Tuesday, December 23, 2014

As the Year 2014 Closes, the EP Status and a Final Message

With the children at an orphanage in Korea, May 2014
The year 2014 is coming to a close in a few days.

It was a year filled with continued frustration and anguish as the children are caught in a political jigsaw puzzle created by the special adoption law of August 2012.

The Impact of the Special Adoption Law
Looking back a year ago in 2013, the domestic adoption in Korea saw only 686 adoptions, whereas before the special adoption law the typical yearly average of domestic adoption was over 1400.  The intercounry adoption was 236, a sharp decline from 755 in 2012. 

The special adoption law was the cause for so many babies being abandoned.  Just in 2013 there have been close to 300 children abandoned (252 of them through the Baby Box), and in some cases murdered or left to die. There has been around 20 adoptions on the children that were abandoned through the Baby Box or other means, and the rest of them are institutionalized.

There are many, especially those who have defended the law, would state that the number of babies being abandoned increased due to so much media exposure given to the Baby Box, not because of the law.  However, the fact is, there was a sharp rise in the media attention on the Baby Box only because of the large number of children being abandoned in the first place right after the law was enacted.  Sure, the media attention brought about more unwed mothers to the Baby Box over time, but the babies were being abandoned right after the law was enacted, which became a news worthy story in the first place that got started on more media roll. I have stated before and I state it again. The Baby Box is not the cause of abandonment, but a method used by unwed mothers that have already given up their babies in their hearts when the law took away the rights of unwed mothers to anonymously and lawfully give up their babies.

All in all, the special adoption law, which was supposedly designed to serve the adoptees' rights to know their birth records (so they can trace to find their birth parents later in life) by requiring all the unwed mothers to register their babies first in order to place them for adoption, have backfired as those abandoned babies have no birth records to speak of.

So to meet the desires of one group of adoptees on their rights to know, it has trampled on the rights of the babies in the form of abandonments, and through the significant reduction in the number of adoptions.  It has also brought great injustice to the children that are sent to institutions because the law has made it so much harder for couples to qualify, and the adoption process has eliminated parental option or preference to keep their adoptions secret in a society where adoption is still looked on with negative social stigma. This cultural oversight has turned away so many potential parents, and I believe this is the biggest reason for the significant drop in the domestic adoption.

The special adoption law serves the interest of grown-ups, not the rights of the helpless and voiceless babies and their survival.  The law has put a big barrier for adoptive parents to qualify, and while some of them are necessary (i.e. greater background checks), some are unnecessary (i.e. much longer process and requiring too many unnecessary documents). 

It is no brainer that the rights to life matters more than the rights to know.

Regarding the EPs in 2014
As for the year 2014 comes to a close, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) will determine the final number of EPs (Emigration Permits) that will be granted based on the number of domestic placements the three agencies (Holt, SWS, and Eastern) have performed in 2014.  Currently the number of domestic placements is expected to be around 600 to 650 (all three agencies combined).  Using the 2/3 rule, that would amount to around 400 to 430 intercountry adoption EPs will be granted (assuming the MOHW decides to upholds its own rule, which they didn't keep last year).  Last year there were 686 domestic placements, but only 236 EPs granted, far fewer than over 400 that should have been granted.

Regarding the Judge
Many of you have written to me with questions or frustrations regarding a particular judge who seems to take longer than others to process the cases assigned to him.  It has been known that while some judges issue court dates weeks after the submission, this judge can take as long as four months to issue the court dates.  I have made some inquiries and I am told that this judge takes long not only on the cases for adoptions, but on all the other family related cases assigned to him.  My best answer is that this judge goes through the details of each case so thoroughly that it takes him much longer to process the cases assigned to him.  But I did hear from several families that were assigned to this judge that he is a very pleasant and warm person once they met him.  We have to be very careful as we cannot criticize the professional preference or the integrity of the judge who follows his conviction in his work.  My only recommendation is that you accept him as he is and just be patient, and he will eventually get to your case and you will have happy experience of meeting him. I know this is not a satisfactory answer, but this is the best I can do at this point.

Closing Remarks
As I reflect the year 2014, I can hold my head up for trying, but always there is a place in my heart that convicts me that I could have done better.  I have served the needs of homeless children and their rights to grow up in loving homes, and the needs of the anxiously waiting parents that were counting the days for their children's arrivals. I have served the children as I hear their voices crying out for families of their own.  I know. I have been there many years ago.

But I am most impressed with the waiting parents and their love for their children. The waiting parents have posted the pictures of their children on the SNS, attached them on the refrigerators and walls, carry them in their wallets to show, and I met one particular father that even tattooed his waiting child’s name on his arm.  And many of you have offered prayers asking God to quickly bring them home. One bad incident of an adoptive parent gone wrong does not reflect the rest of you as some have tried to portray.

I have been deeply touched and moved by so many of you on how much you love the children that you have not met. Often I had to ask where such love comes from.  Your love for the children has been a source of my strength throughout the year, and the plight of children as my passion call, and this will never die in my heart. Please keep me in your prayers.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

EP Update - Correction

I posted earlier that the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) will no longer accept the applications for Emigration Permssion (EP), and this was based on one of the notices sent out by one of the US agencies.

I then got contacted by an agency in Korea that this was not true and that the MOHW is still accepting the EP applications.  I then subsequently contacted the remaining two agencies and confirmed that the MOHW did not send out such notice.  Clearly there was a miscommunication somewhere along the way.

But this is an excellent news for all the waiting families, and my sincere apology to post a blog without first verifying with the corresponding agencies in Korea, thus causing much grief and pain to many of you.

Because this was such an important issue, I had to contact all three agencies and they all confirmed that the EPs are still being, and will continue to be accepted.  They (the MOHW) would still monitor the number of domestic adoption placements done by the agencies, and use the '2/3 Rule' to determine what the final adjustment will be at the end of the year.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why No EP Since July 30th

I have heard from several families asking why there have not been additional EP applications since July 30th.

The reason is that the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), predicting that a certain number of EPs will be granted this year, has allowed the agencies to submit sooner, around 90 applications in late June and another 90 in July 30th.  The two submissions number around 180 EP applications submitted to MOHW.  So, with the EP submissions that were made earlier than June, the total number of EPs submitted this year would certainly reach around 250~300.

The MOHW did not base this number (190 EP submissions) based on the number of domestic placements of children within Korea, but based on the knowledge that they will eventually adjust the final number of EPs for the year 2014 based on the 2/3 rule they have been using. In other words, the MOHW allowed more EPs sooner in favor of many waiting families, knowing that they will eventually adjust the number at the end of the year.  

As you all know, the MOHW has been applying 2/3 rule for some time now.  For those who are not familiar with the 2/3 rule, the MOHW will allow the number of EPs submitted for intercountry adoption based on 2/3 of the number of adoptions the agencies place domestically. For example, if an agency places 300 domestic adoptions, then they will be allowed to submit 200 EP applications for intercountry adoption.

As of September 30th, the three agencies have placed around 500 children domestically. Assuming another 150 domestic placements to occur during the remaining three months (Oct - Dec), then one can guess that around 650 domestic adoptions will take place for the year 2014.  This is close to the 686 domestic placements that took place in 2013.  So one can conclude that for the year 2014, there will be around 430 (2/3 of 650) intercountry adoptions compared to 236 in 2013.

