A 7-day program for adoptees to experience their birth country of Korea
Social Welfare Society in South Korea invites adoptees to apply for their annual Welcome Home program. The hope is to help adoptees better understand Korean culture, volunteer in their birthland, and build connections with volunteers in Korea.
Details of the Program
The program takes place August 18, 2019 – August 24, 2019. Each visitor is coupled with a volunteer and will experience the seven-day program in small groups. The program is composed of an opening ceremony, experiencing Korean culture, one-day volunteer activity, three days of free travel and a closing ceremony. There are five different themes for the three days of free travel. An online community will also be created so that the participants of each year can share their experience and continue their fraternity and friendship beyond the program.
On August 18, enjoy an opening ceremony that lets adoptees and volunteers know about the purpose of the visit and build relationships.
On August 19, visit the Social Welfare Society and baby’s reception home.
On August 20, tour downtown Seoul, eat and make Korean food, and experience traditional Korean culture.
On August 21 and 22, participate in a 2-day trip outside of Seoul.
On August 23 and 24, review your file and meet foster family and birth family and participate in a closing ceremony for the Welcome Home program.
“I can honestly say the program far exceeded my expectations and it was a first-class event all the way. It was very professional, well-organized, offered a lot of cultural learning, and a ton of fun. ”
– A past participant
What is Included
SWS will cover the expenses of the program and most meals. Round-trip airfare, some meals and personal expenses are not included/covered by SWS.
Who is Eligible
15 adoptees between the ages of 20 and 50 will be invited (priority will be given to those who’ve never been to South Korea before).
This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national infertility education and support nonprofit.
The elementary school-age years are an important time for parents to lay the foundation for the potential turbulence of adolescents. What can parents do to help their children process adoption in the ages between 6 and 12? We’ve come up with a list of nine things we think adoptive parents must do to before their child hits adolescence.
1. Keep lines of communication open
Kids at this age often don’t raise the subject of adoption. Only in my dreams has one of my kids said: “Mom, I’d like to talk about what it feels like to be adopted.” This means parents have to take the responsibility of periodically raising the subject.
Look for opportunities in movies, television, popular culture, or books. We must raise the subject, rather than waiting for our kids to draw the connection. For example, when watching Stuart Little, we might say: “I can understand why Stuart wanted to find his birth family. His dad didn’t seem to understand. What do you think?”
Don’t force the conversation. Throw out the opener and allow your child to decide how far the conversation will go.
2. Become a trusted resource
Seek information on any question your child asked. If you don’t know the answer do your best to get it. Share your efforts with your child so he knows that you are a good resource to come to with the hard questions.
3. don’t take it personally
During the ages between 6 and 12 children begin to fully grasp the meaning of adoption. They understand not only the joy of your and their gain by coming together but also the sadness of leaving or being relinquished. And relinquishment for any reason can feel like rejection.
Some kids are simply not naturally curious, but others are. Our kid’s questions about adoption and their first family are not about you, so don’t make it about you by taking their natural curiosity personally.
And for goodness sakes, get over the need for them to use “politically correct” words. If your daughter says she thinks about her “real mom” frequently, thank your lucky stars that she is sharing this with you and forget about her word choice. She has chosen you (YOU!) to share something deep and personal with. Just sit with that a moment. She chose you! And believe me, she knows that you are real too.
5. foster openness with birth family when possible
One of the best ways for children to understand their adoption is to have a connection with their birth family. If meetings aren’t possible, can you do phone calls or text messages? How about a closed Facebook group? If connecting with birth parents is not possible, can you reach out to grandparents or aunts? Demystify their adoption and birth family by getting to know them.
6. Show a positive attitude about birth parents
Adoptive parents should convey a positive image of the birth parents to their child, even in instances of abuse and neglect. Separate the birth parents from their behavior so that the child does not feel that he is bad because the birth parents did “bad” things. You should not discount the bad things the birth parents may have done, but most children can understand that parenting is a different job and many people do not learn how to parent well. They can also understand that addiction is a disease.
