She grew up in South Dakota, raised by a single mom who went through a divorce while Chae was in transit from South Korea. Chae didn't consider tracking down her birth family until 2001, when she first asked her adoptive mom for details about her past. That led her to Lutheran Social Services in Minneapolis. The agency had a copy of the photo, providing the first clue in her search for her birth parents. Chae also received forms that had traveled with her from Korea. The "Adoptive Child Study Summary" from October 6, 1977, claimed Chae had been left on the steps of the Bukboo Police Station in Seoul with a note pinned to her chest explaining her mother couldn't keep her.Read the whole story, as Chae builds a relationship with her sisters and mother, and the father who never knew about her.
But those clues led her no further. "I thought, Well, there's little chance of finding my family," Chae recalls. "I had become comfortable with that." Nine years later, she heard about a charity that sends adopted children back to Korea to find their families, and suddenly Chae and Greg found themselves in the orphanage where her trip had begun.
The orphanage director revealed that the story on the adoption forms had been a lie. There was no note pinned to Chae's chest. The orphanage just figured the story would make the child more adoptable.
Middle-aged and businesslike, the director recited details without emotion, as she said she does for the 150 or so adoptees who make this journey each year. "You were born the fifth child. You had four older sisters," she said, reading glasses on the tip of her nose. She explained that Chae's mother chose to give her up. "Her condition was not good enough to take care of all children." So she asked the doctor who delivered Chae to put the baby up for adoption.
"We are trying to search for your birth family," the orphanage director continued. They even had a current number for Chae's mother and had been leaving messages, but hadn't heard back.
Chae stared at the paperwork and photos. It was overwhelming. Tears wouldn't come until later.
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