Thursday, September 30, 2010

A reader asks me, "Should we adopt?"

[This is a dang long post. Some of you will be disinclined to read the whole thing simply because it's sooo long. I can't half blame you. But I honestly did not know how to address such a deep and complex inquiry in brief. And even with all my droning, I did not cover the issue to the extent that it requires.]

A reader, "Harmony," who is a Caucasian American woman married to a Korean-American man, in response to a link I posted, "An example of an ethical international adoption and other things," (by Korean adoptee, Jane Trenka) asked the following:

It seems to me like one of the issues you and other adoptees bring up a lot is culture. Obviously language and culture are major issues with international adoption, but I've also heard the same thing said about black children who were adopted out to white families, that they missed out on black culture.

So what do you do with families that have a complicated culture? What, for example, is the culture of our family? White? Asian? Korean? American? If we were to adopt, how do we reconcile our family with the desire I hear from adult adoptees to be in families as close as possible to their birth families?

Then we get into another one of those horrible issues with Korean culture. If the average Korean isn't going to support a single mother, or adopt her child, you can certainly bet that it'll be worse for a mixed child.

Hines Ward started a charity to help deal with this horrible discrimination of mixed children - and I'm not just talking about orphans.

It seems to me like the cultural hurdles are so high, it's going to take more than a generation for it to change.

So what do we do in the meantime? I imagine the stigma against adoption and against single mothers would change a lot faster if international adoption were eliminated (or at least significantly reduced). And yet, that leaves a generation of children in foster homes or orphanages.

So what would be the best, in your opinion? Should we try to adopt a half white child from a Korean orphanage? Should we give up the idea of adoption and work for cultural change?

I'm really very interested in hearing what you have to say...

I believe adpotees when they say that they feel the loss of culture. I mean, even look at our president. He wasn't even adopted, but he felt the loss of black culture.
So would we be doing more harm than good by adopting?

About two and a half years ago we were very close to adopting. Now we have a 1-year-old and have some time to reflect about the decision before we go down that road again.
Not saying "we will" this time, but "should we?"...I know the answer isn't simple, but that's why I'm asking for advice from people who know better than I do.

* * *

First of all, I have a lot to ramble on about in response to Harmony's inquiry. She asks some great questions, but of course, there are so many layers to the questions and their answers--really someone could write an entire book addressing the aforementioned issues (and actually, I'm pretty certain someone has). I'll do my best to be thorough yet concise, but concision is not exactly my gift, while I'm also bound to miss some important points. I certainly don't have this all figured out, and I still have much to learn myself.

Second of all, this is a potentially touchy topic that could evoke some strong emotions and reactions. I know my opinion on the matter is just my opinion, but it is an informed opinion based on cumulative knowledge and experience garnered over the years. Let's just make sure to be respectful and open-minded toward one another. And let's not make threats to stop listening to someone else's ideas because you happen to disagree. That defeats the purpose of a healthy, constructive discussion and debate. We can be honest with one another and disagree with one another without being catty. Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way...

To begin, I appreciate Harmony's honest and insightful inquiry. I appreciate that she seems to be asking questions actually looking for honest answers and not simply to justify herself. She's not simply looking for an echo chamber. And that takes guts. So, thanks, Harmony.

I think folks like Harmony perhaps might benefit from broadening their inquiry from "Should we adopt?" to include questions such as "What are the root causes of adoption (ie, international adoption)?" and "Why do I want to adopt?" which I believe would ultimately lead them to asking themselves "What options do we have to help children and their families affected by adoption and the related circumstances?"

In short, there are several options to consider (in no particular order):
  • Adopting internationally
  • Adopting domestically
  • Providing assistance to existing orphanages (there are also orphanages that house children who will never be eligible for adoption)
  • Providing assistance to existing homes for unwed pregnant women and/or mothers (there are many in Korea)
  • Sponsoring a child and/or mother
  • Providing support to existing organizations that assist with family preservation
  • Advocating for more programs & resources for family assistance and preservation
  • And the like
The truth is that where the money goes is where the people go, and where the people go is where the money goes. Wherever the funds are being funneled is where real, practical support will burgeon. So, if the bulk of the money is going to international adoption, well, that's where the practical support is going to remain. If the people are pouring their resources into international adoption, well, then, the cycle will keep on turning.

Harmony, of course, addresses an important fact--orphanages at this very moment are overflowing with children. Hence, I'm not suggesting we completely abandon one for the sake of another. But we've got to start somewhere, and part of that start is acknowledging the drastic imbalance of power and resources that plays an undeniable, but often neglected, role in the fact that orphanages are flooded with children.