7. read adoption-themed books to your kids
Books can provide an excellent opportunity for parents and children to discuss adoption in a non-threatening way. Books written by adopted children and adults can help children realize they are not alone in their experience.
Discussing grief and loss should not be a one-time event. Adoption is a life-long process that needs to be revisited by parents and children as the children age and their understanding grows. Creating a Family has a fantastic list of children’s books that touch on adoption. It is broken out by age to help you choose.
8. be around other adoptive families
When our children are preschoolers we often join adoptive playgroups or seek out other adoptive families. As our kids age, it’s harder to find the time for these groups because our families grow and our children get involved in other activities. It takes more effort to find other adoptive families that you can gather with, but being around families that look like theirs helps children.
Concurrent planning makes a promise to a child: When you enter foster care you will be placed with only one family and that family will see you through reunification with your family, or if reunification is not safe or possible, the foster family will adopt you. It’s can be hard on the parents but it’s a wonderful option for children who won’t have to move if they cannot return home.
Since concurrent planning is in practice in many communities, prospective foster and adoptive parents need to understand the practice and decide if it is an option for them. Like many others in the 1980s, Linda Katz, a social worker and former director of Lutheran Social Services of Washington and Idaho, grew increasingly disturbed by the number of young children who seemed trapped in foster care, drifting from one foster family to another, some with double digit placements. To help shorten a child’s length of stay in foster care and to guarantee a permanency plan, Katz developed the social work practice of concurrent planning for the more difficult cases involving children eight years old and younger. As one county worker explains it:
It is in the best interests of children to have their first placement be their last.
A concurrent plan means two simultaneous plans begin when a child enters foster care: a plan for reunification with the family and a plan for adoption if reunification is not possible. Often, foster families who agree to be part of a concurrent plan are called resource families.
Katz notes that one of the benefits of concurrent planning is that it lets “the risks of loss, insecurity, and anxiety rest on those most able to bear them: the adults rather than the child.” Social workers seeking concurrent planning families are looking for foster families who will share the burden of living with the ambiguity of not knowing whether the child will return to the birth family, be adopted by kin, or be adopted by them. Although this is a hard task, every day children in care live with the stress of not knowing what the future holds for them and also not having any say about it. In a sense, resource parents are asked to share the feelings of loss and uncertainty with the child.
The first priority in a concurrent plan is to help the birth parents meet their requirements to reunify with their children. In most cases birth parents are able to meet their case plan and their children return to them. One of the difficult parts of resource parenting is keeping in mind that the placements are foster placements. Since adoption is always a possibility, many resource parents say there is the temptation to prematurely fantasize about adopting, especially when they begin to form a strong attachment to the child.
Adoptive parent Barb explains, “[A resource parent’s] job is to work toward reunification and they need to make sure they really understand that. I tell families ‘You have to put all your energy into reunification when your heart is going in the other direction. You have to do that, and then you have to be able to make the change [if reunification efforts don’t work].’”
Mary, an adoptive parent of five, says that her children help keep her honest about foster placements. When her kids get excited about the arrival of a new child and ask, “Can we keep the baby?” she explains about the child’s birth parents and how their family is only helping out for a little while. When she tells her children the truth, it helps her stay focused on her mission and reduces thoughts of adoption.
Katz has seen all kinds of adults become excellent resource parents, including single people, married couples, gay families, young parents, middle-aged and late middle-aged parents, people who have never parented before, and parents who have had lots of kids. She has even seen families who have lost a child through death be very successful, possibly because of the lessons they have learned about parental powerlessness, self-care, and their reliance on an inner strength.
There is no better indicator for adult success as resource parents, says Katz, than gauging a parent’s ability to effectively cope with stress and deal with situations that cause anxiety. She says prospective resource parents need to examine how well they tolerate anxiety and what they do in anxious situations. She adds that it is especially important for them to look at chronic anxious situations they have experienced, such as worrying about money or health or worrying about a family member who is having a problem that cannot be solved right away.
