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Despite the efforts by public interest groups and government entities in Korea and abroad to support and encourage parenting by single-birth mothers, domestic adoption, and birth family preservation, close to 10,000 children continue to be lost, abandoned, left to be found, and relinquished by single and married birthparents every year in South Korea. Last year, only 24% of these children were placed with permanent families (in Korea and internationally). There is a loud outcry by those who oppose inter-country adoption of Korean children as they make the claim that because Korea is a modern, developed nation, Koreans should be taking care of “their own children”, but the reality is that Korean attitudes and emotions towards orphans, homeless children, and domestic adoption are not receptive to this argument. When the birthfamily cannot be preserved as a permanent solution for the child, domestic families are not stepping up, to the degree that is needed, to provide permanent Korean homes for these children. In these cases, international adoption is the path through the child’s basic right to a family can be realized.
Kyoo Bin* was born to a young single woman in August of last year. Unlike the majority of single birthmothers who are ostracized from their schools, families, friends and communities with no financial, emotional or physical resources, Kyoo Bin’s birthmother sought out her own parents (with whom she had been estranged) and received their counsel and support while making a decision as to her child’s future. Based on her own belief that she was emotionally incapable of being responsible for her child, but also due to the lack of financial support available and because of social barriers that exist for single mothers (lack of access to re-enter high school, lack of affordable and available regular daycare, difficulty in securing a safe, stable, single-parent conducive job, strong traditional beliefs against women with children marrying, etc.), the birthmother decided upon adoption for her son. Also very important in the decision for adoption by the birthmother were the real issues that Kyoo Bin would have had to face as a child (and later as an adult) being raised by a single mother in Korea. These challenges include discrimination and social stigma that result in significant (of a much higher degree than anything experienced by adoptees in the US or European countries) denial of access to jobs, education, marriage, and family acceptance/belonging. (The lifelong prejudice and denial of access to basic social and economic rights is even greater for children who grow up in Korea with no permanent families and who have been identified as having “orphan” status.)
Born at nearly full-term and healthy, Kyoo Bin has been in the care of a loving foster family since shortly after he was relinquished on the day of his birth. Kyoo Bin is an active, bright-eyed child who I have had the pleasure to meet with his case worker and foster mother. After having recovered from transient tachypnea at birth, Kyoo Bin has been healthy, but continues to show delayed motor skill development. Cerebral Palsy, Fragile X syndrome, and Prader-Will Syndrome have all been ruled out as any potential cause for Kyoo Bin’s delays. Now, over a year old, Kyoo Bin is not yet walking, but crawls well and pulls himself up. He is positive, easy-going, and quite social while his favorite place to be is on his foster father’s knee. Kyoo Bin enjoys playing with his toys, but has started to exhibit head-banging behaviors one time per day if at all. His aging foster parents are providing him with a loving, but temporary home. The hope of Kyoo Bin’s birthmother and her plan for him was that he would thrive and be able to meet his maximum potential. This will only truly be possible when he is in a permanent family.
*Name of child changed to protect identity and at the request of the Korean adoption agency. If you are interested in adopting Kyoo Bin, please contact Jane Lee at email@example.com
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