Adoption is Not the Best Option for Children?

Dawn Davenport


Is Adoption in Children's Best Interest

Korean children in an orphanage waiting for adoption.

I received this long question via email and can’t get it off my mind. Please take a few moments to read because her dilemma is real and I’d love to hear what you think.

Hello, I am writing you because I do not know where else to turn for advice and I feel from your blogs posts that you will be honest and direct with me, and I have come to respect your opinions on adoption related matters.

I am a not yet adoptive parent. My husband and I have been matched with an 18 month old Korean boy for adoption. We started the adoption process with the same level of ignorance as most adoptive parents — we thought that this would be in the best interest of the little boy since his mom felt she could not parent him. From the paperwork, it looks like she did not have the financial resources (or felt she didn’t) to raise him as a single mom.

In the months since our match, I have read your blog plus many, many other adoptee blogs, the Child Catchers book, Adoptee Restoration, Lost Daughters, and have learned about groups in Korea trying to work for cultural changes for single moms and their children (KOROOT, TRACK, etc). I have also read the work by Jane Jeong Trenka.

Our attitude towards adoption has completely changed and we have come to understand the tremendous loss and grief that is faced by adoptees — to the best of our ability since we are not adoptees ourselves. We no longer see adoption as the best option for relinquished children, but realize that the children should be with their family. We have become aware of the corruption and power issues within adoption as well.

My question to you is: What should we do now? I don’t know if it is best for this little boy to continue with the adoption (I don’t care about losing money –we are school teachers — not rich) or my own sadness about not being a mom — I care what is best for the little boy and his mom). I do worry that if he is not adopted by us, that he will end up in an orphanage — but at least he will be in his own culture and grow up in Korea. Is that a better option than being adopted to the US???? I don’t have a framework for knowing what is best because I am not an adoptee nor have I grown up in an orphanage.

Of course, his mom might decide to parent him in the future so that option will be open if he stays in Korea. We are also willing to offer some level of support to his mom should she decide to parent — it wouldn’t be tons of money — but it might make things easier. I know this is a lot to ask but I would love your thoughts. [bold text added]

Whew, what a lot to think about. I am so proud of you for jumping into the world of adoption ethics with an open mind and heart. Although you raise the question in relation to adopting from Korea, the same issues apply to adopting from Ethiopia, adopting from Bulgaria, and adopting a baby in the US. If only the answers were more clear for any of us who want to do the right thing for children and for families. All issues involving the best interest of children are a bit of an ethical quicksand, with the “high ground” different for every person. I can only share my personal thoughts.

Adoption is Not the Best Option for Relinquished Children?

I think you are confusing two related but separate issues. What is in children’s best interest pre relinquishment and what is in their best interest post relinquishment. While I think we need to think long and hard about how we keep birth families together, regardless of support, there will always be expectant mothers and birth mothers who decide that they are not in a position to parent, thus there will always be children in need of families.

Why do Women Relinquish Children to Adoption?

In my experience talking with expectant woman and birth mothers, it is usually not one reason, but a combination of many, that influence their decision to place a child for adoption. Economics is often one factor, but seldom the sole factor.

In Korea, most women place children for adoption because of societal and familial disapproval and lack of support for single motherhood. The Korean government is providing more support for single moms, but societal attitudes are slow to change.

In the US, many expectant women considering adoption are already single parents to at least one child. They know full well the emotional energy, time, and money it takes to parent and often feel it would be unfair to all to bring another child into their family.

Every expectant woman has her own combination of reasons for relinquishment. It is true that sometimes undue pressure from family, society, adoption agencies, adoption counselors, or adoptive parents can be a factor. If we care about adoption we will do all in our power to stop these abuses, but even without abuse, adoption will be a necessary option for some kids.

Change Takes Time, but is that Just an Excuse

We have a bit of a chicken and egg situation here.  Changing society’s values, such as is Korea’s stigma against unwed motherhood, takes time. Some will argue that the speed of change would accelerate if we do away with adoptions completely and immediately.  They may be right, but this approach is not in the best interest of children being born now and is not in the best interest of all unmarried pregnant women. In fact, if feels very paternalistic to say that all pregnant women, either in Korea or the US, should be single parents regardless of what they think is in their and their child’s best interest.