“Prospective [resource parents] will have to live with anxiety for a period of time,” Katz says. “Some people do better with that than others. Nobody likes it, but some people get physically ill from it and some people get depressed or angry. Some people fight with their partner or blame the agency, or blame the birth parents for the situation they are involved in with a placement; when basically, living with anxiety is what they are signing up for.”
“And they’re doing it for a good reason.” Katz adds. “They’re doing it because that’s the way we prevent the child from having all the terrible anxiety and not knowing how many foster homes they’re going to live in for the next two years. So there is a reason they are taking this on, but it’s still hard.”
Prospective parents should also think about what support they have from family, friends, their religious faith, a partner, or parent support group. They should also take a careful look at their personal characteristics and needs.
“Some really terrible cases, where the resource family endured a great deal of stress, were successful because the resource parents developed ways to live with the stress, were calm, or calm enough, and found creative ways to handle it,” observes Katz.
Katz has also seen some cases that seemed easy (from the point of view of an agency or county) where the resource parents found things so difficult they quit within the first three months. She believes success is not based on the case, but rather the people involved.
“Sometimes people who have a strong religious faith use it personally on a daily basis through prayer and reflection. They have a conviction that they will survive whatever they are facing,” says Katz. “Other people have an enormous humor about life and just say to themselves, ‘Well I signed up for this so, you know, I’m going to get through it and we’re going to look on the bright side. A lot of what we experience will strike us as funny,’” she adds.
Preparing your friends and family for your role as a resource parent and acknowledging that it will be rewarding—and hard—is a good idea. Katz suggests that resource parents come right out and say to their support network, “It might be awful and I might hate it sometimes, but I hope you’ll be there for me. I may need to come over and cry or come over and scream about the dumb social worker or the difficult visits with a birth parent. And please don’t tell me, ‘You asked for it.’ Take me to a movie. Please, take me out running. Do something. Help me with this.”
A regular exercise program is also helpful for relieving stress and improving mental health, and Katz emphasizes the importance of scheduling time to do the exercise activity you enjoy the best every day.
Becoming a mentor to the birth family is another common role for resource parents. It is a powerful experience to share parenting techniques and help birth parents regain confidence and improve their parenting skills. Not all resource parents are able to do it well or do it in every case, but when it works it’s extremely beneficial to the child.
Adoptive parent Mary says that witnessing the love between the birth parent and the child is what hooks her to want to mentor birth parents. Watching a child cry all the way home after a visit with his mom motivates her to want to help that relationship for the sake of the child.
Katz has noticed that some resource parents “have a natural sympathy for the underdog—and most of these parents are underdogs. If you put a real kind and nurturing person in the same room with them, sometimes it just happens that they take on kind of a maternal or parental role.”
Barb adds, “It is important for foster parents to show respect toward birth parents so that the children can continue to respect their parents.” Connie, also an adoptive parent adds, “No one has the right to judge birth parents.” She believes they love their children deeply, but for some reason—maybe due to health problems, a trauma, or possibly their upbringing—something went wrong.
To understand the role of a resource parent, Katz draws a parallel between resource parenting and step-parenting. Like step-parents, resource families find themselves in a relationship “where the child loves another set of parents. [Those parents] won’t go away. They may not have always been the best set of parents, or be very reliable. They may not come to all the visits. They may have harmed the child. But the child loves them because that’s just how the kids are. They love the parents they have. They can love you too, but they will still love their parents.”
Connie adds, “You can’t expect kids to forget about their history, because it’s not going to happen.” Her daughter came to her one night and poignantly asked why someone couldn’t do something now to help her birth mother before she dies.
To prepare for their role, Katz has found that more than anything prospective resource families appreciate hearing from experienced resource families. Katz believes that along with telling the rewarding aspects, experienced families need to “share how they felt—how upsetting it was, how angry they got, how it made two partners fight, how one did better than the other, how they despaired at times, how they wished they hadn’t done it at times.”