In other words, as I alluded to above, it's a vicious cycle.

In my small opinion, the more folks who decide to practice true charity--that is, true altruism--the more opportunity there will be for the programs, resources, and infrastructure to develop that will enable and empower families to stay together.

So, again, when you ask yourself, "Should we adopt?" perhaps more appropriately you can ask yourself, "Why do we want adopt?"

If you are drawn to adopt because you want to "give back" or because you think it's a good charity or an obligation as a result of your religion or belief system, think twice and perhaps dig a little more deeply. There are so many other ways in which we can "give back." Furthermore, no human being wants to grow up feeling like they came to be a part of someone's family as an act of pity.

As I've quoted before, Sandy, an adoptive mom, once stated in response to a blog post, The Theology of Adoption, "If Christians wish to focus on adopting as a way to give back then they need to adopt the entire family - not just the child - no Christian should be purposely severing the biological link that God created...God told them to care for all humanity...not just the little ones..."

I know the Bible clearly states to look after orphans (James 1). I understand this. But the fact is that so many of these children in orphanages are not orphans. They have living parents and/or relatives who are completely capable of taking care of them and who want to take care of them, but because of the disturbing dearth of economic and societal support, they feel forced into a corner. Harmony even acknowledged to me at one point, her misguided assumption that children end up in orphanages because their parents did not want to take care of them. This is a common misconception that demonstrates the ignorance surrounding why a mother or family relinquishes a child. So often it has nothing to do with wanting or not wanting, but rather with living versus dying, both in the literal sense and the social sense.

To clarify, for any doubters or assumers, I'm not anti-adoption. And I don't think charity is a bad virtue. And I'm not saying that all adoptive parents directly and purposely sever the biological link between child and mother. I recognize, as an adoptee myself who is managing reunion, that the reasons that children end up in orphanages are complicated.

But I also think that when it comes to adoption, people often choose to be rather naive and negligent in acknowledging their part. They can also have some pretty funky ideas and motivations about what it means to adopt that ultimately seem self-serving and self-lauding, while being dismissive of the realities that these mothers and families face. Rather than altruism, it's egoism. Rather than sincere charity, it's judgment.

Charity is defined as, "the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need; kindness and tolerance in judging others."

If you truly want to be charitable, as Sandy is quoted above, use your money to help families stay together. Rather than passing judgment and deciding who is or isn't "worthy" of raising a child, exercise kindness and tolerance by bolstering support for these families. You might not gain anything tangible for yourself in doing so. But you may at least have the peace of mind and a clear conscience that you have done what so many others won't, at least not yet.

Again, I repeat myself, I'm not therefore saying that we should leave children to languish in an orphanage or that I would have rather spent my life in an institution. That's not the point, and honestly, it grates on me that people would even make such an assumption. Duh, people, no adoptee would have rather stayed in an orphanage, and no decent human being wants children to suffer such a fate.

When folks ask such meaningless questions as, "Would you rather have adoptees like yourself grow up in an orphanage?" or "Are you saying that you'd rather these children stay in orphanges?" they're once again failing to ask the real questions that address the root causes.Why do children end up in orphanages?

As I stated earlier, where the resources go is where the people go and vice versa. It's obvious to most that resources for family preservation are severely lacking, and this is in part because folks are not investing resources into it. Hence, I am suggesting that while continuing to provide services and assistance for those children in orphanages, what is desperately neededalso and to an even greater extent are programs, infrastructure, resources, etc. to make available assistance that will foster family preservation when family preservation is what is wanted.

* * *

I will say, however, that ultimately, the question, "Should we adopt?" is obviously a question that a person has to ultimately answer for herself. It's a very personal question with a gravity similar to the questions of "Should we get married?" or "Should we get pregnant?"--no one else can answer it for you. Yet one must also choose not to be naive to the realities, and in particular the responsibilities, of marriage or of getting pregnant.

It's no different with adoption. As Jane stated in her blog post, prospective adoptive parents must decide not to be naive, and specifically to be willing to take responsibility for the social implications of their decisions. In other words, adopting is no fairy tale, folks, and we each play a part in the larger system, whether we acknowledge it or we don't. It's not necessarily a "happily ever after" story, and if you go into it expecting that, you're letting naivete get the best of you.

No one should rush into adopting, and no one should adopt because they're wanting a congratulatory pat on the back for being such a beacon of charity and good welfare. No one should adopt solely because they think it's the "right thing" to do. You don't choose to get pregnant (at least I would hope not) because you think it's the "right thing" to do. You don't get pregnant (again, I would hope not) seeking sainthood and adulation from folks shaking your hand saying what a Mother Theresa you are and how selfless it is that you chose to give birth to a child. You don't decide to get pregnant because you're expecting a child who worships you with the deepest of gratitude and honor for "saving" them from the womb.