What’s in the Child’s Best Interest

In South Korea in 2010 there were 8,590 abandoned and relinquished babies and children, 1,462 were adopted domestically and 1,013 were adopted abroad.  What happened to the remaining 6,115 babies and children?  The sad truth is that they will join the 19,151 other Korean children living in child welfare institutions.  Most will spend their childhoods in one of the large orphanages throughout Korea, aging out at 18 to a society deeply prejudiced against them with limited job and social opportunities. Children born to single mothers and children abandoned (presumably many born out of wedlock) make up the majority of children in these institutions.*

Once a child is relinquished, as is the case of the child with whom you’ve been matched, in my opinion, adoption is absolutely in his best interest. We know from years of research that institutional care is not good for children’s physical or emotional development. We also know from talking with some who grew up in orphanages and later adopted into good homes, that adoption can be best. (Check out some blogs by Steve Morrison, over at MPAK.) Obviously, not all adoptive families are good, or even adequate; I’ve heard some pretty sad situations from some adoptees. Assuming love and some degree of competence,  however, I have no doubt that family trumps orphanage regardless of cultural exposure.

You are right that his birth mother can change her mind to parent if he remains in Korea. Keep in mind that you are likely at least 6- 12 months away from traveling to finalize his adoption, so his first mother will have this time to reassess whether she can and should parent. Birth mothers should have a reasonable amount of time to change their mind, but not an unlimited amount of time because that is not fair to the child.

What Should You Do?

I realize you are not really asking me what to do, nor would I be so presumptuous as to say. However, if you do not adopt, I am almost certain that your adoption agency will have no problem finding another international family for this little boy. He will almost certainly not be placed domestically since Koreans strongly prefer to adopt newborn girls.

If you continue to have such deep questions about the ethics of this adoption, you should not go forward since you will continue to worry and this worry will influence how you raise your son. Children pick up on our feelings and attitudes even if never spoken.

Perhaps you should consider US foster care adoption, although there are ethical questions in this type of adoption as well. Many biological parents feel that their children were taken from them unjustly, but at least you would have the “blessing” of the US court system, which may or may not help with your late night ethical questionings. Another option is to become a foster parent. Your role as a foster parent is to care for children while their birth families heal. Fostering is not the same as becoming a forever parent, but if you’re looking for a safe moral high ground maybe you’ll find it there. In my experience though, there is plenty of high ground and quagmires in every situation where children are in need of care. What’s high and what’s low shifts depending on where you’re standing.

What All Adoptive Parents Can Do

Regardless of the type of adoption, every adoptive parent needs to be invested in supporting expectant women and birth moms both before and after placement. We must be their allies for their sake, but also for our children. In Korea, check out the Korean Unwed Mother Support Network. In the US check out On Your Feet Foundation and Birth Mom Buds.

OK guys, now I really really would like to know what you think and how you would have answered this question.

* The information in this paragraph was taken from an article I wrote 2 years ago-South Korean Adoptions: Canary In The International Adoption Mine?


Image credit: Jason Jones

25/09/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 34 Comments

34 Responses to Adoption is Not the Best Option for Children?

  1. Avatar Caspian says:

    This is exactly why balance is important when reading about adoption. There is no doubt that there is corruption in international adoption; but there are many many successful adoptions that were best for the child. You don’t often hear about those. Why? Because those people are busy living their lives and not blogging about their experience. While I’m glad that ethics are being explored more closely in international adoption, I can’t help but think of all the children this will harm, including this poor boy. Family preservation while great in theory, is not always possible or the best option. His parents are not coming back; the best thing for him is adoption. Here is an excellent post from an adoptee regarding international adoption and how it should not end:

    If you do back out, there is domestic adoption or foster care. There is a need for great foster parents. As for domestic, there ARE ethical agencies that ensure adoptions are done right, without coercion and with the expectant parents best interest in mind.

  2. Avatar Zoey says:

    Hi Alex,

    I appreciate your post very much. You have summarized my feelings as well.

    It seems as if there are 2 separate questions that need to be addressed.

    The first question is: how do we reform adoption (international, domestic, etc) to first better support first families (and reduce adoptions) and second, in cases where adoption is absolutely necessary, how do we ensure that the adoption is ethical and as open as possible?

