As a child I lived for a time in Seoul, South Korea. As an adult, I'll return to Seoul with my husband to adopt a child. This is our journey back to Seoul.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Korean Film Festival

Spring always reminds me of why I love DC. Sometimes that's hard to remember when I'm packed into a Metro car that's delayed because of some reason or another. Once all of the grime from winter is washed away and the cherry blossoms and pink magnolia trees make an appearance I start to feel like making some plans. Find a new restaurant, maybe a new park J. would like, something fun to do. And DC never dissapoints.

A fun exhibit is coming up at KORUS. If you haven't been to their site, they have great resources and ideas for cultural activities. The exhibit next week is related to metal work and jewelry:

If you're interested, please review the details as it does require a RSVP.

Also coming up is the Korean Film Festival 2009 at the Freer Gallery of Art and AFI Silver Spring. You can find the details here:

There is a panel discussion that looks terrific on April 19th at the Freer Gallery of Art highlighting the contributions of women directors!

I often struggle to find information on Korean artists (plenty to be found about Japanese and Chinese artists) so both of these opportunities are something to look forward to.

Make some plans and get out there!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

No Jail Time in Adoption Scam

How can this be? How can there be no jail time for these people that stole children from American Samoa? Where is the movement to return these children to their natural parents?

This blackens the eyes of adoptive parents everywhere. If you were to discover that your child had been stolen from their birth parents, why wouldn't you immediately begin the process to reunite them? Yes, incredibly painful but is the desperation to have a child so great that you would delude yourself into thinking that you had no obligation to be accountable to this child?

Congratulations to Mark Nyberg, the ONLY parent that is taking the steps to return his adopted daughter to her birth family. The rest of the parents seem to be sputtering around talkng about how the kids are better off here but they can still have contact with their birth families. Disgusting...


Friday, February 6, 2009

Something to share...

I was profoundly moved by this post at Heart, Mind and Seoul. Paula is a wonderful writer and has a variety of perspectives to share about adoption issues. What she shares is incredibly personal:


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Language and International Adoption (Do I Really Need to Learn Another Language?)

So many posts have been written on the language of adoption and the specific words we in the community use to describe ourselves and our experiences. Children are not “given up” for adoption, they are “placed” and everyone seems to have a preference for what term should be applied to birth parents and adoptive parents. But this post isn’t about that kind of language.

In International adoption, children leave behind a country and in most cases a language that they may never learn simply because English will become their primary language. Many AP’s struggle with how to connect a child to a language and culture that they themselves may not be familiar with. So how important is preserving culture and language for our children?

When we were first exploring Korean adoption, I read a post on another AP blog relating to keeping culture connections. I don’t remember exactly her words but the gist of the message was:

Don’t tout yourself as one who embraces your child’s birth culture if all you’re doing is celebrating Lunar New Year and maybe sending your kids to culture camp for a week during the summer.

We’ve heard this same type of sentiment expressed during the Christmas holidays when we show up for a very crowded holiday service. The “regulars” get very upset having to share space with the lowly Episcopalians that have finally decided to squeeze in a service. I’m not saying that you have to be a regular attendee at church, we’re not currently good about getting there on Sundays, but I am saying that faith takes commitment and more than that, it takes practice.

So what should we do? Do our kids need to learn their original language? Do we? In our adoption journey, we’ve met families from all over the spectrum. We’ve had conversations with people that are completely annoyed by the concept of maintaining cultural connections. Just give us the baby and leave us alone! I actually witnessed a very upset man stand up and vent in a pre-adoption group “So what the hell am I supposed to do? She [the daughter they were seeking to adopt from China] is going to be AMERICAN. She’ll speak ENGLISH! Am I supposed to take her out for Chinese food to try to expose her to Chinese culture? Why do I have to bother since she’s never going back to China?” Ack! Wow. The other end of the spectrum is the couple that “becomes” Korean. I’ve seen examples of this too where the parents buy hanboks, take language classes and define themselves as a Korean family. There is something really distasteful about a white family parading around telling everyone that they’re now Korean. Your child might be Korean but you, white adoptive parent, are not.

There are great examples of AP’s that I think do a great job in keeping their kids connected. Often they have examples on their blogs but I won’t “out” them here. For us, we have great resources in the DC area and lots of active groups that not only promote connection via music, art, stories, food, language, etc. but also seek to identify role models in the Korean community for adopted children. Of most interest to us when figuring out how we would approach the topic was reading the words of adoptees themselves. In our research (not necessarily based on scientific principles) we found that the biggest stumbling block for adoptees seeking relationships within Korea or even the US-based Korean community was language. There are very poignant stories by adoptees describing their return to Korea and finding such comfort because everyone around them looks just like them but experiencing rejection because they were unable to communicate. Many of them expressed sadness that the language was such a barrier. Not everyone’s story is the same but what we want for our son is that he’ll be comfortable and confident standing in both countries. To us, this means supporting the language as well as the other cultural connections (Alex is enjoying the food connection quite a lot).

