Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Korea Signs the Hague Adoption Convention

This was recently posted on the State Department website. 
South Korea
May 28, 2013
Adoption Notice: The Republic of Korea Signs the Hague Adoption Convention
On May 24, 2013, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) signed the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the Convention). This is the first step for South Koreain becoming a Convention partner. 
Adoptions between the United States and South Korea, however, are not yet subject to the requirements of the Convention and relevant implementing laws and regulations. 
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which will be designated as South Korea's Central Authority, there is no set date when South Korea will deliver its instrument of ratification or when the Convention will enter into force with respect to South Korea.
We will continue to keep you informed through as we receive additional updates.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

2013 MPAK Picnic - One of the Best Ever

The 14th Annual MPAK Picnic was held on May 25, 2013 at the Laguna Niguel Regional Park, Laguna Niguel, CA.  The park is a very bautiful place with lots of trees, playgrounds, shelters, and open areas.  The picnic was attended by around 150 people, and there were MPAK groups from the Valley Area, the LA Area, the Orange County Area, and the San Diego Area.  There was a special visit by a family all the way from Seattle.  I am grateful that so many showed up despite the conflicting schedule with the Memorial Day weekend.

The 14th Annual MPAK Picnic at the Laguna Niguel Regional Park on May 25, 2013.
Not everything turns out perfect, including this cake with "Picknick".  The cake was brought by Emile and Jenny Mack, as they most likely got this Hawaiian cake from a cake store.  We had a lot of fun with this cake, but  what a delicious cake it was!
Our shelter area with a giant moonbounce for the kids.
Joseph Jo and Brian Shin manned the BBQ station, and the BBQ received a lots of compliments.
Lots and Lots of great foods.
A magic show for all the children by Mr. David Skale.
Water balloon toss on a blankets.
 The water bucket ferry game that got everyone soaked wet.
A game of pole building that tested the creativity of the kids.
And then there was the traditional 'Rope-Pull' game.
Mothers got together to talk about their children and adoption experiences.
My daughter Kay, with Miya and her mom Jenny Mack.  Miya is a fan of Kay.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

UNICEF Blamed for Decline in International Adoptions

I saw this article today and I totally agree with the writing. 
I thought an organization that is supposed to be a part of UN would always stand for justice and children's rights, but when they focus just on one side of the problem with adoption, mainly courruption, there are many many more children that suffer being homeless. 
There has to be a balanced way of keeping corruptions down while not hurting innocent children from having homes of their own home.

UNICEF Blamed for Decline in International Adoptions

Critics say the U.N. agency’s priorities have played a major role in the steep drop over the last decade.

NEW YORK — For decades, international adoptions in the United States had been climbing. They peaked at nearly 23,000 children in 2004. Then, the numbers plummeted.
By 2011, just 9,319 children were adopted, U.S. State Department data shows.
Many adoption advocates blame that decline on the very international agency charged with safeguarding the welfare and well-being of children: the United Nations Children’s Fund, better known as UNICEF.

“I think UNICEF and other organizations like Save the Children, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child and other self-styled child-rights organizations are the primary driving force for the elimination of international adoption,” Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet, one of the most forceful critics of the international agency, told the Register in an interview.

Officially, UNICEF says that it views international adoption as one of many options for orphaned children, a position that a spokesman reaffirmed in a statement.

But adoption advocates say that UNICEF’s actions are at odds with its stated position.
One critic, Ellen Warnock, the director for adoption services at Catholic Charities of Baltimore, described UNICEF’s public stance as mere “lip service.”

Tom DiFilipo, president and CEO of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, said UNICEF and other institutions in the international aid community have a definite “bias” against international adoptions.

UNICEF, in particular, has pushed policies that would “effectively eliminate” international adoption, under the guise of combating abuse and corruption, Bartholet charges. As a result, efforts aimed at improving the lives of orphaned children in some of the poorest countries in the world have had the perhaps unintended consequence of making them worse by preventing their adoption into loving homes in other nations.

One such effort was the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption, an international agreement that was struck in 1993 but has taken years to be ratified by individual governments. The convention was meant to “ensure ethical and transparent processes” that focus on the “best interests of the child,” said Peter Smerdon, a UNICEF spokesman.
In a 2004 report on displaced children, UNICEF urged countries that adopt the Hague Convention to take the additional step of banning private intermediaries, such as attorneys, and other organizations, which Bartholet has described as the “lifeblood” of adoptions in many countries.