    The second question is: how to best support kids that are in the “system” now BEFORE adoption reforms can take place? For the boy from Korea in the original email, adoption reforms and cultural changes in Korea are not going to change his options. He has already been relinquished and unless his mom decides to parent before an adoption is finalized, he is already in the “system”. What is best for him and other children in that position? Can we help first families NOW in hopes they will decide to parent in the next couple of months (before the adoption is finalized)?? While not adopting the Korean boy in the original email might be good in the spirit of adoption ethics and reform, it might not be in the best interest of the child.

    I hope this makes some sense…. I guess what I am trying to say is that decisions that are good for adoption reform (not doing international adoption from Korea for example), might not be in the best interest of individual children.

  3. Avatar Alex says:

    This post greatly resonated with me.
    We had two failed IVF attempts after which doctors told us there is no point in any other round of treatment. I am actually grateful that we got this clear answer from them which got us out of the spiraling madness of always hoping for success with the next IVF. My wife who always wanted a family took a very long time to get somewhat over the fact she will never have biological children.
    I recently started looking into international adoption which to me always seemed like a great option and not only as plan B. I read your book, one by Scott Simon, listened to a lot (a lot) of your podcasts, contacted agencies, watched ‘Stuck’, ‘Girl, adopted’, ‘Off and Running’, read online articles to find out if international adoption could really be our path.
    We are an inter-racial couple and I have spent several months in Africa, so naturally we are drawn to adopting from there which means Ethiopia or possibly the DR Congo.
    As it turns out the process of of international adoption like home study, paper work, finding an agency, traveling doesn’t scare me. Yes it will be a lot of work and not always fun but we will be able to do it and the prospect of traveling to a new place is just exciting.
    Of much more concern is the question of parenting and what it all involves but that seems to be a natural concern of all prospective parents.
    The real big issue which I am struggling with and one which almost prevents me from moving forward is the question of whether international adoption is a good thing to do, whether it is ethical and whether one would/should better spend the money on supporting birth families so they can keep their children. Then there are concerns of trafficking, child laundering, fraud and that too much money creates a demand for children which according to some critics actually causes children to end up in orphanages. David Smolin’s personal story and writings are truly horrifying and makes one pause if not stop in the tracks.
    Even if there is no fraud at all, people in poorer countries could come to the conclusion that life in the US is better for their children. I have experienced first hand the glorified picture a lot of people in poor countries have about the US which could influence birth mother’s decisions when thinking about their children’s future. I have also seen first hand how quite frequently children are not necessarily raised by their birth mother but by members of their extended family or community, so one could come to the conclusion that there should always be somebody who could take care of a child in need. It would be easier to think about these issues if there were more personal stories told by international birth mothers themselves. There is a lot there for domestic birth mothers like birth mother panels or groups but the experiences of birth families in other countries is somewhat of a black box.
    It seems the recent closure of some countries to international adoption would provide an opportunity to address some of those questions. Does the number of children in orphanages decrease or increase and why? Are there more adoptions domestically? Are more children staying with their birth families even in difficult circumstances? In the documentary ‘Stuck’ there was a short mention about ‘super’-orphanages being built in Guatemala but no further explanation. What is this about? Why are they being built? Are there more orphans or are they moving orphans to a few centralized facilities?
    Sometimes the discussion sounds like a choice between either international adoption or support for children within their countries whatever form that might take. The fact that international adoptions are a fraction of 1% of the total number of orphans out there even when considering the lowest estimates seems to make this debate a futile one. Of course problems have to be solved within countries and children have to be taken care of right there. The real question is what role can and does international adoption play within a given country? Can it be of benefit not only to the individual child but also somehow to other orphans by using some of the fees towards them? Could it raise awareness or remove a stigma so that more domestic adoptions could happen? Or is international adoption somehow disruptive to the process of finding homes for orphans within the country of origin?
    I knew there was a lot to learn when starting to explore international adoption however I didn’t expect to find such a complex and contentious world where child welfare, personal and national tragedies, global economics and development, international/national politics and fraudulent or even criminal practices are intertwined with the simple personal wish of creating a family. It is quite overwhelming and difficult to sort all this out and I would greatly appreciate your thoughts.

    • Alex, the real question for me has always been what is the “proper” role of international adoption in a country’s child welfare policy and most important, what role does it play in doing what is best for children. And as I tried to say in this blog, I think we have different answers depending on the country and if the child has already been relinquished to the state (or orphanage).