This does not mean that the intercountry adoption is on the rise.  It simply means that last year due to the adjustment issues centered on implementing the special adoption law, the number of intercountry adoption came in much lower than it should have been.  236 adoptions instead of what should have been 457 (2/3 of 686).

One can expect that there will be additional EP submissions by November, to grant the remaining EPs for the year.  I am guessing that to be around 150 ~ 160 EPs. 

I hope this helps to clear away the questions that many were asking.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Law Will be Revised to Protect Birth Parents’ Anonymity

This article is from the Yonhap News in Korea.
For a long time the Ministry of Health and Welfare has denied that there was a correlation between the Special Adoption Law and the sharp rise in the abandonments.  The article below seems to indicate that they are finally admitting that there is a direct correlation between the law and the abandonment increase since the law went into effect in August 2012.

The proposed law that is being worked is not 100% satisfactory, and may still result in many unwed mothers to abandon their babies, but it is certainly a step in the right direction to protect the unwed birth parents' privacy information even if a child is not adopted or in some cases disrupted. 

I have been advocating a revision of the Special Adoption Law to allow anonymous relinquishments by the birth parents without the required birth registration, but the approach  explained in the article is somewhat of a compromise that might work as the privacy information for all birth parents, regardless whether their children are adopted or not will be protected.  I hope this results in much fewer abandonments of babies in Korea. 

However, this produces another challenge. How do you convince the unwed birth parents that their anonymity will be protected even if they register the babies. It may take time, but I am encouraged and convinced that this law revision will reduce the number of babies being abandoned in such  places like the 'Baby Box'.


From the Yonhap News, September 21, 2014 (Original article in Korean at: http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/bulletin/2014/09/19/0200000000AKR20140919095900017.HTML)

Under the increasing fear that birth parents’ personal records may be compromised by requiring birth registration in order to place a child for adoption, it appears perhaps the day is coming where the number of babies being abandoned in places like the ‘Baby Box’ may be significantly reduced. 

The law to protect unwed birth mothers or other information related to the birth parents from the public is being currently being revised, and is in the final stages of the process. Once it goes through the passage process, it could become law early next year.

On September 21, the Department of Justice, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, along with Human Rights Association of Korea, recognizing the never-ending controversy surrounding the human rights violations against the birth parents’ rights to privacy through the excessive disclosure of private information under the current law, have decided to revise the Family Relationship Registration Law. This legislation effort is led by the Department of Justice, which after the legislation’s review and discussion to be held this October, it will be submitted to the National Assembly. If this legislation revision is passed by the Assembly this year, the law will become effective as early as next year.

The legislation revision will require a proof of information in the Family Relationship Certificate, but will not include information that the birth parents do not wish to disclose. The types of proof that needs to be provided may include either ‘general certificate’ with minimum information or ‘detailed certificate’ with much greater detailed information. If there is no special purpose or reason, then one cannot request the detailed information. Not only that, the illegal request or distribution of private information will be punishable by law.

A birth parent may request that only limited birth information is included and another person may not view the record. In this way, the private information of the birth parents will be protected in the document if a child is not adopted, or if the adoption is disrupted.

In other words, the unwed mother will be spared from the agony of having to choose to abandon her baby because of the fear that the private information on child’s birth in the Family Relationship Certificate may become known.

The current law that was enacted on August 2012 requires the unwed mothers to keep their babies for seven days to seriously reconsider before placing them up for adoption. In addition, they are required to register their babies, and they need to submit a Family Relationship Certificate to the Family Court to get the baby approved for adoption.

The problem was that the law that was created to protect the rights of children and to promote domestic adoption has resulted in the disclosure of excessive private information on birth parents due to the Family Relationship Registration Law that was approved in January of 2008.

Currently, when a birth mother registers her baby, the record is included in her family registry. The record is erased once the baby is adopted. However if the baby does not get adopted or if the adoption was terminated, then the record does not go away. The worst is not really the record itself, but when she is required by her community to provide this document of her Family Relationship Certificate for whatever reason, the document will have the record of the child’s birth and the name, causing unnecessary amount of private information to be revealed. 

Even for the child, under the current law, all the documents related to the Family Relationship Certificate will reveal the history of the child’s adoption, or even adoption termination (if any), the fact that he/she was born out of wedlock, and the other information will be shown in great detail.

Once it was realized that the Family Relationship Registration Law allowed too much disclosure of private information, the Human Rights Association of Korea appealed last November to the National Assembly, the Department of Justice, and the Supreme Court with the right to protect privacy and stop unnecessary information being released to the public.
Ms. Lee Hyun Joo, the team leader for the Policy on Children’s Adoption Bureau in the Ministry of Health and Welfare stated, “We need to strengthen our responsibility to the nation by rooting down the adoption policies that will best uphold the rights of children, and we must try our best to come up with a child care system that will center on taking care of the children born in our country, first with birth parents, then domestically by parents who live in Korea.”

Sunday, August 31, 2014

20 Children Each Month...Who is Responsible for their Abandonments?

This article on Rev. Lee Jong Nak of the Baby Box came out recently in a Korean news magazine called OhMyNews.  The original link to the article (in Korean) is at:
But I have translated the article below for my readers.

Among the heavily populated residential area in Seoul Kwanak-Gu Nangok-Dong, stands a church. On the outside of the church there is a sign over a box “Please pull the handle below and put your baby if there is no way for you to keep the baby.” This is the Baby Box. The Rev. Lee Jong Nak (60) of the Jusarang Community Church, made the box in 2009 to accommodate the children being abandoned.
“My youngest son is 28 this year, and he has been lying in bed for the past 14 years.  He is severely handicapped and is considered a vegetable person. He spent many years in hospitals and I have met many parents that leave their children in hospitals and disappear. They say they will go earn the surgery expenses but never return. I wonder how can they be at peace for leaving their sick children in hospital? But they hope that the hospital will take care of their children.

One day an elderly woman who has never met the Rev. Lee came to see him.  “I have a granddaughter and she is in a vegetated state like your son.” If you take care of this girl I would be able to close my eyes in peace.  This was how the Rev. Lee got started with the adoption of special needs children.

On one early spring morning in 2007, a phone call came to the Rev. Lee.  The caller said that there was a baby left in front of his church.  Rev. Lee went down to see the place and there was a newborn child in a blanket inside a box that reeked with fish smell.  He noticed that there was a large cat nearby that came at the smell of fish. This was when it hit him that for the safety of the babies, a Baby Box was needed.
“I shivered at the time.  If I had come out just a bit later, what might have happened to the baby?  I can still remember the look in the cat’s eyes. After that night I thought that there must be a safe way for the children to be abandoned.”

The baby brought in a fish box was born prematurely and had the Down syndrome. He could not eat well. The nearby hospital doctor said that the baby had a very little chance to survive and that the pastor should just give up.  But today, that child is healthy and attends a kindergarten.