“I think, in addition, families should hear from at least one family who had a child they wanted to keep but couldn’t—where the child went back to a birth parent,” adds Katz. “They need to see how much it hurt, but that these people survived, because it could happen to them. We’re making the child a promise, but we’re not making [the parents] a promise.”
Tips from experienced resource parents
Resource parents offered the following tips to help others who are considering doing concurrent planning. First and foremost, you should think about your personality and your family’s needs as you decide if resource parenting is right for you.
Tips to help you decide:
Tell your licensing agency that you are willing to become a respite care provider. You will learn what it is like to parent children for a short time and return them to another caregiver. You will also most likely meet children in foster care, foster and adoptive parents, and birth parents.
Attend or join a foster parent/adoption support group to learn from other parents. Listen to group members, ask questions, and learn how they cope with family stress.
Seek out local resource parents who might be willing to talk with you or let you come over to see what a day in their life is like.
Attend as much training as you can on topics such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), attachment, other special needs topics, working with birth parents, and more.
Read blogs, books and websites about foster parenting and adoption. Some parent support groups have lending libraries and can make excellent recommendations on what to read.
Line up daytime help before you get a referral (especially if you might take in sibling groups). One parent lines up a babysitter to help out in the afternoons even before she gets a referral. When she gets a placement she calls the sitter and has an extra pair of hands right away during the hectic time when she guides after-school play, listens to school concerns, helps with homework, and prepares dinner.
Find someone who is willing to do respite care even if you won’t use it right away. If you ask extended family members or friends to serve as respite care providers, have them attend training with you so they can learn how to successfully handle children with special needs.
In your current relationships, practice now how not to take things personally when you experience relationship conflict. Traumatic events precipitate children being separated from their birth families and everyone involved experiences intense feelings. You will need lots of practice not personalizing misdirected anger, frustration, and pain.
Remember when you take a placement that is a foster placement. Be clear that the child you are caring for has a birth family and most likely will return to the birth family. How you help that family will affect the child and the family for the rest of their lives.
Be prepared to meet the birth parents and establish a relationship with them as soon as possible. A visitation plan will be coordinated by the social service agency, with input from birth parents and resource parents. Be prepared to participate in the visitation plan and, with the agreement of the county social service agency, serve as a mentor for the birth parent. Be willing to have contact with extended family. These people are important to the child, so make them important to you.
At 16 years old, Edward is like many teen boys—he loves watching horror movies, listening to heavy metal music and playing Call of Duty.
“He’s very quiet and introverted so it takes him a while to open up. But once you get him talking about something he’s interested in, that’s where he really shines,” shares his Child-Specific Recruiter, Brittany. For her, these moments of conversation typically happen over some Doritos Locos tacos at Edward’s favorite restaurant, Taco Bell. “He’ll tell me about the latest movies he’s been watching and the music he likes. But he’ll also open up and share about his time in a group home or talk about his siblings.”
Edward has been doing really well in his foster home and at school, where his coursework focuses on building life skills and gaining experience to work after high school. As part of a work study program, he recently got his first job at a fast food restaurant. He works a few hours during the school week and he’s also been able to pick up shifts on the weekend. He’s embraced the independence this job has provided and spent part of his first paycheck on a video game for his cousin.
Along with his work-study, Edward also enjoyed taking a robotics class. During that class, he discovered his passion for science and has since decided he wants to go to college for robotics or computer engineering.
“If I could spend a day anywhere in the world, I would go to Los Angeles.”
A fluent Spanish speaker, Edward would like a family that will help him learn more about his culture…and take him to Mexican restaurants! He also says he wants parents who have tattoos and are open to different types of religion. Edward’s adoptive family must help him maintain his relationship and contact with his two younger siblings and grandmother. For this reason, he prefers an adoptive family that lives in the Twin Cities area.
Details to Note
The majority of costs to Minnesota clients adopting youth under Minnesota state guardianship are covered by a contract with the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
Learn More About Edward
If you would like to know more about Edward, please contact Brittany Koneczny (email@example.com; 651.255.2275). Families may have to provide certain documentation to receive full information.
This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national infertility education and support nonprofit.
