Thinking about Korea's adoption changes

Update March 23, 2013: I just read on the last website noted below that finalization in Korea will not be required: The adoption agencies in Korea have officially heard from the Family Court that the visiting families need not show up at the Family Court. This means that your children will most likely be issued IR-4 visas, like the old way. Can anyone confirm?

There's been lots of online discussion the past couple of weeks around the new Korean adoption laws and travel requirements. Here are a couple of recent articles on the subject, all three by adoptees. The first two focus on positive impacts to Korean mothers and children, and the last on negative impacts to prospective adopters:
Shannon Heit's article resonated with me, because one of my children has experienced falsified documents, something Ms. Heit believes the new law and rules will help to avoid. I know how horrible it feels to have given your child a false history, how angry it made me to feel the process had betrayed our trust, and how difficult it is to help that child through a reconstruction of the past.

That's the insignificant part of it. Imagine what it was like for my child.

On the other hand, I can relate to some of the comments on the MPAK post. I understand that it would be incredibly painful to be led to believe that you could adopt a child, only to find that a new requirement put that adoption outside of your financial means or life circumstances.

What would I have done, I wonder, had this requirement come up when I was in the process of adopting? I honestly don't know. I know I would have been frustrated and angry. I know I would have felt victimized by the system. My husband and I may very well have come to the conclusion that the risk of losing my job while on leave might have made it impossible. Our adoption plans might have stopped there.

I would have whined - understandably, perhaps, from the adoptive parent perspective, but still. As long as adoption policies and processes set the stage for adoption success, adoptive parents are likely to view every obstacle as inherently bad. But these "obstacles" have important purposes, and in the long run - yes, a very hard view for a prospective adoptive parent to take - they will do a lot of good for adoption from Korea.

Easy for me to say, of course, sitting here with grown children who were escorted here. Things were loose back when we adopted, very loose. Mothers surrendered their rights before their children were even born, and were separated from them while they were still in the hospital. Many agencies, ours included, didn't require travel, even discouraged or prevented it. Re-adoption in the U.S. and naturalization were the accepted path to citizenship for intercountry adoptees.

But, oh, the fallout. When families are unnecessarily broken by poverty-driven adoption, and adoptees are deported back to their birth countries because the adults and laws provide no protection, the process is broken.

Although they appear to do nothing more than lengthen the adoption process unnecessarily, the new law and travel requirements are an important step toward making adoption from Korea safer and more just for all involved. They promote women's rights in Korea by giving women greater control over and time to consider the decision to parent. They strengthen legal safeguards to ensure that when children are placed in the U.S. that they will automatically gain U.S. citizenship upon arrival - no visa loopholes, no more deportations when agencies and adoptive parents fail in their responsibilities.

They take another step toward changing Korean attitudes about single parenting and domestic adoption - less tangible, but equally important.

I empathize with prospective adoptive parents who are frustrated with and afraid of the new rules. Although I didn't face a change as impactful as this, I understand your pain from the challenges we did face. But I also encourage you to look at these changes through the eyes of Korean women and children, as well as the children who are ultimately adopted here in the U.S. and other countries.

Advocacy can come in many forms. Promoting justice is an important one, one I hope the Korean adoptive parent community will embrace and support the new law and requirements as they come into full practice.

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