“No matter what others say, I am a father to the children.”
Once the babies are abandoned in the Baby Box, they are sent to the Seoul Children’s Hospital for health checkups, then they are assigned to the baby institutions throughout the Seoul area.  The special needs babies are sent to the special needs center and the healthy ones are sent to various institutions. But many children find getting a good care at institutions difficult. Therefore the children that are cared by the Jusarang Church are severely needed children.

Then the Rev. Lee decided to adopt 15 of those children.  Nine of them were adopted by the Reverend, but the applications to adopt six others were rejected.  He took these cases up to the Supreme Court, but still lost.  The reason for the rejection was due to the question on how one can raise so many children with very limited income.
“But how can I turn those unhealthy children away?  I have kept them all.  Even though legally I am not their father, I wanted to be their father. Children needs parents. We are their father and mother. They are all our children.”

One by one the family grew to 21. As the number of children were added, the problem was with the limited space. One day when a child visited his friend’s house, he came back and asked, “Why don’t I have my own room?”  Hearing this made the pastor feel sorry for the child, and he recently was able to find a bigger place in Siheung-Dong with borrowed money.
“We are supported by the sponsors. The Government has never helped us. But if I as a parent can provide such a place for my children, I would not withhold anything back.

When the door of the Baby Box opens the bell rings.  The Rev. Lee immediately goes down to fetch the baby.  One time I went down and there was a soldier who was on leave and a teenage mother. They cried their hearts out, “I still remember that night vividly.”

“I tried to comfort them by saying don’t worry too much as there are ways to solve the problems. I suggested to the soldier to contact his parents, and he said that he was afraid that he would be beaten to death. But despite the fear he approached his parents and told them the truth.  But their reaction was completely unexpected.  The parents said, ‘Bring the baby home.’ But not too many unwed parents have this big of courage.  Because of the fear from unaccepting parents, I wound up meeting seven parents of unwed mothers on their behalf.”
When the Baby Box opens and the bell rings, the Rev. Lee drops everything he does and runs downstairs. He wants to meet the parents. He feels the importance of taking care of the children that have been abandoned, but also want to share the burden that the unwed parents must go through.

“Most of the unwed mothers that come are in their teens.  How painful it must be for them to come? What agony they must go through in their hearts? They also need to live. They need a place to let go of their pain and shame. If I only cared for the abandoned babies what good would it do? Both the children and the parents must live.”

“Is there something greater than life…”
The Baby Box has now been in existence for five years, and there are some that criticize what I do. They claim, “The Baby Box encourages the abandonments and takes away the responsibility of unwed mothers to their children.”

“These sorts of accusations are like playing with words. Who has the guts to say to the teen mothers that what they are doing is wrong and they are responsible for the mess they made.  This type of attitude is very irresponsible.  Is there something more important than life?”
The Rev. Lee recalls a phone call he received from a teen mom. The voice on the other end said “I was about to take a poison with my child.” The Rev. Lee talked with the woman for two hours to change her mind. He finally convinced the mother to take the taxi and brought the baby to the church. She had a bottle of poison in her hand.

“It was very hard to convince her. Is there a person of critic that truly understands their predicament or at the least be curious to know what they are going through?  They only condemn me.  If a person is sinking in water one must first save the person. Will they argue that I do not have a life guard license? If there is a fire one must report the fire and help to put the fire out.  Why question one’s qualification? Really.”
The Reverend appears on all the media coverages on the Baby Box without hesitation.  It is to save the lives of the children. But each time he is also met by criticisms.

“I challenged one critic. ‘What problem does the Baby Box bring?’ He said that it encourages additional abandonments of babies. So I asked him. ‘What evidence do you have to show there are more babies abandoned because of the Baby Box? He couldn’t show any evidence.  In actual, the Human Rights Association of Korea handed down a conclusion. The Baby Box does not violate the human rights.”
On May of last year, someone submitted to the Human Rights Association of Korea complaining that the ‘Baby Box violates the human rights of children and the welfare law and that the building itself is illegal’.  But on September 27th of the same year, the Human Rights Association of Korea handed down the conclusion that ‘The Baby Box is not in violation of the human rights nor is there a legal basis that the building is considered illegal’.”

‘The Law that does not protect both the children and the parents’
The Rev. Lee claims ‘Special Adoption Law’ is the cause of child abandonments.  When the law was enacted in August 2012, the adoption process changed from a reporting system to the approval system. On top of that the adoption requirements for the parents got tighter and required the unwed mothers to register their children, thus making it much more difficult to adopt.

“It is driving the unwed mothers to the edge as they cannot register. It is an abuse by the law. How can a teen mom register her baby? Even if she did, she cannot raise him so she must relinquish him for adoption. Both sides of the birth parents must get involved. Is this feasible? How many can be adopted through this means? And this is not all. The registration record gets erased when a child is adopted. But for those babies that don’t get adopted, or those that are disrupted, their registration doesn’t get erased.  What kind of law is it that it cannot protect both the mothers and the children?”
Before the Special Adoption Law people can simply report on their adoptions, but now the family court is involved to approve or disapprove the adoptions.  In the old days people were able to adopt as their children as if they were their own, but now secret adoption is no longer possible. It is because the family court is involved.

In the US, all 50 states have the law (Baby Safe Haven Law) that allows anonymous abandonments. It doesn’t involve complicated documents or providing detailed information. This was developed to save the lives of children that have nowhere to go.
“I am not complaining over nothing. The special adoption law may provide a better life for the children adopted. But we do know this. Before August 2012 when the special adoption law was enacted, the Baby Box used to average two children being abandoned per month.  And now? It has gone up 9 or 10 times to around 20 children per month.  Is it the Baby Box that is causing child abandonment or the special adoption law?”

Also, the Rev. Lee states that the law is weak.
“Call the Ministry of Health and Welfare and see.  Ask what benefits a teen mother can receive. For an unwed father the family registration is impossible by himself. Therefore the adoption is impossible. Who needs to speak for the rights of these people?  In Sweden the country itself takes the responsibilities and helps find the missing birth parents and encourages the parents to be responsible in taking care of their children.  This isn’t done in Korea as this nation essentially says to an unwed mother, ‘You find out the child’s birth father and take care of the situation’. Is this something right for a country that is experiencing a severe population decline?

“The Society Loses If I Do Too Much”
There is a critical needs to take care of the children that have been abandoned.  There is a limit on the number of children that the City of Seoul can take care of.  Regarding this, the Reverend suggests this.

“Is there no solution to the current system? If they can contact 119 (emergency calls), and let them accept the abandoned children, that would be the best solution. There will always be people in standby, they will have the emergency medical system, with good connections to the hospitals. If such systems can be set up at each prefecture in Korea, then this would be wonderful. Why can’t they be doing this?”

Though the Rev. Lee suffers from the arthritis on his left arm, he still takes care of the baby. There is something that he would really want to see happen.
“I think I will be happy when the evilness of the special adoption law is revised and there is no more children abandoned at the Baby Box.  If I work too much, the society suffers.  But these days I have lots of works. It is very frustrating. I am getting old.  Another wish is that for young people to have the right views on sex. Teenagers are taught or tempted to experiment with sex constantly. I think it would be wonderful if the teens are taught to have the right view of sex through a better education.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Age Waiver Relaxed for Previously Adopted Couples

Some of you have already heard this news.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare in Korea (MOHW) has relaxed the age requirement for couples to apply for adoption up to 49 for those that have previously adopted from Korea, effective August 1, 2014.