“Regulation prohibiting private intermediaries has been the death knell for international adoption in many countries, as those promoting this ‘reform’ well know,” Bartholet wrote in the January 2010 edition of Global Policy.

Easy Targets
Attorneys who make handsome profits have become an easy target for UNICEF, according to Bartholet. At one point, in Guatemala, international adoption was an $80-million-a-year industry for fewer than 5,000 children, the Joint Council reported.

But it is the prospect of profit that creates an added incentive for attorneys in countries like Guatemala to ensure that adoptions happen, says Bartholet, who brings to the issue firsthand experience as an adoptive parent of two Peruvian children. (She used a private intermediary with one child, but not the other, which she said made the process a “nightmare.”)

Chile ratified the Hague Convention in 1999 and has also instituted the UNICEF-recommended ban on intermediaries, according to Bartholet. Adoptions from that country into the United States nosedived from 19 in 1999 to zero by 2007. After a four-year dry spell, there was one adoption in 2011, according to State Department data.

The same pattern repeated itself in Bolivia, which ratified the agreement in 2002 and has banned intermediaries. In 2001, there were 35 adoptions of Bolivian children by U.S. families. By 2008, there were none.

“The issue of international adoption should be of concern to … all Catholics,” said Lillian Godone-Maresca, an attorney, parishioner at Holy Apostles Parish in Cranston, R.I., and adoptive mother of three children from Bulgaria and two from Haiti. All five of the children she has adopted have special needs, ranging from cerebral palsy to spina bifida. Godone-Maresca, who is widowed, says her three biological children play an indispensable role in helping to care for the needs of her adopted children.
“As Catholics, we are strongly pro-life — and it is about precious, little human lives we are talking about,” Godone-Maresca said, adding that "adoption is a ministry in which every Catholic should participate, whether by adopting, by helping others adopt, by praying and by making the plight of those kids known.”

Who’s Responsible?
There remains some debate among advocates as to how much of the decline in international adoptions can be pinned on UNICEF alone. Some describe the decline as a complex global phenomenon with numerous causes.

“There is no simplistic reason that international adoption has collapsed,” DiFilipo said. He suggested that the biggest issue is how governments have reacted to charges of corruption and abuse in their adoption systems.

Smerdon, the UNICEF spokesman, also pointed to governments around the world as the responsible parties. “Governments may suspend inter-country adoptions because significant numbers of children are being adopted abroad without due cause and through processes that fail to respect basic standards. It is government, not UNICEF, that suspends inter-country adoptions,” Smerdon concluded. (The most recent prominent instance of a government shutting down adoptions was Russia last December.)
Bartholet agrees that state governments share some blame. “But, often, I think national governments simply feel pressured by UNICEF and others to shut down international adoption,” she said.
Both Bartholet and DiFilipo point to Guatemala as an extreme example of the unintended consequences of international adoption reform. Guatemala — viewed as having one of the more corrupt adoption systems — ratified the Hague Convention in 2002. The agreement mandates that signatory countries have a dedicated government agency to oversee adoptions, license adoption agencies and verify that children are legally eligible to be adopted.

Because Guatemala could not meet these conditions, it instead shut down international adoptions in early 2008 — the opposite outcome of what sincere reformers had hoped for, DiFilipo said. “We were screaming for reform,” he said. “We weren’t screaming for closure.”

Children Suffer
In a 2011 interview with ReasonTV, a media arm of the prominent libertarian publication by the same name, Bartholet described the possibility of a permanent closure as evil.

“If we shut down international adoption, there’s 5,000 kids a year whose lives we are ruining, whose lives could have been wonderful, and we are dooming them by shutting them into this institution,” Bartholet said. “So, to me, that’s fundamental evil.”

As international adoptions have declined overall, so have the hopes of prospective parents. Some of them give up, said Warnock of Catholic Charities of Baltimore. “It’s horrible for the parents, but their lives are not nearly as affected as the children,” Warnock said.
“The children absolutely are the ones who suffer,” she added.

