April 11, 2013

May 11, 2013 is Single Mom's Day in Korea

Depending on where you live in the U.S., you may be experiencing the last throes of winter or an early summer blast of heat. Here in DC, it's the latter, and the change has turned everyone's attention to spring activities. One of those, of course, is Mother's Day, which will be on May 12th this year.
In Korea, May 11th has become Single Moms' Day. It's a day on which community activists in Korea come together in support for single Korean mothers, including mothers who placed their children in adoption. This year's Single Mom's Day events are being sponsored by the following organizations, all of which have an interest in supporting single parents and advocating for their rights:
As you can imagine, the logistics of such an event are expensive. One way you can show your support for the women of Korean who are working to change attitudes toward single parenthood is to donate to this event. It provides them an opportunity to get into the national spotlight and raise awareness about this important issue. You can directly support the event in several ways:
Every adoptive parent I know thinks about their children's mothers on Mother's Day. Many of us have learned through the years that our children could have stayed with their families had the social and financial support been available to them. It's a painful reality for us, but nothing compared to the pain of having lost your child to hard-hearted families and communities, or for lack of money.

Show that you recognize the injustice. Demonstrate your solidarity with Korean women. Please support 2013 Single Moms' Day as generously as you can!

April 10, 2013

Keep the heat on: adoptee citizenship actions

A little birdy  - well, actually a big birdy who's fighting the good fight for all kinds of adoptee rights - tweeted the other day that Congressional Coalition on Adoption Senate co-chair Jim Inhofe is showing signs of thawing on the issue of adoptee citizenship.

Hallelujah! Now, I think, is a good time to thank Senator Inhofe for listening, and to encourage Senator Mary Landrieu, CCA Senator co-chair with Senator Inhofe, to do the same.Go forth, tweet, retweet, post and email! Tell the CCA to fix the CCA 2000 loopholes, grant all intercountry adoptees immediate citizenship, and bring hom all deported adoptees!
While you're at it, sign this petition, which was started by Mike Frailey, an adoptee from Vietnam who came to the U.S. with Operation Babylift. Mike will be interviewed at Land of Gazillion Adoptees this week, don't miss it.

April 5, 2013

No justice, no love

The Boy and The Girl have birthdays today: they’re 24 and 22, grown and out in the world. They live on the opposite side of the country, where they are working and going to college. It’s hard to be away from them today, although it helps to know that they will be celebrating the day with friends in a place they both enjoy.

Every parent of adult children will understand, I think, how impossible it is for memories not to travel back to previous birthdays. I remember the kids’ arrivals, and see them as babies and toddlers, schoolchildren and teens. I see their laughter and joy, and their tears and pain, too. Every single memory is a treasure.

The other day, I took a swag at presenting a different point of view on the recent changes to Korea adoption travel requirements on the MPAK blog. I was prepared for negative reactions from the readers there, but was unprepared for just how much the rebuff, which essentially said that I didn’t appreciate my children’s place in my family, hurt.

Why raise this on such a happy day? First of all because on this day more than any, I want to make it clear just how untrue it is. I also think it’s important for adoptive parents to stop accusing each other of failing to love their children when they support adoption reforms. All this does is divide us further than we’re already divided on issues around which we should unite.

My husband and I love our children as deeply as any parents can love their children. They are the center of our lives and the source of our joy. We would make any sacrifice and face any task to support them and launch them safely into their lives. We are profoundly privileged to have them in our lives, and incredibly proud of them.

We know, too, that their presence in our family was a matter of chance – of being in a certain place at a certain time. Had we started our adoption journey a month or two earlier or later, we would have different children, whom we would have loved as much as we love The Boy and The Girl.

Some of you will say no, God meant you to be together. It was His plan. I think God meant something entirely different. I think God demands that we look at the circumstances that bring people into our lives, and where we see injustice, to work to put it right. No justice, no love - it’s as simple as that.

I will do what I can for my kids: the ones I have been blessed to know, and those who might have been.

March 22, 2013

Thinking about Korea's adoption changes

Update March 23, 2013: I just read on the last website noted below that finalization in Korea will not be required: The adoption agencies in Korea have officially heard from the Family Court that the visiting families need not show up at the Family Court. This means that your children will most likely be issued IR-4 visas, like the old way. Can anyone confirm?

