We are eager to offer assistance and support to adopted children while they search for more information about their adoption. It is very common for adoptees to have mixed feelings and questions. Adoptees may not even know what information they are in search of. F&CS Foster Care and Adoption Services guide parents as well as adoptees through all parts of the adoption process. Here is information to consider before embarking upon a search.
Most adoptees wonder why their birth family could not raise them. Many also wonder why they had to leave their country of birth. While answers vary by household, several cultural, environmental and economic factors impact the reasons that children cannot be raised by their families or in their country of origin. A common answer stems from the lack of governmental support or societal acceptance for single women raising children. Many women felt that their child would have a more stable life with a different family. At this time, Koreans did not commonly adopt children, so most children in the adoption system were adopted internationally. Fortunately, attitudes are changing in Korea and there is considerably more support for single parents from families, society and the government. Additionally, adoption has become more common and acceptable. The situation today is quite different than when you were born, and the number of children adopted internationally from Korea is steadily declining.
Two agencies were involved in facilitating your adoption: Korea Social Services (KSS) and Family Adoption Consultants (FAC). Family Adoption Consultants is now F&CS Foster Care and Adoption Services. KSS provided care for you until all of the legal processing was complete and you traveled to the U.S. to be with your adoptive parents. It is likely that you spent some time at KSS’s children’s home and then lived with a foster family until your adoption. FAC provided services to your adoptive parents so they could be approved and prepared to adopt a child from Korea. KSS and FAC have been working together since 1985. We continue to maintain a partnership and work together to provide post-adoption services for adoptees and their adoptive families. Both agencies believe that adoption is a life-long process that continues even after the legal process has been completed.
Adoptees and adoptive parents often have questions and concerns related to the adoption throughout their lives. We are committed to providing post-adoption services to all members of the adoption triad: adoptees, adoptive families and biological families. KSS has established the guidelines for adoption searches. An adoptee can start a search for his/her birth parents at age 13 with permission from their adoptive parents or after age 18 without parental permission. No identifying personal information will be released without each party’s consent.
Before you initiate a search, it will be important for you to consider what you really want. Do you just want to learn about your birth family, your country of birth or your life before you arrived in the US? Do you want to meet birth relatives, caregivers and foster parents?
The following are available as you consider what you want to do:
- Attend a Korean culture camp and/or join a Korean Adoptees support organization, such as Korean American Adoption Network (KAAN)
- Take a Motherland tour of Korea with other adoptees and adoptive families. These tours involve visiting orphanages and meeting with adoption social workers to learn about the common reasons Korean children are placed for adoption
- Update your file at Korea Social Services (KSS) with letters or photographs in the event that birth family members inquire about you. Providing identifying information would be your choice
- Request duplicate copies of your adoption documents
- Request KSS review your file for additional information regarding birth family members
- Request KSS locate your foster family and exchange letters and/or photographs
- Make a personal visit to KSS and meet with a social worker to discuss your history
- Request KSS arrange and facilitate a meeting with your foster family
- Locate or visit the hospital or maternity clinic where you were born
- Locate or visit where your birth mother lived during her pregnancy
- Request KSS initiate a search for your birth mother or other members of your birth family
- Exchange letters with birth family members
- Request KSS arrange and facilitate a meeting with birth family members
- Request KSS arrange a conference call and counseling services between adoptee, birth family, and/or adoptive parents
The decision to start a birth parent search can be difficult, confusing and emotional. We recommend that you take some time to learn and prepare for the possible complications that may result from a search. We have included a list of resources for adoptees searching for information or reunion. One article included in 10 Questions to Ask is by Hollee McGinnis, an adult adoptee and adoption professional. There is then a questionnaire regarding readiness for searching. Books and articles by adoption experts, adoptees and birth parents can be very helpful. There are websites and internet chat groups for Korean adoptees, some of whom have already reunited with their birth families. Learning about the personal experiences of others who have or are considering a search may be especially helpful.
It is important to remember that if you do make contact with your birth family, their feelings and actions will become a factor to be dealt with in the future. They may want more or less contact than you do. It now becomes a “two-way street” in which all of you will have to proceed with respect for one another. In some cases, it is a birth family member who requests information about the child relinquished for adoption. Birth parents, or sometimes grandparents, often wonder how the child is doing or want the child to know about his/her birth family and why they could not care for the child. When that happens, it is the adoptee and adoptive family who must deal with the request and decide how to respond. There is much to consider!
If, after carefully considering all aspects of searching for your biological roots, you decide that you are ready to begin this process, please contact us to begin the process. Please understand that each request for information requires a significant time and that KSS receives many requests for assistance from the children they have placed for adoption. Each search requires time to review your file, provide translation services and to contact many different people to obtain birth family information. It is also possible that, despite their efforts, KSS may not be able to locate your birth family members. Even if located, the birth family may be unable or unwilling to respond to your request for information or a meeting. Relinquishing a child is a very difficult experience for many, and due to the negative societal attitudes in Korea many birth mothers have never shared the fact that they had a child they relinquished to their family. You will need to have a lot of patience and understanding while you wait for news.
We are available to provide consultation, support, resources and counseling services as you consider the important step of initiating a search and the options available for exploring your roots.