Rather, you get pregnant realizing the depth of responsibility. I'm not going into parenthood expecting my child to give back to me tenfold and thank me every day for bringing him out of the womb. In other words, giving birth ultimately isn't about me. It's not about what my child is going to give or do for me. I'm not giving birth because I wanted a number one fan who's going to thank me for the rest of my life. I'm not giving birth because I want to "grow" my family. It's something much more profound, much deeper, much more intangible than any of that. It's something I want to do, but not because I'm expecting endless gratitude in return. I know it's going to be challenging and hard and there are times I'm going to want to rip out my hair. And yet, somehow, still, my husband and I wanted to do this. We made the decision, even knowing all that it would demand of our lives and our very selves.

Adoption is no different in that respect, but of course it is very different in other respects (but that's a whole other post for another time...).

* * *

As far as Harmony's more specific inquiry regarding the cultural dilemma that an interracial, interethnic couple faces, I will first of all share from my husband's and my personal experience.

Mike and I have actually contemplated the same issues. Before we discovered that we were pregnant in May, we had engaged in serious discussions regarding the possibility of adopting, because we thought we might be facing infertility.

Similar to Harmony's situation, my husband and I are an interracial couple. I'm Korean-American. He's half Greek and half Caucasian-American. Being an interracial couple can complicate matters of adoption, particularly if one is wanting to cultivate ethnic and cultural preservation.

Also as an adoptee, knowing what I know now and due to my personal experiences as an adoptee, I still wrestle with deep conflicts when contemplating the idea of adopting. (Before going any further at this point, let me state for the record that anything I share about my personal beliefs and/or conclusions regarding adoption should not be taken as me passing judgment on those who have adopted or are thinking about adopting.)

As Harmony expressed, since cultural and ethnic preservation is a huge factor to me personally, I have come to the conclusion that I could not in good conscience adopt internationally, at least not at this point in my journey. I feel as though once my child became an adult, he or she would come to me and ask, "Why did you do this? You're an adoptee. How could you have done this? Why didn't you do more to help people like me stay with our families? And knowing what you know, how could you have taken me away from my culture and my people? Of all the people in the world, you knew better. You knew better."

And yet, as my husband and I faced the very real possibility that we were infertile, I had to further wrestle internally.

He and I also discussed the option of adopting domestically, but again, with being a Caucasian-Asian interracial couple, even domestic adoption is complicated. I expressed to my husband that the only way I might possibly be able to consider adoption domestically was if we could adopt a child who was half Korean-American and half White-American in order to be able to honestly foster cultural preservation and to have the highest chances of open adoption and birth family relations. The chances of that possibility arising seem quite slim.

I don't even feel good about adopting a half White, half Korean child from Korea itself for several reasons. One being that Korea is not signed onto the Hague agreement, while their current practices are in need of some serious reform. Second, I would still be depriving the child of his or her original culture. I don't speak Korean. I don't know the culture as a native does. If he or she should one day want to return, so much would be lost. Certainly, I speak from experience.

(Furthermore, I would like to note, that although, Korea still has a long way to go, domestic adoption is on the rise there, while more mothers are choosing to keep their children. Although the change is slow, it is at the least an indication that things can change--just not without those who are willing to blaze the trail and take those pioneering risks as well as suffer the consequences of being the first to do so. Also, as some of you know already, there are also many Korean adoptees currently living in Korea actively working to influence social change through education and legislation. So, again, affecting change is always an option whether from behind the scenes or on the stage--we all play a part...)

Although, for Harmony and her husband, being that your husband was actually raised by a Korean family and knows the language and culture, you would be able to maintain those aspects of culture to a greater degree than my husband and I would, if you did adopt a biracial child from Korea...

Ultimately, however, my husband and I were also surrendered to the idea that we perhaps might choose to remain childless and use whatever resources we would have otherwise used to raise a child of our own to work toward family preservation, and in particular, in Korea. More specifically, he and I discussed the possible decision to take our resources and use them to sponsor unwed mothers in Korea to enable them to have the option to keep and raise their children. This ultimately ended up being the most viable option to me as well as the one most acceptable to my conscience at this point in my process, due to my personal experience and knowledge.

I guess my point in sharing all of this is to say to Harmony, and anyone else willing to listen and consider, that there are many options and possibilities to contemplate.