For those families that want to adopt another child from Korea, this is great news.

The new guideline also clarifies the age limits for the Korean-heritage families and adoptee couples, but this practice was already in place since 2007, though some agencies may not have followed closely on this.

For those that are adopting for the first time from Korea, the age requirement is 45 at the time of application (some agencies confuse this as the time when the MOHW approves the adoption).  But the agencies may have already put in place for people to allow enough time by applying at 42 or as late as 43.  But in my previous email inquiries to MOHW, they were very clear that the age is applicable at the time of application, not at the time of approval by the MOHW.

I will double check on this fact and get back to you.

A special permission will be given to prospective adoptive parents up to age 49 as long as they meet one of the below requirements:

1. Both prospective adoptive parents are Korean-heritage.
2. One prospective adoptive parent is a Korean adoptee.
3. The prospective adoptive parents already have a Korean adopted child.

I think I understand why this new guideline is being placed.  It is perhaps to shorten the adoption process, where the home study is already available, and also the psychological evaluation already being available as well.  Also, there is already an established trust where a family that has already adopted a child from Korea and does well, will most likely be trusted again with another child.

So for those who wanted to adopt again but couldn't because of the age limitation, this is your chance.

At any rate, this is a great news to many prospective parents and for children as well, only if more children are allowed to leave Korea to go to their homes.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Revision to Forego the Unannounced Family Visitation Requirement in the Law

Just recently, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) has announced that it will forego the requirement in the Special Adoption Law that called for unannounced family visitations by the agencies during the home study period (Art 8, Sec. 3).

The MOHW has changed its mind upon further review of this issue that many times the agencies would waste their time visiting the families that are not at homes, and the unannounced visitation would amount to violating privacy rights of the families involved. In the litigation conscious country like the US, this is an important factor for both agencies and the families being visited unannounced. 
This issue has nothing to do with the death of Hyusu O’Callaghan and the mass it created aftermath.  But the unannounced visitation was articulated in the law well before the boy’s tragedy.
Instead of the unannounced visit, the MOHW has decided to accept a total of three (3) reference letters, signed and notarized.  Of the three letters, one can be from a relative, and the other two should be from close friends, co-workers, supervisors, pastors, etc.

How is this letter different from the reference letters requested by the agencies during the home study period?  Nothing. Except that the letters now have to be signed and notarized. So, for those who are already in the process, it may mean that you will have to obtain the original letters from your agencies, or write additional reference letters (as some agencies required only two letters before).  If you have already submitted the letters, you are required to have the original reference letters signed and notarized.

Fortunately, the letters may be from the same individuals who wrote them for the home study, but must be freshly signed/notarized - keeping in mind that only one may be from a relative.  The letters should be kept to one page in length.
If you are one of the families affected by this new change, you should hear from your agency soon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Penalties for the Agencies If Domestic Adoption Efforts Not Made

This is in the news in several newspapers in Korea today.  The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) has warned the three adoption agencies that it will order the agencies the work shutdown penalty from 7 - 15 days if the agencies do not comply with the mandates of the special adoption law to give priority for domestic adoption over intercountry adoption.

This came about during the audit of an agency, where in 15% of the cases there was no adequate efforts to place the children domestically first (that means in 85% of the cases the agency clearly showed that there were efforts to find homes domestically). 

While the agencies have kept the records of their efforts to place the children domestically and this record was shown in the audit, the MOHW faulted the agency in their failure to work with the central adoption database created by the Korea Adoption Services (KAS), where the children's information could be shared with another agency, which in turn might be able to find a home through its network.  In other words, if Holt has a child they are having some difficulty in placing within Korea, Holt is to share that child's data through KAS' database, so another agency like Eastern or SWS may try to find a home within Korea.  Whether this effort is in addition to the five-months holding period or that this is to be done within the five-months period, I'm not sure.  I would think that this should be done within the five-months holding period.

Apparently this component of the domestic placement effort wasn't being done to the satisfaction of the MOHW.  The special adoption law requires this, and this process of working through the database is still a work in progress between the agencies and the KAS. By instituting the penalty of closing down the agency for 7 to 15 days, the MOHW is squeezing the necks of the agencies to comply quicker.

As for the family court, I hear that the judges will be taking vacations from July 20th to August 10th. Not all of them will take the vacation at the same time. However, it does not mean that the other judges will take over the cases assigned to the vacationing judges.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Legacy of a Father

My parents John and Margaret Morrison at their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2001

On my way to work the other day, I was listening to a radio show where the speaker asked the audience, "What kind of legacy would you want to leave with your children when you are gone?"  I was very challenged by the question and throughout the day, and even to this day, I ask myself the same question.  What legacy do I want to leave for my children?

A pastor named John Maxwell really knew what he was talking about when he defined what success means.  He said, “Success is having those who are the closest to me love and respect me the most.” Of all the definitions of success I have heard in the world, this one got to be one of the best so far.

In thinking of the legacy, it was very natural that I think of my father, John Morrison, who passed away in March 2006.  If my love and respect for my father could be measured by any means, he would be easily considered one of the most successful persons that have ever lived for the great legacy he left for me.  This is coming not just from me, but from my four other siblings, and my 90 years old mother who still lives.

I still remember the many precious conversations I had with my Mom and Dad, and how they always relished in sharing the stories from their past. My Dad especially relished the story on how he got me. 
One night in early 1969, my Mom and Dad, who already had three children by birth and adopted a ten years old Amerasian boy from Korea a year earlier, was looking through a bimonthly newsletter from Holt and saw many children that needed homes.  They were listed with their pictures and brief descriptions.

My Mom casually asked Dad a question, “Should we adopt another child from Korea?” She asked the question partly out of her compassion for the children, and partly to test how Dad would react. To such question, Dad’s reply was simply, “Which one do you want?”  At which Mom was taken back with such a strong and positive reply from Dad.
Together they glanced through many pictures of boys and girls in the newsletter. As they looked at the pictures, one picture of a boy caught the eyes of my father.  He looked at him, and something in him pulled him towards the boy so strongly that he knew as soon as he saw him that the boy was his son.  Dad pointed his finger to the boy’s picture and said, “This is the one.”

But my Mom wasn’t so sure. It was mainly because the boy was described as a 13 years-old, and that concerned her.  She said, “Oh no, not a 13 years old, he is too old. But how about this one? He’s only eight.” To which my Dad firmly replied. “No. This is the boy. I know this is my son.” This didn’t please my Mom at all, and she picked another boy of nine years old. Dad shook his head and said, “I made up my mind. This is him.” Mom tried another child, but Dad was very set in his heart.

