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Adopting from Korea - A Parent's Guide to Korean Adoption

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The real work begins here...

Adoptive parenthood
The ongoing journey
Dealing with the public
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Your baby is home. Your final paperwork is in process or completed. And just like when the frenzy and excitement of the wedding celebration fades and the real work of marriage begins, so, too, goes parenthood.

Adoptive and otherwise.

This is one section that will always be in process. I'll be adding sections, comments, links and essays, and who knows what as you and I together navigate this joyous, challenging, and thorny business known as adoptive parenthood. If you have comments you'd like to share, let me know.

One important caveat. I'm not a social worker or adoption professional. Just a mom with a little experience, a lot of opinions and a strong need to share. So take anything I say with a grain of salt and use your own head and heart as your final guide.

Adoptive parenthood is mostly like any other kind of parenthood ... except when it's not.

Most of time, we are parents just like anyone else. We kiss boo-boos, read bedtime stories, wipe runny noses, fret when our children are sick, and feel pride at every hard-earned accomplishment they make. Especially when our kids are quite young, we spend most of our time doing the usual parenting stuff.

But there are those times we're not like everyone else. Perhaps it's when our families solicit stares at a restaurant or when we're on the receiving end of nosy, pushy questions while we're standing in the supermarket check-out line. Or when our children are no longer little and they come home asking tough questions about why their first moms and families didn't keep them.

A thought or two about race and ethnicity

We are more than likely white families with Asian children. Unless we ourselves are members of a minority group - religious, ethnic, have a disability - we don't have a deep understanding of being "the other" until we become a multiracial, multiethnic family through adoption. It's only then that our blinders begin to fall and we and our beloved children begin to experience racism, benign and otherwise, head-on.

For many of us, it comes as a deep shock. I've often compared it to discovering that you, your family, now have a new adjective in front of you. Like male nurse or lady doctor, we add extra adjectives to those concepts and individuals that are not the norm.

And when you don't fit the norm, you become the other. When you live outside the norm, it makes some folks curious, others nervous, others even hostile.

Families like ours, depending on where we live, stand out. Our children, also depending on where we live, also stand out. It's our job then to decide how - as a family and as individuals - we will handle our "otherness" in ways that maintain our sense of worth, dignity and preserve our family's privacy. It's our job to help empower our children to decide for themselves how and how much they share with the outside world.

Sometimes, though, that may not be enough. That's why a few years ago, when both my youngest children were in elementary school, we decided to move to a different part of the state where the Korean specifically and Asian generally populations were significantly higher.

I wanted my kids to see other kids and families - in school, in the neighborhood, around town - who looked just like them. Has it made a difference to them? Yes, it has. Profoundly. Has it strengthened and supported their pride and comfort in being Korean? Yes, it has.

A little about being adopted

Unless we are adoptees ourselves, we don't have a deep understanding of the questions "Who am I and where do I belong?" and "Who do I look like and who looks like me?" Those of us raised by the family who bore us will never confront these questions. We know the answers and they ground us, for better or worse. Our adopted children will struggle with these questions all their lives to one degree or another at times more acutely than others.

We can't take on this struggle for them either. We can love them, support them, guide them, give them room to make their own decisions - and push us away if need be - but it's theirs to own and manage.

The ongoing journey

We'll be exploring racism... grief and loss... how to deal with family, schools, and community... and lots more in the weeks, months and years ahead. But for now, I'll start here.

Dealing with the public

As an adoptive parent, you're going to be asked a lot of questions. Most are asked from benign curiosity, some may be a little more aggressive. Here's a list of typical questions and my own take on the answers. I think this kind of give and take is fine when your children are small. Once your kids reach the age where these kinds of questions asked about them and their family make them uncomfortable, go ahead and ask your child if he/she wants to answer these for themselves. If he/she says no, simply tell the inquirer that you don't answer personal questions about your children. And that you know he/she will understand.

Roberta's Top 14 List of Stupid/Nosy Questions (and possible answers)

1. Do you have any children of your own?

They're all my own. I did, however, give birth to my oldest daughter.

2. She's (he's) such a lucky little girl (boy), isn't she (he)?

I think we're all lucky to have found each other. Aren't they great kids?

3. His (her) father must be Korean/Chinese/Asian

His/her birth parents are Korean/Chinese/Asian. His/her Dad is that big guy with the grey hair standing over there.

4. What happened to her (his) REAL parents? Can you imagine anyone giving up such a beautiful little child?

Actually, we are the real parents. But the reasons why children are placed for adoption are varied and complicated. I can give you the names of some books to read, if you're interested or you can visit my website.

5.  She's (he's) so....... cute!

Thanks. We think so, too.

6.  Are they real brothers/sisters?" (asked about children who each have been adopted into the same family)


(And if prodded) "Yes, but are they REAL sisters - you know what I mean?" 

Yes, aren't they great?

7.  I bet they're smart. I hear "they" have a real gift for academics.

I think they are, but then I'm their mother. (smile here) I don't think, though, that we can make sweeping assumptions about any group, do you?

8.  Aren't you afraid they'll grow up and go back to their real parents.

We are their real parents, thanks. The rest of your question is sort of personal. But briefly, no, we're not worried. As adults they are free to pursue any relationships they choose and with our blessing.

9. Where are they from?

We're from Our Town, This State though my youngest children were born in Korea.

10. What do you know of their real history/family?

Our agency provided us with the information they had. Perhaps there will be more to learn later on. I hope so for their sake. For now, we're just happy to have them in our lives. We are so blessed.

11. Why did you adopt one of "those" children when I hear there are lots of children here in the US who need families?

Korea was the right decision for our family. Do you have adopted kids, too? No? Why not? (If they do, you can ask them why they decided to adopt domestically.)

12. Did you adopt because you wanted to or because you HAD to?

We decided to adopt after I had many miscarriages. My only regret is that we didn't decide to adopt sooner. Aren't they great kids?

13. How much did they cost?

My children, like yours, are priceless. However, adoption fees cover two adoption agencies, government fees, as well as housing, food, and medical care for the children. If you didn't have medical insurance for a high-risk pregnancy, it would run about the same. (Or you can ask, "How much do you weigh?")

14. Do they speak English? (asked when you're holding a baby)

Only in private. In public, they speak "baby." [smile here]

Follow me on Twitter

In in the middle of revamping this site to a WordPress format with a built-in blog, so I'll soon be closing http://adopt-korea.blogspot.com/ and blogging directly from this location.

Still, I always have something to say. So I hope you'll follow me on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/AdoptKorea

I'll be posting frequently about the issues that affect us and my personal thoughts. I'll be recommending books (some of which will be for sale at AdoptShoppe.com) I'll be adding material and useful links here, as well. You are welcome to comment, too.

And so our journey continues... glad to have you with us.


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