Thursday, March 21, 2013

Confirmed - No Summons Needed by the Family Court

It is official.  The adoption agencies in Korea have officially heard from the Family Court that the visiting families need not show up at the Family Court.  This means that your children will most likely be issued IR-4 visas, like the old way.  Although IR-3 visa would  be preferrable as this will finalize the adoption and secure the citizenship, this visa can only be obtained if the parents finalize their adoptions in Korea.  But apparently the Family Court has postponed this method until Korea ratifies the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. But even if Korea adopts the Hague Convention, it doesn't mean that the travel time will then be 3-4 weeks.  China has adopted Hague Convention, and I hear their adoption finalization process takes less than ten days at most.  So by the time Korea ratifies the Hague, they will have figured out how to best assist the visiting parents.

Under IR-4, it is up to the parents to finalize the adoption and to apply for the citizenship.  In the past some parents have been ignorant on the importance of adoption finalization and forgot to apply for the citizenship in the residing countries.  The consequence of that has been that if an adult adoptee gets into trouble with the laws, they may be deported to Korea if their citizenship can't be proven. It does not matter whether one can clearly show that he/she was legally adopted or not. There are some Korean adoptees living in Korea that have been deported, and the efforts to secure their return is still being discussed at higher levels of the government.

But thankfully the adoption agencies in the US have been very proactive in recent years to make sure the families they serve will properly go through the adoption finalization and obtain citizenshp for their children. As recent as last year, the agencies in Korea were criticized by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) for not being able to provide the proof of citizenship on all the children they have served.  But for the agencies this was an impossible task as many have moved away and could not be contacted.  So the agencies are now very proactive with the US agencies to make sure that this process gets completed as soon as children arrive in the US.

I hear rumors that some anti-adoption elements in Korea have been criticizing my works to speak on behalf of the children and the waiting families. The fact that your voices were delivered to the court, and that the judges heard your please, they are angry that the judges listened to us. 

The anti-adoption elements in Korea are more interested in speaking ill of adoption than the unwed mothers' causes they supposedly represent.  I think they should just concentrate on promoting the rights of birthmothers, and they may get results much quicker. I fully support the rights of birthmothers to raise their children if they choose to.  I ask they let us do our job to promote adoption on behalf of children that have already been relinquished or abandoned by their birthmothers that could not keep them.

As for another news on EPs and the quota situation, I am told that just today the Family Court processed the last case of the quota from the year 2012.  The agencies have not been told what the quota will be for this year (you can expect 10% reduction from last year).

Let us not loose the hearts to continue to speak on behalf of children who cannot speak for themselves. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Korea Needs the Baby Safe Haven Law

In thinking about the abandoned babies in Korea, and how the Baby Box operated by the Rev. Lee Jong Nak of the Jusarang Church is constantly attacked by those who are against adoption, and by those who care more about institutionalizing the children than to find permanent homes for them, I visited the Baby Safe Haven website and was very encouraged by what I read, and immediately recognized that this is what Korea needs to adopt.  In fact, the Baby Box operated by the Rev. Lee is what is widely practiced in all 50 states in the US as the Baby Safe Haven program.  Korea needs to adopt the same program to save more children being abandoned in Korea.   

The Baby Safe Haven website is at:

The following is an excerpts from the website.

"Each state has a law in place to allow an unharmed infant to be relinquished to the proper authorities, no questions asked.  Since the first safe-haven law was enacted in Texas in 1999, all U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, have passed safe-haven legislation, and every state has reported lives saved through the existence of these laws. Due to less-than-perfect-reporting methods, they don't know the exact number but estimate that in the past decade, these laws have saved well over 1,000 infants.

In the US, the late 1990s had a surge in infant abandonments, many resulting in the death of these innocent babies. In response to these incidents, a movement erupted to allow parents to relinquish custody of unharmed newborn infants without fear of prosecution. At the time, parents risked criminal prosecution for neglect or abandonment.

"Baby Safe Haven" laws or infant abandonment laws were created to remove the potential for prosecution so long as children were given unharmed and given to proper authorities. Since the first law was adopted in Texas in 1999, each state across the US has enacted a Safe Haven law. While each state's law is different, they all ensure the safety of newborn infants and the protection of parents who decide to properly relinquish their child.

