South Korean Adoptions

There are a lot of Korean adoptees in the United States. Today’s blog is courtesy of a story in The Guardian about the LINK>Truth Commission investigating foreign adoptions. Some adoptees sent to Europe and the US say they were wrongly removed from their families as the government in Seoul actively promoted adoption. These adoptees suspect their origins were falsified or obscured during a child export frenzy in the mid-to late 20th century.

The adopted South Koreans are believed to be the world’s largest diaspora of adoptees. In the past six decades about 200,000 South Koreans – mostly girls – were adopted overseas. Most were placed with white parents in the US and Europe during the 1970s and 80s.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has decided to investigate 34 adoptees who were sent to Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and the US from the 1960s to the early 1990s. The adoptees say they were wrongfully removed from their families through falsified documents and corrupt practices. The adoptions to be investigated are among the 51 adoptees who first submitted their applications to the commission in August through the Danish Korean Rights Group led by adoptee attorney Peter Møller. There are now more than 300 applications filed.

The applications cite a broad range of grievances that allege carelessness and a lack of due diligence in the removal of scores of children from their families amid loose government monitoring. During much of the period in question, the country was ruled by a succession of military leaders who saw adoptions as a way to deepen ties with the democratic west, while reducing the number of mouths to feed and removing the socially undesirable including children of unwed mothers and orphans.

Most of the South Korean adoptees sent abroad were registered by agencies as legal orphans found abandoned on the streets, a designation that made the adoption process quicker and easier. But many of the so-called orphans had relatives who could be easily identified and found. Some of the adoptees say they discovered that the agencies had switched their identities to replace other children who died or got too sick to travel, which often made it impossible to trace their roots. The adoptees call for the commission to broadly investigate agencies for records falsification and manipulation and for allegedly proceeding with adoptions without the proper consent of birth parents. They want the commission to establish whether the government was responsible for the corrupt practices and whether adoptions were fueled by increasingly larger payments and donations from adoptive parents, which apparently motivated agencies to create their own supply.

Better Than Punishment

From an editorial by Dr Ruchi Fitzgerald in LINK>The Hill – It is unimaginable to think that seeking medical care could lead to losing custody of their children, yet this devastating predicament is all too real for pregnant women with addiction in the United States.

In our nation, the systems that aim to protect children from the negative effects of parental substance use often prioritize punitive approaches over proven public health strategies. Fear of being imprisoned, stigmatized, or having their children removed makes many pregnant women with substance use disorder (SUD) afraid to seek medical care, contributing to poor maternal health outcomes. Some state laws, including the law in Illinois where I practice medicine, even mandate that health care professionals report cases of detected controlled substances in a newborn infant as evidence of child neglect. While the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) has no such requirement, CAPTA’s overall approach has led to significant variation in how states, counties, and health care institutions implement its reporting requirements when substance use is involved during pregnancy.

Threatening child removal from a birthing parent with SUD without a risk assessment or evidence of danger to the child is not ultimately improving outcomes for children. Research has long shown that children affected by the trauma of family separation tend to experience worse long-term outcomes on a wide variety of indicators, including education, health, housing, employment, substance use, and involvement with the criminal legal system. With over 400,000 children in foster care across the US, the trauma of separation is widespread.

Forced separation also brings unimaginable pain to new families – triggering in some parents such despair that it deters them from seeking or continuing medical care, including treatment for their SUD. Study after study shows child removal is associated with parental overdose, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and return to substance use. Public health-oriented policies that can result in better outcomes for families are part of the solution.

As an addiction specialist physician, I am involved with the medical care of pregnant people with SUD, and I have seen counterproductive child welfare and criminal investigations launched after a newborn infant tests positive for a controlled substance. Too often, parents become hopeless about recovery once their children are gone.

Current policies and practices related to substance use during pregnancy also result in serious health inequities. Pregnant and parenting people of color are much more likely to be impacted by forced separation than their white counterparts. Black parents are more likely than white parents to be reported for substance use to the child protection system at their child’s delivery despite similar rates of drug use, while Black and Native American children are overrepresented in foster care relative to white children in the setting of parental substance use.

