Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Does Hyunsu's Tragic Case Call for Closing ICA? - My Perspective

Many adoptees are upset at the death of Hyunsu. And they are right to be mad and upset. Their cries to investigation and justice should be answered soon, and the correction should be made not to repeat this mistake again.

However I strongly disagree with some of the messages being advocated by some adoptees. They are calling for a complete stop to the intercountry adoption, and they are going way beyond the mourning of Hyusu and have used the issue of Hyunsu as a political platform to demand the closure of of intercountry adoption. Mourning and feeling sad is one thing, and demanding correction is perfectly justified, but to demand a complete stop on adoption is going too far, and I felt compelled to speak up.

At the beginning, their messages mainly demanded the justice and correcting the flaw in the adoption process, and Holt and the other agencies have taken the brunt of accusations for failing to weed out the bad parents. But now their messages have turned to a broader demand that all intercountry adoption from Korea be halted. Worst of all, some are advocating even domestic adoption should be stopped. One person in particular have labeld adoption, either interncountry or domestic, is a form of child abuse.

Some are now stating that Hyunsu would have been better off staying with his foster parents in Korea. Perhaps, or perhaps not. If he doesn't get adopted, he is taken out of the foster family and put into an institution. What good is it for him to grow up in an institution? What guarantee does he have that he would be safe in an institution where he would be much more open to attacks by his peers and perhaps by adults?

At least through adoption the intention was to provide him a loving home. But the intention was not returned with good results. He clearly met the wrong family, and in his case the system failed. More inquisitive questions should have been asked during the homestudy interviews, and the agency went through all the protocols, even USCIS Livescan to check on his parents' backgrounds, but obviously he fooled everyone - the US agency, the Korean agency Holt, the Ministry, and the judges at the family court. They all failed him.

Like I stated before, no amount of explanation can satisfy his death. But adoption can't be blamed as there are many adoptees whose adoption experiences has turned out good. For them it worked, and for some it hasn't.

The adoption process has a long history of improvements and changes, but to some extent it is still a hit and miss process where you find the majority of the parents as good parents while missing out some bad ones. So the adoption process is not perfect, and improvements must be made constantly, especially through the lessons learned through the recent tragedy. The process will never be perfect, and it will not guarantee a successful outcome, even in the future.

However, do we stop giving the opportunities and chances to the children to grow up and make something of themselves just because of these fears? How realistic is it to make such an important decision or a policy based on highly charged emotions? The Korean government officials will meet with the agency directors to discuss this, and there will be plenty more meetings and discussions before something is decided.

If you think the adoption should be stopped because of the similar risks, ask yourself this question. Life has many challenges and risks for a child growing up. Does that mean that we should pass a law forbidding parents to give birth to their children? I think not.

It is important to distinguish the difference between a system having a flaw and pursue all we can to correct the system than to demand an outright halt to all intercountry adoptions because of the risk present. The risks and the consequences would be much greater if the children are to grow up without homes of their own.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I Grieve for Hyunsu, But I Also Grieve for Many Other Children...

These are some of the recent news flashes from the PD Notes broadcast by MBC-TV in Korea. The message in the TV screen says, 

 "A shocking news that a Jr. High girl gave a birth and murdered her baby"
"A teenage girl gives a birth in a motel...
room and throws her baby out the window and kills."
"A woman in 20's gives birth in a PC Game Center's restroom and kills the baby."
"A dead baby with un umbilical chord still attached discovered by police."

These are just a few examples of many babies that are murdered or abandoned in Korea due to unwed mothers wanting to remain anonymous rather than register their babies as the Special Adoption Law requires.

My heart goes out to Hyunsu at the same time I grieve for these precious and innocent babies who died without ever being loved or cared.
I don't mean to take away any memory or attention from Hyunsu in any way, but my heart also breaks that there are many other babies whose lives are being taken away in Korea, even today.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The EP Process - What to Expect in 2014

First of all, my heart goes out to Hyunsu, a boy who died by his adoptive father in Maryland.  This incident certainly will put some damper on already delicate issues related to the intercountry adoption.  Already, there have been some demonstrations by the members of TRACK in front of Holt's office in Seoul, demanding more stringent home studies, and the news is widely being circulated through the social media. 

No amount of answers or explanations can make up for the loss of the little boy. Hyunsu's death is yet another reminder that no matter how careful an agency is with their homestudies, it is impossible to weed out a bad parent.  And it takes just one bad apple to ruin the reputations of thousands of good parents that have made adoption successful.  This is certainly an isolated incident, and certainly in no way a representative of thousands of good adoptive parents that have adopted children from Korea. There are just as equally the biological parents that abuse or murder their own children in the world. We hear of their stories frequently.  Is anyone demonstrating against these atrocities?

On the other hand, the year was starting fairly well until this incident happened.  However, unlike this time last year, when everything seems to be up in the air, the EP process is moving along without much hickups.  The current director of MOHW is gaining some credit for quickly restoring the slow EP process.  He is seen as adoption friendly, but known for sticking with the rules and very inflexible. 

Also, there seems to be a slow down at the Family Court for two reasons.  First, there is a new chief justice at the Family Court, and he himself is an adoptive father, and this is seen as a good news.  He took the helm at February 1 this year.  Secondly, the court will be out of session for about two weeks due to internal affairs organization and paperworks from February 24 - March 5.  There is no concern that the other judges are impacted, but the new chief judge is already well aware of the adoption process and the matters related to the special adoption law.

The quota for this year 2014 has not been set yet, but should be decided soon.  It is obvious that the last year's quota could not be met.  I plan to get more detailed data on this later.  But I am hopeful that this year's quota will be met. If I had to guess, it would be 10% below the last year's quota of 743, which would put at 669.  But this is just my guess, don't quote me on this.