Mind you my Dad rarely displayed the character of stubbornness, and it was usually Mom who got her ways as Dad was always agreeable to please Mom, but not this time. Something in him told him that the boy, who would later become Steve Morrison, was his son.  Out of desperation Mom consulted the boy (James) they adopted earlier, and he said without hesitation, “Get him!”  That settled it. Of course James knew me from the same orphanage.
For many years after my arrival into the home, Dad would occasionally tell this story before me and other visitors with such pride, and Mom would go along with great joy at the risk she took. I never once got bored of hearing the story again and again. Each time I felt a great sense of gratitude as I reflected on their story.

For many years to follow up to the time of his death my father set before me a strong role model of a fatherhood that I never had before.  The way he loved Mom, the way he loved and cared for us, and the sacrifices he made on behalf of our family.  He would get a special loan just to pay my for my college expenses and would not say anything about it.  He would tell me not to worry about money, just focus on my studies. My college expense was more than that of all the other siblings combined.  It would be several years after my graduation that I would learn about the loan.  When I finally learned of it, I was deeply moved.
His love for me expressed in words still rings in my ears after all these years.  “When we adopted you we did it to help you, as you had no family.  But after all these years, it is we who have been blessed so much more through you.”

I could never forget the time when he pulled me aside and said, “I have made some very important decisions in my lifetime.  The best decision was to believe in God, the second best decision was to marry your mother, and the third best decision was to have you in our family.”
My father left a legacy of love and respect that he did not try to earn. He simply live it as what he knew was his duty discharged by God.  He set before me sound principles of life to follow, and what it means to live as a servant of God.

As I reflect on the immensity of the legacy that my father left for me, I am challenged to leave a legacy that will be claimed by my children one day. The legacy that I can only imitate the one left by my father, who chose me that one night, thousands of miles across the Pacific.

Friday, June 6, 2014

No Delays in EP or Court Process Anticipated.

The EP process is moving on with no stopping. 
This also goes for the family court proceedings, there is no stoppage.

The only potential slow down might be due to vacation day choices the family court judges may take, which usually peak in the month of July and August.
Recently, however, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) has put into the regulation the requirement by the agencies to make unannounced visits to potential adoptive families that are in the homestudy stage.  This type of visit requirement does not include the visits during the post-adoption study period.

To the person I talked on this, I stated that this will not sit well with the American culture (probably European culture as well), where any visit by anyone is usually known ahead of time, and to do otherwise would be considered a bad manner. 

The agencies in Korea are pushing back on this as they are acutely aware of the families' reactions to this.  They are collecting data from the US and Europe to determine if any other countries are excercising this practice.  The idea behind the unnounced visit is to catch a family by surprise and see how bad (or good) the candidate adoptive families are living in a normal day-to-day environment. 

I think this is a very poorly thought out regulation, and I am not sure where and how they got such idea of having a 'Big Brother is Watching You' type of idea, but if I had to guess, it probably is an after thought that came out of Hyunsu O'Calaghan's tragedy. 

Also, a foster mother in Korea was leaving the children in her home to tend to other things. When one day social worker visited the home unannounced, they found the child by himself.  The agecy decided to remove the child from the foster mother.  That child was Hyunsu. 

During the high media coverage on Hyunsu, the foster mother went on the media blaming the agency for denying her request to adopt Hyunsu, but in fact the truth was that she never followed through the adoption request. 

The unannounced visit regulation is not yet finalized, but I am thinking (and hoping) it woudn't go through.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Meeting with the Family Court Justices

I have arrived in Korea two days ago.

Yesterday I had the honor and a privilege of visiting the Family Court and had a good meeting with the two of the four justices handling the adoption cases.  The other two judges, both females, were not available due to conflicting schedules. While not going into the particular details on how I was able to meet with the judges and who they are by names, I will share with you what I learned from this valuable meeting.
It appears that the judges are being rotated anywhere from one to two years, and one of the judges came in to take over the case loads from another judge that has been reassigned.  This took place in late February during the height of Hyunsu O'Callaghan's tragic story broke out while the EPs were temporarily were on hold.  This new judge had to take over the case loads that went back to December of 2013, and had to be brought up to speed on processing the adoption cases.  His first hearing took place in April 25th. And some folks have written to me with the question as to why one of the judges was so slow in processing the case, and this rotation in February was the main reason.

But the families that have met this new judge have expressed how they were pleased with him once they met him in the court.  The families felt that he was a gentleman with caring heart for children and families, and pleased the way he handled the court hearings even the families had to wait so long.  When I met this judge yesterday I passed on the compliments I have received from several families and he was very appreciative.

I learned that the adoption documents are submitted to the court by the agencies, and a clerk at the court assigns the cases to each of the four judges evenly in the order the documents are received.  The judges are not assigned to handle any one particular agency documents exclusively, but assigned with the documents from all three agencies.

In addition to the adoption matters, the judges are assigned with other non-adoptive family related matters.  In other words, they are not assigned to devote full time to handle adoption related cases.

I asked one of the judges on what a typical time span would be to process a family through the court, and he said that he tries to keep the whole process within three months.  The first month to review and ask the associated agency to provide additional or missing information, the second month to serve the notice (through the certified mail) to the birthmother of the impending adoption of her child and wait for her response (this process can take some time as many birth mothers are slow to respond or not respond at all). A notice is sent to the birth mother that her child is being finalized for adoption and whether she wishes to remain in contact to receive the notices from the court or not.  The birth mother can check off her response and send it back to the court. 

The judges stated that based on their experiences, only a few birthmothers choose to stay informed as most of them don't want to receive any more information updates, meaning they really want to give up their children for adoption and this can shorten the process time somewhat.  The third month is for the adoptive parents to show up at the court for a hearing, and after a favorable ruling the 14-day appeal period clock starts.  The rights to appeal is sent to the birth mothers regardless of whether they checked off to receive the updated information from the court or not.  By law this is done not just on adoption matters but in all family-related court cases. This means that there is no way to avoid the two travels that some families need to make to pick up their children. 

After the Hyunsu O'Callaghan's tragedy, the court mandated some psychological evaluations such as MMPI from adoptive parents.  While there was a confusion at the beginning on what tests to be done and by who, the adoptive parents have accepted this lmited test as one of the realities of the long drawn out process.  And the justices are aware that no matter how restricive the process is there is no guarantee that another Hyunsu-like tragedy won't happen.  I also informed them that the filicide rate for non-adoptive biological families is ten times higher than that happens in the adoptive families, and they were aware of this statistics.  I commented that this is due to the already existing home study process that the agencies use to find the right parents, but it is not perfect.

Lastly I thanked the judges for taking their valuable time to meet with me, and I conveyed to them that there are many adoptive parents in overseas that are holding onto the pictures of their waiting children and everyday they wish that their children would come home soon.  I asked them to continue with their good works, and mentioned them the longer the children wait the more harms it will cause in their development and asked for their due dilligence in speedy process to unite the children with their families.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Another Hyunsu – This Time Beaten to Death by His Birthmother in Korea

Another Hyunsu – This Time Beaten to Death by His Birthmother in Korea

A Birthmother Beats Her 22-Month-Old Son to Death after a Change of Heart on Adoption
The original link to the story is at: http://vip.mk.co.kr/news/view/21/21/2117739.html
(in Korean)

The Namyangju City Police files murder charges on a 22-year-old birthmother.
The birthmother, who originally planned to have her son adopted overseas but changed her mind, beat her 22-month-old son to death for prolonged crying after a fall.  The police department at the city of Namyangju in the Kyong-gi province arrested and filed murder charges against the 22-year-old mother on April 10th.

