Friday, August 21, 2009

thoughts from my husband

The following is an email that my husband sent to me after reading the link to Mei-Ling's post, "failure" ( I wanted to share his thoughts. Here is the email:

After you posted the link on your blog, I was thinking about international adoption...

I know it's a very complex issue and that there is no perfect solution. But I started thinking about the reasons why so many people, particularly in Korea, end up giving up their children. It's a matter of support, right? The women in many of these situations feel they will not have the resources to raise a child.

So let's make it personal. What if you and I were thinking about adopting from Korea? In a practical sense, we would have to raise a lot of money and plan on spending a lot of money in the future to support a child, right? But then money, in part, is what is keeping the mother from raising the child herself. I think of JH for example. Would it be better that we adopt her child, or that we give her the money to help raise her own child (provided that is what she wants to do)?

I guess what I am getting at is that it takes the same amount of resources to support a child that isn't your own as one that is. Yet I don't really hear any enthusiasm about programs to do this--a kind of adopt-a-parent rather than adopt a child. Help the parent to have the resources to raise the child themselves.

I know it's complicated. I know that adoption is about more than helping someone--it's about love and wanting a relationship with a child. There's something that would be much less emotionally gratifying about supporting a child from afar than raising a child that becomes your family.

But I guess I'm with you as far as thinking that if a child is able to stay with their parents, that is often the best situation. I just wonder if there isn't more that people could do to facilitate what is ultimately best for the child. It seems strange when you step back and think about the money that is changing hands--from the costs of running orphanages, the cost of adopting and travel, etc. And in the meantime the birth mother is sitting there alone, wishing that she could have had a way to raise her child herself.

Even when well-intentioned human beings hurt other people deeply. I hope some day we are able to come up with a better way that doesn't end up in so much pain and loss for people.

Love you!


Mei-Ling said...

"I guess what I am getting at is that it takes the same amount of resources to support a child that isn't your own as one that is."

Regarding your husband's perspective, I'd ask the question:

The resources may be out there, but how well KNOWN are they?

And if they are known, how ACCESSIBLE are they? How affordable are they? What the price being asked in exchange?

Mila said...

Mei-Ling...I think that's the point my husband is trying to make...that the resources are out there, but that they're not being made available to the ones who need it...

In the same way that there is actually enough food and clothing for all the people in the world but the distribution of it is uneven...

In the same way, the resources to support unwed Korean mothers and their children are out there, but instead of them being made available to these mothers so that they can keep their children, those resources are being used to adopt children out to other countries...

I think he was trying to communicate that there is a lack of effort going toward establishing infrastructure and resources in Korea and other countries to establish programs to support these women and their children...

Harmony said...

I'm glad you brought this up. We have considered adopting from Korea when we thought we couldn't have children. And it would have made the in-laws feel "better" about it if the baby was Korean.

But it's so much better for children to be raised in their biological families. At the same time, the babies who have already been given up to orphanages or foster homes need families. So where do you divert your money? To the children already up for adoption or to the pregnant mothers?

What do you think?

Mila said...

Without getting too much into the political and social aspects...I try not to get too much into that here since this blog is supposed to be personal and not sociopolitical...but I also realize to a certain degree it is inevitable and unavoidable...


The first thing we all have to recognize is that this is COMPLICATED.

As my husband indicated, this is complex stuff that no single solution will be suffice.

At this point, there is a considerable dearth of resources available to Korean women who are pregnant and single.

Of course, those children currently without homes or families need attention and resources.

But in my opinion, as small as it is, money needs to be allocated to MULTIPLE resources and programs, at this point, and most realistically, always.

There will always be family-less children, single mothers, unwed pregnant women...

But the majority of resources have gone to serve the interests of international adoption as of yet.

It is my opinion that Korea in particular needs to increase the allocation of their resources to promoting DOMESTIC adoption and to providing support for unwed pregnant women--so that they do not feel forced into a "corner" per se. So that have real choices.

This requires educating people, and in many ways, in Korea, undoing certain, long-standing cultural philosophies, mindsets, and subsequent practices.

Does this make sense?

It's not a question of either/or. It's more the necessity to diversify the support services and of now, there is very little available to support Korean women who want to KEEP their children.