I can't nor will I tell you whether you should adopt. I realize that in some situations adoption is going to happen and in some cases is necessary. But the necessity of adoption can also certainly be diminished if more social and economic resources are cultivated that give mothers and families more viable options. All in all, I am simply saying that folks should at least contemplate the range of ways in which they might be able to contribute to the well-being of children around the world and not limit themselves to only the practice of adoption as a way to "make the world a better place."

There are programs available, although certainly not enough, that support families and mothers. Although a seeming conflict in interest, the agency through which I was adopted offers support for mothers who opt to keep their children as well as sponsorship for individual children who are not eligible for adoption, while I have also previously mentioned Riverkids and Unity Medical Fund. The fact so few resources exist with the defined purpose of directly aiding families and mothers to enable family preservation is proof that resources for family preservation are scarce in comparison to the plethora of adoption-related organizations and funds.

* * *

And ultimately, here's the real issue to ponder: When a mother is faced with only two choices between either utter starvation and deprivation (not only physically and economically but socially and culturally) versus relinquishing her child for adoption with the hope then that both she and her child will be saved from such starvation and deprivation, what real choices are she and her child actually being given? Ultimately, the choice she faces is death versus life (whether literally or metaphorically).

I know a fellow Korean adoptee whose mother tried to hold onto her daughter. Her mother was able to nurse her, which is ultimately what kept her from starving to death, but eventually, by the time she grew to be three years old, nursing was no longer an option and both her mother and her faced starvation. Her mother tried to make money by running a cart on the streets of Seoul, but it was barely a living. Eventually she saw an advertisement in a magazine, for what? Family assistance? Of course not.

How is deprivation versus adoption a real choice? What mother is going to choose death over life for her child?

It would be a completely different story if these mothers were actually presented with real choices. Rather than showing up at some agency where she is presented with one of only two options to either keep her child and face starvation and outcast or give up her child with the hope that the child will be provided for, what if she were able to sit down and really consider some options? What if instead she could find assistance both socially and economically? With all other factors equal, would she then choose to keep and raise her child?

Obviously, I realize that the reasons behind a mother giving up her child are complex. Socioeconomic status, however, does play a crucial role along with cultural stigmas and pressures and of course, various personal factors. I am simply suggesting that if socioeconomic factors could be controlled and adjusted for, so that mothers did not feel forced or cornered into giving up their children purely on the basis of insufficient economic and social support, then should we not acknowledge this and the role it plays in the current system of adoption?

It's true that many feel overwhelmed by the need for such systemic change--overcoming cultural stigmas and old thinking is indeed quite a task. But it's a necessary one. If we really care about all the children flooding orphanages, then we won't be able to turn a blind eye and simply say, "Well, what can I do? I'm only one person?" If we are truly disturbed by the circumstances that compel a mother to give up the child she loves, then we will be willing to acknowledge the root causes and fight to address them, whether we do so in the forefront or in the background.

My own biological mother has expressed that had the resources available today been available back in the 70's she would have kept me. (Now be careful here, I'm not therefore saying that I don't love my American family...) I'm simply sharing this as one of many examples to illustrate how the lack of resources and options, both economically and socially, available to these unwed mothers forces them into a corner, forces them into making a decision that many mothers would not make otherwise.

I have close friends who are single mothers here in America. Transfer their situations to Korea, and they would not have had the freedom of choice that they were able to exercise as a result of living in the States. I'm not implying therefore that all unwed mothers everywhere would therefore always decide to keep their children. But I am saying that social and economic support makes a significant difference in the options available and hence in the decisions made by these mothers.

So, again, when asking yourself, "Should we adopt?" remember that adoption is not simply about you and what you want. Remember that adoption happens as a result of someone else's tragedy within a vast complexity of broken social systems and dire circumstances. Whatever decision you make, make sure to include the decision to learn all that you can about all the sides of adoption and to acknowledge that your decision, your role inevitably and undeniably impacts not simply your own lives that you can tangibly see and feel, but the lives of those whom you do not see--those who are so often all but invisible because no one has made the decision to see them or feel for them.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"I thought reunion would give me closure..."

"I thought reunion would give me closure...I thought it would answer all my questions, and it did – the questions I had prior to reunion. But not the ones during reunion, and not the ones post-reunion...

I thought seeing my Mama and Baba would give me closure...But it didn’t. Instead I felt the paradoxical emptiness at feeling like an outcast within their home and family structure...because even when I was with them, I still wasn’t truly one of them...