Safe Haven laws have been remarkably successful. Unfortunately, babies are still illegally and unsafely abandoned, in part because women do not know that they have another option. It is important that these laws are widely promoted and that women in need are informed that they are not alone."

Today, I sent this website and introduced the concept of the Baby Safe Haven to one of the foremost authority in the child welfare experts in Korea and asked her to learn about this and try to help Korea to adopt such concept.

The Baby Box is just the concept born out of the same concern as the Baby Safe Haven  - to save the lives of children being abandoned. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Great News! - No Extended Travel Rquirement



Just received a great news from Korea today!

There will be no extended travel requirement for families according to the Family Court judges. In fact most of you will not have to show up at the Family Court.  This is truly an answered prayer.

The three agencies in Korea have heard from a judge in the Family Court, and the court has cancelled the appointments for several families that were to appear before the court in April, and decided to go ahead and approve their adoptions. 

This is how the process will work:

1. The court will review all the adoption documents of a family that wish to adopt a child from Korea.  Before that the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) would approve the family and issue an EP, and all the documents will be forwarded to the Family Court to get reviewed and a judge will conditionally approve the family.  In the past years the MOHW was the final approving authority.  Under the new adoption law the final approvals will come from the Family Court.

2. A social worker appointed by the Family Court will arrange an interview with baby's birthmother to make sure that she is sure of her decision to give up the baby.

3. Once it is determined that the birthmother does not wish to keep the baby, the 14-day clock starts ticking.  Like I mentioned, this is to give the birthmother the time to reconsider her decision.  In most cases, the birthmothers will not want their babies back.  So in a sense they are given two chances at their babies.  They will be given 7 days to change their minds right after the birth.  And they will be given one more chance just before the babies are adopted. In truth they have the power to take back their children anytime after the birth to the time of adoption.

4. After the 14-day reconsideration period is over, and the baby is still available, a judge issues the final adoption order, allowing the adoptive family to take their child home. 

5. The agency will contact the adoptive family to travel to Korea to pick up their child right after the 14-day period is over.

So a typical family should expect to stay in Korea no more than a week.  This is a huge burden lifted for most families that are not able to travel for 3-4 weeks.

During that time in Korea, most of the families will not be required to appear before the judges.  I say 'most of the families' because the court reserves the right to summon any family they choose to interview. 

However, there still remains the question of adoption finalization and the type of visas issued. One may question whether the adoption order issued by the Korean judges are really the finalization of the adoption process.  If so, is it possible to finalize the adoption without seeing the parents in the court? Is this in accordance with the Hague Convention?

Since most of the parents will not be required to appear before the judges (based on today's news from Korea), this could mean that the adoptions are not finalized and the children won't be finalized until they are admitted to the destination countries.  In the US, an adoption is typically finalized at an American court six months after the child has arrived.  This is the old method of adoption finalization, and this would mean that the children will be issued IR-4 visas. 

On the other hand, the IR-3 visa is for the parents have met the children.  If the parents were all required to appear before the judges in Korea, then they would be issued IR-3 visas.  But since the judges won't meet most of the parents this could mean IR-4 visas instead.

The agencies are not clear on how this will work, but I am sure it will all be ironed out as time goes by. This is a lot less headache to figure out than what all of you were facing before. 

We can thank God for answering all of our prayers.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Your Voices Summarized - You Have Spoken

The folks who really care about your children are still trying to get on the calendar with the court officials.

It is very upsetting that at this juncture of the process with so many parents that have waited so long, due to the new adoption law and the procedure involving the Family Court, someone higher up would make a decision to replace the two of the three judges with three new judges, who now would have roll up their sleeves and learn the laws and regulations on the adoption process all over again.  This of course is putting additional delays.

But I am hopeful that this group of new judges will be quick learners, and that the process will flow again.  One recommendation I would like to make (if I ever get to visit the Family Court) is that in the future, do not replace several judges all at once.  Instead, replace them one at a time with a year lag in between.  This way the continuity will be remained in the process.

