Monday, July 30, 2007

Foster family

We are so lucky to have ongoing contact with our son's foster family in Korea, via e-mail. When I met his foster mother in Korea I was hoping I would be able to convey to her our hopes of remaining in contact with her. At one of our meetings we were left alone in a room at the agency, and she promptly whipped out the photo album she prepared for us of our son's pictures, flipped to a certain picture and showed me where their e-mail address was printed on the back of the picture. I was so elated and thankful for this little interaction (and, side note: ticked that families - both foster and adoptive - are officially discouraged from keeping in contact without the 'help' of the agency).

When we write to them or send pictures, they reply quickly with gushing comments about how much they enjoy hearing about the little guy we all love; how handsome and sweet and smart he is. They have remembered both the birthdays he has had since he left Korea and have sent him a card on each occasion. From them, I have learned more about my son's personality when he was an infant. I've learned his nicknames - he had two, one that his foster mother preferred, and another that his foster father felt was more acceptable. :) Just little things like that.

This relationship is so important to me, and I desperately want to preserve it for my son's sake. It's another one of those things I day dream about: Taking him to Korea in a few years or so (age 6 or 8, perhaps), and having him run to his sweet foster mom and give her a big hug!

And then there are other times when I wonder if there is a downside to all of this. I mean, this contact with his foster family is filling a certain portion of the hole in my heart for the contact I don't have with his Omma. I don't think of his foster family as his 'real parents', but I do recognize them as wonderfully caring people who absolutely love him, and who knew him before his little life became quite so complicated. Back then he was a sweet Korean boy living in Korea, with a Korean name and a family that looked like him. They spoke to him in his native tongue and supplemented his formula bottles with barley tea and slept next to him on the floor at night and took him to see the sights of Korea as he snuggled in his foster mom's podaegi. In general, I would say he was cared for in a manner similar to many other Korean babies. He was just a normal Korean baby boy. I became frantic during 2006 when I didn't hear from them after one of the e-mails I sent; I was terrified that they had just decided not to respond any more. It turned out that the e-mail simply didn't go through properly, but before I figured that out, I was beside myself with saddness and fear that it was 'over' with them. They are ALL we have as far as links to his life in Korea and his infancy.

Sometimes I worry, though. He absolutely adores looking at their pictures and talking about them. I wonder how he will feel when he really truly understands that this beautiful family won't ever be *the* answer to his questions. I mean to take nothing away from them when I say that, as lovely as they are, they aren't his real parents (just as we aren't). I am concerned when I hear of adoptive parents who label all the parents in this manner:

"Mom"/"real mom" = adoptive mom
"Omma" = foster mom
"Tummy mommy" or "birth mom" = real mom/biological mom

I don't want my son to be devastated when he realizes that his beloved foster mom is not his Omma. Right now he enjoys hearing about his life in Korea. I know he wants to talk about it when he says, "Mama! Tell me a story!" (When I first started talking to him about his life, I would always say, "I'm gonna tell you a little story about YOU!" He would always giggle as he waited for me to start, and then listened very intently). I'm am careful to refer to his foster mother as "Mrs. ____", your foster mom who loves you and took care of you when you were a baby". And I add straight-out, "she is not your Omma. You were in your Omma's tummy and when you were born Omma loved you very much."

((Ugh, so convoluted. But he listens intently and I have no doubt he will understand sooner rather than later, because he is just that smart. It just breaks my heart to tell him this matter-of-fact story that, in reality, makes no sense)).

Anyway, I guess I say all this just to say that I hope I can help him understand all of this some day, and I hope that knowing his foster family, possibly (hopefully!) visiting them and having contact with them, might somehow enhance his life as an adoptee rather than make it even more confusing. And I do want to reserve a very special place for his real Omoni - - but that's so hard to do in this situation.....

(I feel a post about my insanity over the lack of openness coming on.....)

Monday, July 23, 2007

A grudge regarding a real problem

I continue to feel so angry about the lack of access to information that occurs in international adoptive situations. I've never been one who enjoys secrecy or waiting for a secret to be revealed or surprises of any kind. Just tell me what's up, and I'll figure out where to go from there. The fact that someone in Korea knows information that ties my son to a certain (named, known) woman in Korea (his mother) is killing me. Don't misunderstand - I'm not begging for sympathy for myself...I guess I just have a huge axe to grind on my son's behalf regarding this secrecy as far as his own parentage and the circumstances surrounding his birth.

I've tried to write this post many times before and have stopped myself because it's too easy for me to sit here stewing and daydreaming about my private accusations against those who (apparently) don't feel that the children leaving Korea for a 'better life' deserve to know the intracacies of their own existances. I have so many questions about why things are this way.

Someone has a case file on my son's mother. Someone sat down with her, face to face, and talked with her on a minimum of one or two occasions - at least according to the dearth of info we do have, that must be true. Someone knows what she looks like, what her feelings were regarding her pregnancy (above and beyond the fact that she was "all alone with no one to confide in"*). Someone knows if she held her son in her arms. Someone knows if she said a prayer for him or kissed him or said anything to him. Someone knows if perhaps she never laid eyes on him and simply got up and walked out of the hospital after he was born. Someone knows her hopes and dreams for him and her 'real' reasons for following through with the adoption. Someone knows if she specifically wanted him to be adopted to the US, and if so, why. Whatever the answers are to these things unknown to me and my son, someone knows and holds the information captive in a file that will collect dust until the years have passed. Or perhaps the information was taken in but never transcribed to a file, and instead common phraseology was inserted in place of a real, individualized case history and added to the file as a bare-bones description of my son's mother and her emotions (again, see * above).