      Clearly, the first goal of anyone who cares about kids, is to keep families together. That should be the goal of every country. Different countries have different attitudes, customs, resources, and infrastructure when it comes to helping dysfunctional families or poor families or single parent families.

      Once a child has been relinquished to the state and it is clear that the family is not going to reclaim, then I feel strongly that the child deserves a family through adoption. Look for a family domestically for a set period of time, then look anywhere in the world. That is what is best for individual children. It gets murky however, when big $s enter the picture because money can drive both governmental and individual decisions.

  4. Avatar Laurie says:

    You have too many questions, concerns and doubts about this adoption,it makes me wonder if going forward with the adoption is the right move for you. Your child (if you bring the baby home) will pick up on these subconscious feelings you’re having which will be hard for an infant, who already has experience a great loss, to process and could interfere with the bonding process which has already been interrupted by the fact that this child relinquished by his birth mother. A child deserves and has the right to feel love and affection, you would be the person in this child’s life to give them this. You are having many doubts about this adoption, perhaps you need to take a step back and examine your feelings and make an honest decision about the long-term affects adopting and being a mother to someone who you already have lingering questions and concerns about. I wouldn’t change a thing about the decision my husband and I made to bring our beautiful son home through international adoption. Yes, it can be sad, but not always, just like as in any family, things are not always happy and perfect, that’s life, that’s what a family is. Our kids have to deal with more things other kids don’t and the losses he may feel about his biological family, the country he left, break our hearts, but I’m his mother, his hurt is my hurt, multiplied a million times because I AM his mother. I agree with what a previous writer wrote that her Korean son said, “However, I think kids don’t care much about politics and social change. They want a family that loves them and a chance to live in a world where they can grow up happy.” That’s the bottom line I think for most kids.

  5. Debi, hope your son decides to share his views on the blog! I’d love to hear from him.

  6. Avatar Rosalie P. says:

    This is such a wonderful discussion. Thank you Dawn and all for engaging, as always….

    While it is essential to address concerns of the pain of birth parental relinquishment in any adoption situation, I think the notion of a child being best off in “his or her own culture” should be reexamined.
    I live in New York City where most of us have spent our lives between cultures, countries and languages and where new cultures spring forth via the merging of worlds. My own parents hail from two different countries and I have reaped the proven intellectual and inter-personal/professional benefits of bilingualism and multi-culturalism.
    As the world shrinks and our perspectives grow due to globalism, the notion that any person can exclusively claim one single culture as “his or her own” seems obsolete.
    Within the adoption dialogue, we tend to apply these concerns disproportionately to international adoption when, in fact, In-country adoptions, when examined closely, frequently also necessitate a child crossing cultural or subcultural lines such as race, class or more subtle yet equally significant qualifications. It is essential to engender cultural awareness and honor the various implications of race, ethnicity, nationality, etc, in all areas of life — certainly within adoption. One could argue that it is the duty of any parent to prepare their children to gain mastery over these issues. Certainly potential adoptive parents who feel unable to do this would likely be advised to carefully consider whether adoption is best for them.
    Yet I would be wary of the notion that race or ethnicity should forever bind a child to his or her continent or country of racial origin. If we followed this logic, the US should not be populated by people of European, African or Asian decent.