And I can live with the dissonance of not having resolution, because that is what reunion has caused...Being a part of a family, yet feeling like an outcast. Being their daughter, but not really their daughter. Knowing I am biologically a sister, but feeling as though I am not a real sibling..." (adult adoptee blogger, Mei-Ling)

* * *

Every word. I can relate to every word Mei-Ling wrote. Being an adoptee means living with dissonance; it means resolution will forever elude you. It means accepting and learning to live, as Mei-Ling so aptly titled her blog, as a "Shadow Between Two Worlds."

To read the entire post, go to "Reunion Resolution" at Mei-Ling's blog, Shadow Between Two Worlds.

I would also strongly recommend reading the post to which Mei-Ling linked as the "inspiration" for her own post. Some of you might find the language a bit shocking and jolting, but I do think it is very important to expose ourselves, whether adoptees, social workers, adoptive parents, etc. to the range of experiences that compose the collective adoptee experience. Each one is valid and each deserves not only a voice but for that voice to be acknowledged.

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Fate and Orphanages" by adult adoptee, Amanda

An excerpt from an entry, "Fate and Orphanages," by adult adoptee blogger, Amanda:

"My parents adopting me out of foster care is not what I have a problem with when it comes to my adoption...What was unethical is the method by which I entered into adoption in the first place. My Original Mother never should have been denied resources. She deserved to know the laws, receive unbiased counseling, and to have been treated humanely. Likewise, children in orphanages may not even need to be there to begin with if their families were properly supported."

For the entire blog post, go to Fate and Orphanages at The Declassified Adoptee.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An example of an ethical intl adoption and other things

Korean adoptee, Jane Jeong Trenka, with whom some of you are already familiar, was interviewed by PBS regarding international adoption.

Check out her blog entry, "An example of an ethical international adoption and other things," in which she gives informed yet concise answers to the following questions:

  • What are the most important things that parents who are adopting transracially and/or transnationally need to know and learn from adult adoptees?
  • In brief, what facets about the current system of international adoption would you most like to see reformed?
  • Do you believe that there is such a thing as an ethical international adoption?
  • What advice would you have for people who want to believe that international adoption is mutually exclusive from global politics and the economic market?

Also, please take a moment to read through the comments section of Jane's post.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Precious, Painful Treasure: The First 5 days of My Life with Omma

[Just a note: There has been an ongoing discussion in response to a post entitled, "The choice to adopt is a luxury choice." Some significant comments have been made to which I need to respond, and furthermore, I, not surprisingly, simply have more that I'd like to share regarding this discussion. I actually have a completed entry that I will post soon. But, for now, I had to take a break from the discussion due to a letter I received from my Omma just two days ago...]

I just received one of the most intense letters from my Omma thus far. She opened up to me for the first time about her memories of her pregnancy and giving birth to me. I learned details about my beginnings, about our beginnings—that is, my Omma’s and my beginnings as mother and daughter—that I have never known.

When I traveled to Korea at the end of June last year to reunite with her for the first time in 30+ years, I had asked her what she remembered from that time. I asked her if she could share with me what it was like for her when she was pregnant with me.

What were her circumstances? What was life like for her during that time?

When she gave birth to me, was she alone or was someone with her?

Did she ever get to hold me?

She choked up with tears and answered that she could not talk about that time in her life because it was too painful. That was over a year ago.

Perhaps she has chosen to finally open up because she feels more secure, more hopeful that I will be able to better understand her and her circumstances, now that I myself am preparing to give birth.

Perhaps she hopes that my own experience of carrying a child and giving birth will help me to grasp with more compassion and humility, less judgment and condemnation, what and why things unfolded as they did.

But the truth is that I never sought her out to judge her or to condemn her. I never sought her out to accuse or to demand recompense. I sought her out because she and I have always been a part of each other. I sought her out because I wanted to have hope that it is never too late. I sought her out because I wanted to know her and to have a relationship with her, fully aware that pain and sorrow would remain, yet hoping that healing and redemption would overcome.

And now that we are here, now that I have sought her and found her, we both must be patient with one another. Although it is not too late, although we can now know one another and have a relationship with each other, the pain and sorrow that remain make the process of healing and redemption slow and fragile.

Although I begin to feel more assured that things will not again suddenly break apart, the insecurity, the fear of such happening are always there. Hence, there is a timidity and a trepidation with which we both proceed that is not easily overcome. Yet, what matters is that we continue on.

What matters is that she is now allowing herself to open up. And what sorrow and suffering she has known. My heart aches with her as I read her words over and over.

To those who have always known how their lives began, it’s easy to take for granted that they can know seemingly mundane details about their beginnings. They can forget how meaningful it is to know that their own mothers held them and nursed them in those first days. They can forget how significant it is to be able to know that they were kissed and caressed by the one who gave them birth. Such details are nothing noteworthy or unique to them, because they have always been assumed.

