 2013

A Bill Named ‘Les Miserables Cosette Adoption Law’

Cosette is a little girl who is cared (adopted) by Jean Valjean in Victor Hugos novel ‘Les Miserable’, where the story has been told through many versions of movies, plays, and musicals over the years, most notably through the recently released musical movie.  This movie is also very popular in Korea as well.

Rep. Baik Jai Hyun, who sits on the Committee of Women and Families, has just recently filed a bill named ‘Les Miserables Cosette Adoption Law’ to save the lives of the babies born from the young teen mothers as many babies are abandoned in the streets and elsewhere. 

The purpose of this bill is to amend the current Special Adoption Law that makes it mandatory for birth mothers to register their babies, and also to amend the ‘reconsideration’ period for birthmothers where they must keep the baby for seven days (whether they want it or not) after the births before giving them up for adoption or into the care of institutions. 

This new amendment is the result of the sudden rise of the number of abandoned babies just after the passage of the Special Adoption Law in August 5, 2012.  With all the rhetoric offered by the anti-adoption coalition in Korea (KoRoot, TRACK, ASK, KUMSN, and Gong Gam Law Firm) that still refuse to deny the increase in the number of abandonment is the result of the new adoption law, this action is seen as an effort by the Korean Government that saving the innocent lives of children is their utmost interest.

It was obvious there was a sudden increase in the number of children abandoned just after the law passed in August 2012.  For example, 28 children were abandoned during the first seven months (Jan-Jul) of 2012, and 41 children were abandoned during the remaining months of the year.  Instead of the usual practice by the young mothers relinquishing their children through adoption agencies, they have instead turned to black market adoptions, or abandon them on the streets, trash bins, subways, restrooms, and other means, and in some cases killed or left to die.

This has also brought an unintended consequence that goes against the intended objective of the law, which was to provide more complete information on birthparents for adoptees.  Also, there are over a thousand children that were not birth registered before the new law, and this is especially true of many special needs children.  For these children the adoption process has become more complicated and drawn out, and most of these children will be placed into institutions. 

Yesterday I spoke with an orphanage director in Korea.  She stated that there has been a sharp increase in the number of children being admitted into her facility right after August 2012.  She was concerned that she and her staff in Korea is overburdened with the increased number of children in her facility with the limited number of staff to take care of them.  She also said that she has never seen that many children come into her care in such a short time in all her experience.   

Rep. Baik stated that “At the 18th Congressional Session the Special Adoption Law was passed with a good intention in mind, but this law has backfired with several unintended outcomes that are just not practical nor acceptable. No matter how promising the law is, if it does not address the current reality it must be amended to improve the situation.”

The amendment will remove the requirement that birthmothers must register their babies into their family registry, but leave the parental information with the adoption agencies where they will be kept closed from public.  The record will only be opened when both an adoptee and his/her birthparent agree, or under some special exceptions requiring medical related information. 

Also the amendment will revisit the requirement where the birthmothers are required to keep their babies at minimum seven days before deciding to keep the baby or not.  The amendment will allow a room for birthmothers to relinquish their babies immediately after the births if they wish to.  The amendment will also make it more favorable for special needs children to be adopted as they are more likely to be abandoned.

Rep. Baik also stated “This amendment’s ultimate objective is to protect the lives of innocent babies from being abandoned or killed.”

Despite this effort, the anti-adoption coalition held a press conference at the nation’s capital to protest the amendment bill ‘Les Miserables Cosette Adoption Law’ sponsored by the Rep. Baik Jae Hyuk.  They maintain that adoptees have the rights to their records to seek out their birthparents and reunification. 

This is where I differ from them.  What good is having a good record if in the process a child is abandoned or killed, or left to die?  Even if 100 or even 1000 adoptees benefit from their records but results in the loss of a life, it still is not worth it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Good News - The Adoption Law May Get Revised

Good News - The Adoption Law that Blocks Adoption Will Be Re-examined

When the news first broke by a major newspaper in Korea on 4 January 2013, that the new adoption law was causing abandonment of many babies, and that it was hindering the adoption of many homeless children, many other media outlets carried the similar stories on daily basis.  In addition many adoptive parents have filed the complaints on behalf of the children, and the babies being abandoned at the Baby Box operated by the Rev. Lee Jong Nak was featured on national news frequently. 

A movement has begun by members of the National Assembly to take this matter up and review and revise the new adoption law that has resulted in the abandonment and loss of many babies.

Rep. Baik Jai Hyun of the Democratic United Party (민주통합당), who serves on the Women and Families Committee has stated that a revision to the new adoption law that will provide exception to birthmothers not wanting to register their babies will be made, and that the records pertaining to family relation will be kept by the agencies and make it available only if the birthmothers and adoptees agree to open mutually.  Rep. Baik will introduce the revision bill at a National Assembly meeting scheduled in February 2013. Rep Baik stated “There is definitely a problem when the law that was supposed to protect the children would bring harm instead.”

