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What’s Worse? November 29, 2010

Filed under: adoption thoughts,and that's how I feel about that — Elizabeth @ 11:16 PM

There’s something I’ve been thinking about.  I hope you don’t think I’m a downer–I’m usually not, but I guess this is kind of a downer topic.

I think a lot of people might think of Korea as a country that is not able to care for its orphans, which is why so many foreigners adopt from Korea, but actually, in 2007 domestic adoptions surpassed foreign adoptions in Korea.  That’s a great thing!  It means that every year more and more children are staying in their country and their culture.

Great news, right?  What you may not realize is that for the most part, the domestic adoptions are being completed in secrecy.  I don’t mean illegally.  I just mean that the adoptive couples are keeping this a secret from their friends, community, and even more shocking, the child they adopt.  We’re talking fake pregnancy bellies and/or moving to a new neighborhood immediately after adopting in order to pass the child off as their biological child.

This is probably confusing to most of us, so here is an excerpt about this practice (from this website–lots of interesting reading there):

Parents are afraid of the possible ridicule and discrimination their adopted children may face as they grow up in the Korean culture. Children who are openly exposed as adoptees in Korea are vulnerable to other children who are not adopted. Some children (or adults) may look at adoptees as people who are less than equal. Some Korean parents forbid their children from associating with adoptees for fear their children may be negatively influenced by the children who they consider are less than equal. Some parents will not permit their children to date or marry adoptees (or people with orphan backgrounds). Some look on adoptees with pity. If an adoptee makes an ordinary mistake or gets into a trouble, he/she is judged differently from their biological children who get into the same trouble.
Therefore, parents do not want to subject their adopted children to an environment of negative social stigma. Thus adoption in Korea take place in shrouded secrecy.

Okay, so why am I talking about all of this?  You’ve heard me talk about the guilt I felt after bringing Matthew home.  I really beat myself up about taking him away from Korea….the language, the culture, making him into a minority, not just in his new country, but in his own home.

At one point, I was talking about this with a friend who also has a son from Korea.  I was saying that I thought it would have been better if a family from South Korea had adopted him.  She responded in a way that surprised me–she said maybe not.

Because since he is here with us, he will know who he is.  There will be no secrets and he will know his true story.  He will have the opportunity to search for his birth family, if he so decides.

If he was adopted in Korea, he would still have his language, his culture, he would not be a minority.  But would he always feel just a little bit different?  Would he always have questions that no one would be willing to answer?

Clearly, it would have been best if his original family could have remained intact, and unfortunately that did not happen.

This past year has left me thinking how these two options are different and each infused with its own kind of loss.

I would be curious to hear any thoughts on what you think of this–is either one better than another or are they both just different kinds of awful?

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3 Responses to “What’s Worse?”

  1. Kristen Says:

    Let me see if I can write something that makes sense – I seem to have trouble these days taking my thoughts on a complicated issue and turning them into coherent sentences.

    For me, the idea of going to such extremes to hide an adoption and deny a child the right to know and explore such a huge piece of his identity is just seems inherently wrong. I’d be interested to know how many of these adoptees discover the truth at some point in their lives and how many never know. I guess if you never know what you’re missing, it can’t really impact you in a negative way. However, stumbling about the truth has to be devastating in terms of your ability to trust your family, not to mention how damaging it must be to your sense of self to know that part of you who are is a source of shame and ridicule. If you are an adoptee faced w/that situation, do you really benefit from being part of a culture where the truth of who you are must be hidden to avoid discrimmination?

    That’s not to say there aren’t struggles for Korean children adopted internationally. No one can deny that a child adopted by a family of another race and nationality loses the chance to grow up in the country and culture of their birth. To me, a huge factor is how much of an impact that has a child is how the family chooses to address that loss. There are many families that do their best to expose their children to Korean culture, but there are also many who don’t. There are many families that support their children’s decision to search for biological parents, but their are many who don’t. Additionally, every adoptee feels differently about that loss of culture and country. For some, it is a loss they feel every day and for others it doesn’t hold much importance.

    Basically, I think both scenarios present the potential for different types of struggles and loss – but I think those are an inherent part of all adoptions. The bottom line is that as adoptive parents, its up to us to validate our children’s feelings about their adoption and to help them explore those feelings.

  2. Grace Says:

    i’m too tired to put together coherent thoughts, but these are some good points to think about…and those secret adoptions make me so, so sad. SO sad.

  3. Kelly Says:

    That someone would fake a pregnancy to hide an adoption seems ludicrous … until you read about things like this and you start to understand why they go to such extreme measures. Societal pressures and cultural taboos are almost hard-wired. Who wants to be the one to stick out and make a point? I can totally understand that. But I know what you mean about having these mixed feelings of guilt (for taking our children away from their culture) and relief (that they don’t have to be second class citizens in that culture). Sigh, no easy answers.


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