On March 24th, the boy was playing in the living room of their apartment after waking up at 11 o’clock in the morning. The birthmother beat her son several times in the abdomen area because the boy would not stop crying after a fall. 
Initially, the birthmother reported to the police that ‘the boy was not moving after falling asleep’. But the police became suspicious and probed the mother further by questioning her because the boy’s body had sustained numerous injuries and bruise marks on the face and on the body.  After further questioning, she confessed to the murder.

According to the police report, the mother gave birth to the boy in June of 2012, and decided to relinquish him to an adoption agency to be adopted overseas, and a foster mother took care of the baby since September of the same year.
Once the boy’s intercountry adoption was decided, the mother filed a petition to the agency to reclaim the boy, and he was returned back to the mother on March 12th of this year.

The  birthmother already had a 4-year-old daughter with her boyfriend, and later had the boy who is now dead.  After her boyfriend joined the military service, she raised her daughter by herself.  The couple was not married.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

EP Temporary Stalled, But Willl Move Again

The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) called a meeting yesterday with all three intercountry adoption agencies after a prolonged delays in approving the EPs due to the incident related to the death of Hyunsu O'Callaghan. 

I am told that after the meeting, the long delayed EP process may flow again.  However, one of the most notable decision of the meeting was to instruct Holt to end its relationship with the Catholic Charities, as they will no longer be able to place children from Korea.  The other decision was only to work with the agencies that have received the Hague accreditations.

The fact of the matter is that most of the agencies that Holt, Eastern and SWS work with, whether they be in the US or Europe, already have accreditations from Hague.  It was MOHW's concern that in the past some of the home studies might have been conducted by non-Hague accredited agencies, and this is unacceptable from now on.

But my heart goes out to the Catholic Charities, a fine agency with great people, have received much of the blame for the death of Hyunsu along with Holt.  Catholic Charities, a Hague accredited agency, is really being punished by the MOHW.  It is one of those things where someone must take the blame, and the Ministry's axe fell on them.  There is a rumor floating around, that perhaps four other agencies in the US or Europe will loose their privileges in placing children from Korea, but nothing firm has been decided on this yet.

Some waiting parents, whose cases have been submitted to the court,  have pulled out of the program, unable to endure the painful delays.  I am thinking perhaps the additional headaches of going through the battery of psychological tests might have been too much for them.  But I sincerely wish they hadn't, and still wish they would change their minds.  They need to focus on the children they are adopting, and think nothing else.

I am told that the Ministry will shortly begin the EP process again, but what other technical delays that may rise is anyone's guess.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hyunsu’s ‘Intercountry Adoption’ Who is to Blame? - by IMPeter

This a translated version of a Korean blogger named IMPeter - This is the most well researched and most thoroughly presented blog, questioning the validity of criticisms launched against Holt and intercountry adoption after the incident involving the death of Hyunsu O'Callaghan. I have never met the author, but apparently his blog is one of the most widely read blog in Korea. He has over 500,000 followers and is one of the most famous political analyst in Korea.

The original link for IMPeter blog is at:  http://impeter.tistory.com/2439 (Korean).

현수 '해외입양' 책임, 과연 누구에게 있나?
Hyunsu’s ‘Intercountry Adoption’ Who is to Blame?


A Korean child who was adopted abroad died in February of this year.  The boy’s adoptive father is facing first degree murder charges as the Korean boy was allegedly killed by him four months after the adoption.

Through this unfortunate event, the media and some civil organizations have placed blame on ‘Holt Children’s Services’.

Of course, Holt is responsible in some measure as the agency that placed Hyunsu for intercountry adoption (ICA). However, it was very disappointing to watch all the media launch unwarranted attacks against Holt and adoption without fully understanding the complexities involved with the current system of adoption.  

I wish to examine the facts regarding Hyunsu’s death and hope to clear away some misunderstandings and questions related to ICA.

I first posted this writing on March 18th, and I revised it and reposted on March 21st.  There are several reasons for my revision.

1. Hyunsu’s birthmother does not wish to have his face continue to appear, so I used a mosaic effect to block his face. 

2. A minor correction was made regarding the items purchased for Hyunsu that was included in the adoption expenses.

3. The foster mother’s disqualification to adopt domestically.

4. Reexamination of the earlier data obtained for accuracy.

5. Some civil organizations’ negative reaction to Holt’s claim.

(If you downloaded the earlier blog, please at least, mosaic out Hyunsu’s face)

#The main cause of death is due to Holt’s failure to better investigate?

Most media has blamed that the death was attributable to Holt’s failure to properly investigate the adoptive parents.  But IMPeter has obtained many documents used to investigate the adoptive parents from Holt.

<Hyunsu’s Adoption Documents>

Adoptive parents’ report,
Homestudy, original to the Department of Homeland Security
Statement of Adoption (Original)
Parents’ Medical Reports
Statement of Religious Freedom
Criminal Investigation Report (FBI)
Child Abuse History Report
Alcohol and Drug Use Investigation
Physician’s statement on physical and mental examination
Youth custody evaluation survey (To prevent child abuse)
Parents’ Certificate of Adoption Education
Adoptive Parents Credentials
Financial Reports

In particular, the adoptive father, Mr. O’Callaghan was examined by the Maryland Child Services four different times, and because he served in the military, his military service record was added (To examine any record of disciplinary actions or psychological problems).

Steve Morrison is an adoptee, and in his letter to Representative Min Hyun Ju and the Family Court Justices, he noted that despite the most rigorous investigation methods used by the NSA, they could not find any flaws with Mr. O’Callaghan.

■ Even the NSA’s rigorous investigation could not detect a flaw in O’Callaghan
The NSA in the US is a national security agency, and to qualify to work at this agency requires the most rigorous type of background investigation. But despite such stringent examination, the NSA could not detect a flaw in him.

In order to be employed by the NSA, one must go through a physical exam, Polygraph lie detection interview, psychological tests, drug tests, past residence history, etc.  To be in a position like the one Brian O’Callaghan had, one has to be cleared to have top secret clearance that lasts anywhere from 3–12 months.  The NSA conducts various psychological tests to weed out any undesirable candidates.  You may learn more about the methods used by the NSA to investigate a potential employee at (http://work.chron.com/process-nsa-intelligence-analyst-interview- 16430.html)
It is impossible for an adoption agency to investigate a potential parent to the level equal to NSA.  They lack the resources and manpower and finances to conduct such tests.  How can one expect an agency to find a flaw that NSA could not?  That is why O’Callaghan’s alleged crime (if he gets convicted in the trial) is really out of the norm and very exceptional, and it is not due to the adoption process.

Hyunsu’s adoptive parents visited Korea three times and have met with him ten different times, and they went through the 13-hour adoption education that touched on ‘What it means to have a multi-cultural familiy,’ ‘The impacts upon a child before and after the adoption,’ ‘Developmental Risk Factors,’ and other topics. 

