Kim Park Nelson’s Korean Radio Debut!

Check out Professor Kim Park Nelson’s Korean radio debut on 1:48 Voices From Within the Korean Diaspora.

“1:48 – voices from within the korean diaspora”
guest: Kim Park Nelson
reporting by: kim thompson
interview conducted by: Steve Hatherly for TBS radio in Seoul

“Kim Park Nelson is an assistant professor of American Multicultural Studies at the Minnesota State University at Moorhead. Her research explores the many identities of adult Korean adoptees, as well as the cultural, social, historical and political significance of over 50 years of Korean adoption to the United States. Her recently completed Ph.D. research is titled “Korean Looks, American Eyes: Korean American Adoptees, Race, Culture and Nation.” She is the lead organizer of the Second International Symposium of Korean Adoption Studies which will take place in Seoul on August 3, 2010 as part of the International Korean Adoptee Associations Gathering, a week- long conference for and about Korean adoptees. She born in Korea and adopted to the United States in 1971.”

ABOUT 1:48

This is a report that will air once every 3 weeks and will feature korean adoptees who are artists, activists, and philosophers.

I will do the reporting and through the suggestions of others as well as my own contacts bring on different voices from within the adoptee community who live both in Seoul and abroad. For the time being it will air as a regular report that is featured on the “Steve Hatherly Show”

The reason that I’ve named the report thus is due to this fact (which I extracted from an article by Jane Jeong Trenka )

“since 1953 about 200,000 korean children have been sent to the west for adoption. with korea having a population of approximately 48 million this means one in every 48 korean citizens is affected by adoption. this show will feature some of those 200,000 who have returned home.”


It is to our knowledge the first consistent featuring of a report like this on the radio. Your comments and feedback and listening participation are vital. PLEASE make sure to email Tim Alper at TBS radio with your support for the show and tell him how you heard it (either live or on my blog)

Tim Alper:

If you have guest or topic suggestions please email me (Kim Thompson) at:
* The purpose of this show is to feature the voices of Korean adoptees

Click here to listen to Kim Park Nelson’s radio interview. She was previously on American public radio with a talk on adoption as well. Check it out here!

Open Access… for Adult Adoptees

According to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute’s FOR THE RECORDS: Restoring a Legal Right for Adult Adoptees (Nov 2007):

Kansas and Alaska are the only two states that have always allowed adult adoptees to request their original birth certificates. As of November 2007, Alabama, Delaware, Maine, New Hampsire, Oregon and Tennessee have also re-established access. 42 states still do not allow access.

  • Adopted persons are the only individuals in the United States who, as a class, are not permitted to routinely obtain their original birth certificates (emphasis mine). This prohibition on access to one’s personal information raises significant civil rights concerns, particularly given the growing understanding of the need to know one’s history, heritage, medical and genealogical information.
  • Denying adult adopted persons access to information related to their births and adoptions has potentially serious, negative consequences with regard to their physical and mental health. As recognized by the U.S. Surgeon General’s office in its Family History Initiative, biological family medical history is vital to prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, particularly with regard to diseases and conditions for which individuals may be genetically predisposed, such as heart disease, cancer, and certain mental health conditions.
  • As states have amended their laws to provide adult adopted persons with access to their birth and/or adoption information, there has been no evidence of the sorts of negative consequences predicted by opponents of changing these laws, including intrusive behavior such as stalking by adopted persons who receive their personal information.
  • Similarly, there has been no evidence that the lives of birthmothers have been damaged as a result of the release of information to the children (now adults) whom they relinquished for adoption. In debates leading to these legal changes, opponents had uniformly stated that birthmothers object to the release of birth information and to being contacted by their children. In the states that have amended their laws, however, few birthmothers have expressed the desire to keep records sealed or the wish not to be contacted; indeed, in the vast majority of cases, the converse appears to be true.
  • Another assertion by critics of changing these laws – that abortion rates rise as a result of such access – is not supported by the experiences of states that have re-opened records (or have never closed them); in fact, the data indicate that reopening records may reduce abortion rates and may increase adoption rates.
  • For many adopted persons, the desire to obtain their records is entirely separate from any desire to search for their birthmothers or other relatives; they simply believe – as a human and civil right – that they are entitled to the same basic information about themselves that people raised in their birth families receive as a matter of course. Indeed, many who do get their birth certificates or other documents never search, while others successfully search (a growing phenomenon because of the internet) without any of their documents. Moreover, adopted adults who choose to search invariably make clear that their decisions are not a rejection of their adoptive parents but a desire to learn more about themselves and, in growing numbers, adoptive parents support and assist their adult children’s searches.
  • Research shows that knowledge of what happened to the children they relinquished for adoption plays a powerful role in the resolution of birthmothers’ grief, thereby suggesting that providing access to birth and/or adoption information can have other positive consequences.
  • There has been scant evidence that birthmothers were explicitly promised anonymity from the children they relinquished for adoption. Relinquishment documents provided to courts that have heard challenges to states’ new “open records” laws do not contain any such promises. To the extent that adoption professionals might have verbally made such statements, courts have found that they were contrary to state law and cannot be considered legally binding.
  • In addition to the states that have reopened birth and/or adoption records to all adult adopted persons, a growing number of states have restored access more narrowly – typically to (1) individuals who were adopted prior to the state’s law sealing this information and/or to (2) individuals adopted after the effective date of the statute providing access. These statutes have created a “sandwich” situation in which individuals caught in between – adopted a day too early or too late – are precluded from obtaining their documents. These situations raise significant civil rights and fairness issues by denying access to personal information to a selectively defined group of adults.