A typical dynamic with siblings in neglectful and dysfunctional homes is for one child, often the oldest, to take on the roles of the parent in providing for the physical and emotional needs of the younger siblings. Very often she or he also becomes the emotional and physical support for their parent as well. In essence, the child becomes the parent. We refer to this child as a “parentified child.”
No child should have to become the parent to her siblings and parents, but this is often the only way the family has survived. And although we view it as harmful for the child, the tricky part is that often the child likes the role of being in charge. This position has brought them control and has provided whatever level of safety they have had. They also often identify with being the responsible one.
Moving them out of this role can feel threatening not only to their safety but also to their very identity.
All kids should have the right to be kids, so it is natural when fostering or adopting a sibling set for us to want to make sure that all children are allowed to “just be kids.” Of course, we want our
kids to have a normal childhood, but we need to gradually move the child out of the parenting role. It took years for the child to become the parent, but with patience and consistency we can give them back their childhood.
10 parenting tips for a ‘parentified’ child
At the beginning set clear boundaries and define the roles of the parent and the children. State clearly what Dad and Mom are responsible for in your home, and what kids are responsible for.
Talk with the child who has assumed the role of caretaker. Ask what it was like caring for her siblings. Acknowledge that it probably feels weird and uncomfortable not being in charge.
If his siblings are not living with you, try to maintain contact with the siblings to alleviate some of your child’s worry about them and guilt at not being able to care for them.
Plan on a gradual transition from parent to sibling. (It took a while to create and it will take a while to correct.)
Ask the child to show you how to care for his siblings and allow him to feel important and respected for his knowledge. “What type of peanut butter does the little one like?” “What soothes her?
Allow her to continue some of the smaller responsibilities, such as giving baths, brushing hair, or getting snacks for her siblings.
Parentified children are often competent at many things. Find ways for him to use these skills outside of parenting his siblings and let him hear you bragging about him to someone else.
Get your child involved in activities with other children her age – school clubs, sports, church youth group, scouts, art class, etc.
Find and continue therapy for the child and siblings.
Be patient, supportive and understanding. Like other children in care, a parentified child is behaving in a manner that is normal for them, usually out of fear and survival. It will take time to trust and feel safe enough to let go.
Have you adopted or fostered a child that has assumed the role of parent to her siblings? How did you handle it? How long did it take for the child to relinquish that role? Did they ever allow you to fully be the parent?
This young boy with a love of sports will turn 10 next month! A fan of América de Cali, every day you can find JV on the soccer field improving his skills. He can also be found in the pool twice a week for swim lessons—an activity he enjoys. But he won’t stop there, he also likes to play volleyball and has shown great skill in the game.
In his free time, JV will listen and dance to music—he especially likes reggaetón, bachata and salsa. He currently lives in a rural area and enjoys exploring the outdoors. When given the opportunity, he will meander along the river or go searching for insects.
JV has expressed the wish to have a family that respects him, gives him affection and loves him very much. He also needs a family that will support him and encourage him to try his best academically; one that will redirect his energy to positive outlets when needed.
GENERAL ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
All applicants must be between the ages of 25-55 and have no serious physical or mental health concerns. Couples should be married a minimum of two years. Single women and men are eligible. All applicants must be able to travel to South America.
LEARN MORE ABOUT JV
If you would like to learn more about JV, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and reference 619-03. Eligible families may qualify for grants through CH/LSS and Brittany’s Hope Foundation.
Hope will be 18 in a few weeks and in 12 short weeks, she will be off to college. It’s all very exciting, and in some ways, I am a little surprised that she’s not pulling away from me a little.
But, no. She’s not pulling away at all. In fact, my lovely daughter is more attached to me than a barnacle. She wants to watch TV with me. She wants to go to the gym with me and use the machine right beside me. She has taken up residence in my spot on the couch – which low key annoys me because, like Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory, that spot is MY spot. There’s just a desire to have me nearby.
A lot of this is explainable of course. Hope has been away at boarding school for a year, and even though I saw her a couple of times a month, we were separated by many miles. So, I can see why she would be drawn to me after all this time.