I personally met a 30-year old woman at a home for unwed pregnant women in Korea. THIRTY YEARS OLD. Completely capable & intelligent, but had retreated to a home because she did not have the support of her community!

She had to quit her job because the employer would not keep her. She could not find a job because no one would hire her due to her pregnancy. She was keeping it a secret from her parents for fear of rejection and ostracism. A mature 30-year old woman. Is this acceptable? To me, it is not. But it is in part due to the old and strong cultural traditions of Korea.

Every culture has its weaknesses and strengths. Well, I believe when it comes to the pertaining issues, Korea has great weakness.

A 30-year old woman should feel as though she has a choice. Any woman should be able to keep and raise her child if that is what she desires.

When a culture prohibits such a choice, I think something needs to change.

Again, though, it is complicated. And I still have much to learn.

Basically, multiple support services are needed. For decades money has been diverted to orphanges, international adoption services, etc. And money is still needed for those. But support for other options such as domestic adoption and mothers keeping their children has been sickly and devastatingly absent.

In this order:

Mother keeps & raises her child
Domestic adoption
International adoption as a last resort...

That is where I am at right now--it is subject to change, but for now, that's where I stand...

Hope this answers your inquiry for now... :) Good question by the way...

Harmony said...

"Well, I believe when it comes to the pertaining issues, Korea has great weakness."

I agree. From what I can tell, there is a huge stigma in Korea towards adoption - part of the reason my in-laws weren't so excited about us considering it. There's a huge cultural bias towards natural blood lines, having biological heirs. That really hinders domestic adoption.

Add that to the huge stigma against single and divorced moms, and the ridiculous cultural pressure that gives Korea one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and it's just a big huge mess. I think a lot is going to have to change in Korea before domestic adoptions start picking up. But from what I'm learning from watching my Korean dramas (I'm addicted, what can I say?) it seems like the bias against single moms might be starting to change?

I'm curious what you think about international adoption to a Korean family. Cross cultural adoption is very difficult, whether it's Asian/American, white/black, whatever. And there aren't a whole lot of Asian children given up for adoption in the US. I've known at least one Asian couple who couldn't have children and so turned to international adoption as a recourse. Is that nearly as good as domestic adoption?

Of course in our case (a mixed race family), we probably wouldn't have been able to find a child "like us" no matter where we looked.

a Tonggu Momma said...

This is why, as parents who adopted from China, we as a family also sponsor two children who live in China, one with special needs and one without special needs. We wanted to parent, so we adopted a child. We want to help other families, so we sponsor.

madduchess said...

I agree with Tonngu momma. I consider adoption and sponsorship two very different things. Often I will see people stating that AP's should give the money they were going to use to adopt a child to the first parents so they can raise their child. I find this incredulous. PAP's wish to become parents, not philanthropists. Nor do I think it's a PAP's job to save the world. I do believe that everyone (regardless of whether or not they are a parent) should offer support where they can, whether that be donating to local shelters or sponsoring children overseas. However,I do not believe that PAP's should have to end their dream of becoming parents in order to financially support others. I'm not suggesting your husband is claiming they should. He is right, though, it is complicated and I do think these kind of discussions have a lot of value :)

P.S. Like others have said I do believe it is imperative that expectant mothers are made fully aware of all of the resources and supports that are available to them.

Mei-Ling said...

"PAP's wish to become parents, not philanthropists."

Does it matter to PAPs if they know the firstparents wanted to parent?

Mila said...

Hi Harmony :) You know, it's interesting, actually, my husband and I were having a similar conversation just the other day about adoption because we, too are an "interracial/interethnic couple." Really no matter what we would do, if we were hypothetically ever to adopt, we'd never be able to truly adopt in a way that would help maintain true ethnic consistency...


Really, there simply is no one solution, no answer that would be universal. In some ways, it is a case by case kind of thing...

On the other hand, I think it is crucial that any potential adoptive parent take the time to think through the issues while trying to consider the best possible solution not only for themselves but for the child.

Honestly, Harmony, sometimes, I just don't know what to think or what to say...ultimately, I know that I don't have the answers nor do I truly know what the best way is. Obviously there are better and worse ways...

It is so complex and so convoluted. There are so many facets to consider, particularly, now that our world community has in so many ways become truly global and multi-ethnic.