As of 2011, there were an estimated 151 million orphaned children worldwide, UNICEF figures show.
Even before the decline in international adoptions, only a tiny number of those children were adopted by families outside of their home countries. About 10 years ago, there were just over 45,000 inter-country adoptions, according to the National Council for Adoption. But the slump in adoptions to the United States mirrors a global trend: By 2010, there were about 29,000 international adoptions worldwide.

“As Catholics, we cannot remain unmoved by the plight of thousands and even millions of children dying from preventable and even curable diseases in many places of the world,” Godone-Maresca said. “We cannot remain unmoved by the plight of children feeling unwanted and asking for a family of their own. We cannot remain unmoved by the knowledge that if not adopted by a certain age, in many Eastern European countries, orphan children with any kind of special needs are thrown into mental institutions, where life is no more than a slow death.”

UNICEF’s Motives
The situation begs the question of what motivates UNICEF to act as it has.
Bartholet says one concern driving UNICEF is the “heritage rights” of children: their right to remain in their country close to a relative or a foster parent of the same race, ethnicity or nationality. She maintains that having a permanent family home is more vital to the well-being of orphaned children.
The UNICEF argument gains some weight, given the reality of orphans in poorer countries. Many of them are not orphans in the traditional sense. Instead, they are “social orphans” — children who have been abandoned because their parents cannot afford the cost and burden of another dependent.
Still, for Bartholet, the fact that one or more birth parents is still alive is not a compelling reason to deny a child the opportunity for a better life. “That is clearly elevating the adult’s life above the child’s life,” she asserted.

Bartholet has also suggested that UNICEF may be employing a “hostage” strategy, which she described in a 2007 paper as keeping children in “intolerable” orphanages to “create pressure on all [the developed world] to do something to solve the problems of poverty and injustice” that prevent their birth parents from raising them.

“If that’s their strategy, I don’t think that’s a moral or legitimate strategy,” Bartholet said.
Asked to respond, Smerdon flatly denied the accusation. “Such portrayals of UNICEF’s position are both illogical and wrong,” he said, emphasizing the role that governments have played in closing their countries’ adoption systems.

“Inter-country adoption is among the range of stable-care options,” Smerdon said. “For individual children who cannot be cared for in a family setting in their country of origin, inter-country adoption may be the best permanent solution.”

Facing Reality
Bartholet agrees that the developed world should do everything it can to help birth parents in poverty-stricken countries keep their children.
However, she added, “In the meantime, we don’t live in that world. If there’s an opportunity to put some of these kids in good nurturing homes, we should do that.”
Register correspondent Stephen Beale writes from Providence, Rhode Island.

This article was taken from:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My 2013 Korea Trip in Sketch

I am safely back to the US, and only three days later I had to take a flight to Denver on my business trip.  Still struggling with the time change adjustment, I woke up late at night to post some pictures from my Korea trip to share with you all.

The 7th Annual National Adoption Day event was held on May 10, 2013, and attended by 800 people with dignitaries and heavy media coverage.  Here the Eastern Children's Choir performs.

With MPAK members congratulating Mrs. Kim Shin Hae (with medal on her neck) for the highest honor received from the government of Korea. 

Pastor Lee Jong Nak of the Baby Box also attended the event.
On May 11th, I attended the Adoption Festival at the Emmanuel Orphanage down in Gimcheon City,  a 3 hours ride south of Seoul.  My involvement with this orphanage began way back in 1986 when I sponsored three children through the Holt's sponsorship program.  Here the chidlren performs for all the guests.

Glenn and Julie Morey of Denver, CO visited the Emmanuel and befriends the little ones.  Holding a child on her lap is the orphanage director Mrs. Kim Jung Sook.  Since the Special Adoption Law was passed, there has been heavy overflow of children coming into the care.  These and all the children in the orphanage were the chidlren of birth parents that couldn't care, or didn't want to care.  Before we can speak of birthmothers' rights to children, we need to speak of children's rights to families.

After the event, from Left - Dr. P.K. Kim, me, Julie Morrey, Mrs. Kim Jung Sook, and Glenn Morey

A little baby abandoned a few weeks ago.  The number of tiny babies doubled since the Special Adoption Law was passed.  Not all of them can be adopted since they cannot find birthmothers to officially relinquish them.  My heart ached for this child, and pray that she will be place into a loving home soon.

