But What Do YOU Think About the Baby Box?

by Luanne
Last Monday, Kasey wrote about the Baby Box in Korea. She talked from the perspective of an international Korean adoptee who has been thinking more in-depth about adoption recently.

The Baby Box is one of those painful controversies where it seems both sides have very valid concerns and the best of intentions. Pastor Lee and the people who support the Baby Box are concerned for the lives of babies who might be at risk because their mothers feel they cannot keep them. Opponents of the Baby Box view it as dehumanizing and a permanent severing for these children from their rights to their own familial and genetic histories.

Many adoptees feel a powerful need to search for their birth families and to learn more about the people they come from and the genes they carry. This will never happen for babies left in the Baby Box.

Here are two videos to help you decide. Then look at the photo of the baby girl left in the Baby Box. Maybe you will cry, too.

Baby girl left in baby box

Baby girl left in baby box

A Korean Adoptee On The Baby Box

by Kasey Buecheler

Living in the InKAS (International Korean Adoptee Service) guesthouse, I have met and made many adoptee friends who come from all around the world (Australia, Denmark, France, Belgium, and Sweden, just to name a few!).  As a result, I have developed a stronger interest in the adoptee community that exists in Korea.

Meeting all kinds of adoptees during my stay so far in Korea has opened my eyes to new issues that I never recognized before.  Growing up, I had many adoptee friends, but we were all from similar families, with similar financial upbringings.  I didn’t have a broad perspective on the subject of adoption, but I did learn to embrace it.  However, coming to Korea and hearing different opinions has really changed the whole way that I see adoption.  In some aspects, I can say it has made me a bit more cynical, but I am glad to have been made aware of certain topics.

One specific topic that has gone viral within the past few weeks is the issue of the baby box in Korea.  Although it has been in use for a while now, recently it has gained media attention due to a documentary called “The Drop Box.”  In this documentary, Pastor Lee is commended for his humanitarian effort with his baby box, which is a box he created as a means of “collecting abandoned babies” that are unwanted by their mothers.   Many believe that this box is saving the lives of children who would have otherwise been abandoned on the street to die.  When I first heard of this story, I was also moved by Pastor Lee’s actions and began to read more on the subject.

The more I read, the more I began to realize the problems that arise with the usage of this baby box.  While some may perceive it as a way of saving babies, it also encourages an unethical method of giving up babies.   Instead of going through the proper steps in putting a child up for legal adoption through an adoption agency, it enables single mothers to abandon their children, leaving them with no birth registration. I can understand the importance of having this information, as many of my adoptee friends have sought this information in order to do birth family searches and know more about their past.  I have met adoptees whose information was incorrect/missing and seen how devastated they are when they come to this dead-end.  On top of this, there is also no way to know for sure who put the child in the box to begin with (which, in itself, has some scary implications).

While I am certainly no expert on the subject, I have read enough to know where I stand on this issue and encourage others to learn more about it and form their own opinions as well.

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What’s a Korean Adoptee Doing in Korea?

Here is what Korean adoptee Kasey Buecheler has been doing in Korea!

by Kasey Buecheler

I am back in America from Korea and visiting family while I figure out the rest of my year.  As some of you may have read before, I have been keeping myself busy studying Korea, teaching English, and participating as part of a mentor program for domestic adoptees in Korea!

I began teaching English through the Language Bound program, started by InKAS (International Korean Adoptee Service).  This is a special program where adoptee teachers are sent to teach children from low-income households who may not be able to afford English classes for themselves.  I had never taught English in this way before, and being employed by InKAS gave me experience in a classroom and memories I will never forget.  My kids were absolutely wonderful. I soon found myself looking forward to each class.  It was so rewarding to see my kids develop an interest in learning–and for me to provide them the opportunity to do so.

It was also through InKAS that I became involved in the Korean domestic adoptee mentoring program, which I can say is one of the most rewarding accomplishments for me from last year.  In Korea, adoption is still very much stigmatized in society and adoptive families usually choose to keep this aspect of their lives secret.  This mentoring program was designed to pair us up with a younger domestically adopted child and help them accept their adoption and learn it is nothing to be ashamed of.  We went to an over-night retreat where we were first introduced to our mentees (mine a 14-year-old girl) and spent time getting to know each other.