  7. Avatar Debi says:

    I referred this question to an expert– my 13 year old son, who we adopted from Korea. His homework had him up late, or I would have had him answer this himself. He’s a man of few words, but maybe I can have him tell you in his own words tomorrow.
    First, here’s my take on Korean adoptions.
    I think it is a shame that it is so difficult for single mothers and their children in Korea. I also think it is a shame that there are not more domestic adoptions in Korea, and I hope things change. However, I think kids don’t care much about politics and social change. They want a family that loves them and a chance to live in a world where they can grow up happy.
    I believe the engine of that change is going to need to come from the single moms who feel they can brave the system, and from the Korean people, who are starting to realize that exporting your most precious resource with a diminishing population is not a good idea. Sadly though, the Korean government has tried to deal with this situation by slowing down and discouraging international adoptions, rather than making life easier for single moms and their children, and promoting domestic adoption more effectively.
    What has happened by these policy changes is that the “supply-demand” balance has been disrupted. Instead of creating more domestic opportunities for children and their mothers, more children are ending up in institutions, rather than being placed with families. It is the children who are being hurt in this.
    While there might be abuses in the system, I saw no hint of it when we were there. I was very impressed with Eastern Social Welfare Society, who we worked with in Korea. We traveled to Korea, and stayed at the ESWS facility. We were given information on his birth parents and their situation. I have detailed records of my son’s progress from the day he was born until the day we picked him up. He was never in an institution. We met our son’s foster mother, and visited in her home. She was a lovely lady. I have nothing but the highest praise for everyone in Korea I dealt with.
    At any rate, as for my son’s opinion. He loves his life here. He loves his family here. He knows his birth mother’s story, and is grateful she gave him up to have a better life. He likes learning about Korea, and enjoys taking taekwondo, but prefers Mexican food to Korean. When I talked to him about the bigger social issues with Korean adoptions, he sort of rolled his eyes. He’s happy right where he is.
    My son is a huge blessing to his parents, siblings, and extended family. My husband often tells me that he thinks that adopting our son from Korea was the smartest idea I’ve ever had. I agree with him. For us, it was the right choice.

  8. Avatar Luanne says:

    The initial question is so well thought out and so admirable. It makes me feel so good about humankind to read it. Adoption has become one of the newest grounds for political and cultural change–and it’s about time. I read all the comments with great interest. Then I called my daughter Marisha who is travelling right now and shared it with her. She’s an adult Korean adoptee. I asked her her opinion about all this. She talked about the complexities of the situation, but there were a few points at which she expressed a definitive opinion. She said her viewpoint is colored by “being blessed by my outcome” and that she understands that that is not the case for every adoptee. She doesn’t believe that an institutional life is better than adoption, even when it’s adoption by a family in a different country. She also expressed dismay at the thought of a child “waiting around for the birth mother” because, in the meantime, the child is growing up without parents. All that said, she says that her opinion is based on thinking of this little boy himself and not about adoption in general. In general, it would be better to get some really excellent systems in place to promoting keeping children with their birth families and in their birth countries. But that it’s never going to always be possible to do so.
    I think my opinion is similar to Marisha’s, although I feel very strongly that foster care should be promoted as a first option in many cases. This is something that almost 30 years ago I wanted to do and was turned away from it and encouraged to adopt internationally. Things are different today, but I feel even more strongly that we need to figure out a way to heal our system for children in this country where we understand the culture. It’s very difficult for me to formulate a fixed position on the subject of international adoption because of my ignorance of the true intricacies of the cultures where international adoptees are born. I hope that doesn’t sound like a copout, but I feel that a lot of people do promote certain viewpoints without the kind of knowledge they need to make a decision. I am always reading and trying to learn more about the subject.

  9. Avatar Sue says:

    After having our consciousness raised after our first adoption, this question came up for us during the wait for our second adoption when we kept hitting roadblocks, had trouble finding funds and hated feeding money into a corrupt system to keep things going. We even offered to support our not-yet-son and have a long distance relationship with him. We were essentially told that every child “deserves” a family and he would go back into the adoption market if we halted proceedings, to be adopted by another family, hard to know if a better match or not but nothing that was broken would be fixed by us pulling out. We like to think we made a good match for him though only he will be the judge one day (a thought that keeps me wondering!)

    Bottom line is that with rare exceptions, once the child is caught in the institutional web there is little or no hope that they will be returned to their family or raised well in an institution and zero possibility of nonadoptive would-be parents influencing the direction they go.

    I also know beyond a doubt that even if I had adopted either of my kids with the intent of returning them to their families, or even trying to help their entire families in some legal fashion, it would have been impossible.

    I have been able to gather some intelligence about what happened to the kids who were not adopted in my daughter’s orphanage. They were not fed well, often used for labor and not educated and had nowhere to go at the age of “graduation.” OK that was not a fate worse than death. But they do not feel lucky to have been left behind. I know this to be true, but am withholding sources because even if I could get them saying so on camera, there would still be those who would say they were somehow pressured, bribed or coerced into saying they wish they had been adopted.

    We DID decide not to proceed with a third adoption because when we spotted a possible match there were so many questions about the ethics involved that we just couldn’t face it one more time. That means the child remained at the mercy of the system with dicey chances of advocacy, at best. I hope he is OK but very much doubt it.