Some adoptive parent reading this might say, "Oh, that's so sad. They must not know anything about their son's mother. Thank goodness *we* have [x,y,z] information about our child's mother." I am not going to share what few details we have been given, but I've been in the adoption community long enough to know that we have at least what most other adoptive parents of Korean children have. And it's not enough. There is so, so much more to my son's life story and more to his mother's pregnancy, childbirth, and adoption experience than the few facts we have.

Maybe I'm being unreasonable. But what I think is unreasonable is this (seemingly) accepted custom of writing bland paragraphs of stetchy 'confidential background information' and passing them off as everything you are entitled to know about your (adopted) child....moreover, believing (I assume) that THIS is all the child has a right or a need to know.

I just feel so lost and yeah....angry about this. It's one of those situations where there are so many factors that come into play (real or invented by the system), that it's hard to sort out the 'mother's privacy' vs. child's-rights-to-information dilemma. Never in a million years would I want my son's mother to have an even worse existance simply by me having information about her and (yes) the ability to investigate her whereabouts (attempt to make contact) if I were that bold. It's so sad, because the truth is that I'm about as likely to do something to endanger my son's mother's privacy as she is to fly around the world and take her son back to Korea with her. It wouldn't happen. But someone, somewhere thinks the risk is so great that there must be no POSSIBILITY of my son having his hands on that information until 17++ years have passed. And because even the rules themselves and their rationales are shrouded in secrecy, I am left to assume that it is beneficial to someone, somewhere, for this 'custom' (of keeping everything top-secret unless both parties practically demand some shred of openness) to remain vital and in full force. Call me completely paranoid.

I know that my son's mother can check her file for our letters, pictures and mementos if she chooses (and is able!), but what about my (our) son? He gets nothing, NOTHING, unless his mother is in a position to take the brave step of contacting us (via go-betweens on both ends, of course). I was never encouraged to push for an open international adoption by the people I (unfortunately) paid to advise me on my end, and I'm betting my son's mother was never encouraged to share her life story or even dream of any contact with her son, by the people who were being paid to advise her. Everyone is left out in the cold. If only Adoption for Dummies had a game plan for achieving an open international adoption we could turn this whole trend upside down.


*Yes, this is a direct quote from our paperwork. I share this portion *only* because I know I have heard of and seen this exact phrase elsewhere (i.e. from other Korean children's 'confidential background information'). It's a tear-jerking phrase. One that I once thought actually meant something about my son's mother; something personal. The more I read the paperwork and think about this topic, I see that many of us (and our children) are given precious few personal, individual facts ("the birthmother" worked here, met "the birthfather" there, was "alone with no one to confide in". THE END) couched amongst emotion-inducing phrases that all add up to a bunch of.....very little information.

It is my dire hope that the mothers in Korea are someday going to be told (during the pre-relinquishment counseling) that their children will miss them and wonder about them just as they will miss and wonder about their children. That having a bit of contact with their child during his/her growing up years (or providing some personal information to their children during the relinquishment proceedings either via letter or case notes being opened, or ???) is likely not going to ruin their lives. It breaks my heart to think that at least some women are probably scared away from even inquiring about openness just by their social worker's implications, and the system itself.

If a book such as I Wish for You a Beautiful Life could be published from within the system, it is completely possible for items such as those letters or even a simple picture or any tiny bit of real, personal information to be passed on to (and passed between) mothers and the children they relinquish.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Yesterday one of my co-workers came up to me with this sad story:

So...there's this girl my parents know who is pregnant with twin boys, and she's giving them up for adoption.

(me: raised eyebrows)

Yep. She had her rights terminated on her first child, and she knows she's gonna get these ones taken away, too.

(me: Why? Has she been abusive or.....? Does she want to try to make a plan to keep them?)

I don't know. All I know is that they have already told her that there is *no way* she is leaving the hospital with those babies, so she wants to find adoptive parents because she doesn't want them to go into foster care.

I could hardly think what to say first, but I think (hope) I made it clear that 1) I personally am not in the market for anyone's twins. I'm not sure why she told *me* this awful story almost with an air of if-you're-looking-to-adopt-again-I-know-where-you-can-get-a-baby. Strange since I have told anyone who will listen how much my thoughts on adoption have changed so much since we adopted our son. Blech. 2) This young mom doesn't seem to have the benefit of knowing all of her rights and what she can do to help herself if she has any thought of keeping her baby boys. I mentioned a couple of resources for her to look into.


If I had the courage, patience, time, and compassion, I would love to be a foster parent. I think I would be a half-way decent one, especially for cases where the goal was family reunification. Actually, the more I started thinking about myself in that role, I realized that what I would really like would to be able to mentor young women who don't have anyone to show them that they CAN be good help them prioritize and make plans for their futures and help them learn how to manage a family and all that entails....

I'm not super-mom, by any means. But I do have a heart for young women who seem to have no other 'fate' than to follow in the footsteps, as mothers, of the moms who didn't take good care of THEM. And that is just so sad. Sometimes all people need is a little empowerment, a hefty dose of encouragement, and someone to believe in them.

And God knows, I have a heart for families to stay together whenever possible. Having rights terminated not because one was abusive but just because someone didn't quite 'have her act together' sounds to me like not a 'hopeless' situation as far as her ever mothering any child. It sounds, rather, like a young mom who would be able to raise her children if she had someone to show her she could do it.