Adoption is more than just Angelina Jolie walking through a poor town and peacing out with a baby. For Korean adoptees it’s actually the end product of a vision an Oregon couple had, who believed every child deserved a home.
A beautiful adoptee from the first wave of Korean adoptees who I met on this trip reiterated to us a couple of times about a moment when Harry Holt and David Kim (another Holt founder and supporter) were huddled over an orphaned child’s grave. In that moment, Harry Holt kept asking aloud “who will answer?”
I’m haunted by that.
It reminds me of the children we are leaving behind.
We visited two orphanages on this trip, the Holt Ilsan Center and an orphanage in Busan. I was unable to attend the latter because of my trip to Miryang but the stories the other adoptees shared with me was enough for me to understand the gravity of their visit.
Firstly, Ilsan is an incredible home. It houses children and adults with special needs whether it be physical or mental or both. It’s a huge campus with multiple buildings and outdoor space. Fundamentally it’s an elaborate home that can accommodate all its family members’ needs. Some of their residents are permanent family members whereas others are matched with new families whether domestic or abroad. I met some from both of those groups.
There was one boy who had so much love and energy within him that he spent the entire time we were visiting running around the hall. There was a little girl who liked playing in her crib and was so uninterested in the group of westerners who all found her to be lovely. And then there was the young lady putting together bags for a local shop (independent income for her and a skill taught to her at Ilsan) who grabbed my hand as I walked by and placed it on her cheek.
Finding a family for a child with special needs is always more difficult because of the “what ifs” and unknowns. Ideally, most adoptive families become worried about the financials, will I be able to afford the care he or she needs and deserves? Will there be someone there to take care of them if something were to happen to me? What if we emotionally cannot handle the unknown health conditions that can materialize upon a thorough assessment by our Doctors in the States? These are all important questions to ask…but I also know personally (my cousin was an amazing mother to her daughter who happened to have cerebral palsy- while at times things got tough, the love she had for her daughter empowered them both) that sometimes in these unique situations- and as cheesy as it sounds, love is all the child needs…a home, support, a friend, a mother and father.
Secondly, the orphanage in Busan was a strong reminder to my fellow adoptees that we are all damn lucky. While we all have varying adoption stories, good and bad, we all agree that being adopted saved us from the unavoidable anguish of being left behind.
I’m about to get political.
Remember that family registry I referred to in a previous post? As mentioned, it’s basically a record of your entire family and it’s as vital to everyday life like our birth certificate or social security card. It identifies you and your lineage and you need it for many MANY things. Most adoptees are never added to their biological family’s registry for obvious reasons. So it becomes more difficult to track down your roots and claim any type of identity unless the parent who relinquished you provided further identifying information. But aside from the plight of the adoptee, this registry affects all future Korean adoptees. The Korean Ministry recently revised their Adoption Laws making it a requirement that the birth mother or father add their relinquished child to their family registry. You can see why this is a problem. The reason this law is detrimental and dehumanizing is because if the birth parent refuses to abide by this law the child is legally “not adoptable”. AKA, he or she must remain in an orphanage for his or her entire life.
Let that sink in.
Keep in mind that this law doesn’t have a “grandfather clause” that excuses adoptions and orphans from years ago. This law effects them all.
That’s why the adoptees’ trip to Busan orphanage was heart breaking to many of us. The children they were privileged to meet and play with were children who were not listed on a family registry. And can not be adopted. That orphanage, until the law is changed, will be their home. And in my entire life, I have never met any adoptee or orphan who can honestly say that an orphanage ever felt like home.
If you would like to donate to the Holt Ilsan Center, please use the below link and in the “comment” section please write “Ilsan”. As a non-profit, Holt will ensure your funds go directly to their Ilsan Center.