Languages are challenging. I'm not advocating that all AP's of Korean children learn the language. I am advocating that there are ways to practice cultural connections more than once a year. It takes work and might be out of your comfort zone but the resources are there. For example, we have a Rosetta Stone which I really do recommend. It’s very helpful for beginners but I was also looking for other options to practice conversation. KORUS House in DC offers inexpensive language classes and I’ve signed up for their beginner class. My goal isn’t to become fluent (years and years of study) but I want to understand at a beginner/intermediate level and learn to read the Hangul characters so that I can share them with James eventually. Maybe even meet some people along the way! More importantly, we plan to enroll James in language classes when he is old enough to begin them (they’re telling us 3 or 4 although we use some Korean vocabulary at home now). He may eventually be upset with us for sending him to class and he may reject Korea (the language/culture, everything) completely at some point in his life but I believe holding that door open is so important. I can’t walk through the door with him as a Korean person, but I can hold the door wide open for him so that he can walk back and forth on his own. We can do something each and every day to practice our faith and commitment to our son. And yes, we can celebrate Lunar New Year too!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Giving Away Babies

A very close friend called a few nights ago and asked if her cousin K, also an acquaintance of ours, could call me because they are going to adopt a baby domestically and had some questions. I was aware that K and her husband went through difficult challenges to have their son, including the deaths of twin boys in a late term miscarriage. K has health issues related to the fact that her mom took DES while pregnant with her. Ultimately they were able to have a son 5 years ago and had decided that having one child was more than enough for them.

Of course, I'm happy to discuss our experience with the caveat that it's simply our experience. I learned a long time ago that being an AP doesn't make me much of an expert in anything. I expressed that I'd be happy to chat but that I'm not as knowledgeable about domestic adoption and said they might want to see if their adoption agency had recommendations for someone to talk to. I'm sure they had to go through a pre-adoption group of some sort, right? This is where things got weird.

"They're not using an agency, someone is just giving a baby to them." Ummm, well, who is just giving a baby to them? A friend of K's from high school has an adult daughter (21 years old) with a three-year old little girl. The adult daughter engaged in some risky behavior at a party (her description, not mine) and is now 8 weeks pregnant with her second child and wants to "give away" the baby. The friend, or baby's grandma, thought of K and her husband because she knows of the trouble they had conceiving their son and thinks they'd be great parents. Plus that way the baby goes to a good home. Oh and the best part, according to the friend, is that the birth mother doesn't want any money so they are getting a baby for free.

Whoa, wow...where do I even start with how truly icked out/upset this conversation made me. But, I'm trying to be calm and not sound like a condescending AP (sorry, but there are some of us that are sometimes...maybe even me). I asked if K talked to the daughter/birth mother about how she feels? She's an adult after all so it seems odd that her mother is brokering her baby to old high school friends. Plus, she's 8 weeks pregnant. It doesn't seem like she's had much time to make a decision and I'd be worried that this kind of a decision, made under emotional stress and pressure, isn't necessarily what she wants or has had time to consider fully.

Then I asked about the birth father...and was sorry I asked. "Oh, the birth father won't be a problem, she's not going to list him on the birth certificate." Problem? He has a right to know about his baby. What if he wants to raise the baby? And then I heard it, the age-old argument/rationalization for adoption:

The baby would be better off with K and her husband because they are secure financially and could give the baby a better home with a mom and dad.

Argh, better off according to what standard? what committee? what policy? what family? So it's okay to lie or "not tell" a person about his child because he falls into a certain income bracket? Or because he's young (he's also 21).

So rather than shout at my friend, she's not the one adopting although it upsets me that she's not recognizing that the situation is problematic, I wrote down a few things for her to send to K before we talk. Here is a summary:

A. The birth mother has feelings and rights. She may eventually wish to have you adopt her baby but she might also be feeling pressured to make this decision. She needs to take some time to figure out what she wants to do independent of family/friend pressure and hopefully she can get some counseling to help in this process. Can you wait until she has the time to make this decision appropriately and can you live with her decision, no matter what it is? Are you okay if she changes her mind, even after the baby's birth?

B. The birth father has feelings and rights too. Omission from a birth certificate doesn't erase him from the picture. The birth mother needs to let him know of the situation so that he can identify his options and weigh his choices.