Meanwhile, health outcomes are unnecessarily worse for mothers of color. Since 80% of maternal deaths are due to overdose or suicide, we can save lives with policies and practices that encourage treatment, not punish pregnant women with SUD for seeking it. Policymakers need to remove controlled substance reporting requirements that overreach and contribute to the current punitive approach.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) encourages child protective services agencies not to use evidence of substance use, alone, to sanction parents—especially with child removal; supports eliminating in-utero substance exposure language in child abuse and neglect statutes, and supports policies that extend social services benefits and financial support to families in need.

The US Senate will contemplate reauthorizing and reforming CAPTA this year. Health care professionals who treat pregnant people with medications for addiction, like methadone or buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, do not need to involve child protective services for that reason.

Recovery is possible with the right medical care and support. A pregnant person with addiction seeking medical care deserves a chance to heal and recover with her children. If we want pregnant and parenting people with addiction to access the evidence-based treatment they need, our decision-makers must embrace public health over punitive policies.

Social Workers

Back in Georgia Tann’s reign in Tennessee, the role of a Social Worker was somewhat new but crucial to the completion of adoption efforts. Today, I came across this article – What Social Workers Need to Know When Working with Adoptive Families at a WordPress site titled Detached – Attachment – Adoption – Social Critique. The author writes – Though these workers were generally decent people with their hearts in the right place, I’ve been struck by how much even caring and well-meaning social workers can be unintentionally damaging.

This person goes on to say – It is a humbling experience to admit that you don’t have the capacity, whether financial, physical or emotional to handle a child without this support. And virtually no one appreciates having people outside their families making decisions for them, judging their parenting, and having control over their lives. Then adds, proceeding from the notion that social workers and others (probation officers, behavioral aids, etc.) are here to help us, why do we so often feel hurt, humiliated and misunderstood after interacting with them?

This particular essay was written by an adoptive parent. It involved traumatized adoptees. It should be a cautionary tale for any hopeful adoptive parent considering that pathway to parenting.

In searching for the image I share at the top of my own blog here (you can read the rest of the adoptive parent’s perspective at the link above), I found another article. “Is my position as a social worker compromised if I don’t agree with adoption?” with the subtitle – “A social worker reflects on their biases around adoption and the need for group decision-making in matters of separating children from families.” This appeared at a website called “Community Care.”

Any one who has read my blog for any length of time knows that I do not overall support adoption. Just saying. I know from things I have read written by foster parents and it appears true of some social workers that there are people who believe that being inside of a system is the way to reform it. I really cannot judge but from what I’ve read of some who have tried, it doesn’t actually prove out. Also just saying as a disclaimer.

The author of this point of view shares their qualifications – I have been responsible for recommending the interim removal of children from their birth families as well as placing children in the care of relatives under the auspices of special guardianship orders (SGOs). I consider myself to have a sound understanding of care proceedings but one area which leaves me feeling uncomfortable, anxious and unsure of myself as a social worker is adoption. Forced adoption can be seen as punitive. There is clear evidence that austerity (lack of financial supports for families) has added to the adversities faced by any family who’s children have been removed but who seek to have their own children returned to their care. From all that I have read the process can be daunting and the time frame too limited and therefore disallows the parents an ability to be successful.

You can read more in the link for that article above. I apologize for not providing more complete summarizations of the above information but I am short on time today. Read if you care to consider the perspectives.

Victims of Adoption ?

There is currently some upset about birth mothers on TikTok (which I’m not on). An adoptee frustrated with birth moms who have large social media platforms of 30K+ subscribers. Adoptees whose voices should be elevated above birth moms not getting nearly as many views. These birth moms think they know it all when it comes to adoption, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Adoptees are the experts. Period.

At the same time admitting that it’s great they want to help reform the system, but they are part of the problem. They participated and benefited from the system. They signed on the dotted line. But there are first moms out there that are using their platform to profit. A few advise hopeful adoptive parents about how to attract expectant mothers to choose them, in exchange for a fee. They are dangerous and should not be held in such high regard (for example, being asked to speak at paid events).