And yet, it’s interesting to acknowledge how emotionally young Hope really is. I see a mix of maturity levels with Hope. There are some times where she rises to the occasion and nails it; and then there are other times and circumstances where I’m like, I might need to go back to laying out her clothes, socks, and shoes in the morning. I legit worry.
Hope has been home a couple of weeks now, and given the looming birthday and the impending life changes that are coming in a couple of months, I’ve been setting up my own hidden curriculum of life skills building activities.
I made Hope start using public transit a couple of years ago, so she can figure out how to get to places if she really wants to go somewhere. I’ve been manipulating creating opportunities to go on more complex outings and showing her resources for how to navigate it.
Her college is nearly 4 hours away, but Amtrak runs right through the town and we have a stop 2 miles from our house. Once I discovered that, I announced that Hope would take the train for weekends home; she balked. So, last week, I bought her a train ticket to go see the Grands midway through my business trip. I did spring for a Lyft to take her to the train station. She realized that it was not scary, but comfy and something she can feel comfortable doing on her own.
Tomorrow, we’re going to DMV so she can take her road test for her license. She’s had her permit for nearly 18 months, and she’s still pestering me about how she will get 15 more hours of driving at night before taking the road test. Bless her heart. Um, yeah, that’s not going to happen, you can drive and I’m taking you to go take the test. You will pass, and you will do what we all do – do your best not to hit people and stuff. She is a competent driver who, like everyone else, will get better with time. It’s time she do that… without me in the car. #Igotstufftodo #can youruntothestoreforme?
She is having a difficult time finding a summer job. The rejection has been difficult for her. I’m not sure why she’s not getting any callbacks, but she’s not. So, I announced that “we” will start looking at volunteer opportunities, for which I will pay her a salary. I explained that the volunteerism will be good for her emotionally and help build her resume a bit. I sent her 10 listings today with the directive that she needed to sign up for more info for all of them before I got home today. She wasn’t thrilled, but I’ve told her I love her but the human adults (baby-adult included) need to have meaningful work – paid or unpaid – to do because Casa d’ABM does not run on watching K-Dramas all day. #getajob I hope to have her out of this house by late next week going to somebody’s volunteer orientation.
We’ve also been role-playing asking for help. Hope’s room has returned to its pre-military boarding school state – mid-century apocalyptic. I have her pulling together 1 bag of trash, goodwill or storage item a day this week after role playing questions about deciphering being overwhelmed, needing direction and asking for help. By the time Hope figured out the conversation I had backed us into, she was sheepish about her role and responses. I didn’t shame her, we were role-playing, remember. I let it go and resolved to revisit it after this weekend’s business trip.
I’m trying to help Hope understand her banking. I’ve set up a number of accounts for her: checking, savings, investments. I’m dreaming up ways of helping her understand budgets better – money in money out. She gets better, she’s just not grasping that after ‘money out’ it’s ‘money stop.’ I’m hoping that she will get the hang of it, pay attention to the details of her checking account. I know that there will come a day when she overdrafts or gets a credit card she shouldn’t have. I’m trying to teach her about natural consequences with respect to money. Like driving, sometimes you just have to do it and ride it out. I’m hopeful.
After Hope’s visit to the Grands, Grammy shared with me that Hope said she would be content to live with me forever. My mom said she wanted to talk to me about buying a larger house with a basement for Hope.
Oh how I laughed from the living room of my 2 bedroom condo. #condolifeforever #nextstopaseniorcentercondo
I’m not buying a bigger house for Hope to have a basement to move in. Is you crazy? No, no, no, no, no, ma’am. Not happening.
After wiping hysterical tears from my eyes, I told her that I know Hope will launch and it may be a little late, but I do not believe at this time that I need to make a life change to accommodate Hope living with me in until my dying days. Uhhh, no, I do not believe that is necessary at this time.