    Yes, my kids have pain and insecurity due to their primal wounding, which we cannot fix with all the love in the world but there is also joy because of that love Adoptive parents cannot fix everything that is broken, but we can do some things really well and learn from adult adoptees what to try to avoid, as much as possible. Not all pitfalls are avoidable, but I have to believe that I am getting something right as a parent and once in the thick of it, my commitment is as strong and enduring as any parents can be. I won’t reply to any criticisms. I just wanted to say that I have had these questions, and these are my answers.

  10. Avatar Robyn says:

    I would recommend that the woman who asked the question read the blog “Don’t We Look Alike?” An adoptive mother and her adopted daughter blog there. Marisha was adopted from Korea. It’s become one of my must read blogs, and I think the perspective would do the OP some good.

  11. Avatar Carolyn says:

    Also, while we were in China, we met a NZ couple who worked in rural Guangdong province with an orphanage. Their goal when finding an abandoned baby (often still with hossy bracelet) was reunification and if $$$ was the reason for abandonment, to get the family $$ for the care. Relinquishment was seen as a last resort.

  12. Avatar Carolyn says:

    Boah, that is a LOADED quandary. I am an adoptive mother to a boy who was 14 YEARS at his adoption 1 year ago. He was abandoned. You have to prepay medical care in China (and kids are often abandoned with fresh IV marks from where $$ ran out before tx was completed). I wish his BP could’ve afforded a cleft affected baby. I wish there wasn’t societal stigma against cleft (kiss of the devil).

    I wish there were programs in place to keep older orphans in their home countries with a hope of a future (e.g. schooling they miss in the SWI, voc ed etc) because it is extremely hard on these kids at age 10+ to rip them from their homeland and have them adapt both to a family and to school in the US… Most IA older adoptees are facing a NIGHTMARE in terms of being failed time and again by the public school system too.

    My son’s SWI has started a voc ed program for the aged out (14+) kids I believe. It’s our dream when he finally finishes HS (projected at 21; he’s 15 and in 6th grade in remedial work) to go back to Shenzhen where I can teach English for the summer and we can perhaps teach cooking/lifeskills.

  13. Avatar Courtney says:

    My husband and I are going through the foster adoption process within the US. With this process you learn alot about the goal for children in the foster system, which is always Reunification with their parents. At least in our state they didn’t give us any unrealistic expectaions that foster children would automatically become available for adoption. I think for us we do look at it as helping a child and have committed to keeping any cultural differences open to exploration for our education and to allow the children to know where they came from. Its really what you make of it. My personal belief is that while his culter is Korea is different then yours you can embrase that culter and learn alot from it to help him throughout his life. Just my opinion.

  14. Avatar Elaine Makiej says:

    My take is that you and your husband can honor your future son’s heritage by supporting “Korean Unwed Mother Support Network” that Dawn mentions and still adopt your matched with child.
    I used to work for many years for a company with a huge Korean subsidiary. I worked with many folks who were born and raised in Korea. Some of them became very good work buddies. Long conversations about important things over lunch type of work buddies. One of these people married a fellow Korean gal over the objections of his parents. Their objection to her was that “her parents were divorced.” This was a whopping 9 years ago.
    This may be an over simplification of the Korean attitude towards single, unmarried parents, but if you think of societal attitudes in early 1950s in the US, you’d be pretty close.
    The Korean government is very much trying to affect change. But I doubt that change will come quickly enough for the child you are matched with not suffer the stigma of a being “fatherless” child. My advice, Adopt your son, love him, keep the culture of the best that you can, and be open to him searching in the future (if he wants to) to find his birth mother.

  15. Avatar Mishelle R. says:

    Excellent response, Dawn!

  16. Avatar Jan Stewart says:

    hmmm…..a poignant letter but some what typical reply. In reality a child is better off being brought up in it’s own country, religion, state of mind……and trying to do that from another place is fraught with levels of impossibility….

    What is wrong with being brought up in an institution so long as the child is safe clean and fed? Why not try to improve the conditions of the children and their mothers ?