The Institute recommends that every state amends their laws so that adult adoptees can have unrestricted access to their original birth certificates; revisit state laws with the “sandwich situation”; conduct more research on understanding the experiences of adopted persons, birth parents and adoptive parents; study more deeply the experiences of states that allow access; develop education programs to provide accurate data to counter mythology and misinformation; and focus attention at the national level on state law and policy regarding access.

This report discusses domestic adoptees’ access to birth certificates alone, but it raises basic questions about access to one’s personal information. I don’t mean to conflate domestic and international adoption, but regarding international adoption, access to adoption records in Korea is largely unregulated because there is no governmental oversight on the practices and policies of adoption agencies’ operations. Agencies can allow or deny access on a whim. Add to this the language difference, distance, monetary considerations, and other cultural factors that may bar adopted Koreans from accessing their records. In 2007, I accompanied a friend to Holt, where an agency worker let her see copies of her adoption records. It was her second time going to the agency, and my friend commented that that this time she saw some new documents, signaling the arbitrariness with which adopted persons are allowed or denied access to their records. I’ve heard accounts from other friends that agency workers asked for bribes, or flat out denied access altogether.

Things need to change, in both domestic and international adoption.

Read the entire report here.

“Foreign adoptions by Americans hit 13-year low”

According to The Globe:

The number of foreign children adopted by Americans plunged more than a quarter in the past year, reaching the lowest level since 1996 and leading adoption advocates to urge Congress to help reverse the trend.

China was the No. 1 source country in 2009 — but U.S. adoptions from there dropped to 3,001, compared with 3,909 in 2008. China has been steadily cutting back the numbers of healthy, well-adjusted orphans being made available for adoptions; a majority of Chinese children now available to U.S. adoptive families have special physical or emotional needs.

Johnson also said all parties who have tolerated corrupt adoption practices bore some of the blame for the dwindling numbers. “People in the practice of adoption worldwide have made ethical blunders that have cast a shadow over intercountry adoptions,” he said. “It’s highlighted how difficult it is for some of these countries to adequately supervise the adoption process, and led some countries to decide it’s just not worth the effort.”

Thomas DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, predicts 2010 numbers to hover just below 10,000. That is a tremendous difference from 1985, when Korea alone sent away 8,837 children for adoption.

As well, the fact that the majority of children being adopted from China have special physical or emotional needs will have major implications for post-adoption services, and will likely shift the nature of discussion regarding Chinese transracial adoption, and possibly representations of transracially adopted Chinese children in the media.

The tapering off of some countries probably means that another outlet will widen; it’ll be interesting to see how Ethiopia changes in the coming years, and what the transnational adoption of Ethiopian children, as opposed to the domestic adoption of black children, implies about the racial, cultural and national preferences of (mostly white) adoptive parents. Related, what does it mean that adoptive parents are willing to adopt special needs children from China, but not so much special needs ethnic children in the United States?

So… is it “worth the effort”? As Jane Jeong Trenka asks, was her American education worth the cost of losing her homeland, birth family and Korean culture? (She asks this in her memoir, Language of Blood, but forgive me, I can’t give you the page number because I don’t have the book with me).

Who decides what’s “worth the effort”?

Read the article here.

“Beyond Culture Camp”

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute just released a report that:

is the broadest, most extensive examination of adult adoptive identity to date, based on input from the primary experts on the subject: adults who were adopted as children. (emphasis mine)

FINALLY! Adoptees are officially recognized as experts on their own experiences (in contrast to their experiences being filtered and interpreted through adoptive parents, social workers, etc.)

Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption

  • Authors: Hollee McGinnis, Susan Livingston Smith, Dr. Scott D. Ryan, and Dr. Jeanne A. Howard
  • Published: 2009 November. New York NY: Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

Central Findings:

  • Adoption is an increasingly significant aspect of identity for adopted people as they age, and remains so even when they are adults.
  • Race/ethnicity is an increasingly significant aspect of identity for those adopted across color and culture.
  • Coping with discrimination is an important aspect of coming to terms with racial/ethnic identity for adoptees of color.
  • Discrimination based on adoption is a reality, but more so for White adoptees – who also report being somewhat less comfortable with their adoptive identity as adults than their Korean counterparts.
  • Most transracial adoptees considered themselves White or wanted to be White as children.
  • Positive racial/ethnic identity development is most effectively facilitated by “lived” experiences such as travel to native country, racially diverse schools, and role models from their same race/ethnicit
  • Contact with birth relatives, according to the White respondents, is the most helpful factor in achieving a positive adoptive identity.
  • Different factors predict comfort with adoptive and racial/ethnic identity for Korean and White adoptees.

Principle Recommendations:

  • Expand parental preparation and post-placement support for those adopting across race and culture.
  • Develop empirically based practices and resources to prepare transracially and transculturally adopted youth to cope with racial bias.
  • Promote laws, policies and practices that facilitate access to information for adopted individuals.
  • Educate parents, teacher, practitioners, the media and others about the realities of adoption to erase stigmas and stereotypes, minimize adoption-related discrimination, and provide children with more opportunities for positive development.
  • Increase research on the risk and protective factors that shape the adjustment of adoptees, especially those adopted transracially/culturally in the U.S. or abroad.

Read the report here.