The tide is turning against international adoptions. In South Korea, activists are trying to end or at least cut down on adoptions by foreigners. Up until recently, South Korea was one of the leading providers of children for American families, according to CNN, which is running a series on international adoption.
Under a new law, birth mothers in South Korea have more time after giving birth to make a final decision whether or not to give up their baby. Mothers also can choose to revoke the adoption up to six months after filling out an application.
Not all Korean adoptees approve of the changes. Steve Choi Morrison, who was adopted by an American family at the age of 14, supports intercountry adoption. He is the founder of the Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea (MPAK).
Since 2004, the number of children adopted from South Korea and other foreign countries has been on the decline, according to CNN.
I’ve heard horror stories about foreign adoptions. I also know of children adopted from abroad who have thrived in their American homes. Like most things, international adoption is not a black-and-white issue.
I am glad South Korea is showing birth mothers greater respect. The decision to surrender a biological child should never be made in haste or under pressure. In another encouraging sign, South Korean activists are working to improve government support for single mothers.
I read a shocking report by Reuters about adoptive parents who use the Internet to find new homes for children they no longer want.
The article is the first in a five-part series by Reuters that examines America’s underground market for adopted children. According to the report, parents are so eager to unload their kids that they hand them off to people they barely know. No screenings required. How horrible and dangerous for the children.
Children adopted from overseas are especially vulnerable to these unauthorized exchanges. As the article points out, Americans often don’t know what they’re getting into when they adopt children from other countries. They don’t know the child’s complete history. When problems arise at home, parents don’t have a support system in place. Bailing out seems like the best option for some desperate parents.
Adopting a child is not like purchasing a big-screen TV. You can’t take your baby back to the store if you’re unhappy. Once you adopt a child, you make it work no matter how difficult things get.
Clearly we need to do more in this country to support adoptive families and make it hard for parents to abandon their kids like unwanted possessions.
The story of my mother’s life is the saddest story I’ve ever heard.
I have pieced together a rough draft of her life, based on documents and interviews with family members and a close friend. I only have bits and pieces, not the whole story. What I’ve woven together is far from complete but the more I learn about my mother, the more I want to know.
Born around 1934 in rural Indiana, my mother had enough brothers and sisters to fill a classroom. She was one of about 14 or 15 children. Feeding and sheltering that many kids proved impossible for her parents who struggled through the Depression. My mother and her siblings were separated, sent to live as foster children in the homes of strangers. One of my mother’s foster moms was a woman with a “wicked tongue,” according to her daughter. My mother cleaned the family’s house and did other chores. She liked to draw and read fiction. She also looked after her foster mother’s children and grew especially close to one of her foster sisters, who looked up to her. The girl wept when my mother left for Indiana University.
She never earned a degree. My mother married young and had several children. They all lived in a simple bungalow in a suburb north of Chicago. My mother was known for her great cooking and lively personality. People I talked to recalled how nice and sweet she was sober. After a few drinks, the sweet attractive woman morphed into someone who could be belligerent and aggressive, a woman who talked a lot and would not let go of a grievance.
My mother already had four children when I came along. Her husband had every reason to believe I was another man’s child so after I was born, my mother gave me up to a couple in their 50s. They adopted me and never told me I was adopted. My mother and her husband eventually divorced and she raised her four kids on her own for a while. She worked as a waitress.
She married again and her second husband was said to be good to his stepchildren. My mother’s oldest, a boy, was born with developmental delays. Her second child was a girl. Her third child, a boy who did very well in school, helped keep the family together. Tragically, as a teenager, he took his own life after breaking up with a girl. The death of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare and suicide adds another layer of pain. My mother was never the same after that.
She was coping with breast cancer when her third son, a troubled young man, was seriously hurt in a motor vehicle accident. Divorced again, my mother took care of her injured son and herself at home. I was told near the end of her life, she and her son lived in a rented cottage on a lake in northern Illinois, a place where my mother felt at peace. She was about 48 when she died. Left behind was her son, who eventually died from complications related to the accident.
My mother was gone before I even knew she had existed. If I could talk to her, I would ask a lot of questions.
What would you do differently if you could re-live your life? How did you and my father meet? What did you see in him? What’s his name and what is he like? How did you feel about giving me up for adoption? Did you meet my adoptive parents?
I don’t resent her at all for giving me up. She did what she had to do and I’m sure it made perfect sense at the time. It makes perfect sense to me now. In that situation, I probably would have done the same thing.
My one regret is never having had a chance to look into my mother’s dark eyes and talk to her.
On a spring day in 2012, my original birth certificate arrived in the mail. What am I going to find out, I wondered nervously. Taking a deep breath, I opened the envelope from the state of Illinois. Inside, a non-certified copy of my original birth certificate gave me my mother’s married and maiden names (her first name is Lillian), her age (28), address at the time of my birth (Northbrook, a suburb of Chicago) and her birthplace (Washington, Indiana).
Up until then, I had figured my mother was probably a teenager when she got pregnant with me so I was surprised to learn she was 28 years old. My husband, Tom, and I question whether she really was married. That seems fishy.
Of course, this document does not come close to answering all my questions, including one very big one: “Who was my birth daddy?” (He was “not legally known,” according to the birth certificate.) Still, it was thrilling for me to get answers to these very basic questions about my life, questions non-adopted adults never have.
Illinois is one of the latest states to unseal birth records, the Associated Press reported. Some 350,000- adoption records were sealed in Illinois beginning in 1946 and, since 2010, close to 9,000 people have claimed their birth certificates from the state.
The Associated Press interviewed adoptees from Illinois who got in touch with their birth mothers. I haven’t done that. Other than visiting Ancestry.com and similar sites to learn more about my birth mother, I have not made any real attempt to find her. She could be dead for all I know.
I can only imagine how tough it must be to meet the woman who gave you life and then gave you to another family. If you have made contact with your birth mother, I would love to hear your story.