It's strange in some ways...we live in a world currently that really tries to teach ethnic tolerance and an acceptance of people who come from different backgrounds. For decades now, it seems that the world community has been trying to promote "one world" in which we all embrace and accept those who are different--to not cast judgment or condemnation on those who are different--whether ethnically, economically, socially, etc.

Yet, when it comes to the issue of international adoption, that message, at times, gets convoluted...

I address some of this seeming dissonance & much of my own inner conflict in one of my posts, entitled "the one & the many."

Ultimately, culture and ethnicity do matter, simply because we live in a world in which such affects how people perceive and treat one another.

I often wish that we truly could transcend the differences while still embracing them, if you understand what I am trying to say.

But utopia is not an option. So, we have to continue to maintain open minds and hearts and be willing to change as we gain more knowledge, insight, and experience whether personally or through others.

We have to be willing to admit we may have been wrong, and be willing to do what is within our influence and ability to ameliorate what is identified as detrimental or sub-optimal.

Mila said...

(Harmony...this is the second half of my wouldn't fit as one, wink...yes, I'm THAT long-winded...)

Culture and language play a huge role, obviously, in identity. Had there been a way for me personally to maintain fluency in Korean culture and language, the experience of searching and reuniting with my Korean parents would not be so heart-wrenching, and my sense of displacement not quite as severe (yet still ever-present).

But again, there is no perfect solution. There is, I think, sometimes, no way to ultimately prevent some things from happening. Hence, rather than prevention, we must learn HOW to cope with and deal with what is inevitable while doing what we can to work toward change that is necessary and feasible.

A parent cannot prevent his or her child from experiencing hurt and pain whether physical or emotional, but the parent can teach his or her child how to deal with such hurts and pains in a way that is healthy and honest.

So, it is with adoption. Whether it is a domestic adoption or international adoption, the hurt and pain will be there. That is the nature of adoption. The repercussions cannot be prevented--but they can be managed with compassion, humility, sincerity and love.

Adoption takes place as the result of a tragedy, as the result of less than ideal circumstances. Adoption is not a perfect story or a fairy tale. It is the culmination of circumstances that can involve pain, heartbreak, regret, guilt, abuse, poverty, even death, etc.

To expect that there is a "perfect solution" is to deny the very nature of the situation.

Anyhow...again, I'm longwinded. But for now that is my response to your inquiry...I know it's probably not as direct or clarifying as you might hope, but again, such is the nature of the pertaining issues...

Mila said...

Tongu Momma, madduchess, Mei-Ling...all great points.

Certainly, it is a genuine and natural desire to want to parent. I think that's a given, and something that a lot of people in this world do not question.

I think it is noteworthy, Tongu Momma, that your family is helping to sponsor two children in China.

madduchess, I honestly have to say that if a PAP couple did arrive at the conclusion to give their money to a mother who wanted to keep her child, I would not be opposed to this. But it obviously would be their decision alone--not one that should be made out of guilt or pressure.

My husband and I were actually hoping to sponsor a mother in Korea who had expressed a desire to keep and raise her child. But this is our own personal decision, not one that we would ever wish to force on anyone else. So, I hope you understand that we are just sharing our thought process and contemplations. We are not implying that others should follow suit.

As Mei-Ling concisely expressed, the difficult thing to remember is that many of these first parents who relinquish their children for adoption also had the dream of wanting to parent, but often, for complicated reasons, felt rendered unable to do so.

This is a sad and devastating truth.

In the same way that you longed so deeply to be a parent and do not want anything to take that dream away, so also do many of these first parents long so intensely to be able to keep their children--but had that dream diminish before their very eyes due to circumstances that are incomprehensible, or at least, foreign (no pun intended) to us.

This acknowledgment is not intended to cause self-loathing or guilt and such. In some ways that would defeat the purpose of discussions like this.

No one is asking others to give up their dreams per se. Also, no one is asking anyone to become a philanthropist.

But I think in the long run, it benefits everyone involved to acknowledge and embrace certain truths about the practice of adoption, and to allow them to penetrate our hearts. For example, to grieve and to show compassion for those first parents who felt prohibited and unable to care for their own children, but would have otherwise chosen to keep their children.

Neither I nor my husband are implying that therefore all couples around the world should give up their dream of having children. Please understand, this is not what we are saying.