Korea is still using the 2/3 rule, where the intercountry adoption will be approved based on the 2/3 the number of domestic adoptions that have been submitted to the family court.  In other words, if there were 300 cases of domestic adoption submitted to the family court, the MOHW will ask the agencies to submit 200 EP cases for intercountry adoptions.

The maturity of the Special Adoption Law's effects will be seen at the end of 2014.  Or most likely will be seen earlier.  The year 2013 was a learning experience by all - the agenices, MOHW, the family court, the waiting adoptive families, the unwed mothers, and the little children. So the number of adoption in 2013 was drastically down with only 495 EPs granted.  But the year 2014 will be the year of the full effect of the law with no delays in procedures or the processes anticipated.

Since the law will continue to impact the abandonement of children by the unwed mothers not wanting to register their babies, the number of babies being abandoned at the Baby Box will remain close to what it was last year.

And after that incident at Maryland, there will be additional discussions taking place at the government level as well as by the Family Court justices on how to avoid another tragic incident. And how this will impact the current adoption process is not known at this time.

Monday, February 17, 2014

How Long Must This Go On? - The Continued Abandonments and Murders of Children in Korea

I watched the MBC-TV's cultural documentary (MBC 시사교양) on child abandonments and murders in Korea in their tvpot program called 'PD 수첩' (PD Notes).  It is in Korean.  (http://tvpot.daum.net/mypot/View.do?clipid=56030283&ownerid=S45CL98BzEs0).  There are four other 3 - 4 min segments all related.

In it shows clearly the impact the special adoption law has on the number of abandonments and the killings by the unwed mothers. 

Most unwed mothers leave notes with their babies when they safely abandon them at the Baby Box.  Of all the abandonments through the Box in 2013, 48.8% of unwed mothers mentioned the special adoption law as the main cause for making them to bring their babies to the Baby Box.  This just from those that bothered to mention the reasons in their notes, but the reality would be closer to 100%.  They wanted to relinquish their babies at the adoption agencies, but the law forbids the agencies to accept them unless the unwed mothers register their babies. In other words, the law forbids them to relinquish their unwanted children anonymously, so they have abandoned their babies in massive numbers.

Here is the statistics shown by MBC. 
48.8% of unwed mothers have left notes with their babies at the Baby Box blamimg the special adoption law as the main reason for abandoning their children. (Source: MBC Daum TVpot)
Below figure shows the statistics on child abandonment and killings throughout S. Korea in 2013
This was the data according to the police report, the number of children found abandoned  in different regions of Korea.  Seoul was reported with 166 children, which seems low based on another data I have.  (Source: MBC Daum TVpot)

This one shows the historical perspective on the rise of child abandonment in Korea.
(Note: Apparently this figure doesn't seem to show the full number of abandonments in 2013, perhaps data good up to July 2013). The figure on the left is the comparison of the child abandonments between the year 2009 and 2013 at the national level, and it shows four-fold increase. The figure on the right shows the same comparison, but focused just in Seoul, and it shows 20 times the number of abandonments - 8 children in 2009 to 166 children in 2013. (Source: MBC Daum TVpot)

Here is another look at the historical perspective of child abandonments in Korea for the last four years.
This graph shows the number of children that came into the Baby Box in the year 2013 as 252 children (58 of them returned to unwed mothers).  The Baby Box was established late 2009, then 4 abandonments in 2010, 37 in 2011, 79 by Aug 2012, at which the special adoption law was enacted, thus resulting in a sharp increase in the number of abandonment.  (Source: MBC Daum TVpot)

Not all the children are wound up safely at the Baby Box.  There are many cases of children being killed throughout Korea. Here is another screen image from the MBC PD Notes program.
 From the top reads the new flash: (Source: MBC Daum TVpot)
"A tragic news from Busan, where a Jr. High student killed her newborn and fled."
"A teen mother gives birth at a motel and kills the baby by throwing out of the window."
"An unwed mother in her 20's gives birth to a baby and kills her at a PC-bang restroom is arrested."
"Police report - A dead baby found with umblilical cords attached."

Perhaps the saddest story covered by the MBC Daum TVpot is a story of a baby discovered in a toilet bowl.  The baby in the bowl was covered by the tissue papers when found.  Thankfully a person noticed a sound and went up to check on the restroom, and found the baby alive, and reported it to the police.  The baby suffered from hypothermia, but was recoverd and doing fine. 
 In this image, the gentleman who found the baby is demonstrating to the police on where he found the baby. The police examined the cc-camera, but could not identify the mother.  (Source: MBC Daum TVpot)

Many say the Baby Box encourages child abandonment because of media coverage.  However, the true story is that it was already well known even before the special adoption law was passed.  But the place became even greater news when the news of sudden rise in the number of children at the Baby Box was reported right after the adoption law was enacted on August 5, 2012. 
The Baby Box became much more widely known after that, but only because of the sheer number of abandonment was happening at the facility right after the law.  The timing of the increase in the number of abandonment coincides exactly with the time the law was enacted.  You see, before the law, the unwed mothers had the choice of visiting the adoption agencies to relinquish their babies without having to register their babies under their name, thus enabling anonymous relinquishment at the agencies, so they didn't need to go to the Baby Box.  But the new adoption law changed all this.  The agencies, under the new law, had to turn away the visiting unwed mothers as the unwed mothers chose not to register their babies.  They had nowhere to go but to the Baby Box.

How many more babies must be abandoned or killed before the Korean Government come to their senses the follies of their law? How many children must be sacrificed to their rights to families of their own?  How long will it take to bring about the changes needed for unwed mothers to raise their children?  And what about the rights of unwed mothers that wish to remain anonymous?