C. The most important person in the equation is the baby. Babies grow up and want to know where they came from. Any pressured decisions, omissions, half-truths, lies, will come out eventually. A better income doesn't equate to a better home.

D. For K and her husband, do you understand the full concept of adoption, not the sanitized media version? Can you embrace the complexity of the concept? Are you able to support an open adoption? This baby will come into the world with a biological sibling. Are you prepared to support that relationship? Can you also get counseling? Can you find an adoption agency to work with or at least a social worker experienced in adoption issues to talk to? Are you prepared to not only adopt this baby but also to adopt this family as you'll forever be connected to them. How will you explain this to your 5-year old and other family members? How will they feel/react to this new child?

Of course, it's just a start. I'm going to see K this Saturday to talk. I have a stack of adoption stuff to give her. I don't know if it will help as we already have the "God decided to give us a baby" conversation going on within this family. Yep, God decided to give this young woman low self-esteem so that she'd go to a party, drink too much, have unprotected sex with a crush, get pregnant, have a baby and give it to you, all to make you happy. Unfortunately I don't know enough about private adoption and whether a home study is required for all states, etc. The family is on the east coast and the baby will be born in the mid-west so there are interstate issues here too.

Alex and I talked about it and because of how awful we felt about the situation, acknowledging that people around this young woman may take advantage of her, we'd limit ourselves to one conversation with them about this. We can point them towards ethical adoption and share our beliefs but that's it. K and her husband are good people and I have to have faith that they will ultimately do what is best for the baby. I hope, I hope...


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dual Citizenship

Margie @ Third Mom posted a comment to share very important news. The Korean Government is taking steps to allow adoptees to apply for dual citizenship. The sticking point was the mandatory military service requirement for citizens but there appears to be a compromise in the works.

Not many details yet but for those of us not wanting to shut the door on our children's birth country, this is wonderful.

You can also see the Dual Citizenship Campagn press release on GOAL's site.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year (and Blogger Confessions)

Geeze I’m out of the loop and feeling really disconnected. I haven't had much to say. Life is busy and been posting to my photo blog instead. It’s a little more private and I don’t feel as “naked” since it’s protected. Plus I’ve been kind of discouraged by some of what’s said in the adoption blog arena and I haven’t felt much like engaging. Lately I’ve felt like there’s a lot of dictating of feelings “all adoptees feel this way”, “APs are never going to get it”, “birth mothers couldn’t possibly understand”, etc. Blech. I can’t really speak to anyone’s feelings or understanding. I have a hard enough time figuring out what my own feelings are much less validating (or in many cases, invalidating) those of others. I’m more interested in reading what people think/feel rather than what they think everyone else thinks/feels. Those are the posts that make me think and those are the ones that I learn from. But enough about what I need/want! I know I’m generalizing and there have been some very cool posts (and most excellent news) too.

We had a really nice holiday. Santa stopped by. James didn’t understand Santa but appreciates the really fantastic wagon and toy electric guitar that Santa brought. Santa learned a valuable lesson about “Adult assembly required” and we learned that it is possible for a cat to climb an artificial tree (we have one of each). We had a smaller group for Christmas Day dinner than in previous years but it was probably a blessing (15 for dinner instead of the usual 23-25). We did so much less than we normally do but there was still plenty.


Santa also brought new running shoes for the half-marathon series and training books hoping I’ll come to my senses and not run the Chicago Marathon in October (peer pressure is a SOB). Sitting around drinking wine while discussing the possibilities with friends didn’t help any. Twenty-six point 2 miles doesn’t seem as intimidating while standing in my pajama pants holding a glass of Bordeaux in one hand and a cookie in the other. James received a new running stroller bunting so he can be part of the action.

And life goes on…James adoption has been cleared for our final steps. I’m sad that this process robs him of his Korean citizenship and truly wish that Korea and the U.S. had a dual citizenship agreement. With all of our efforts to keep him/us connected to Korea, it would be a seemingly small allowance that would mean so much for his future. We’re working on our plans for Seollal too and the timing might be such that we have one celebration for both events. Mostly we’re consumed with the rhythm of life (daycare, work, laundry, learning to walk, what’s for dinner?). I have a couple of posts to muddle through related to adoption (my feelings only, I promise). I’ll get to them soon…really.

So I’ll wish for you what we toasted our guests with on Christmas Day, that your joys outnumber your sorrows and that as you walk into this new year, you have peace, health, and friends and family that you love and trust.

Hold hands, stick together and look both ways before stepping off the curb too.