There's been lots of online discussion the past couple of weeks around the new Korean adoption laws and travel requirements. Here are a couple of recent articles on the subject, all three by adoptees. The first two focus on positive impacts to Korean mothers and children, and the last on negative impacts to prospective adopters:
Shannon Heit's article resonated with me, because one of my children has experienced falsified documents, something Ms. Heit believes the new law and rules will help to avoid. I know how horrible it feels to have given your child a false history, how angry it made me to feel the process had betrayed our trust, and how difficult it is to help that child through a reconstruction of the past.

That's the insignificant part of it. Imagine what it was like for my child.

On the other hand, I can relate to some of the comments on the MPAK post. I understand that it would be incredibly painful to be led to believe that you could adopt a child, only to find that a new requirement put that adoption outside of your financial means or life circumstances.

What would I have done, I wonder, had this requirement come up when I was in the process of adopting? I honestly don't know. I know I would have been frustrated and angry. I know I would have felt victimized by the system. My husband and I may very well have come to the conclusion that the risk of losing my job while on leave might have made it impossible. Our adoption plans might have stopped there.

I would have whined - understandably, perhaps, from the adoptive parent perspective, but still. As long as adoption policies and processes set the stage for adoption success, adoptive parents are likely to view every obstacle as inherently bad. But these "obstacles" have important purposes, and in the long run - yes, a very hard view for a prospective adoptive parent to take - they will do a lot of good for adoption from Korea.

Easy for me to say, of course, sitting here with grown children who were escorted here. Things were loose back when we adopted, very loose. Mothers surrendered their rights before their children were even born, and were separated from them while they were still in the hospital. Many agencies, ours included, didn't require travel, even discouraged or prevented it. Re-adoption in the U.S. and naturalization were the accepted path to citizenship for intercountry adoptees.

But, oh, the fallout. When families are unnecessarily broken by poverty-driven adoption, and adoptees are deported back to their birth countries because the adults and laws provide no protection, the process is broken.

Although they appear to do nothing more than lengthen the adoption process unnecessarily, the new law and travel requirements are an important step toward making adoption from Korea safer and more just for all involved. They promote women's rights in Korea by giving women greater control over and time to consider the decision to parent. They strengthen legal safeguards to ensure that when children are placed in the U.S. that they will automatically gain U.S. citizenship upon arrival - no visa loopholes, no more deportations when agencies and adoptive parents fail in their responsibilities.

They take another step toward changing Korean attitudes about single parenting and domestic adoption - less tangible, but equally important.

I empathize with prospective adoptive parents who are frustrated with and afraid of the new rules. Although I didn't face a change as impactful as this, I understand your pain from the challenges we did face. But I also encourage you to look at these changes through the eyes of Korean women and children, as well as the children who are ultimately adopted here in the U.S. and other countries.

Advocacy can come in many forms. Promoting justice is an important one, one I hope the Korean adoptive parent community will embrace and support the new law and requirements as they come into full practice.

March 19, 2013

I'll always have kimchi

I have been feeling strangely disconnected from my life.

This has been going on for a year, maybe even a little longer. It started last March in earnest when The Boy moved to a new city to start his new job. I’m really ambivalent about this empty nest thing, although for the next few years it’s only temporary - we’ll have The Girl home for a couple of years following college graduation while she works a bit and attends grad school.

It’s been an exciting year for my son and daughter: a new job, city, friends and life for one, and a rollicking end to a great college experience for the other. For me, it’s been a year of observation as I have watched our son launch himself into life, and have seen how our daughter is approaching the next phase of hers.

You know what? They are really good at living their lives. They are making decisions that I wouldn’t have had the guts to even consider at their ages – not frivolous or dangerous decisions, but important decisions about choices and direction and life and themselves.

You know what else? Although they have been kind enough to include my husband and me while they have considered their decisions, they honestly haven’t needed us to make them. It is such a relief to know that they are able to navigate this crazy world with wisdom at their young ages.

It’s also satisfying to see how they have gravitated to the Korean and Asian communities. All the adoption-related and cultural stuff we did and learned and experienced together as a family had two points: to help them own their adoption experiences, and to give them the confidence to live their lives in the Asian American community. It’s really good to see that it had a positive impact.

Although adoption isn’t a big part of our discussions at the moment, they know that my husband and I have their backs whenever they need our support, and that we’ll support them  however they want us to, whether that be to accompany them on their journeys, or to butt out entirely.

As for their Asian American lives: I know they're aware that growing up with unrelated white parents differentiates them from their non-adopted Asian friends.