Another adoptee writes – First mothers who use social media platforms to center themselves as the victims of adoption. In doing so, they focus the attention on their own self, putting themselves out there as the experts in adoption, when the people who should be receiving the attention for lived experience, the true experts in the post-natal trauma of adoption, are the infant adoptees. I am a domestic infant adoptee. I am also a mother of loss to Child Protective Services. I was given very little choice but to sacrifice my parental rights to the machine. I am not the victim of the system: My *children* are the victims. They are the ones who will live every moment of every day of their lives with the consequences of decisions I made, forced or not. If I was to center myself, I would create a vacuum in which there is no room for my children’s experience, and so, I choose to step back and allow them to be the experts regarding their experience — even when it hurts me. The problem with these “loud” mothers of loss is that they cannot comprehend that it really isn’t about them at all: it’s about the person they gave away. And as much as I feel for Baby Scoop Era moms…. I stand by this perspective, even with those mothers.

Baby Scoop Era. Took place during the period of approximately 1945 thru 1974. A time when single mothers–along with and by US society generally–were brainwashed into believing that single mothers could not raise, on their own, a child, and thus large numbers of white babies (mostly, due to demand) were made available to adoption agencies and through them to adoptive parents to “grab”.

Also at the end of the day, it is the children who are the victims. They are the ones *most* hurt by being denied access to their parents, and when their parents aren’t helped as much as possible, it is the children’s loss. Nobody gives a shit about the mothers. For most mothers of loss, they are just vessels for the baby the hopeful adoptive parents want. For those of us who lost ours to the machine, we’re the monsters who abused or neglected our children. It doesn’t matter how loudly we advocate for ourselves or one another, there is still a LARGE contingent of society who is going to see us that way. We’re abusers. Neglecters. Terrible people who hurt children. We’re lying because we have a blood in this game. Believe me – NOBODY CARES.

When we flip that narrative and talk about the children, knowing that the system was MADE for them, to protect them. Then, when we point out that the system designed to protect them is failing them, by exposing them to new trauma by removing them in the first place, then placing them with stranger caregivers who are often more abusive than their families were in the first place, now we have people listening. I’ve been in this fight for long enough to know that as a mother of loss, I’m easily dismissed. But the moment I talk about what my loved ones are experiencing in the care of their kinship caregiver, people start to listen. Better services for families is better for the kids. But we have to put the children of loss center stage, if we’re ever going to make a difference. Because it is the adoptees and the foster care youth who are the ones who really matter.

Poverty Is Not A Good Reason

The question was asked – Should poverty be a reason to remove children from their families?

Let’s be clear – the stipends the families get to care for children that are not their own biological offspring are more than large enough to help take the child’s original, natural family get out of poverty. This is misplaced societal priorities. It is actually less expensive to help the child’s family than to pay for foster care, not to mention the trauma to the child involved.

Poverty is seen by our society as a moral failure when it is in fact most often a sign that someone is being exploited by employers who don’t want to pay a livable wage. So, poverty is NOT a moral failing or a sign of unfit parents. That is a sign of a family who needs resources and support. No one should be having their family ripped apart because of poverty. Poverty is not a crime but not helping people who need support is. We shouldn’t punish families due to a system that refuses to help them, despite having the means to do so.

One woman shares her personal experience – When I had my case it was simply due to poverty. My husband lost his job and we lost our home, so they took my son for 6 months. I’ve met other people who didn’t get as lucky as we did and never got their kids back. The stipend they paid his caretakers would have easily gotten us a cheap 1 bedroom apartment and saved us all 6 months of trauma.

The saddest part is that many Americans still believe that cash welfare exists (almost without exception, it does NOT), and they rail against the imagined “Welfare Queen” fabricated by Ronald Reagan 30+ years ago. It’s every family for their own selves here, and the most insidious part is that many people don’t even know it. If you make any upward progress in your income, the system disproportionately takes support away from you. It makes it very hard to get anywhere, because getting ahead can actually put you behind. 

The thing about systems is there is no humanity in them. Take a part time job and earn $500/month, and you would lose $800/month in food stamps. It’s a system that punishes people for working hard and then, turns around and calls the same people lazy.