    • Jan, there is so much wrong with being brought up in an institution. We have years and tomes of research supporting that children do not thrive in orphanages regardless of how clean or how well fed they are. These institutions are often much better than the alternative of living in abusive homes or on the street, but even the best run institution is not as good as a family. But I do agree that we need to put more effort into improving the conditions of children and their mothers so that fewer children are in need of institutions or adoption.

  17. Avatar JM says:

    I can relate to the woman who wrote you that email. I struggled a bit with my adoption because while I was waiting with my referral – Vietnam was shutting down due to unethical practices. As with most APs – I started the process pretty naively – but during the somewhat lengthy and arduous process I learned so much more about the ethics of adoption. I waited a whole year with my referral due to some of the problems between the US and Vietnam so I had plenty to time to read about what was going on and to think about the issues. I ultimately decided that leaving my child in an orphanage was not an answer. I am hoping one day to find out more about my daughter’s background and work through whatever information we find together.

  18. Avatar Jessica B. says:

    Very thoughtful. Thanks for the viewpoint, and for the brave question from the inquirer.

  19. Avatar Whole Child says:

    O.k. This post made me cry. I struggle with the same questions and am so aware that my joy at becoming a mother through adoption is only possible because of other people’s loss and pain.

  20. Avatar Crissy says:

    I became a foster parent with no intent on adoption. So did a good friend of mine. We are both white and single. I have since adopted twin Hispanic foster children. My friend has taken in and kept long term (maybe permanently) two special needs kids -one black, one Hispanic.
    Two reasons for this comment-
    1) foster children choose you. You are there for them in the worst times. If times don’t get better for birth family, then you are there for them forever. Do it, no matter what your heart will overflow.

    2) I don’t think culture trumps love and safety. My kids will learn Spanish, see their birth father once or twice a month, and when they are old enough we will take a trip to El Salvador. Raise them as your own, pay attention to differences, but they shouldn’t be your focus.

  21. Avatar LD says:

    To the prospective adoptive mom: You are asking EXACTLY the right question, and I applaud you for it. The trauma caused by adoption is overwhelming, even in the best of circumstances. Add to that losing your culture, language, everyone who looks like you…it really is an enormous, terrible loss. Especially now that you know the issues with international adoption, and since you are clearly a person who wants to make good choices for children, I would urge you not to travel this path. I know that’s probably not what you want to hear, but the child is better off without all the additional losses. And imagine the good you can do for other children by supporting efforts like Jane Jeong Trenka’s and Against Child Trafficking. It is about more than one child. It is about all children.

  22. Avatar A Korean-born adopted person says:

    I recommend that you not adopt the little Korean boy. He will live without the adoption. They used to tell me I would have died if I had not been adopted–or been a beggar or prostitute. Well, I could have also become South Korea’s President too, whereas there is no chance of me becoming the US President because of my adoption. Rather, support Against Child Trafficking or organizations that are trying to mend broken hearts and fix a broken system.

  23. Avatar Linda Smith says:

    Check into bringing mother and child over to this country. Let her live with her baby with your family. Help her learn English and become self-supporting so she can raise her child.

    • Linda, I suspect that our immigration policy would make that difficult. This solution also presupposes that the mother who likely has relinquished her child at birth 18 months ago would want to move to the US and want to parent.

  24. Her question tugged at my heart as well.

  25. Avatar Annieg says:

    That is such a great question and so awesome of you to ask. We sponsor a boy in Ethiopia for this very reason. We didn’t want his family to have to place him in an orphanage because they couldn’t afford him. We have been sponsoring him for 4 years now and we are committed to him until he is 18. I would love to meet him one day.

    The issue here is that your son is already relinquished. Unless there was a way to reach out to his birthmom and ask if she could parent if you gave financial support?? I would say it is MUCH better to have parents than no parents at all. You will need to do your part to surround him with other Korean American’s and to keep his culture alive. And remember that some parts of the world very much look down upon single parents. So even if she had the financial support, she may feel pressure to place because of her society.

    So I would vote, adopt him, sponsor another child in need, and keep your son’s culture alive.

  26. Avatar Michelle says:

    Wow–such a heavy topic, with tons of societal, cultural, and ethical ground to cover. My hat goes off to the woman who wrote this email for her courage and thorough consideration of both the child’s and the biological mother’s ultimate well-beings–and to you for answering her concerns beautifully. 🙂

  27. Avatar Courtney says:

    Sorry for mispelling, Culture***

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