I also know that they identify themselves as Asian. They both have many Asian friends and feel confident in Asian settings. The Boy speaks two Asian languages now, near fluent Japanese and rudimentary Korean. His roommates are Asian, his friends are Asian and his workplace is heavily Asian. The Girl attended a majority Asian university, has a large circle of friends that’s heavily Asian and is still deeply involved in an Asian sport.

There's another thing, too, something important.

I can see that although I will be their parent for life, they are in fact independent individuals. We will always be a family - there is absolutely no question about that. They will always be part of my husband’s and my family stories forever, just as his story is woven into mine and mine into his.

But the kids have an independence that doesn’t exist for children who are born into and raised by the same family. There is a part of my kids that my husband and I can never touch, and never be a part of.

When they were little and that feeling of connection to them was overwhelming and ever-present – you adoptive parents in the house know what I mean – I never would have imagined that I would one day say what I’m saying right now. It would have frightened me, made our family that “second best” that we were always trying to avoid.

As I say it now, I’m not disturbed at all. Our family is as strong and tight and real as any could be. It’s just that I understand now that our family members are separated from each other in a way that families connected by blood are not. I wouldn’t have seen this as a good thing when they were little, but it doesn't disturb me at all now.

Why? Because the truth is that we ARE very separate, unconnected individuals, with very different histories, stories and futures. My husband and I will never search for birth relatives, for first mothers and fathers or blood siblings. If our kids do, the relationships that may follow will be their own, even if someday we all meet. Our kids truly do belong to the Korean and Asian communities - my husband and I have only ever been interlopers, there on our children’s behalf. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it, nor would I give up the Asian American friends I now have for anything, but the fact is that if our children had been born to us, we would never have had the experience. Our kids, of course, would have.

The realization of all of this, which has come in fits and starts during this past year, have been in some ways painful. There’s a part of me that feels odd now for staying involved in the adoption community, particularly the things I do with Korean American groups and friends. Although I have always understood that there’s an artifice to what we adoptive parents do to help our kids connect with their community, for the first time since the kids arrived I feel it - and I don't want to.

Don’t misunderstand: I would not have changed a thing. My kids needed all of this to get where they are and to help them get where they’re going. But what I didn’t anticipate when I started this journey is that it would actually end one day, or at least slow down as much as it has. I feel a little like a piece of my life is dying, and it makes me incredibly sad.

When I observe my now-adult kids living as strong, confident Korean American adoptees, however, I remind myself that it’s never, ever been about me – it’s all about them, and should be.

That’s when I relax a little, and remind myself that, even though the stuff of my life may change in the coming years, I’ll always have kimchi. Well, not just kimchi, but everything I’ve learned about a country and people I would never have known. I can take it all with me into the future and enjoy it, experience it and live it for itself, on my own terms.

February 6, 2013

Who is failing the children?

I have tremendous respect for Jane Jeong Trenka and the work she has done to change attitudes and laws around single parenting and intercountry adoption in Korea. The work she does and has done has made a real difference in the lives of single Korean mothers and their children, and should be applauded.
But in the article I referenced in my last post - How to stop languishing and get yourself adopted - Jane has oversimplified a really complex issue. This may be the first time I have to say I really don't agree with Jane's view of her subject.
If I don't misinterpret, Jane reasons that the number of adoptable children in foster care (104,236 in 2011 according to AFCARS #19) is the result of prospective adoptive parents who seek to infant adoptions while rejecting the older children and sibling groups who need them.
A couple of stats to broaden the discussion ...
  • 50,516 U.S. children adopted from foster care in 2011 (AFCARS #19)
  • 9,320 intercountry adoptions (US State Dept 2011)
  • 18,000 estimated private domestic non-relative adoptions annually (AdoptionGuide.com)
  • 310,000,000 approximate U.S. population in 2011
... which in turn raise a couple of questions:
  • If demand-driven adoption programs no longer existed, would the 27K consider adopting from foster care?
  • If they all did, would that provide homes for the 100K children waiting?
  • With a general population of 310M, why have only 50K people stepped up to adopting a child from foster care?
Prospective adopters would have several choices to consider if infant adoption programs no longer existed: live without children, very wrongly turn to the black market for a child, or adopt an older child from foster care.  Even if every one of them adopted an older child, many thousands of adoptable kids would remain in foster care.

I believe the numbers point to a lack of concern or interest among the general population, which is a much more complex issue than Jane's article suggests. I'm as guilty as every non-adoptive parent for failing to do more for these children.

Again, I say this with all due respect to Jane, whom I respect and admire.