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.


At 8:39 PM , Blogger Third Mom said...

There is a great deal of "boilerplating" done in Korean adoption paperwork, no question. And to some degree, the amount and quality of the information you may receive depends on the particular social worker who processed the case, even their mood at the time the document was prepared. I also believe that when numbers of children in the system are high, the quality of the information diminishes because the social workers are overworked.

Put that next to the fact that the prevailing Korean attitude is to preserve secrecy, and you have a mess.

Paranoid? No. Just realistic, sadly.


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