It was not easy at first. I had one of the oldest mentees, and she was very shy and seemed really uncertain about her participation in the program.  However, I could tell right away how supportive and encouraging her family was (her mother ran up to me and gave me a big hug the first time we met) and we have been able to get closer by meeting up after the retreat finished.

At one point, her parents invited me and a couple other mentors (who were assigned to two of their other children) to go with them to a church service/adoption get-together at their adoption agency (which I’m assuming specializes in domestic adoptions only). It was amazing to see these families celebrate their adoptions together and feel absolutely no shame in doing so.  It reminded me very much of adoption get-togethers that my own family would go to when I was younger. Food, fun, and friends.  This mentoring program helped me to realize how different the problems of the domestic adoptees are from international adoptee. However, seeing the families connect with each other at this agency made me realize how much we have in common as well.

InKAS Mentoring group

InKAS Mentoring group

I Might Appear Korean, But . . . (Musings of a Korean-American Adoptee)

by Kasey Buecheler

Just like any culture, there are positive and negative traits that make it what it is.  Growing up as an American, I am used to life in America.  Even with a Korean exterior, I consider myself a true American and I don’t think I have ever considered myself truly Korean.   During my time in Korea, I became more and more aware of how different my friends and I were from those around us.

Outer appearance is something that everyone is fixated on.  Korea has a very different idea of beauty from the typical Western ideal, and I could probably spend multiple blog posts on my opinions of this. They treasure pale skin, larger eyes, and having a small v-shaped face.  Korea has gained some negative publicity as a country with a high rate of plastic surgery in order to achieve this ideal look.  The clothing style is a lot more posh, and there is not much variation among the general population.  Walking around Seoul, anyone could pick us out of a crowd as Americans, with our tanned skin and Abercrombie and Fitch.

The Korean ideal is seen in most Korean commercials. They frequently choose celebrities or models to endorse their products, whereas in the United States comedy is often the main focus of commercials. Thus, the prettiest women and most attractive men get cast most often in Korean commercials.  Yoona is considered a “CF Queen.” The following video is a sample of Yoona’s work:

Korean social etiquette is another area in which there is a big difference.  Even for something as small as accepting a drink from an elder, there are particular ways in which Koreans do these things that we as Westerners are not accustomed to.  I remember being lightly scolded by a parent of a previous boyfriend for not properly greeting them before I even knew that I had done anything wrong.  Elders in Korea have a high expectation for respect from the younger generation, which is reasonable.  In another instance, I was riding a bus and accidentally bumped into an older lady who was sitting beside me as the bus went over a bump in the road.  She began to yell at me, in Korean, so loudly that everyone in the bus was staring because I did not immediately apologize.  Luckily, I was with my previous boyfriend at the time, who was a native Korean, and he was able to stick up for me and we promptly exited the bus.

For Korean Americans, these kinds of differences can be difficult to adjust to.  However, I do feel being raised by Korean parents, even in America, exposes non-adoptees to these kinds of cultural differences.  They might not be raised in an environment where these customs are practiced, but I feel that they are at least made aware.   I have Korean American friends who do not speak a word of Korean, but are familiar with Korean food, manners, and traditions.  They see certain Korean behavior as a “pain in the butt” and may not agree with it, but they still know how to behave themselves when around Korean elders.

Korean adoptees, like myself, are not raised with this sort of exposure.  Going to Korea, we are more similar to the foreign visitors from places like Europe on tour groups.  We go into it not knowing what to expect, exactly.  Koreans are typically understanding in regards to foreigners not being completely familiar with Korean customs.  They may offer help to a foreigner on the street that they see is struggling with a map, or some may simply walk by.  Regardless, they recognize that individual as a foreigner and recognize that they are not familiar with their surroundings.  Where it gets complicated is the fact that Korean adoptees appear Korean.  We have a Korean exterior, and while we may look Americanized, there is still that expectation from native Koreans that we are at least familiar with Korean customs and language as non-adopted Korean Americans are.  Even on the plane ride over, the Korean stewardesses would ask me about my beverage/meal choices in Korean, and I would repeatedly have to tell them “I don’t speak Korean” and receive a puzzled look before they switched over to using English.