Rep. Kim Myung Yun of the Saenuri Party (새누리당) is also involved with the revision effort.  Rep. Kim has received the position papers on the revision from MPAK-Korea and also from Holt’s One Heart adoptive parents support group.  He stated, “The current law is so far removed from the reality that we need to examine and revise the law accordingly.”
This is a very encouraging news, and hope that the law will truly serve for the best interest of children, whether they be raised by birthmothers, adopted domestically, or internationally.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Irony of Adoption Law that Blocks Adoption

The Irony of Adoption Law that Blocks Adoption

Recently there have been many news articles in the Korean media such as TVs and the newspapers criticizing the Special Adoption Law that was passed in Korea last August 5, 2012.  In fact there have been many adoptive parents and professionals and news media that have called for the elimination of the new law or revise it to save the lives of children and to allow adoption of homeless children.  Our MPAK website in Korea ( in Korean Language), has been busy with the comments by many adoptive families that are calling for action to put a stop to this, and the nation is taking notice.

The irony is that the Special Adoption Law that was passed to serve the interest of adoptees and birthmothers has become a complete fiasco that has tremendously reduced the number of adoptions taking place - both domestic and intercountry.  It is the irony of the adoption law that blocks adoption.

See the figure to see the dramatic changes that this new law has brought.  This figure will show a dramatic rise in children being abandoned (abandoned not for adoption, but through Baby Box, police stations, door steps, alleys, orphanages, etc).

The new law, which requires all birthmothers to register their babies in their family registries, was designed to help grown adoptees to find their birth families later in life.  But there are so many children being abandoned in Baby Box, subways, door steps, trash bins, and in many cases these children are found dead. 

While the law was designed to help grown adoptees to locate their birth families by forcing unwed birthmothers to register their babies in their family registry so the record will be available for returning adoptees, the law was passed without due regard to the reality of the Korean adoption culture. 

Because the new law forces birthmothers to register their babies, the great majority of the unwed birthmothers are afraid that their past improprieties will go recorded and remain with their records for life.   A significant number of them are teenagers or even in their 20s.  These girls do not want their young lives to be tied down by the responsibilities and obligations they were not prepared to handle, and to face their parents or friends in such situation would bring them tremendous humiliation not only to themselves, but to their families as well. 

For these girls, the requirement to register their babies from unwanted pregnancies is like a death sentence as they will be tied down for the rest of their lives.  They may have to give up schools, their prospect of getting married is significantly reduced as most men do not want girls with babies…the pressure to adhere to the new law at such young age is tremendously stressful, thus causing many girls to opt for secret abandonment.  This is the reality of the current adoption environment in Korea.

Here is a heart wrenching note left by a birthmother when she left the baby in the Baby Box.

“I am sorry to do this upon my baby who hasn’t even seen the light of the world…Because I can’t raise this child nor have the ability, the adoption is a better alternative.  However, I have already looked into adoption, but due to the changes in the law I am required to register the baby, and I cannot get a hold of my boyfriend as I needed some documents…I have no one to discuss this with, so I searched for the Baby Box, and I know I will be punished for this by God, and I am so sorry to do this for my baby, but I had to give up the baby this way…Please raise my baby well as her only fault was to meet a wrong mother like me…I have no other places to go or hope..Please help. Please.”

Here is another note by a different birthmother giving up her baby.

“The baby was born August 22, 2012 at 12:25.  I have no choice but to give up this baby like this as I have left my husband due to the trouble with him and the in-laws.  But we are not divorced yet, and there is the first child, and I am afraid to register this baby under my name.  And I cannot even give this baby up for adoption due to the new adoption law.”

The new adoption law requires the birthmothers to register their babies.  Without registering their babies they cannot legally give up their babies for adoption.  They have been turned away from the adoption agencies and other facilities as these organizations have been instructed not to take any children that have not been registered.

This has driven many birthmothers to choose unsafe ways of abandoning their babies, and many babies have lost their lives.  Thankfully there have been many babies that have been saved, especially by the effort of the Pastor Lee and the Baby Box. 

Another aspect of the new law that goes against the adoption culture is that in the past most of the domestic adoptions in Korea were done in secret.  Adoptive parents adopted their children in secret and the children grew up not being aware of their adoptions.  Because the culture in Korea is heavily into face-saving, many parents who can’t have children adopt children secretly and pretend to others that the children were born from them.  But the new law comes around and removes this option of secrecy, and this has caused the significant reduction of domestic adoption in Korea as people can no longer adopt secretly.  As I have said before, the irony of the adoption law that blocks adoption.