It is simply that we must be willing to consider and contemplate various ideas, possibilities, notions, consequences, repercussions, solutions, etc. And ultimately, we must be willing to ask ourselves the hard and uncomfortable questions.

Obviously, we are suggesting that all the complexities and issues that come with adoption need appropriate attention and action, that we must be willing to contemplate such notions in the interest of giving all possible solutions fair thought. Giving them thought does not mean they are right or wrong--it simply how solutions are found.

As I have stated otherwise in previous comments and posts, the issue is COMPLICATED. And there is no one solution, no simple answer.

We are simply attempting to open our hearts and minds to contemplate and ponder the issues honestly, no matter where that may take us or how uncomfortable that may make us feel or the risks involved.

And in the end, if the elements keeping a mother from raising her own child are material resources and sociocultural acceptance, should we not strive to help cultivate such? And this doesn't always require financial means. Sometimes, it's simply being willing to share ideas or open our hearts to new ones.

Such is possible. At one point, America was not so different from Korea in its lack of resources and sociocultural support for unwed mothers. Not that what America has now is anywhere near the best way, but things have drastically changed so that many women do not feel trapped...they can feel at least as though they have a choice.

madduchess said...

Melissa, your are absolutely right, if a PAP wishes to use the money they were going to use to adopt to sponsor a mother keeping her child, then more power to them. I think that is a wonderful thing and completely up to the individual. My concern was solely making PAP's responsible for keeping families together (which I didn't think you or husband were suggesting).

Mei-Ling: "Does it matter to PAPs if they know the firstparents wanted to parent?"

Oh I would certainly hope so. I honestly don't believe I could carry through with adopting a child that was being adopted simply due to poverty. If I am very honest, it might not mean that I would give them the money I was going to use to adopt. It may just mean that I adopt a different child where poverty wasn't ther sole issue. Or it may mean that I give them some of the money. Or it may mean that I help them find the resources. But I don't think I could adopt the child and I know for a fact my husband couldn't.

Mike said...

After reading all of the comments on here, I just want to commend all of you because it really seems like everyone here ultimately cares about the children in question.

It's so hard in this big world with all of its problems to ever feel like you are making a dent. And then when you try, a lot of times there are armchair quarterbacks there telling you how you are messing up. So I don't want what I said earlier to be taken as a criticism of AP's. My own parents recently adopted and I have strongly considered doing so all my life.

As I have been beside Melissa through this journey, I have to say that my eyes have been opened in many ways. And I do have to wonder, in my own heart- what is ultimately best for a child? Not what do I want and what is my dream, but what is best for someone else? It's really hard. Would I be willing to use money to sponsor a family and not adopt? That would be very difficult. But I at least have to be honest enough to ask myself that question.

No one individual is responsible for the way international adoptions are conducted and the choices of one person won't change it all. But if no one chooses to help the birth families and we continue to adopt children from the mothers that are reluctantly letting them go...

I just can't help wondering sometimes about the big picture. America, my home, filled with so much opportunity. Opportunity that has, at times, come at the expense of prosperity elsewhere in the world. And then we have a flood of children being adopted into our country from all over, because we have the money to take care of them and others don't. There is something about that that strikes my conscience. Once again, it isn't the fault of the individual. But unless we each take on our share of responsibility for our own choices, I doubt the situation will change.

Adoption is a wonderful thing. It has always been around and I think always will. It brings to mind an analogy. I work at a medical center and people often have to undergo surgery here. But a good surgeon will warn you to do everything you can to avoid surgery. It's a wonderful thing and saves lives, but if health can be maintained and surgery avoided, so much the better. Surgery is traumatic and leaves scars.

So I commend those who adopt (domestically or internationally) and pray that more and more will be willing to do so. There are children without families that need love. I just hope that we can all do whatever we can to minimize how often adoption is necessary by working on the systems, cultures, and individuals responsible for the current state of things.

Once again, you all have my respect.


Tyler said...

As a fellow Korean adoptee I have enjoyed and appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts and feelings. After reading this past post and the comments it has really got me thinking about the pros and the cons of international adoption in my eyes. I have thought about this for the past several days, and I still am struggling to come to a conclusion about the subject. So I would like to apologize in advance if my thoughts come off unclear or jumbled.

