Korean Single Moms' Day Testimony

I had the honor of participating in Single Moms' Day in Seoul today. I share my testimony here in honor of Korea's single mothers - unmarried, divorced and widowed - who are fighting for the right to parent their children without discrimination or stigma, and to all mothers everywhere who have been separated from their children.

I am the adoptive parent of two Korean children who are now in their 20s, whom my husband and I adopted as infants. I am humbled and inspired to participate in Single Mom's Day and on this panel this year.
I'm humbled because I join as one of thousands of parents whose families have been formed because of the tragedies and sorrows experienced by my fellow panelists and thousands of other women and families.
I am equally inspired by the adoptees and mothers here. It is never easy to stand up to an injustice that society doesn't recognize or justifies in some way as the sad but logical result of accepted inequities. You are taking that stand.

In a way, anything I say here today could be considered hypocrisy, because I have adopted and benefited from your loss. Many adoptive parents realize this and pull away from those who are working to reform adoption. They feel uncomfortable speaking out against the system that brought them their children and may even feel their critique is a betrayal of their own and other adoptive families.
The resulting emotional conflict silences many adoptive parents, even when they agree that the current system of adoption must change. We have to speak out, however, because in many countries, certainly the United States, adoptive parents have long controlled the dialog around adoption. We have had the strongest connections with the adoption agencies, social workers, lawmakers and religious organizations that have driven adoption practice and law to its current broken state.

It is a desire to break this silence that brings me to Single Moms' Day this year. I come, as an individual and an active member of the Korean adoption community, to find ways to collaborate that encourage the large, silent majority of adoptive parents to join ranks as we work for change. I also come to promote subsidiarity, the wise principle that children are best served first in their immediate and extended birth families, next by adoption in their birth countries and finally by intercountry adoption.

Most of all, I come to listen, to learn and to share what may be helpful to your efforts to support the rights of women to raise their children. For too long, adoptive parents have claimed the right to promote and conduct adoption as we have seen fit. It should be no surprise to anyone that we adoptive parents will try to fix adoption on our own terms, which almost always includes promoting adoption as the first choice for children and for single pregnant women.

Instead of trying to push forward our own agenda, we adoptive parents must give control of the adoption experience to adoptees and to parents who have lost children to adoption or are raising children as single mothers in spite of the challenges. You are the ones who live the losses and challenges, day in and day out. You are the experts, and I am here to learn from you.

I hope that by participating here today, other adoptive parents will see that it is possible to join in the good fight for family preservation and ethical child care without betraying our families and experiences. I hope, too, that adoptive parents will join hands with adoptee and birth parent activists, rather than labeling and dismissing them as we too often do, particularly when you speak passionately.

You must keep speaking out, as loudly and passionately as you can - and we adoptive parents must stop labeling and dismissing. We must face the fact that we have participated in something that has proved to be unjust in far too many cases. It's time for us to hand over control of adoption dialog and policy development to those who should have had it all along: adopted people and their parents.

Stepping back and listening to mothers and adoptees has changed the way I think about adoption. I once believed that adoption was a "win-win-win" solution for mothers facing unplanned pregnancies, their children and infertile people like me. I believed, too, that I had no right to interfere in Korean cultural attitudes; I still hear this from adoptive parents and even some adoptees. I also used to think I had no power to change Korean attitudes toward single parenthood or adoption, but I now know that the information age gives us all the power to influence across the globe, if we choose to use that power.

You have used every means available to you to work for change in Korea. Your work is influencing and driving needed change in the United States, too, and in other countries. You, as individuals and organizations, are providing support to single mothers, denouncing baby box abandonments and fabricated hojeoks, educating the mainstream and even changing laws.

You are doing the work that we adoptive parents have failed to do, because we have been too busy promoting adoption and working to increase its volume. One day, and hopefully soon, the success of the families you are creating here and the ethical adoption practices you are promoting will show the world that adoption only succeeds when it gives more to mother and child than it takes from them. This can never be the case when mothers are separated from children they want to parent for lack emotional and material support.

You deserve the support of all adoptive parents, and you have mine. I am glad to be here and anxious to learn from your experiences, and equally happy to share my own with you. Thank you for allowing me to join this incredible event.


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