Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Korea Aims to End IA by 2012

Excellent piece in the NYT about international adoption from Korea:

Daunted by the stigma surrounding adoption here, Cho Joong-bae and Kim In-soon delayed expanding their family for years. When they finally did six years ago, Mr. Cho chose to tell his elderly parents that the child was the result of an affair, rather than admit she was adopted. [doesn't this just tell you how strong the stigma is/was? You'd rather your parents thought you had an affair?!]

“My parents later died believing that I’d had an affair,” said Mr. Cho, 48, a civil engineer who has since adopted a second daughter.

Now, with South Korea becoming more accepting of adoptive families, Mr. Cho and Ms. Kim feel they can be more open, with relatives and nonrelatives alike. Ms. Kim, 49, attributed the change partly to the growth of other nontraditional families, like those headed by single parents or including foreign spouses.

“We feel attitudes have changed,” she said.

Just how much, though, is the critical question as the South Korean government is pushing aggressively to increase adoptions by South Koreans and decrease what officials consider the shameful act of sending babies overseas for adoption. Since the 1950s, tens of thousands of South Korean children have been adopted by foreigners, mostly Americans, because of South Koreans’ traditional emphasis on family bloodlines and reluctance to adopt.

But last year, for the first time, more babies here were adopted by South Koreans than foreigners, as the government announced recently with great fanfare: 1,388 local adoptions compared with 1,264 foreign ones. What is more, South Korea — which still is one of the top countries from which Americans adopt — has set a goal of eliminating foreign adoptions altogether by 2012.

Click here to read more. The article raises doubts that the goal is possible for special needs adoption, and shows that Korea still has a ways to go in lessening stigma associated with adoption. Adopting parents are still trying to hide the fact of adoption by faking pregnancies, changing jobs, moving, etc. And, there still seems to be prejudice about single parents -- there are complaints that allowing single-parent adoptions domestically (Korea does not allow singles in its IA program) is lowering the standards and are not in the best interest of children.

It's great to see Korea step up to the plate and tried to deal with stigma associated with unwed pregnancy and adoption. I'm wondering how much of this has been the influence of many adult adoptees from Korea who have long lobbied to end IA from Korea.

One argument they made was that international adoption actively prevented Korea from dealing with the stigma issue -- as long as Korea could send children overseas, they didn't have any incentive to try to reduce prejudice toward unwed pregnancy or try to redirect Confucian ideas about bloodlines. So the argument went that international adoption should cease so that Korea would deal with this as a domestic issue. How interesting that Korea is dealing with it BEFORE ending the IA program.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I hope other countries get on board with this idea--you have to create the willingness for adoption and change attitudes before you can shut the door completely or there will be children who do not get families. That being said, it is important that they also address single mothers as they are a source of adoptable children, if they are allowed to parent without or with a minimum of stigma, then they may choose to do so instead of making adoption plans (as we have seen in the US since we don't send young mother's to Aunt Betty's for nine months anymore).

Good luck Korea. I hope they can achieve their goal and I think it may be in part due to many TRA's that have gone back to Korea and helped to create a new understanding of their loss.

Changing prejudice against those with sn's is a harder road (we still have those issues in the US--trust me, we face it all the time) and I think children with sn will continue to need and have harder times finding homes both in Asia and the US (look at any domestic site). Negative attitudes about sn will hopefully end, but it is a long, hard road to change them.