But I did also hear a hopeful rumor that one of the discussion items on the table is the issue on the extended stay requirement, and I am hopeful that they can reduce the requirement to just one week.

In my previous blog, I noted that I would share with you the results of many comments received from many readers.  My team at MPAK (namely Denise Adams and Junhyung Lee) spent hours compiling the comments by category, and we had a meeting to go over the data. I did the final edit and plotted the results shown in the figure below. I want to extend a special thanks to Denise and Junhyung for their hard work.

There were many more categories of reasons why the extended travel to Korea would be difficult for many of you.  However, we narrowed it down to the top six reasons why a parent traveling to Korea for 3-4 weeks is very challenging, if not possible. 

This is your voice.  You have spoken and I hope the judges in the Family Court will hear your voice and come to a better understanding of those waiting families, and come to a workable solution that will satisfy all of you and the Korean government as well.

The response comments were provided through the MPAK blog and also includes many emails and Facebook comments as well.  Some have responded with more than one category.
I recommended two solutions at the end of the report. 
1. Allow the travel by one of the parent.  If both wish to go this is an option.
2. Deal with the birthmother reconsideration period of 14 days ahead of the visits by the adoptive parents so they won't have to stay in Korea that long.  This also avoids the emotional and psychological impacts on the visiting parents while waiting in Korea for 3-4 weeks, unsure of whether they will be allowed to take their child home or not.
I want to thank all of you for so many valuable comments made in my blog, and thanks for participating in this effort together to make your voices known.

Monday, March 4, 2013

To Answer Your Questions - An Update

To answer your questions based on the recent blogs, where record number of people have visited and left comments and questions. I will do my best to give you heads up on what is going on.

Some have mentioned through the comments that the adoption agency representatives were scheduled to meet with the judges of the Family Court to address some concerns with the extended stay requirement.  I was initially told that the meeting would happen March 5, 2013.

It was my goal that your comments will be compiled, summarized, and plotted by category the difficult reasons why the extended stay of 3 - 4 weeks requirement in Korea would be extrememely challenging, if not impossible for all the waiting families.  We chose to summarize based on the top six reasons (will share this on another blog).

At MPAK, I worked with my members in coming up with the summary report and have submitted the final report to the interested parties in Korea.  In addition to the comments posted, there were many emails received and these were included in the final results as well. The agencies were planning to take the results, that is, your voices to meet with the judges.  That is the reason why we worked feverishly late into the night in getting the report finished and forwarded to Korea.

But the agencies were notified by the court that they need to postpone the meeting. This was due to two of the three judges handling the adoption cases had to be reassigned to another area and they have been replaced by three new judges, now totaling four.  There is no doubt that the new judges will need to some time to learn the ropes and bring them up to speed. 

But the issue of the extended stay requirement is a no brainer for the judges.  I think the new judges will understand the situation right away, and hopefully they will agree to a solution where the adopting parents need to be in Korea no more than a week.  And the agencies are hoping for this as well. To be honest with you all, when all is said and done, I have a strong sense that this will be the case.

We need to have a better understanding on the 14-day reconsideration period.  In the current Family Court of law, when a decision is made, it is by law that a 14-day reconsideration period commences for both parties.  This 14-day reconsideration period is not just for adoption related issue.  It could be on other non-adoption related topics dealing with family problems or feud - such as divorce, custody rights, family relationships, inheritance, etc. The 14-day reconsideration period is  an across-the-board ruling for all decisions.

But in the case of adoption, the two parties are an adoptive family, and the other is a birthmother.  The court will first summon the birthmothers.  However it is expected that very few will acually show up, and some birthmothers won't be found.  But there will be a very few birthmothers that will choose to take their babies back.  And they have the right to do so.

If the birthmother does not show up at the court or the court becomes convinced that a birthmother is unwilling or unable to take care of the baby, a decision will be reached to allow adoption. It is hoped that at this time the adoptive parents will be called to make a travel to Korea to finalize the adoption at the Family Court and take the child home, and hopefully they don't have to stay over a week.

This is all I have for now.  In a nutshell, the agencies are trying to reschedule a meeting with the judges to iron out the extended travel issues and come to an acceptable solution that can be satisfactory to all the adoptive families.

Stay tuned.