Hope will gain the life skills she needs. She will gain the confidences she also needs. I will always be around to be guardrails and guideposts, but I firmly believe that she will launch and have a life of her own not living in her current bedroom. I do not need a basement.
I have not been obvious in my nudges and pushes; I don’t want to be the helicopter or bulldozer parent. I do need for Hope to gain some practical life skills and to learn them while I’m around. Each lesson boosts her confidence a little; she needs that.
I need that.
So, stay tuned for all the stuff Hope will do and felt good about by the end of summer.
Five years ago, I took a writing class at The Loft that focused on writing about race. I had much to ponder about this subject because I have two internationally adopted children: a son adopted from South Korea at 4 months of age and a daughter adopted from Guatemala when she was 6 months old. The essay I submitted to my instructor, David Mura, interwove my relationship with my mother and daughter, using a quilt as a metaphor. When I met with Mura to review my essay, he offhandedly said, “You should turn this into a book.” And so I did, despite the fact that I had never written a book before. My memoir Missing Mothers was published on Amazon April 1, 2019. Writing and publishing the book has been a transformative experience.
My own birthmother died during childbirth when I was 6 years old (the infant survived). I cannot remember her. As a young woman, I approached motherhood with an extra incentive. I wanted to recreate her birthing story, with a happier ending. I magically believed that her grandchild would bring her back to life. I hoped such a child might even look like her or inherit her musical talent. (My adopted daughter is musically gifted.) But infertility intervened. I was not amused by this irony: my mother dies giving birth and I am denied the opportunity to give birth myself.
Thanks in part to my wise and loving husband, we turned to adoption. At the time transracial and cultural adoption offered the quickest route to becoming parents. As I write in the book, I wasn’t entirely ready to become a South Korean baby’s mother, still caught up in my grief about the loss of a biological child and not sure my childhood bereavement prepared me properly for motherhood. But the minute I held my son in my arms, I fell in love. The same was true of my daughter, adopted two years later.
I wanted to tell two stories in my book, about myself as a daughter and as a mother. Since I can’t remember my mother, I wanted to bring her alive on the page so others wouldn’t forget her. Makes perfect sense, right? But her story would necessarily be intertwined with the story of my mothering experience. I knew from the beginning that it would be a lot easier to write about the dead than about the living, especially when those living are one’s children. All I could do was try to balance writing as honestly as I could without betraying my children. Only they can tell if I succeeded.
A book isn’t worth reading unless, in the course of the narrative, the protagonist shows signs of growth. In my book, I am the protagonist. And I did grow. I learned that losing one’s birth mother to death is different than losing her through adoption. I apparently have more yearning for my birth mother than my children do for theirs. Perhaps this is because of our individual personalities. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I was with my mother for six years, whereas my children were separated from their mother shortly after birth, as far as we know. Perhaps my children fear that searching for their birth families would hurt my husband and me. My son lived in Korea for six years and chose not to search for his birth mother. My daughter, who last visited Guatemala at age 12, doesn’t want to visit again due to the poverty she witnessed. Perhaps my children will change their minds about this as they age or become parents.
What else did I learn? When my children were adopted not much was written from the perspective of the adoptee. By the time I started my book, this had changed. I tried to read as much as I could by individuals who were transracially adopted. I went to plays written by adoptees. I learned that, especially in Korea, many adoptees have returned to visit, to search for birth family, and even to live. A group of adult adoptees has been instrumental in changing adoption laws in the country to give birth mothers more options as they consider their choices.
I wasn’t able to reach a conclusion about the rightness or wrongness of transracial adoption, although I do acknowledge the way in which racism and white privilege plays a role. I know my children have experienced some racial discrimination. I regret the way in which adoption has complicated their lives. My son is philosophical, saying he believes he could have been happy growing up in either culture. My daughter simply says she is glad she lives here.
