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.

Speak Your Truth

I got a blog notification from LINK> Tony Corsentino, an adoptee that I now am glad to be able to read thoughts from. He notes people whose lives begin with severance and secrecy need to speak their truth. He goes on to say that secrecy in adoption makes one’s story into contested property, where truthseeking, not to mention truth speaking, can be received as betrayal.

He says the nearly universal expectation is that adopted people are grateful for their adoption—grateful to their adoptive families, grateful for a system that rescues infants and children from perilous circumstances, from abusive homes, from orphanhood. That expectation imputes a form of dependence to adopted people: that of being beholden to their adopters, and to the system that placed them in their adopters’ families.

Speaking one’s truth is an act of self-emancipation.

Often when an adopted person speaks of being adopted as a less than positive experience, their truth is labeled a “poor adoption experience.” The implication is that questioning the justification for severing a child from their original family must come out of the aftermath of a traumatic experience.

When the question is one of rights, the justification for denying people control over their bodies, it is the point. Storytelling is essential to moral argument. He goes on to note – this is true of adopted people who recount their experiences with adoption. I do not know whether to call my own adoption experience “positive” or “negative” overall. I was taken from my mother and given to people who did and do love and care for me. That’s a “positive,” surely.

Regarding his own search, he says “I did not find my birth parents until the fifth decade of my life.” In my own roots search, I was well into my sixties before I knew anything about my genetic and biological origins as regards my original grandparents. My own parents died knowing nothing beyond their names at birth and some sketchy information about one or both parents’ names.  

So, Tony notes – “I have reflected on all those factors—the barriers adopted people face in trying to reclaim their original identities, their sense of their place in the world, their cultural and ethnic roots, their family health histories—and I see no compelling moral justification for those barriers’ existence. Certainly no justification for the lack of support for adopted people who wish to overcome those barriers.” I agree. During my own search, it was like repeating dashing my head against a concrete wall.

The reason why individual trauma and harm matter in the stories adoptees tell is it forces other people to ask themselves whether it really had to be that way. Adoption is the legally sanctioned erasure of the child’s original identity.

Adoptees tell their stories because they believe that they have insights about adoption that non-adopted people will at least find intelligible. Even while acknowledging that it is impossible for people who have not lived severed aka adopted lives to truly understand. As the stories pile up, one has to admit that the harms are not all in one adoptee’s head but are a universal experience among them as a whole.

Losing My ?

As the child of both parents being adoptees and as the sister to my only two sisters, who both gave up babies to adoption – I’ve said “adoption” was the most natural thing in the world for me. But that isn’t quite right – it’s not natural – and all of the kids I grew up going to school with didn’t have adoptee parents (though thankfully, my parents were NOT my adoptive parents) and adoptive grandparents and adoptee uncles. So, I can’t really say it was commonplace to have adoption be so primary in our lives.

The closest I can come is that it was the reality. Not having a medical history for my parents when asked about that in doctor’s offices was just the reality.

Not knowing our racial heritage was just the reality. In fact, it may seem a bit odd but until I knew better (in 2017, when I was already 63 years old and both of my parents deceased), I honestly thought my mom was half African American and my dad was half Mexican – not kidding about that – that is how I was able to explain to myself that my parents had been given up for adoption – they must have been mixed race, which made me at least 50% mixed race along with 50% white (because I was definitely light skinned, blond haired and blue eyed). The truth was far from my creative imaginings. My mom had a lot of Scottish along with some English and thanks to slavery a smidgeon of Mali. My dad is half Danish.

My 4 adoptive grandparents were all wonderful people. My mom’s original parents were highly thought of and loved by their relations. My dad’s mother was loved and his dad, well he was a lot like my dad. Never knew he had even one child, let alone a son. More’s the pity – I think they would have made great fishing buddies.

Yet for about 5 years now, I’ve been reading the thoughts of adoptees wherever I find them and my perspective has entirely changed. I do not think adoption is a good thing in most cases. I actually thought my parents were orphans for the longest time – like until I was grown and heard from my mom that she was trying to get the state of Tennessee to release her adoption file to her because she was CONVINCED her adoption had been inappropriate (to a great extent because Georgia Tann had been involved) and she wanted to contact her original mother. Then, the state of Tennessee broke her heart because they told her that her mom had already died a few years earlier. She knew her dad was likely (and even that was not certain) older than her mom, so probably dead too. About 2 years after my mom died, I was able to do what she never could – get her entire adoption file from the state of Tennessee.

I do have Ancestry as well as 23 and Me to thank for most of my progress on my dad’s side. I now know who all 4 of my original grandparents were (something my own parents died never knowing). I have contact with some genetic, biological relations who are still living. I feel whole in a way I never even knew I did not feel before I learned all of that.