But to people like me, it is precious, painful treasure. To people like me, it is knowledge that is not so easily assumed but rather questioned and received with angst and hopeful tears.

To discover that I was born by Caesarean is like a golden shard lodged in my throat. To learn for the first time that my Omma and I actually spent the first five days of my life together, as she recovered, is like rubbing jagged jewels in my eyes. Discovering that she nursed me during our brief time together is like a bittersweet elixir sinking into my stomach with the weight of an anvil.

Knowing that we had any time together at all—no matter how short or brief those moments —blankets me as though I am both cold and hot.

And there are deep, secret thoughts that she uttered with her written words that I am not inclined to share.

But to those who would say that the only women who relinquish their children are those who have brought it upon themselves, I would first want to shake you with tears of sorrow and grief choking my rage, pleading with you to open your eyes and mind and heart. But I know that you would not hear me. I know that you would simply dismiss me as crazed and unenlightened. I know that my Omma’s story, my Omma’s truth would mean nothing to you, because she is only one woman, only one person. And it seems that one is never enough to convince the many.

Instead, life after life must be forfeited until the trail is a grave of losses and sorrows upon sorrows. And even then, the world may continue to pass by, muttering exceptions and rationalizations as it steps over those who have tried time and time again to rise up, but have found no one to believe in them.

It is not to say that there are not those who have been so willing to reach out and grasp onto to those who cannot make it alone. But there are still those who remain ignored and despised.

My Omma has had to endure such a life.

Of course, she is not perfect. She has not lived a blameless life. But who of us has?

If only the world had been so willing to believe in her as it had been so willing to believe in me. The world saw me as a helpless, innocent child, with no responsibility for the situation thrust upon me. But, ultimately, not one of us is innocent. And ultimately, we all long for mercy rather than judgment.

So, now, every time I feel my son moving in my womb, every time I touch my hand to my abdomen—taut and hard—to feel him pressing against it with a tiny foot or the crown of his head, I think of my Omma. I think of all her sorrow, all her grief, all the pain that she has endured year after year, day after day—a grief and sorrow that both assails and comforts me, because I know, at least I hope I know, that neither my son nor I will ever have to suffer such a fate. And this gives me both a sadness and a pleasure that by knowing the suffering that my Omma and I share, our son will be able to know a depth of wholeness that neither my Omma nor I have ever known.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Response to comments

The following is my response to comments left by a couple of readers after they read my post, "The choice to adopt is a luxury choice" (Yoon Seon). For context, you may want to read the original post & comments first. I realize this is a sensitive topic and one that needs to be handled respectfully and with consideration. I always strive to do so and also hope that others will strive to do the same. (I responded as a blog post simply because it was too long to post in the comment section--I tend to be pretty long-winded...*smilewink*).

* * *

First of all, I just want to say to Kristen & the Richerts, I appreciate your comments & your honesty. I always want my blog to be a place where people can share their emotions & reactions openly & honestly. So, thank you for taking the time to share your perspective. (Also, if you have not already, I would encourage you to read the original posts for further context from which I extracted the opening quotes...)

Second of all, I apologize if you felt personally attacked. That was not my intention! I really made every effort to indicate my intention when I began the post with:

"I by no means incriminate any single individual nor do I place any ill blame on my own parents--I do believe they are truly decent people with sincere and loving hearts, and I am grateful to call them my parents"

Again, I apologize that you felt that way, but please, before you write me off, I humbly ask you to reconsider my viewpoint, because as Jenni expressed, "I feel like I read a different post than either of you."

I do feel grossly misunderstood and vexed because it's as though you somehow gathered the exact opposite of all the points I was trying to make, and instead put your own words in my mouth--words that I have never uttered or implied.

Kristen, you stated that I am creating a narrative "that suggests that adoptive parents are 'taking' children away from birth parents, as opposed to parenting children who have been abandoned, which is usually the case."

Anyone who consistently reads my blog or knows me personally knows such is not my narrative nor my stance.

But for the record, I am not against adoption nor am I out to demonize or incriminate AP's or anyone else for that matter. I just simply believe that all human systems are broken & flawed, whether it's healthcare or the U.S. Welfare system or International adoption, etc., and hence can always be improved upon and ameliorated. This is not an attack but rather a sincere belief that we as humans can strive to grow and improve whether on a smaller personal scale or whether on a larger communal scale as a society or organization.

Adoption happens to be the "system" that is personally related to me, so I often offer up critiques and challenges for improvement, but it does not mean I am attacking AP's or anyone for that matter.