Unlike how the media has portrayed them, the homestudy document produced by Holt clearly shows that their investigation was very thorough, and it was difficult to see that Holt has been negligent in finding good parents for children.

Below is the Post Placement Service Report on Hyunsu prepared by the Catholics Charities Child and Family Services.

The media has blamed Holt, that they did not do its job well regarding Hyunsu’s ICA post- placement service.  But this is different from the truth.  The American agency in charge of Hyunsu, the Catholics Charities has submitted to Holt the child post placement reports after his adoption on October 26th.  They also submitted to Holt the post-placement service reports on November 11th and on December 20th.

The requirement by the Special Adoption Law is that the post-placement service reports be submitted until the time a child is granted citizenship.  However, at Holt, they have a requirement to submit at minimum three post-placement service reports within a year.
IAMPeter is convinced after reviewing many of the documents, that rather than blaming Holt for the lack of investigation, I feel the need to offer a more fundamental solution.

The activists and a few civil organizations that are against ICA have accused Holt for having adoption fees that are very high.  However, one cannot reduce overhead expenses and hope that there is no impact on the investigation. In fact, this is nonsense.  If a more thorough investigation is required, then more expenses are involved, and if budget is reduced to investigate, then the investigative efforts will become weak.

Perhaps the Korean Government could get involved with the investigative aspects of ICA and domestic adoption, and only approve couples that have passed the investigation to adopt. (Except that this may produce other problems as the social workers may be overloaded and other unforeseen problems may arise.  So a separate budget and resources need to be planned).

# Holt’s Purpose in ICA is Because of Money?

Many have been misled into thinking that intercountry adoption agencies prefer to send children abroad to charge higher fees to make greater profits.  But IAMPeter has examined the data and this is also not true.

The Table below breaks down the revenue and expense comparison between a child adopted through ICA and a child adopted domestically in Korea for the year 2013.  The table assumes $1 = ₩1,060, and assumes that the agency holds a child for 24 months before being placed overseas.  So using this data, the total ICA revenue that Holt receives per child is $32,304 ($14,500 for overseas adoption fee, $1,380 for medical/visa/translation fee, $12,517 support from the Korean Government during 24 months, and $3,907 for an overseas sponsor program).

But the table also shows the expenses involved during the 24-month span while Holt is holding a child.  The total expense per child is $37,090.  This results in the loss of $4,786 when sending a child overseas.

In the domestic adoption category, the total revenue per child is $6,128 per child, but the expense involved (based on only a 5-months holding period) is $7,707 per child, thus resulting in a loss of $1,579 per child. 

So the bottom line is that Holt experiences a greater financial loss for sending child overseas (-$4,786) than placing a child domestically (-$1,579).   

The claim that the adoption fee for ICA is higher than the domestic adoption fee is true.  However, when you factor in the expenses involved, the loss due to ICA is greater than that of domestic adoption. 

The average time a child is in custody by Holt is 27 months, and during that time the total expenses involved for a child was $37,090. Holt has on average experienced minus $4,786, and this is not covered by the adoption fee, but by the sponsorship donations received by Holt.

In the case of Hyunsu, it was difficult to find a home in Korea, and up to the time he was placed overseas, the expenses accumulated for his medical needs far exceeded that of a healthy child being placed domestically. 

In 2008, Holt had received an audit on their finances related to the adoption fees.  The problem lies with the ever increasing length of time the agency has to keep a child before placing overseas, which causes increased expenses.  Therefore to complain that the ICA cost is too high is really meaningless. 
In order to resolve the accusations placed on Holt by the civil organizations, the Ministry of Health and Welfare must examine the financial reports submitted by the agencies, and make their reports on adoption fees public.  

# More Domestic Adoption than ICA at Holt

Many people think that the number of adoptions through ICA is bigger than that of domestic adoptions, but surprisingly the number of ICA is small.  The reason is that compared to the domestic adoption, the ICA is much more complicated and expensive.
In order to place a child overseas, the child must be held in Korea for five months as the Special Adoption Law has put greater priority in domestic placement of a child.  This is the reason why the ICA is on the decline.

The figure below shows the decline in adoption for both domestic and ICA.  The blue bar indicates the number of domestic adoptions while the red bar denotes ICA. 

The media ignores these facts and continues to sensationalize with the use of such old terms as ‘Orphan Exporting Nation’ and falsely portrays Holt’s number of overseas adoption to be larger than the number of domestic adoptions. 

But during the past three years, the total number of domestic adoption was 1,153 (61%) while the ICA was 722 (39%).

If Holt was interested in making money, then there would be no reason why they would return 171 children to their biological families during the past three years. 

# Why Hyunsu Had to be Placed Overseas?

Holt has worked with Hyunsu’s birthmother, who relinquished him for adoption on June 17, 2010, and up to the time when the boy was assigned for ICA on August 23, 2012.  For 26 months Holt encouraged Hyunsu’s birthmother to keep him or look for domestic adoption options.

<Holt’s Efforts to Return Hyunsu to His Birthmother>

Aug 2, 2010,  Hyunsu’s birthmother brought him over to Holt’s office for the first time, brought clothes and gifts for Hyunsu to keep (suggested the birthmother to keep the baby).
Oct 29, 2010, Hyunsu’s birthmother showed up at the hospital where Hyunsu was being treated (Recommended birthmother to take Hyunsu back).
Feb 13, 2012, The birthmother requested a meeting with Hyunsu.  Met at the Holt office (Another recommendation made to take Hyunsu back).
Holt has continually asked the birthmother to take the custody of the child, but the birthmother was firm in placing him up for adoption.

IMPeter has learned that Holt had met with Hyunsu’s birthmother on three different occasions and encouraged her to take him back.  However, despite the continued efforts, the birthmother maintained that it would not be possible for her to raise him. 
Holt has made efforts to find a family in Korea to adopt Hyunsu, but was not successful.

Below is a figure on a child age/gender preference for domestic Korean adoptions:  74.9% prefer under 3 years old, 25.1% prefer ages 3 and up, and 23.7% prefer males whereas 74.2% want females.

The biggest reason why Hyunsu could not find a home in Korea was that he was born premature, and he had special needs: hydrocephalus (water on the brain), language delay, and developmental delay.  74.2 % of Koreans prefer females (23.7% prefer males), and only12.5% are open to special needs children.
There is hardly anyone who would adopt a special needs boy like Hyunsu in Korea, and this is the reason why ICA may not go away.

Some have advocated that despite these factors, adoption should not have happened. But if a special needs child is forbidden to be adopted abroad, the child must grow up in an institution or a special needs facility.  However, in consideration of the prejudice and social stigma the child must endure in Korea, forbidding intercountry adoption regardless of these prejudices is not the best (right) choice for the child.

Below is a graphic illustrating the ICA process that Hyunsu went through.  He was born May 7, 2010, relinquished at the agency on June 17, 2010, placed for ICA on December 3, 2010, adoptive family identified on August 23, 2012, and departed for US on October 26, 2013.

Hyunsu was born in May 2010 and was relinquished by the birthmother, and could not find a family in Korea during the six months holding period (most likely) due to his special needs status.
Subsequently after 20 months of looking for a family overseas, the O’Callaghan family was identified on August 23, 2013. A year after the adoptive family was found, and after final adoption was granted, Hyunsu left for America on October 26, 2013.