First off, I would have to agree with everyone here that international adoption is a very complex issue. Not only for the child but also for the adoptive parents. There will always be the "what if's", unfortunately we are unable to see or predict what the future will hold for us.

Next your husband talks about the money issue as well as other comments that I have read through. Although money may be an issue in some cases, I think that you also have to look at the culture itself. In America I think that it is more accepted for a single woman to raise a child than it is in Korea. You also talk about sponsorship programs to help alleviate some of the financial burden that a single mother might have while raising a child. Even with that money and government programs that may exists, the child most likely will still grow up in a poverty filled life with little chance to succeed and get out of that social class. So I think that when a parent decides to adopt they are giving a child an opportunity that they would have most likely never been able to have living in their own country.

Side note:
Having been to Korea and other somewhat underdeveloped countries there is a huge difference between the poor here and the poor there. Even though broken, we have systems that help out as much as possible to help people get by. Even though some people might think that have it bad here, at least they have such luxuries like running water at their disposal. The difference is night and day.

So now back to your husband’s question, "what is best for the child?” Once again it is unclear; I think that there are many aspects that you must look at. Well being, medical attention, social acceptance, just to name a few. Who is to say that the birth mother may neglect the child? But I think that for a lot of people it is social acceptance. They always wonder if their child is going to resent them in the future, or maybe have some kind of emotional disconnect after they have sacrificed so much already. Personally I am glad that I was adopted and have no problems being adopted. But I have met some adoptees that think their lives would have been better in Korea; I guess you could say that "the grass always looks greener on the other side".

I also saw that you commented on domestic adoption in Korea. Fortunately last year I was able to hear Senator Paull Shin speak at my church. He is also a fellow adoptee, who came to America when he was in his late teens. He does a lot for the Adopted Korean community. But one thing that he said is that Koreans are not ready to adopt as a country. He gave several reasons for this, and he has gone to Korea on many occasions to voice his opinion. I think mostly it is because for the longest time Koreans did not accept adopted Koreans as their own. They were different, just until recently there hasn't been a social acceptance for adopted Koreans as well as mixed Koreans in the Korean culture.

Take Heinz Ward for example, until the Steelers won the Super Bowl he was unaccepted by the Korean culture because he was mixed. In one of his interviews he talks about how his mom and he were basically shunned upon while he lived in Korea. Now Korean's claim him as one of their own. I think the same thing applies to the guy who won the gold medal in skiing a couple years ago, he basically became an overnight celebrity in their eyes.

There is so much more that I would like to say but I will leave it at this for now while I regroup my thoughts.

Mila said...

Tyler, thank you so much for joining the discussion. You offer some great insight.

You are absolutely right about the sociocultural issues surrounding adoption in Korea, whether domestic or international. The sociocultural issues are huge and at times, I think, to many, appear insurmountable. (I alluded to such issues in my previous comments and discuss them in several previous posts to my blog.)

I guess the issue for me is that if we never begin trying to change those things, then those things will never change.

I agree that Korea has a LOOOOOOONG way to go before domestic adoption will be a generally accepted practice in Korea.

Domestic adoptions have increased, but there is still such an awful stigma connected with it. Korean couples go to great lengths to hide it--buying special pillows to appear pregnant, relocating to a different city, hiding it from their families, etc.

Again, at one point, America was not that different from Korea in its lack of sociocultural support for unwed pregnant women, and hence consequently, also a lack of programs and services.

Really the dearth of sponsored programs & services in Korea is a result of the lack of sociocultural acceptance.

But the necessary changes will never take place if we don't start somewhere.

If you read my post, "the one and the many," I address more specifically my own inner turmoil & conflict regarding adoption. I feel much of the same sentiments as you indicate--feeling grateful to have been adopted but still troubled by current circumstances. (There is also a poem, "Girl Without a Country" that relays much of my conflicting emotions toward Korea itself.)

The thing is that no matter where someone stands personally, I don't think anyone would deny that changes need to be made.

And that's all this discussion is about--is being willing to consider different ideas and realize that in order for changes to occur, ideas must be exchanged and contemplated and eventually put into action.

I am not against International Adoption, but I think more needs to be done to help promote education, understanding, and to undo old cultural norms that are detrimental...just because it's "culture" does not mean we just let it remain the status quo.