At the end of the passage in which I consider the morality of transracial adoption, I close with these words:
It is too late for John and me to reconsider our decision to adopt our children. The best we can do is listen when they choose to share with us the feelings they have about adoption, culture, and race. We can validate the way in which their lives have been made more difficult by decisions we made long ago, while identifying what we can do in the present to respond to these difficulties. We can recognize the ways in which values we tried to teach in our home, such as honesty, responsibility, and empathy, might arm them against racist attitudes. We can ask, although we can’t answer for them, whether their personal experiences allow them deeper and wiser insights when it comes to race relations and white privilege.
Demographic trends in the United States suggest that by 2050 white people will be in the minority. John and I hope it comes to pass. Our pasts were formed by the choices of our European ancestors. But our future belongs to our children. Our loyalty lies with them.
Writing this book taught me that I can acknowledge my lifelong sadness about the loss of my mother and about infertility while also celebrating my good fortune. I am blessed to be the mother of my children. Grief could have paralyzed me, but instead, it propelled me toward a joyous life.
Sean is a 13 year old with a sense of adventure! He was all smiles on a springtime trip to Maritime Park with his Child-Specific Recruiter, Stephanie. “He got excited to see all of the historical ships and to witness how things have progressed over time. He especially enjoyed steering at the helm of the ship overlooking Lake Superior,” she recalls. His previous foster parents also encouraged this interest and found opportunities for him to jet ski, attend horse races, tour small planes and visit the cabin.
His adventurous spirit often leads him outdoors. At his last foster home he would ride his bike around the park—embracing the fresh air and his independence. Recently, he’s been really into animals and got a book about nature. He enjoys traipsing through the woods looking for items in the book so that he can check them off.
When around others, Sean is outgoing and a captivating leader. On his way to a matching event, he decided that everyone should play capture the flag. At the event he rallied 35 people to play: setting up the entire game, establishing boundaries and even bringing the flags. This leadership will serve him well in many cases, but can also cause him to get stuck if he can’t control a situation. He’s working on being more flexible and using coping skills in the moment. He will need patient, firm parents to help him work on this.
Sean eagerly waits to be adopted by a family that can devote their time to him. He would love a family that will share in long conversations and new experiences. He needs a family that can give him constant reminders and structure and will remain committed to him regardless of what happens in the future. He prefers an active family because he’s a very active child. His family would also need help him maintain contact with his biological sibling—therefore it would be best if his adoptive family lives in Minnesota.
Details to Note
The majority of costs to Minnesota clients adopting youth under Minnesota state guardianship are covered by a contract with the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
Learn More About Sean
If you would like to know more about Sean, please contact Stephanie Coleman (email@example.com; 651.255.2233). Families may have to provide certain documentation to receive full information.
Araya is an 11 year old who deeply values relationships and being comfortable with people. After about 4 months of working with her Child-Specific Recruiter, Brittany, she is beginning to engage with her. But Brittany notes, “Once she trusts you, she is snuggly. She likes to be held, and finds comfort in her weighted blanket and vest.”
A lover of artistic activities, this pre-teen enjoys painting other’s nails, putting together puzzles, cutting paper and painting. She also likes to go swimming, be outside, and ride on the bus. Though she does not speak, she can be very adamant with her expressive face and when she wants to do something, she will bring people over to do the activity. Her home is also trying to see if a PECS system (pictures) will offer her another form of communicating.
Araya does well with structure and trusted adult relationships. She is currently living in a group home that provides a lot of one-on-one support. Because of their consistency and focus on building a connection with her, she’s been doing well.
Araya would do best with a family that has experience parenting or working with children with developmental delays. Her adoptive family should be willing to have supportive services in their home, or to consider alternate forms of parenting. For instance, Araya’s team has talked about how she may be able to be parented while living in the group home during the week and spending weekend visits with her family.
Details to Note
The majority of costs to Minnesota clients adopting youth under Minnesota state guardianship are covered by a contract with the Minnesota Department of Human Services. As with all Minnesota foster youth, Araya qualifies for medical assistance. Additionally, because of her medical needs, she is eligible for waivered services.
Learn More About Araya
If you would like to know more about Araya, please contact Brittany Koneczny (firstname.lastname@example.org; 651.255.2275). Families may have to provide certain documentation to receive full information.