Glenn and Julie Morey poses with the grownup orphans that are in highschool ages (17 & 18 years old).  These teens cannot be adopted, and soon they will age out and must leave the orphanage.  In talking with them I had more questions and concerns for them than answers.

All over Korea there were blooms of flowers everywhere, mostly the azeleas.

I visited Molly Holt, who has multiple myloma, a cancerous disease on bone and blood.  She has been getting treatment at the Severance Hospital in Seoul, and was getting better at the time of my visit.  Molly has been an inspiration to all the kids that once lived at the Il-San Center.  She is also an inspiration to many adoptees.  As an eight years old boy, I still remember her when she was only 23 years old, just out of a nursing school, and came to the Il-San orphanage to help her father Harry Holt.  She has been at Il-San ever since, for over 50 years, serving many many children.  We used to call her 'Molly Nuna' (말리누나) or another name for Sister Molly.  I still remember her fondly the times when she used to gather us kids into a chapel and teach us the Bible stories.  I continue to pray for her.

On May 14th, MPAK had and adoption festival at the city of Kwachon, a suburb of Seoul.  Many families attended the event with performances by children, and an adoption story presentation by a parent.

MPAK Chidlren's Choir performs at the Kwchon City Adoption Festival.

Two young children perform a tango dance at the festival.

I took the time out to visit the Pastor Lee Jong Nak of the Jusarang Community Church that operates the Baby Box.  Just in April there were 22 babies that came throuogh the Baby Box.  Here I presented a donation from a friend of mine to the Baby Box after hearing about the facility on a news channel.

At the MPAK office.  Here the MPAK leadership council has gathered to discuss various activities such as upcoming camps for families, regional family supports, and to discuss the matters related to the Special Adoption Law revision that is solely needed.

The night before my departure, a few MPAK members treated me to one of my favorite restaurant in the Bangbae District.  The Shabu Agu Agu, which specializes in monkfish dish in hot and spicy vegetables (아구찜-agujjim) has been my traditional food whenever I visited Korea.

Two of the MPAK employees and a volunteer came out to bid me farewell as I got on a bus to the airport.  The bus window was dirty, thus white spots everywhere.

In addition to the sketches in these images, I met many other people and visited various organizations, all related to the works in adoption.  I also met with the two officials from the MOHW for about an hour, and realized the challenges facing the revision of the Special Adoption Law, as the officials were opposed to the revision.  But we will continue to press on.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Leaving Korea Today

A whirlwind of activities took place while I was in Korea for a week. I will post the pictures of my travel to Korea later (some I have already shared through FB). I am leaving today to go back to the US.
But the most important news for all the waiting adoptive families is that on May 31st, the judges at the family court will start the processes for the intercountry adoption.  While I don’t have a clear number, approximately 15 or so families are scheduled to stand before the judges to interview and get rulings on their adoptions.  From then the 14 day waiting period begins, and all the families that are affected by this have been notified and they are making travel arrangements.  After May 31st, there will be other groups, but this information I do not have much yet.
As for my trip to Korea, I took a part in the National Adoption Day celebration on May 10th, the Emmanuel Orphanage Adoption Festival on May 11th (one of very few orphanages that send away children to be adopted), MPAK’s Kwachon City Adoption Festival on May 14th, the MPAK leadership meeting on May 14th, and an interview with a newspaper, and more meetings here and there.  It has been a very busy week, and I will post some pictures when I settle back in LA.
On another point, I took down the posting on the quota related article, and felt that the posting was counter-productive to many waiting families.  For instance, after the posting, the adoption agencies were all inundated with many phone calls by waiting families asking whether they will be a part of the quota or not.  What made it more difficult was that the information I shared on the posting did not even get to all the agencies by the time I posted it, and they were surprised by it.  So I am walking a delicate line of balancing and figuring out what information should be released and when to release them.  While the information may be good for many, but it can also bring more worries against the waiting families.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Upcoming MPAK Picnic in California

There will be the 14th Annual MPAK Picnic at the Laguna Niguel Regional Park on May 25, 2013.
Here is a less than perfect group photo from last year.  It is the largest gathering of MPAK families from several areas:  LA, Valley, Orange County, and San Diego.  This year promises even bigger and better.

There will be lots of foods, giant moonbounce, playgrounds, a clown and a magician that will conduct games for kids, and prizes, and lots of happy kids and parents.