It’s been proven that all a woman needs is $800 and access to the right support agencies in order to keep her baby. So how is it necessary that some couples to pay upwards of $40,000 to adopt another woman’s baby ? Sadly, it’s capitalism – the adoption industry makes billions of dollars in revenue.

Follow the money. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 is how states receive federal monies that they then give to foster carers and adoptive families. This is where the push to remove children comes from. The federal government gives states big money for every child in foster care. This money is simply not available for family preservation or reunification.

There is some good news on the horizon. Some states are trying new ideas. Hopefully, their results will be positive and lead to better programs for families. Change is challenging. Kudos to any state that is open to new and better options for struggling families. The government does need to put more importance on family preservation than it does for paying adoption incentives.

When The Deck Is Stacked Against You

When my sons were young, I seriously worried that someone might disagree with our parenting of them and take our sons away from us. On occasion, I even warned them that their behavior put us all at risk. That was before I learned my parents adoption stories and before I joined an all things adoption which includes foster care group. Since then, the horror stories I have read about Child Protective Services makes my concerns of yesteryear seem less paranoid. I remember a Simpsons episode where the children are taken away from Homer and Marge over some coincidental events and given to the Flanders. Since our family was watching the series on dvds at the time, I used that episode to illustrate the dangers to my young sons.

So today, I read this story –

My biological mom is now sober, almost off probation and holding down a full time job, while keeping her house clean. Child Protective Services is telling her that unless she serves every single meal at the dining room table with the whole family, she’s not in compliance and my 6 year old sister is at risk of being taken away from her. Please try to tell me how Child Protective Services is not organized with the intent to steal kids from capable parents. Even when incapable parents turn their lives around and do the work required of them to become what their kids need to thrive, the system itself fights against them with arbitrary demands.

I can relate to this comment because it is much the same in my family (and we have the added challenge that my youngest son doesn’t believe the food that my husband and older son eat with me is actually fit for him to eat and so, I make provisions to include this one in some aspect of what the rest of us are eating (at least what he can accept as food LOL).

We have a maximum of 1 family meal per day as both my hubby and me work. The boys have breakfast together, though the older one often chooses to skip breakfast, lunch is at school and dinner is together, if my husband gets out of the clinic early enough. Sometimes one of the boys is angry and chooses to eat alone in his room to cool off, sometimes we eat in front of the tv. Sometimes my kids even eat outside in the park.

Someone else notes – we are the rare family who eats dinner together nightly but breakfast??? Lunch??? Not everyone is up together or home for lunch.

That pretty much describes my own family. We do have dinner together and I grew up with dinner at the dining room table but my dad was not always there because he worked shifts at an oil refinery. Everyone is on their own for breakfast and lunch in my household of today.

This is NOT the first time I have read they will go to your kid’s school and ask them questions –

They can prove where the kids are eating their meals by asking the kids at school without your knowledge or permission! I told my kids – if someone is at your school who you don’t know and they start asking questions, don’t answer them until I’m with you! No matter what they ask you say – “I’m not answering any questions without my mom here with me, you are a stranger.”

One suggestion is to get this demand in writing and consult with an attorney about it.

Someone else acknowledges how wealth inequality factors into these kinds of cases – they push all kinds of 1950s era respectability on poor moms, while the richer ones can feed theirs charges nuggets at the drive thru daily. And don’t get me started on substance abuse being leveraged against some parents, while the richer ones proudly boast how much wine they need just to be around their kids.

It’s not where you eat that makes you a family, but how you interact, and dinner is absolutely not the only place to interact by even the smallest stretch of the imagination.

One person admitted – They had issues with my kids eating crackers from a little cup on the floor, dropping one and then picking it up off the floor. It was a reason they gave for removal.

The response was – Have they never heard of the 5 second rule? Lol In all seriousness though, kids need to be exposed to a certain level of germs in order to build up their immune systems. Eating a cracker off the floor is not even the tiniest bit concerning. I’m so sorry they did that to you.

And I will add – I am not the germ free spotless kind of mother. And my kids have been healthy as all get out. I believe it is because I allowed them to be exposed to a certain level of germs. I believe that is actually true. They say if there is too much disinfectant and sanitizer involved, the kids are more vulnerable to illness.