Somehow this song speaks to my feelings about all of this . . .

Passing On One’s Genes

I distinctly remember when my husband first told me he wanted children. I came by today’s blog in a round-about way looking at infertility and narcissism (and see one of my own blogs showing up in a google search, oh my). Yet then I found this – I believe there is no good reason – other than vanity and narcissism – that an infertile couple should opt for IVF over adoption. Please CMV. (Change my view) by LINK> Javier Mosquera at Penn State.

This got my attention as both the choice to pursue IVF and issues of adoption matter to me. We briefly considered adoption and quickly ruled it out. Over 20 years ago, I didn’t know everything about adoption that I know today. I am very glad we didn’t go that route. But for the grace . . .

So Javier writes, “Today’s topic for my Passion Blog post comes from the subreddit LINK>‘changemyview.’ The complete prompt can be found there” at the link. Javier notes that “I will be following the subreddit’s Submission Rules for comments, to keep order and structure to my posts.”

[1] We live in a world where there are orphans in need of adoption to loving homes, and where loving couples cannot naturally conceive.

While this is true, it makes the assumption that the couples unable to conceive would provide the same love and support that parents of a functional home (whose first choice was adoption) could provide. Why risk letting a couple who obviously wanted their own offspring in the first place (and pursued adoption only after being unable to conceive) adopt a child who already may feel unwanted, only to continue the cycle? Such a child may grow up to harbor serious emotional problems, and live an unhappy life. Adoption should be left for those who genuinely want it, rather than for those who feel discouraged due to infertility.

[2] IVF is insanely expensive. And why force nature’s hand when there are simpler alternatives? And from what I understand, it’s not a 100% guarantee it would even work on top of that.

[3] Studies have shown that couples love their adopted child the same as their own “flesh-and-blood” child. Adoption even exists in the animal kingdom among some species. So I don’t buy the “but some people want to have ‘their own flesh and blood child’” argument, because all I hear from that is that you’re incredibly vain.

Here I will challenge two of your points, and while l concede with you, you must remember that it is our biological desire to put our DNA back into the gene pool. This is a product of evolution, with the purpose of keeping the human population alive. People want their own offspring, and furthermore, by doing so it is the best guarantee of leaving a contribution to mankind. Releasing one’s genes back into the playing field directly affects future generations. Indirectly, you may have gifted the world with the next Thomas Jefferson or Socrates. Your argument regarding expense would be valid for low-income families, but if one has the money, I don’t see any problem with someone attempting to pursue fostering children that has their own genetic code.

My young sons, maybe about the same age as Javier, are fans of Reddit (I don’t go there). My oldest who is now 21 claims he is never going to have children. I’m certainly not going to argue that with him. Though recently we did point out that my husband was 35 before he decided that he did want to have children after all. This is because my son is encouraging us to get rid of all this “kid stuff” that we have been saving for the day when our sons have children of their own. This son has always known from a very young age, his own mind, and has not been wrong any time he as asserted anything so important. I have to take him at his word.

Tony Corsentino

On Twitter @corsent

I only just became aware of this person and thought I’d share that awareness. It was said “His posts critical of the adoption industry are thoughtful and should be amplified.” So, my first awareness was this graphic.

Finding him on Twitter, I found this LINK> Substack post – titled “Why Is That Controversial?” with a subtitle “Adoptees have a stake in the fight to protect abortion rights” by him which I will give you below some excerpts from.

He writes – “adoption services in the United States and other industrialized countries commodify children, treating them as social wealth that is transferred from the less resourced to the more resourced.” That is certainly the truth of the matter. Exploitation of the poor.

He goes on to note – I am a product of a closed domestic adoption, for which the reigning justification remains, even now, the idea, developed during the “Baby Scoop Era” (1945-1973), that relinquishing an infant under circumstances of secrecy solves several problems at once: a child gets a loving home; hopeful parents get a child to raise; and a “mistake” is “erased,” allowing the birth parent another start at making a better life.

I totally agree with him on this point – “There is an enormous moral difference, however, between relinquishment and adoption as intervening in a crisis situation for which there is no better alternative, versus instituting a de facto social system in which people are coerced into producing children for transferal to other, unrelated families.” The first responds to the death of the child’s parents (growing up, I actually did think my parents were both orphans – had no idea there were people out there that we were genetically related to) or in serious parental circumstances like unrelenting drug addiction. The social system we could find ourselves in now looks like it could become a regime of forced birth and subsequent child trafficking.

