Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Some Changes Happening in the Family Court

Since the news from the Family Court in Korea is a public knowledge, I feel now I can share this news even though I knew of the change two months ago. 

As of February 23, 2015, the Family Court has changed the reduction in the number of judges presiding the adoption cases from four to two.  However, the catch is that the two judges will now focus on the adoption cases while paying less focus on the other civil matters related to family issues.

Prior to this, all four judges were assigned with cases dealing with not only adoptions, but other civil and family matters not related to adoption.  With the two judges, they will focus more on adoption cases while providing much experience and expertise related to adoption.

Now the big question is whether the two judges specializing in adoption cases will now be able to process the cases faster (as they should be more focused on adoption), or slower with the reduction of the number of judges to half.

My guess is that the processing time will neither pick up the speed nor slow down.  There is a big uncertainty as one of the two judges is known to be very thorough with his work and takes longer to process, but I am hoping that he will provide quicker service as he is now more focused on the adoption matters.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Final EP Approvals for 2014

I have just learned that the final EPs (Emigration Permit) approved by the Ministry for the year 2014 is 395, the number of children that are allowed to leave Korea to overseas. 

This number was based on the strict guideline set by the Ministry, which applies the 2/3 rule.  This rule is used to determine the number of intercountry adoption permitted based on the number of domestic placements taken by the three agencies (Holt, SWS, and Eastern).  This means that the domestic adoption in Korea (just by the three agencies) is just under 600 for the year 2014.

One note of caution is that not all 395 children have left Korea, as there are many that are still under the court proceedings at the Family Court for the finalization of adoptions.  The Ministry uses the number of EPs approved in a particular year to measure the number of intercountry adoption that took place in that year.

In the year 2013, the EPs approved for intercountry adoption was at 236 children.  Since the final EP for the year 2014 is 395, one may mistakenly assume that Korea is increasing its intercountry adoption.  On the contrary, Korea's goal is to continue to decrease the number of intercountry adoption that takes place. 

The reason for such low number in the year 2013 was that it was the first full-year where the special adoption law was implemented, and under the new law, all three entities involved in adoption - the adoption agencies, the Ministry, and the Family Court had some learning curve on how to implement the new requirements of the law into their daily business rhythm, thus far fewer children were adopted during the process.  Also the Hyunsu O'Callahan's death at the hand of his adoptive father delayed the process as well.

But it is true that the special adoption law has created havoc in the lives of children as much fewer children are being placed into homes.  What used to be over 1400 per year adoption before the new law (just domestic only) is now less than half of what it used to be, and this is a sad reality.

The proponents of the law would like you to think that because of significant increase in unwed mother keeping their babies has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of adoptions, but the reality is that very few are keeping their children, and far too many other children are put into the institutions. 

They also like to point out that the law screens out undesirable parents that may be involved in drugs or alcohol, or other social or psychological ills, but in reality there have been very few who have been denied adoption because of these problems. 

Perhaps the biggest reason for the decline is due to the removal of secrecy in adoption through the special adoption law.  For cultural reasons, a significant number of Koreans still want to keep their adoptions secret and the new law removed this possibility. 

The special adoption law removed the rights of unwed mothers from giving up their children anonymously that has caused so many abandonments in Korea.  In order for them to give their children up for adoption, they are required to register their children into family registries first before being able to give up for adoption. 

The issue is not the registration.  The issue is making this a requirement in order to place a child for adoption.  No unwed mother wants to register her baby she does want to keep.  Giving up children anonymously is practiced in many OECD countries.  Especially in the US, the Baby Safe Haven Law, practiced in all 50 states allows unwed mothers to give up their babies anonymously.  Why can't Korea do the same?

Korea needs to change its policy before it can expect to see the reduction in the number of children being abandoned in places like the Baby Box.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An Unwed Mother's Letter

Just three days ago, a baby was abandoned at the Baby Box with a letter left by a 28 years-old unwed mother.  I have translated her letter to my readers as this is most typical of so many unwed mothers that have abandoned their babies after the special adoption law was enacted in August 5, 2012. 
The Baby the 28 years-old unwed mother abandoned at the Baby Box 

I am a 28 years-old unwed mother.

Everything is at my fault.

Ten months ago I was a working woman, and I didn’t find out about my pregnancy until after six months have passed. 

I drank and smoked a lot, and I sought ways to abort the child by looking for information through internet. 

I had no money to afford an abortion, and I did not have a chance even to buy the baby items. And I knew I could not work as my tummy continued to expand.

I thought about killing both of us together to escape the problem, but that went on for a few months and the baby was born early on February 15th.