If anything, this post addresses the folly of the agencies & those who may bring children to orphanages in unscrupulous ways:

"the practice of oppression, falsification, deceit, omission, etc. involving the practices in which children are relinquished and obtained for adoption as well as the documentation of so many adoptees' histories and identities prior to being adopted."

(For the sake of full disclosure, so you understand my personal experience & context--since reuniting with my biological parents, I have discovered that my own adoption paperwork was falsified while information was also withheld from me. And my birth mother did not "abandon" me as was stated in my paperwork, and hence I was technically not a "legal orphan." Her sister is the one who took me to the orphanage and gave me up in secret without consulting my birth father, whom had every plan to raise me...and as I stated in the original post, "My own biological mother has stated that had she had the resources that are available today, she would have chosen to keep me."--this is all too common in Korean, you see, indeed adoption is complicated...)

I did not "implicate" or "imply" responsibility on the part of adoptive parents whatsoever, but rather gave honor and respect to my own parents:

"I do believe they are truly decent people with sincere and loving hearts, and I am grateful to call them my parents" and "whom I love and don't want to imagine my life without"...

I know both of you have read my blog before. Although, I don't know how consistently or regularly you visit, but anyone who has followed my blog consistently or knows me personally, knows that I am not out to rage against adoptive parents or anyone for that matter. It's situations like this when I wish I could just pull up a chair with you & have a face-to-face conversation so that you'd be able to realize that I am not out to threaten or demonize anyone...

And honestly, Kristen, when you wrote to me, "but you seem to be presenting a narrative of adoptive parents 'taking' children from willing first parents"


"...when we are subtly implicated by some as the cause of our child's tragic seperation from their birth family..." I feel completely misread.

Again, I did not say or imply such conclusions in this post or in any of my other posts. If you've ever gathered that, then you are misinterpreting & misunderstanding me completely.

In fact, to reiterate yet again, I wrote:

"I by no means incriminate any single individual nor do I place any ill blame on my own parents--I do believe they are truly decent people with sincere and loving hearts, and I am grateful to call them my parents"


"As I wrote, "Again, this is no reflection on my American parents whom I love and don't want to imagine my life without, but it conveys the reality of how convoluted these adoption situations remain."

I think you heard the exact opposite of the point I was making...I was emphasizing that I don't blame my parents - who are "adoptive" parents but rather that I love them & appreciate them. It does make me feel grossly misunderstood, as though you didn't actually read what I wrote.

Kristen also wrote, "To imply that it is adoption that continues child abandonment is a bit simplistic."

Did I write that? Did I "imply" that? Again, I'm sorry if that's what you interpreted, but I know that's not what I was saying. And I know that's not what I think. And honestly, I did not and have never said anything close to that. Again, most folks who consistently follow my blog know how often I acknowledge how complicated adoption is, while I acknowledged it clearly in this post, particularly when I stated:

"I understand that some of the prohibitions involve cultural stigmas and practices that must also be overcome..."


"Look, I know it's complicated, believe me, I know"

I think these statements clearly address the fact that I recognize, to state just a few, the complexities of adoption, and that it is not so simple. And I have several posts (click here & here & here & here & here, for just a few) that acknowledge in greater detail the emotional & social complexities of adoption.

And just for clarity, people can affect change. There is actually a country where things used to be very similar to the staunch cultural stigmas & pressures that exist in Korea and otherwise, but social change & reform eventually allowed birth mothers to have more of a choice. What country? The United States of America. Back in the 1950's, America was not so unlike Korea when dealing with unwed pregnant women. If you don't believe me, read the book, "The Adoption Reader" that includes autobiographical accounts written by American birth mothers, some whom gave up their children in the 1950's.

And Richerts, as far as the classic, "would you have rather grown up in an orphanage?" I think anyone & everyone knows the answer to that. It's an obvious question with an obvious answer. And again in this post, I think it should be clear what I meant when I wrote:

"There needs to be more of a willingness to give our resources toward family preservation when such is possible."

Notice that I stated, "when such is possible." This statement acknowledges that I understand that there are situations when it is not possible


" American parents whom I love and don't want to imagine my life without..." which in my mind communicates how grateful I am for my parents and how much I love them, and how much I am glad that I did not grow up in an orphanage. (In many ways, it's crazy that I should even have to clarify this, and that anyone would think that I, myself would have rather grown up in an orphanage or that I would want any other child to grow up in an I have expressed before in previous posts, my current stance is this: family preservation first, domestic adoption second, IA third, and orphanage or institution last...).