Women who relinquish children carry a lifetime of emotional impact. I read about that time and again. Here’s one comparison of both having an abortion and relinquishing a child to adoption – “It’s hard to convince others about the depth of it. You know, a few years after I was married I became pregnant and had an abortion. It was not a wonderful experience, but every time I hear stories or articles or essays about the recurring trauma of abortion, I want to say, ‘You don’t have a clue.’ I’ve experienced both and I’d have an abortion any day of the week before I would ever have another adoption—or lose a kid in the woods, which is basically what it is. You know your child is out there somewhere, you just don’t know where. It’s bad enough as a mother to know he might need you, but to complicate that they make a law that says even if he does need you we’re not going to tell him where you are.” ~ Ann Fessler from an interview for The Girls Who Went Away.

As adoptees, we simply cannot accept Amy Coney Barrett’s proposition (who is herself an adoptive parent) that relinquishment reduces “the consequences of parenting and the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy.” It shifts the consequences, transforms them. To invoke the desires of hopeful adoptive parents, to say that forced birth-plus-relinquishment meets an unmet demand for the opportunity to parent, is to say that pregnant people, and the offspring they create, are to be pressed into a social experiment of incubating and transferring the raw materials for making families. Clearly, hopeful, affluent adoptive parents are a powerful political constituency.

Relinquishment is catastrophic. It is a failure to preserve the bond between a parent and their child.

The Problem With Surrogacy

The question was posed – I have a friend who cannot carry a baby to term. She produces eggs just fine, and a friend of ours who is like a sister to her offered to be a surrogate for free for her. There is no power dynamic at play and they’ve been non biological “sisters” their entire lives. Is this still problematic and should I try to talk them both out of it?

The answer is simple. Ever since I came to understand about in-utero bonding and mother child separation trauma, I have been against surrogacy. I know that there are many couples who chose this. In fact, among my in-laws, this was chosen for similar reasons.

A few more thoughts – from a mother – I grew my children in my body. I didn’t grow them to give them to someone else. Yes, I work, but at the end of the day, they know who mom is. Not some confusing arrangement of mom and “not really mom but kind of mom.” My children did not suffer separation trauma at birth. THAT is the difference.

Follow-up question – I know a lot of working mothers who aren’t constantly around their children, may I ask how is this different? Answer – Take some time to research the primal wound (there is a good book on this by Nancy Newton Verrier). It is not about being around a child constantly. It is that in those moments where we, as a species, reach out to our mother for comfort and nurture, we know on a primal level who that is, and it is the person who carried us and birthed us. That’s why separation after birth trauma exists for adoptees, children who were put into the system at birth and orphans. They may have a mother figure, but it is not who birthed them.

Read up on why surrogacy contracts exist and the numbers of people whose relationships break apart because of surrogacy and jealousy. Even sisters. Then what? The baby is away from who the baby thinks is mother.

The best we can do is chose not to incubate babies for other people as this will traumatize them. A fact proven by MRI is that babies separated from their mothers due to the need for them to be placed in the NICU, as well as in adoption and in surrogacy, will suffer brain changes. The difference with the NICU example, is that the parents aren’t deliberately causing that brain change. It is due to a medical necessity.

Clueless response – Every one gets separated from the body in which they grew, so I’m not understanding. Answer – Technically yes, when you are born, you are no longer physically connected to the body of person who carried while you grew. But then that person doesn’t generally go away – except in cases like adoption, surrogacy, etc.

Argument continues because the two women in question are “like sisters.” Response – They are “like sisters”, not actual family. You can be like whatever. Doesn’t change blood. That said, the child deserves their mother – ACTUAL mother. Who would be on the birth certificate? The egg donor or the birth parent? A child deserves to know their biology and this is just messy.

Another thing to consider is that their “inseparable” relationship may change drastically after the baby is born. It’s pretty common for infertile APs (or infertile people who use surrogates) to develop an awful case of fragility once they have that baby in their arms. It’s in fact the main reason that the vast majority of “open adoptions” close within the first 5 years.

One last point because this has a lot of comments but I think this is worth sharing – How would your friend feel is this pregnancy killed her “sister”? Or if her “sister” had to terminate to keep herself alive? What if her “sister” carries to term, but has lifelong affects on her health that diminish her quality of life? No one should be using another person’s body like this. Pregnancy is not some magical, easy thing. It can be incredibly hard on a person’s body. It can kill people or leave them disabled for life.

Finally, just some background on why the question was asked – The “sister” is insisting. She says her experience being pregnant was “magical” and that she would be pregnant all the time if she could (but she’s also done growing her family, as she doesn’t want to raise any more of her own kids). She said it would “be an honor” to be able to be the person to help her sister grow her family, too. They’re both in their early 30s. I know they’ve spoke about her health being #1 priority during pregnancy and they’re both pro-choice.

We hang out as a group often and I am simply an observer in their conversations about it, as I do not want to speak on things of which I’m ill informed. I asked this question because I want to have some valuable knowledge about the subject the next time we get together, instead of just sitting there listening to something go down that could possible end up being catastrophic. So far, they’re completely on the same page. We all love each other very much and wouldn’t want anything negative to happen to the others. If that means an abortion needs to happen, then she is okay with that.