Below is an image of a news article that appeared in the Korea Times regarding Hyunsu’s former foster mother who claimed that she wanted to adopt Hyunsu but Holt rejected her.  The headline of the article reads, “Hyunsu, I wanted to adopt him in Korea…”

Hyunsu’s foster mother’s interview with Korea Times (The original photo in the article had Hyunsu’s face shown, but IMPeter mosaic-ed out his face at birthmother’s request)

Some media interviewed Hyunsu’s former foster mother and stated that Holt had chosen to send Hyunsu overseas despite the foster mother’s desire to adopt him domestically.  

Hyunsu’s foster mother cared for Hyunsu from June 17, 2010 to January 20, 2011. The foster mother’s license to foster was revoked after Hyunsu was recalled back to the Seoul office on May 23, 2012.  The reason for the revocation was that the foster mother had two foster children from Holt, and two other children through another agency, thus totaling four children. (By regulation foster parents cannot foster more than two children at a time).

In the media Hyunsu’s foster mother claims that she had expressed a desire to adopt Hyunsu, upon further probing she had never officially applied for adoption (an adoption process can only proceed with the application of documents). 
It was said in the media that foster mothers are not allowed to adopt the children they are fostering, but IMPeter has found out that there have been 38 such adoptions through Holt in the past.

# Problems with Adoption is due to Ignoring the Reality

After the enactment of the Special Adoption Law, there has been 208 children who were abandoned through the ‘Baby Box’. 

As the media covered the ‘Baby Box’ stories, it became apparent that the media did not feature the information that birthmothers needed to see or hear, especially the problems resulting from the Special Adoption Law.

1. A baby left in the Baby Box can be adopted?

The birthmothers mistakenly think that by putting their babies in the Bab Box they will be adopted domestically or through ICA.  But the children abandoned through the Baby Box cannot be adopted because of the law.  
In order to place a baby for adoption, one must receive an approval from the Family Court, and according to the Special Adoption Law Article 12, a child must receive consent from the birth parents.  Without the approval from the birth parents, the children are sent over to institutions where they will grow up without being adopted.

Birth Records Gets Erased?

According to the law, an adoption is only possible if a baby is registered in to a family registry record. This is the reason why many birthmothers abandon their babies to remain anonymous.

Some believe that once a child has been registered and relinquished for adoption, the registration record will be removed. This is true.  However, the average adoption process takes over two years.  Because the registration record remains until a child is officially adopted, and during that time the mother is unable to get a job or get married, this results in them choosing the unthinkable.

Adoptees are Better Able to Find Their Birth Parents?

Each year many adult adoptees visit Korea to look for their birth parents. For those who are in support of the Special Adoption Law, their claim is that the law provides easier access to records that will help them find their birth parents. 
This is different from the reality.  It is true that adoptees can access the records containing information on birth parents.  However, if a birth parent chooses not to make the records available, then the adoptees cannot access them. 

Since 1980, the adoption agencies have maintained most of the records on birth parents.  This has resulted in many meetings between the adoptees and their birth parents. 
Since the new law, the law does not allow access to the records of birthmothers, and this has resulted in the agencies not being able to help with the birth parent searches.

The domestic adoption agencies make efforts to encourage biological parents to stay together as a family.  Despite all the efforts being made to encourage the birthmothers to keep their children, they continue to give up their children. 

The table below shows the rationale as to why unwed mothers choose adoption.  According to the 2010 data, there were 16,034 single mothers in Korea.  There were 2,262 babies from unwed mothers consisting of 91.8% of all adoptions taking place in 2010.  The financial support given to unwed mothers who are 24 years and under was $142 per month, and for those over the age of 24 were given $66 per month (up to the child’s 5th birthday). Strong social stigma against unwed mothers was another reason for them to not be able to keep their children as 89% attributed this as the reason.  78.6% cited the economic challenges as the reason for not being able to raise their children after they have decided to keep their children.

# Fix These Before Ending the ICA

IMPeter in no way is stating that Holt’s adoption system is perfect, nor claims that Hyunsu’s adoptive father is innocent (as he is waiting for trial and the results are not known) and I am not overly pushing to favor ICA in any way. 

However, we must be careful not to believe over-sensationalized news articles that are wrong, but objectively examine the whole issue of adoption and look at the issue of adoption with a keen mind. 

 [Notes on the figure below] The figure below shows some examples of benefits provided to unwed mothers.  In Germany, unwed mothers are provided with $1500–$2500 cost of living expenses (didn’t say whether monthly or annually, my guess is annually) depending on their income level.  The unwed mothers are given 14 months of maternity leave with up to $2,500 per month assistance, and assistance provided to continue with their education. 

In England, the unwed mothers are provided with educational expenses ranging from $35–$50 per month.  It also includes $270 per child assistance, and depending on the number of hours worked, they are given an income subsidy of $80–$100 per week.  They also provide educational programs such as ‘Sure Start’ to train the unwed mothers.

In France, unwed mothers are assisted with monthly increase of $120 /month on top of their basic family benefits of $480.  For unwed mothers with no income, they provide $800 monthly support, and for each child, an additional $1050 per month is provided.  Also unwed mothers are provided up to $380 per month for educational subsidy.

In these countries, the social stigma against unwed mothers is not that prevalent, and it is possible to live off of the assistance provided by the government. 
However for Korea, where unwed births are on the rise in a society filled with social stigma against unwed mothers, Korea is telling unwed mothers to raise their own children with the meager assistance of only $140 per month. 

People need to look at ‘adoption’ from the reality where in Korea, the system is such that even if an unwed mother wishes to keep her baby, she is not able to.

[Notes on above figure]  Instead of forcibly trying to put an end to ICA, the Government must pay closer attention in making it possible for keeping the biological families together and promote domestic adoption through social consensus. 
At minimum, the unwed mothers must be given the same amount the government spends to keep a child in an institution, which is approximately $990 per child per month.  Laws must be created to protect discrimination against unwed mothers (i.e. figure above mentions punishing a school official that makes an unwed mother quit school). 

If an unwed mother can’t keep her child, the government must provide a favorable adoption system, as the child is better off being adopted to a good family than to live in an institution. 

We criticize ICA and paint it as an evil practice, and yet we shirk away from adopting our own children, and we turn our face away from the children simply because they have special needs. 

 Hyunsu’s death has made many to pick up stones and cast them at Holt and other agencies.  But is it right to cast stones at them? We are labeling the adopted children as ‘unwanted children’ and we undermine their character by taking away the opportunities they deserve.

One can oppose adoption for the sake of protecting a child. But there are children and families where this is the only option available.  To ruthlessly oppose adoption, without due regards for making any efforts to remove the social stigma or improving the family structure in society, will infringe on the children’s basic human rights for care and protection.

The connection between unfortunate circumstances where a child cannot live with his birth parents to an opportunity that leads across the valley of pain, this connecting bridge is called ‘adoption.’ Instead of unreasonably opposing adoption and casting a stone of condemnation, we as citizens of this nation must build a stronger bridge for our children.