Each year, I felt I went to Korea a bit more prepared than the year before.  Because of the amount of time I have spent there, I feel that I have gotten a good idea of what living there is like and what to expect.  As an adoptee, I can say that traveling to Korea was emotionally fulfilling, but there were many hard times as well.

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This post was originally published 15 months ago when this blog was very new and had few readers. Here is a brand new article about jaw-cutting surgery (to achieve the look seen in the above video) in KoreAm.double-jaw-surgery_03

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption: Welcoming Brokenness

Tara’s next post in her series about adoption:

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption: Welcoming Brokenness.

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption..

by Marisha

Tara Bradford has initiated an exciting new series on her blog. As an adoptee and an adoptive mother, she has a wealth of experience from both perspectives which can inspire and enrich the rest of us. Follow the link below to read her description.

Thank you, Tara!

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption...

Tara Bradford

Tara Bradford

You Can’t Always Trust a Kid’s Reaction

by Luanne

The other day I had a discussion with a few people on our Facebook page about an article in Adoption Voices Magazine that guest blogger Lisa posted.

But this blog post isn’t about that article—it’s about where my mind ended up.

As the conversation went on, the mention of race in adoption came up, and as my mind usually works, I was soon off on my own mental tangent.

I remembered a story our case worker had shared with us during our first home study. She was very good about bringing up issues, such as race and forming a transracial (called interracial in those days) family. The story went that a Korean boy was adopted by a white couple in the Midwest. They raised him in an area which happened to have very few Asians—so few, in fact, that the boy grew to be seven or eight and he had never seen another Asian. One day he watched a television show about the Japanese, and he laughed and made a derogatory comment about their looks. That’s when his parents understood that he didn’t realize he was Asian.

Her story made an impression on me and on my husband, and we knew that our children needed to be helped to understand and develop their own identities.

However, when our son Marc was in 4th grade, my analysis of the case worker’s story added a new layer of complexity.

I believe that it’s possible that the child did know at some level what he looked like and that he was “different” from those around him.

Here’s what happened. One night Marc was reading his homework on the floor of the family room and started laughing. I asked him what was so funny.

He kept laughing and pointed to a passage in the book. I read it and . . . you know that expression, my blood ran cold? It did.

Marc was reading an assigned book, The Story of Doctor Doolittle. Have you read this book? If you’re white, have you read an original version in recent years, with an enlightened view of race, or as a kid “back in the day”? If you’re not white, what did you think or feel when you read it?

There is a character in the book called Bumpo, the African prince. The way he is portrayed—both in text and illustration is clearly racist. In fact, Bumpo wishes to be white so he can marry Sleeping Beauty.

Marc’s school, the best private school in our town, was literature-based and founded on principles developed by Mae Carden in the thirties. The school hadn’t veered much from the decades-old curriculum and this book was on that curriculum.

I was more upset upon discovering what Marc was reading than anything that had happened up to that point about my kids. I felt betrayed by the school. When Marc started at the school there weren’t many minorities there, although each year more and more attended and by the time he was in the middle school grades, there were many Asian and Latino and some African-American children at the school.

I felt sad that Marc had to read something so racist, provided to him by adults he trusted.

I felt angry at the school.

I felt confused that, although Marc had been raised to respect people of all races and he knew he himself was of a minority race (in his community), he was laughing.

Although I’m dead set against book censorship, there is a big difference between banning books from libraries and choosing the best possible selections for curriculum.

So I called the school, of course, to complain. I met with immediate resistance and deflection. They had me speak to the teacher who assured me that Marc had not had a problem with it at all when they read it in class.  It was a humorous passage, the class had found it funny, and they had all laughed. I was making a mountain out of a molehill.

Think about that a minute. OK, think about it after you get around that pissed off feeling you’re experiencing right now.  He had already read that passage in school. So why was he reading it at home and laughing at it?

When I asked him why he was laughing and expressed my dismay at the overt racism, he gave me the “it’s no big deal” reaction and indicated I was over-reacting.

I concluded that he wanted to draw my attention to the passage to help him sort out his own feelings, but he was unable to be direct about it because he himself was confused and disturbed deep inside.