One last thought – You cannot make life long promises that the “sister” will remain in this child’s life. I had a family member who did this with her best friend. After a lifetime of friendship, they have not spoken since the baby was born. And if their friendship ends, the child will always wonder why they were handed off, like it was nothing. I suggest that you not support your “friends” baby swap. Traumatizing an infant should outweigh any of their selfish wants. Advise to your friend who can’t carry to term to get therapy and deal with it.

>Link< worth reading – “I was an altruistic surrogate and am now against ALL surrogacy.”

Concerns About Illegal Adoptions

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has appealed to the United Nations to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who have been “illegally deported” to Russia.

In a statement, the ministry said Russia had engaged in the “illegal and forced displacement” of Ukrainian children, “among them orphans, children deprived of parental care, as well as children whose parents died as a result of Russia’s military aggression” across Ukraine’s borders to Russia.

The statement reads:

In violation of international humanitarian law and basic standards of humanness, Russia is engaged in state-organized kidnapping of children and destruction of the future of the Ukrainian nation.

Such actions of the Russian occupiers can be qualified as kidnapping and require a decisive reaction from the international community, primarily from the relevant international organizations.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russian forces of forcibly deporting thousands of children from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine since the war began.

Earlier this month, two individuals said they and other women and children were forcibly transported to Russian territory from the besieged city of Mariupol in March. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has denied these accusations, claiming “such reports are lies”.

~ source The Guardian reporting

Because I am generally against adoption in most cases, and even though I know that the US has no high moral ground, as I am aware that children arriving unaccompanied at the US border were taken in and most likely, too many adopted by families that were total strangers to them, I am still concerned that this same unfortunate situation is also happening to Ukrainian children. I know the circumstances are not equal but the outcomes are equally concerning.

A Miscarriage of Justice

The origination of many adoptions is the traumatic experience of having a miscarriage. One miscarriage leads to another miscarriage – that of taking a woman’s baby for one’s own self. It is often an act of trying to overcome honest grief and sorrow by inflicting a lifetime of grief and sorrow on another woman. Our society condones this behavior by creating mythic stories that adoptees often call the rainbows and unicorns narrative of how wonderful adoption is. In truth it is not more wonderful than the realistic slings and arrows of everyday life and for some (the adoptee and the birth mother) wounds to carry forever. Some eventually experience a reunion with one another and while these are mostly happy stories (but not always), there is no way to make up for decades of life going on with different trajectories for each person.

If this society was a just one, we could be taking care of our mothers and our children instead of allowing money to drive the exchange of human beings to fulfill the thwarted desires of the people with the financial means to purchase a baby. Oh I know, most adoptive parents don’t view it that way. I know most adoption agencies and facilitators don’t want to view themselves from a perspective that they are baby sellers in it to make a profit. It is so easy for people to delude themselves with feel good stories.

I don’t have a lot of optimism that the profit motivated adoption industry will end any time soon. I am only heartened that some of us keep trying to make the point that children belong with the people who conceived them. Children need to grow up within the genetic, biological familial roots from which they emerged. Yes, sometimes parents die. This has happened to my own grandmothers – both of them – and we’ve lost more than one mom in my little mom’s group that has existed a bit more than 17 years now. We’ve also lost a couple of fathers too.

Orphans do deserve care within a family structure but there is no need to change a child’s original identity or name in order to provide for them. Some parents in our modern society get messed up – with drugs, with violence, with the criminal justice system. These people need intensive restoration into functioning members of our society. It is complicated and not a quick fix. I’ll readily admit that.

What Does It Feel Like ?

Today’s very sad story . . .

I wonder if everyone has a breaking point. Where they’re just done. Numb. Detached from everything that once was…..I moved out of my adopted parents’ house a year ago into my own house that I’m still renovating. Today I stopped by to see how they’re are doing as my adoptive mom is dying. I went to my old bedroom and found it completely empty. Why am I so upset about this? My adoptive dad threw out EVERYTHING that had come from India with me. No more photos or books in my native tongue. Gone is my baby book filled with what I liked and disliked. And the most terrifying loss? My little teddy bear that kept me company when I flew to America. I feel like I was abandoned again. I feel like that little girl again in the orphanage, crying for her mom. Crying. Crying. Nothing.

In a situation like this, one can only hear the sorrow and feel for the loss. And often, since there is no fixing a situation like this, that is all that is needed. It was a horrible abusive act on the part of her adoptive father. No excuse for such heartless cruelty. The least they could have done is either box it up and ask her to come get it or allow her some space to chose what she wanted before they cleaned out her room.