I cannot be discovered.  I must resolve this somehow…

I tried this and that, including the option adoption, but was told that the baby’s record will be on my record.

I suppose something could be done if I knew who the father was, but I was involved with many men, and I do not know who it is.

I feel so sad that the baby had to be born from me.  It is because this 28 years-old unwed mother did not deliver a baby with blessings.

I know there are those that eventually speak with their parents to help in their situation to raise the children, but I do not have that kind of courage.

I hope the baby will grow with blessings.

I have lived a failed life for the past 28 years.

I hope the baby will live with a name ‘Hope’ and be healthy…

The baby’s only fault is that she met the wrong mother.

The baby was born on February 15, 2015, around 12:30 AM.
Here's a note from Mrs. Young Ran Jeong, who works at the Baby Box.

This baby came into our care on Monday.
According to the letter left by the 28 years-old unwed mother with a career, experienced an unwanted pregnancy and gave a birth in chaos, and the baby was not even a day old when she came.
What pained me was that the baby had no proper baby clothing, no diaper, but wrapped in an adult neat shirt that had holes. The baby had feces that stuck dry on her buttock and it took some time to wash it off.
The baby was shivering from cold as we washed her in warm water, by then the baby seemed to calm down. It was obvious that the baby was not born in a hospital, and the umbilical cord seemed to have been cut too close, but upon discussion with a children’s hospital I was told that it was OK.
I cannot understand how such a baby could be abandoned like this on a cold winter. As I washed away the dry feces off her body, I comforted myself by saying “Thank you for coming here instead of unknown places.”
The baby is now healthy and takes milk well. She will be in our care for a week before being sent to an institution coming Monday. I ask for your blessings upon this child who had such a traumatic beginning in life.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

One Adoptees Response to the NY Times Article

Here is a response from my adoptee friend Sarah Kim, whom I met in Denver a month ago with her family.  Sarah is happily married to her husband Mike with three girls and a son on the way home from Korea soon.

Sarah (left) with husband Mike and their three daughters, Charlize, Darby, and Mikah

One Adoptee's Response to the NY Times Article by Maggie Jones
I did enjoy reading the article because I enjoy hearing about other adoptees experiences.  From the perspective of a Korean Adoptee, I could relate with many of the things the others said (i.e. the desire to find their roots, facing racism in an all-white community, the lack of understanding from parents, thinking I was white and then wishing I was).  I was able to find my birth family and have visited them twice in the last 12 years.  We continue to have limited “conversations” via Kakao Talk.  And like many others, my documents were “adjusted”.    

I appreciated Ms. Jones providing context on why adoption is relevant to her, all of our views are shaded by our own experiences.  This article is relevant to me because I have a shared experience with the people she interviewed and with her.  My family is in the process of adopting a little boy from S. Korea, we currently have 3 biological daughters. 
One of the adoptees in the article mentioned that adoptees leave their biological families, countries and cultures behind through no choice of their own, but all children come into their cultures, countries and families through no choice of their own.  We do not pick our families. 

I am conflicted about international adoption but believe it is a gray area and not black and white.  While we can debate the reasons why Korea sends children overseas, from the perspective of a child, I believe that every child should grow up in a family.  I am curious what some of the people in the article think will happen to the children that aren’t adopted internationally.

Sarah at 5 months old
I think there are still children that are being given up by their birth parents (just like in America where abortion is legal, there is financial assistance and being a single mom is not as taboo) and I am curious what is going to happen to the generation of children that are growing up in orphanages in Korea instead of with White families in America. My fear is that they will be a generation of orphaned children that will be less educated and with fewer opportunities than internationally adopted kids had and therefore less likely to have the tools to advocate for themselves and the next generation.  It seems like many in the article had a college education and beyond. 

I also appreciated Ms. Jones providing the perspective of adoptees that don’t feel strongly that international adoption should be halted in Korea.  I would have liked to hear more from them, but maybe, like me, they don’t claim to know what the right answer is, so it’s not as interesting to cover. 

I feel like this writing is scattered and I’m trying to stick to my main points, but I’m struggling. There are so many things to say and discuss on the issue that I could go on for a very long time (i.e. loss in adoption, addressing race and culture, feelings about birth family, the current adoption process, etc.). 

Most importantly, I am grateful that Mr. Jones is taking the time to share adoptees’ stories. I would challenge her to present another perspective of international adoption. I would like the world to hear from my perspective as well (i.e. Korean adoptees that found their “Korean roots” in the US and are adopting internationally) because I believe our experience is as valid as all the others she interviewed. I personally know 4 other Korean Adoptees (in addition to myself that have adopted or in the process of adopting). But there are more out there.

Sarah and her adoptive family on an outing