...So again, I really do think Richerts & Kristen you really somehow did not actually read what I wrote, whether by mistake or simply by skimming my post rather than reading it word for word...and you also did not consider my blog as a whole, which is a complex narrative that wrestles and struggles with trying to consider all the sides of the adoption experience...

As far as special needs, and in particular medical needs, there are some organizations that I am personally familiar with including "Smile Train" and the "Unity Medical Fund". These nonprofits provide medical treatment, such as free cleft lip & palate surgeries among other services, to families that otherwise would not have any hope of receiving such medical attention. River Kids is another organization that works specifically toward family & community preservation.

But again, as I indicated, I realize that it is complicated, and financial resources are not the only prohibitions to family preservation: "I understand that some of the prohibitions involve cultural stigmas and practices that must also be overcome..."

Again, Kristen & Richerts & all other readers, I welcome your comments & input. I simply ask that you show me the same patience and forbearance, the same open mind and heart that I strive to give to you by putting my heart on the line every time I share my thoughts and emotions through this blog. It's not easy for me to put my heart out there--it's vulnerable and frightening, but I choose to do so because I think in the long run it can be productive and fruitful not only for my own journey but also for that of readers.

Kristen, you wrote in reference to my blog posts, "one has to wonder how healthy it is to keep reading." I do humbly ask that before you write me off, that you bear with me patiently and with care as I try to work through the realities that I must face as an adoptee. It is overwhelming to try to process ALL the sides and viewpoints and complexities of adoption, but I want to take the time, which is really a lifelong period, to have a balanced perspective that takes into consideration all the various experiences and realities.

I realize this is a difficult subject that evokes intense emotion & reaction, even as I wrote:

"It took me a long time--and I still wrestle with it today--"

As we gain more knowledge & understanding along the way, we need not paint one another into a corner. This is a hard and complex journey, and I can't do it alone. Your own children will be adults like I am one day, and they may at some point need the support & patience to be able to work through similar issues & realities, similar realizations & conflicts, without feeling as though words are being put into their mouths or that what they're currently wrestling with is somehow unacceptable or wrong, but rather to be able to do so with honesty and openness.

We as adoptees need to feel as though those around us have the patience & willingness to bear with us as we face the realities of each of our situations, just as adoptive parents & social workers & others who work within the system desire to have (and yes, even though a system can be broken, I acknowledge that there are still many good people who try to work within that parents included). It's just that we can never think that we have "arrived," whether we are parents or adoptees, because adoption is an evolving process. The minute we think we've got it all figured out is the minute we become stagnant and inadvertently close our minds and hearts to truth and change...

Again, I know adoption is complicated. If anyone knows, I know. Please, just bear with me and understand that I'm doing the best I can to try to synthesize all those inherent complexities.

Furthermore, unfortunately, unethical practices do still persist in IA--that's why ongoing discussion and change is always needed. We just can't ever grow complacent.

You're right that we can't do it all, but we shouldn't shut those out who are trying to honestly discuss the flaws of the system. Countries like Korea and Ethiopia still have not signed onto the Hague, and yet these are some of the most active adopting-out countries...

Also, I have never said that adoptive parents are responsible for severing biological families and if you have consistently read my blog, I have always honored & respected & expressed my love & gratitude for my own "adoptive" parents (I don't even like to call them my adoptive parents in the same way that I don't like calling my "birth" parents my birth parents, but that's a whole other topic...). I simply believe that the system is broken and that the current dynamic is not particularly conducive or supportive to family preservation, simply because so few resources and so little infrastructure are given to foster perserveration.

And again, I mean no disrespect, and I would hope that you would all know that by now...I work very hard to keep my blog a place where I and other can be vulnerable and where everyone can share their input and perspective. We may not always see eye to eye, but I hope that we will always work to be open and caring toward one another, because like you, it is maddening that so much division and misunderstanding exist within the discussion of adoption.

That's all I want--simply a healthy, honest, considerate discussion that hopefully in the long run will cultivate change both on the individual and systemic level.

Oh, and just one more thing, Kristen, my intention is never to "insult adoption," but simply to provide a healthy, constructive critique and to raise awareness, because it's still needed. You would be surprised at the level of ignorance and "savior mentalities, or whatever description du jour..." actually persists even today. It's fortunate that you seem to be surrounded by folks who don't think that way, but I and other fellow adoptees, continue to encounter our fair share of folks who are clueless (read, "The Boy in the Stroller" or you can watch, "First Person Plural" for just a couple of examples...). I'm glad that you don't have to encounter such reactions...I, on the other hand, have to learn to cope with and understand such viewpoints so that I can address them respectfully and yet with the hope that they can change...

Best to all of you.