Racial segregation in America was once the "norm." It was an accepted practice in American culture. Obviously, racism is not gone, but at least drastic changes have taken place in a matter of decades.

Ostracizing unwed pregnant women was also a cultural norm in America. But that also has changed.

Korea can change--but it's not going to be easy, and it certainly won't happen if people are not willing to work toward those changes, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it may be.

Again, there is no single solution. And yes, it is super complicated.

But the variety of potential solutions cannot be accessed if we are not willing to at least contemplate different ideas and notions, whether they end up being beneficial or detrimental in the long run.

Unfortunately, mistakes are a part of the solution finding process. Many mistakes have been made and many will continue to be made.

What is important is to be willing to admit our mistakes when we've made them, and learn from those mistakes in the process of finding new solutions.

Korea needs to be willing to admit its weaknesses and mistakes, particularly in its treatment of unwed mothers and their children. (this is continued in another comment...i couldn't fit it all in this comment...haha...long-winded...)

Mila said...

(cont' from previous comment)

When we were in Korea this summer, I was refreshed to hear a speech by the President of one of the major IA agencies in Seoul. In that speech, she admitted to the weaknesses of the Korean culture that have contributed to the stigmas and ostracism forced upon unwed mothers & their children. She professed that these are things that must change in Korea...

And seeing our weaknesses is always the first step to not only learning how to cope with them, but hopefully in the future learning how to change our behavior so that our weaknesses can become our strengths...

Korea could ultimately become very strong in reform for their treatment of unwed mothers and their children...

But it is going to take time and a lot of concerted will not be easy and people have to be willing to begin...

I think Korea has taken some of those initial steps but still has a daunting amount of work left to do...

Thank you again for you insight and commentary...the more, the better!



Mila said...

Sorry, Tyler, just one more thing, for clarity's sake...

I want to clarify that I personally am under no illusions that my life would have been indubitably "better" had I remained in Korea...especially now that I have reunited with my biological parents and learned in detail the circumstances surrounding my adoption...

But the truth is that I can not know and will never know for certain what my life would have been like...because it didn't happen that way and speculation is only that...

I do know that I have had a good life overall, albeit fraught with significant yet not insurmountable difficulties...

Again, in "the one and the many" I contemplate such notions...but I just wanted to clarify for the sake of this discussion specifically...

Mia_h_n said...

A little late to the game on this post, but after reading all the comments I felled compelled to chime in.

I agree that Korea need a change, an update if you will, but it will be very difficult because we're talking about the most rigid confutsianistic country in the world. The whole foundation is the importance of blood lineage, family, correct behavior and appearance, so in my opinion it's not just a question of making a change in the way the country views single, unwed mothers and their children. It's not just the one issue.
So for us on the outside it will be a test to our patience.

I don't see it as a waiting game though. I believe that speaking up and putting a gentle, constant pressure on the issues can make a difference and speed up the process. You can't rush it but shining a light on the issues probably won't hurt.

But the change has begun. During the past decades I believe that thanks to an increase in technology and money (probably among others), Korea has become much more exposed to the rest of the world, and this has sparked an interest for the west and the westernized lifestyle.
When I was in Korea I talked to people who said that the new generations aren't interested in carrying on the old ways but instead flock to the big, modern cities and all the influences that intails. And that's a change.

I'm also torn on domestic adoption. In a way I think it might be necessary for the change. Forgive my phrasing but to "shove adoptees in their face" might help make them see that we're not the worst thing that could happen.
On the other hand my heart goes out to the poor children who are adopted by Korean parents who are ashamed by the child's history right off the bat. I too have heard several stories about Korean APs who by the pregnancy pillows and all that. They take advantage of the physical simililarities and lie to the child about it being adopted.
How parents can make themselves lie to their children like that I'll never understand. My stomach's in a knot just thinking about what it'll do to a child - or an adult for that matter - to learn the truth.

Anyway, like Tyler said, forgive me if my points seems jumbled and contradicting - it's like that in my head too!

Harmony said...

This blog post made me think of the discussion here. I thought you might want to read it.

Mila said...

Thanks, Harmony, for the link...I've now linked to Kimchi mamas blog. Also NYT published an article discussing the current situation in Korea that unwed single mothers face...