Later, I further concluded that as one of the only minority kids in his class at that time, he was embarrassed and wanted to show the other kids that he wasn’t different from them. That he wasn’t, in fact, the African prince.  That he didn’t have to wish he was white to marry Sleeping Beauty because he was already white, just like them.

That’s why I think that the story about the Korean boy responding negatively upon seeing his first Asians is more complex than on first thought.  On one level, the boy identified so strongly with his Caucasian family and community that he didn’t understand what he was seeing. But on some other level, he did know he was different and that being different was a very uncomfortable place for him to be.  A way to get around thinking of himself as different was to make other non-Caucasians the “Other.” (If you wonder why somebody could have knowledge and not have knowledge at the same time, you haven’t met anybody in denial ;)!)

What happened with the school and the book?  Because the school was sensitive to attempts at book banning, they made me fight them on the issue. But a compromise was effected when I presented them with a fully researched alternative list of books which had some of the same positive characteristics as the book in question and none of the racism.

One last thing. I want to make clear that even as this incident was happening, the school had already begun to change in positive ways as the administration and some teachers were replaced and the demographics of the city changed.  Although it had always been the best choice for my kids in our town, it became a much stronger and more inclusive school than it had been originally. I don’t want you to think I’m writing this to bash the school that caused my children much happiness.

A Korean Adoptee Speaks to PAPs About a China Adoption

Here’s a thoughtful discussion of adoption and race and their intersection.

Adopted from China

Adoption is so complicated—there are so many different ways to look at it. Until recently, the subject was only in the back of my mind because it would make me sad to think about my birthparents. I also felt that my adoptive parents were enough for me; where I am now is where I am supposed to be, and the fact that I am adopted is not important as long as our family loves each other. As I am beginning to understand myself more as an adult, I am realizing just how prevalent adoption is in my life. I am an Adopted Asian American. Adoptees can only relate to other adoptees when it comes to certain experiences and thoughts. This is what makes us different from Asian Americans, and sometimes this can make us feel isolated. We have our issues like other Asian Americans, but we have extra baggage. With…

View original post 1,372 more words

Help Us Celebrate!!

It’s been ONE YEAR today that we started the blog Don’t We Look Alike?, and what a ride it’s been!  We’ve learned a lot about adoption and related issues and have met some wonderful bloggers and other individuals along the way.

Coincidentally, this is also our 200th blog post!!!

English: Independence Day fireworks, San Diego.

English: Independence Day fireworks, San Diego. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luanne:

When my husband and I adopted our two children in the 1980s, the only thing we knew about adoption was what we learned from local sources. My brother was adopted as a baby when I was eight, so adoption was familiar to me (link to my very first blog post about my brother). When we decided to adopt, we first thought of fostering because we knew the need was great, but we were told that because we didn’t have any children we didn’t qualify and were encouraged to adopt a baby for our first child. That seemed like good advice.

To do so we were asked to attend an “Adoption Information Meeting.” That evening five agencies were represented, and the bottom line was that if we wanted to adopt a baby we could go through Bethany, which represented Holt in Michigan.  Through that agency, we could adopt a Korean baby.  Within a year or so our son was in our arms. We then requested another child through the same agency because we felt it would be in our son’s best interests to share ethnicity with his sibling. Things were different in the eighties than they are today, and I still believe that was a good choice.

At that time, we didn’t have the internet to get information. Our information came from adoption-related sources, such as our case worker, the agency, other parents from our city who had adopted, etc. When the kids were little, we were connected to this network, but when the kids got older and were extremely busy with other activities and we moved away, we became less tied to any “adoption community.”

We never lost sight of our own notion that adopted children and children in transracial families couldn’t have their special circumstances ignored. But it often seemed like we were the only people around us who felt that way. People insisted that they “never thought” of our son or daughter “as Korean” or “as Asian” or “as adopted.” We would grit our teeth because ignoring realities doesn’t do our children any favors.

It wasn’t until Marisha and I started this blog that I found a whole community on the internet of people who “get” what adoption means, who understand that adoptees undergo trauma (often as infants), and that there are many political issues related to adoption which need to be considered. In fact, it feels as if the issues of adoption are just heating up.  Adult adoptees are leading the campaign to reform the way adoption works in this country.

