Sunday, July 21, 2013

EP Approval Will Continue - Contingent Upon Domestic Adoption

Several of you have emailed me, or commented and asked questions on my previous blogs on why the EP process seems to have slowed down recently.

The EP process has not slowed down.  It will continue, and there seems to be no real problem other than some information on adoptive parents were not in order and the agencies have been requested by the Ministry to provide additional data.

For the year 2013, by the end of June 30, 2013, there has been 250 domestic adoptions taken place this year in Korea.  These adoptions were approved  by the family court judges and finalized.  However, there are additional 74 cases that have been submitted to the family court for approval by June 30, 2013.  So there are 324 cases (250+74) submitted to the court, and represents all three adoption agencies submittals.

The Ministry, using their formula of 2/3 rule, will accept the EP applications from all three agencies, and that is 216 applications (2/3 of 324) for EP for the month of July.  The 2/3 formula is not based on the final adoption ruling by the family court judges, but based on the number of cases submitted (or applied) to the court. 

The Ministry will continue to use this formula, but I am told that they will be flexible and work with the agencies to come up with a solution if the agencies are not able to achieve their monthly objectives for domestic adoption.  I'm just hoping that they will be flexible enough to reach this year's quota of 743 children by the end of the year.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Birthmother Re-Contact and the Finalization Process

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

Children's Human Rights - Supersedes the Birth Registry Issue

The special adoption law in Korea requires that each child must be registered to a birthmother’s family registry before being allowed to be given up for adoption.  Since the law was passed there has been a sharp increase in the number of children being abandoned in Korea.  There were many that called for an immediate revision to the law to remove the birth registry requirement, and there were others that were adamantly opposed to the revision of the law.  It has been nearly a year since the law was enacted, and there is no sign that the law will be revised. I find this very unfortunate.

Part of the reasons why the anti-revisionists have been very successful in opposing the change has been the use of the article from the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, where in Article 7 it states,

1.The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

2.States Parties shall ensure the implementation of these rights in accordance with their national law and their obligations under the relevant international instruments in this field, in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless.

While I strongly support this and agree that as much as possible those children should be registered, this article does not specifically say that children must be registered into their birth parents.  The statement “as far as possible” allows that there may be circumstances where this is not possible.  This leaves a door open where birthmothers should be allowed to lawfully relinquish their children without registering.  Also, the main purpose of the registry is to have the right to a name and the right to acquire a nationality, which I presume is designed to benefit from the provisions a country provides as an equal citizen. Children can be registered and have their own identity even without birth parents, as they can be registered by legal guardians or institution directors. The only thing that would lack is that they wouldn’t have the information on birth parents.

The anti-revisionists have used the Article 7 very successively through media outlets to argue for the birth registry requirement in the special adoption law and strongly opposed any changes.

In the mean time the number of children being abandoned has increased.  Many of the birthmothers are too young to care for them, nor have any desires or means to raise them.  Although many have tried to call or visit the adoption agencies to discuss the relinquishments of their babies, the agencies have all turned them away as they cannot legally accept the children without them first being registered by their birthmothers.

Unable to safely and legally relinquish the children they do not want, some have taken drastic actions such as abandoning them in subways, streets, restrooms, trash bins, hospitals, and in some cases killed and discarded.  And then there was the Baby Box, where before the law was enacted, would normally see two or three abandonments per month, but immediately after the law was enacted, the abandonment at the Baby Box shot up to 20 children per month.

While the revisionists have used this type data to justify the need for the revision of the law, the anti-revisionists fought back claiming that the data really does not conclusively support that it was the special adoption law that caused the rise in the abandonment.  In fact, they claim, the heavy media exposure of the Baby Box has encouraged more birthmothers to abandon their babies, and called that the Baby Box was illegal and should be shut down.  The worst part of all this is that the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), the social welfare arm of the Korean government, has joined the anti-revisionists and staunchly opposed to any changes to the law. It was their law to begin with, and why should they admit that there was any flaw with the law. 

And they never forget to point back to the Article 7 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, saying that the law was in keeping with the globally accepted convention that is adopted by many nations, and that Korea must move ahead to adopt the world standard.

But there is just one flaw with this argument. 

According to the same UN Convention of the Rights they love to quote, it states in Article 6,

1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.

2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

In an effort to enforce the Article 7, there have been many children’s lives lost, and many more children have been abandoned.  Not only that the law is such that these abandoned children are not adoptable and must grow up in institutions – all because they were not registered. 

The Article 6 precedes what’s stated in Article 7, and it is placed ahead of Article 7 because of its importance.  In as much as I agree that children should be registered per Article 7, if the culture of a country does not make this a favorable environment for birthmothers, and in the process endangers the lives of many children, the law needs to change to preserve the lives of children.

The UN Convention of the Rights does not stop there. It states in Article 3, Section 1,

In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

If the forceful registration of babies causes danger to the newborn babies, despite the fact that this was an action under the “courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies”, then this action by the authority needs to be questioned, as it is clearly evident that their law has resulted in the loss of many children, and significantly hindered many children from finding homes. This is clearly not the case of having a primary consideration in “the best interests of the child”.

What good is the registration and what good is having a good record, or identifying a child if such law causes many birthmothers choose to abandon or kill their babies? Any yet the anti-revisionists speak about the birth registry as the fundamental human rights that children must have while they ignore the higher and more important ‘right to life and the best interests’ through the proclamations made in Article 3 and Article 6. 

This is the very reason why they try so hard to discredit that the birth registry requirement in the special adoption law was the reason why there are so many babies abandoned.
The data clearly shows that there have been many babies abandoned, starting right after the implementation of the law.