After the passage of the law in August 5, 2012, the intake of children for adoption by the agencies in Korea has dropped to less than half.  The agencies are claiming that the other half is being made up of illegal black market type adoptions and abandoned children.

If a birthmother chooses to register her child, and if the child gets adopted soon, the baby’s name will be removed from the mother’s registry.  If this is the case the birthmother may avoid the record of the birth registry.  But the problem occurs if the child’s adoption is delayed or no adoption takes place.  The child’s name will stay on the birth registry.  The record will follow with her even when he is put into an orphanage.  This is the reason for the reluctance on the part of birthmothers not wanting to register their babies.

Adoption professionals in Korea emphasize that the Special Adoption Law needs to allow a way for adoptees to be able to trace their birth families and at the same time provide privacy rights for birthmothers.  Mrs. Han Youn Hee of MPAK-Korea president stated, “I question why there is a need to force birthmothers to register babies just to provide the rights to adoptees. The court can keep the adoption records secret, and only open for reviews when both the adoptees and birthmothers agree.” 

I was so happy to see the responses by so many people in Korea and especially by the media against the fallacies of the new law.  This new law, so flawed and so ill conceived, is being scrutinized and the pressure is mounting to relook at the law.  Having the media on our side is very important as this is such a powerful way to convince the mass of people and sway opinions. 

Unfortunately there was no criticism on all the heartaches associated with the intercountry adoption.  This is understandable as all the protests being made by the Koreans nationals are directed to domestic adoption issues. 

I am praying for God’s guidance on how I can impact to help with the intercountry adoption process as I feel so powerless.   Lastly, I want to share with you a powerful Bible verse that my nephew Matthew shared.  "Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." (Psalm 8:2 NIV). 

I am praying for a quick revision in the adoption law so that children’s lives will be saved, and that children will find homes through adoption. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Frustrations Mount as Additional Documents are Required

Because many of the readers of my blog have requested an update on the Emigration Permits (EP) situation under the new law, and also some big frustrations have been expressed by many of you on the new document requirements such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, and certificate of citizenship, I am inclined to give some explanations. 

It is especially frustrating when these documents are asked after having waited so long, and to provide these documents may take several months for some.  While many waiting parents may already have these documents in hand, others may have misplaced them or lost.  One reader complained, “Has the agency say anything about delays because you now have to get these additional documents? How utterly frustrating? Even more frustrating is that there is NOTHING WE CAN DO, but comply! 

I wish I had a magic wand where I could just grant all the wishes come true.

In my earlier blogs, I mentioned that by August 2012, 90% of the quota for the year 2012 has been fulfilled under the older adoption laws (to expedite as many as possible before the new law kicked in by August 2012).  The remaining 10% would be used to process under the new adoption laws as the agencies, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), and the Family Court will need some time to learn and apply the new laws into the adoption process. 

This process is still continuing, and to date about half of the remaining 10% cases have been approved with the EPs from the MOHW.  The approved EPs were then submitted to the Family Court by the agencies.  The remaining half has been submitted for EP requests just recently, thus completing the quota set for 2012 (even though they haven’t been fully processed yet).

In the past, when the adoption files were submitted to the MOHW for EP request, the agencies typically attached the translated summary of home study reports.  However, under the new law, the original home study reports must be attached along with the translated summary.  Apparently the lawyers in the Family Court felt that the translated summary version of the home study report isn’t enough to verify what type of families the children were being sent to. 

So the Family Court has asked the agencies to provide the proper documentations to show that the adopting parents and their children mentioned in the home study reports can be properly verified through birth certificates, marriage certificates, and certificate of citizenship.  As a country being prepared to ratify The Hague Adoption Convention, Korea feels that this is a necessary part of the adoption process.

Apparently in the past some agencies required some portion of the documents, but not all of them.  Especially, not all agencies asked for the birth certificates of children living with the adopting parents.  So in anticipation of this and the requirements by the Family Courts for the documentation, the agencies have started to request the additional documents to comply with The Hague Adoption Convention. 

Unfortunately for many, the requests for such documentations should have been made early in the adoption process by the agencies, but I don’t think the agencies could have anticipated that.  It is especially hard for many waiting parents as they have waited so long, and to think that additional efforts to prepare and obtain the documents may add additional months on top of their waiting period…it would be very frustrating for anyone.

So it would be very prudent for all the agencies to ask such documentations from the new applicants.  And for those who are still in the process and waiting, you don’t want to find out about the requirements of these documents late in the process.  So I suggest that you take the action to start the document preparations if you haven’t already done.

In the meantime the agencies in Korea are waiting for the new quotas for the year 2013 to be issued to them by the MOHW (the three agencies have not been informed about the new quotas yet).  But the quota level assigned to each agency will depend on the number of domestic placements the agencies have completed in the year 2012, and other minor factors. But as expected, the quota will be 10% lower this year than the last year.