The New Year celebration, no matter where it is held, is always met with expectations of more promising hope and better future. But when it comes to adoption landscape in Korea, it is hard to see the year 2015 will be any better. It is hard to be more hopeful or optimistic when so many children are impacted by the special adoption law. With so many children abandoned and the number of adoption less than half of what it used to be before the law, it is very hard to be optimistic. Pastor Lee of the Baby Box asked an appropriate question when he asked, "For whom was this law made to serve?" Definitely not for the children that are being abandoned as their rights to homes have diminished significantly.
Hardline stance against the adoption agencies
The Ministry of Health and Welfare has just thrown another wrench at the
three adoption agencies, by enacting a new rule as of January 6, where the
agencies must show clear evidence of making efforts to place children into
biological families, and also show that all efforts to place children
domestically have been exhausted before placing a child overseas. Also, the agencies are to glean out more qualified parents, and
provide one year of post-adoption service after the adoption. If the agencies
violate any of these rules, they are liable to be shut down for
business between 7 to 15 days.
The stringent requirements above are not without cause as it is the result
of one adoptive mother in Korea that abused and caused death of a child a month
ago, and the agency that provided the adoption service to the woman without
fully checking out on her background, was blamed for the mistake. And of
course there was Hyunsu O'Callaghan, who died at the hands of his adoptive
father in Maryland last year that resulted in stricter psychological screening
for adopting parents and extended post-adoption service to one year.
Changes in the Family Court
There is also a news that two or three judges at the family court may be
rotated out and replaced by other judges. However, the judge that has the best view on intercountry adoption
will remain, but he is also known to take longer than others to process the
cases. But a representative at an adoption agency confided with me that this does not mean that the court procedure will be delayed much. She predicted based on the past experience that no more than a month delay
initially, and then catch up right away. So the waiting families need not be
concerned regarding this. It is certain that some changes will happen in the court, but nothing has been decided so far.
EP Status as of 2014
The year 2014 has been a challenging year for domestic adoption in
Korea. The three agencies worked hard to place children domestically, and
I fear that my initial estimate of 600 was somewhat optimistic, meaning the
number may fall below 550, thus the number of intercountry EPs granted may be lower than 400 that was estimated
earlier. I am guessing that all three agencies will total around 360 EPs total
(again this is my estimate).
Despite all the challenges brought by these changes, I don't want to paint a doom and gloom forecast. It is increasingly becoming evident that despite the refusals by the Ministry and some anti-adoption organizations to admit that the special adoption law has backfired causing harms to so many children, more and more people are becoming convinced that while the law had some good aspects to it, it did not result in the best interest of the children. I hope this realization will continue to be spread to the people in the government to revise the special adoption law to allow anonymous relinquishment option available for unwed mothers that don't want or cannot raise their children.