I also didn’t know diddly about open adoption until reading like mad–blogs, articles, books. Open adoption is very different from the situation of my children’s adoptions, so it’s been such an educational experience for me to learn so much about it from the mouths of others.  We don’t know yet what adult adoptees are going to tell us in the future about their open adoptions, but I want to keep up on all this because it’s so important.

I feel passionate that reform is needed in certain aspects of adoption and foster care issues, while I am realistic about the impossibility of a system which works perfectly for every circumstance. I believe that the interests of children should be put ahead of the interests of adults.   I’d like to see our society work at becoming a “village” that cares for the various needs of foster children and children in need of adoptive families.

Thank you to all our readers and those who have participated in discussions on our blog.  And thank you to the other bloggers about adoption and foster care who share your hearts and experience with the world.

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Marisha:

I have done quite a lot of reflecting lately about this past year–mainly regarding my adoption. Seeing as this is the first year anniversary of our blog, I wanted to write a post about how amazing it is for me to see how much I have learned about myself, my mother, and other adoptees and parents.

I see most of my progress in how I now react to the different situations I am put in regarding being “Asian” and being “adopted.” The stigma has slowly started to drain away, and I am happy to feel a sense of relief when I think about my own adoption issues. In the past I would be overly sensitive and get hurt too easily by the comments someone would make to me such as the “tsunami in Japan” incident or my middle school crush telling me “I’m only into blondes.” I used to think that those comments were a reflection of how people saw me, or that I wasn’t good enough. Instead, I resound in knowing that most of those incidents and experiences have in fact, nothing to do with me or who I am on the inside or outside. Being comfortable in one’s skin is never easy– it would be false to think that one can fully live a life of confidence and not have any insecurities or flaws within them. I have accepted my flaws and faced my insecurities. I face them every day, in fact.

I am so thankful for my mom for being patient with me these past 25 years. This blog has not only bonded us even more, but has given us an honest outlet to communicate with each other about the problems we both are facing in life and with each other. It has been a rocky year personally for both of us. I have done some things that I am not particularly proud of, but have learned from them and found it easier to move on from the past because I have given myself the time to understand my issues of abandonment and insecurities about being an Asian-American adoptee.

At the same time, the amazing adoptees I have been in contact with or have shared some of their stories on our blog or on their own blogs have educated me. They help to fill a void–that feeling of being alone. It has given me a comfort to know that I am not alone in this. That a lot–if not most– adoptees face the same feelings I do at some point in their lives. I am inspired by that.

This next year is full of excitement. I ring in the one year anniversary with the blog by announcing my new journey. I will be playing one of my dream roles: Mimi in the musical RENT! I have waited my whole life for this moment, and I feel as if it has come at the perfect time for me to start this next chapter as a proud adoptee and woman. I have learned to not let my race or my cultural position define me because at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter. What you choose to do and how you choose to live your life is material enough to create a success out of oneself. I am so proud to see the world start to change to give opportunities to people like myself, despite what we look like on the outside or where we come from.

Thank you for tuning in to the blog every week and thank you for allowing me and my mum the freedom to share our stories without judgment. I look forward to many more stories in the future from us and especially from all of you!!!

To help us celebrate, please consider donating to help foster children.  As an example, here is a news story about an Arizona charity (not yet rated by the BBB or Charity Navigator) which seeks funds to send foster kids to summer activities of their choice.  We donated for dance classes for a boy who wanted to take dance. Click this link to read the article.  In the article is a link to donate.

I’m Looking Forward to the New Film of Filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem

by Luanne

I’ve written on here about the film project Geographies of Kinship by filmmaker and Korean adoptee, Deann Borshay Liem.

The photo below is a link to the home page for Liem’s project. A description from her website follows the photo/link.

About the Project

My name is Deann Borshay Liem and I’m a documentary filmmaker and Korean adoptee. While traveling around the world with my previous films, First Person Plural and In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, I met hundreds of Korean adoptees from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Canada. I’ve had the tremendous privilege of hearing countless stories from adoptees of all ages – sometimes heartbreaking, oftentimes funny and ironic, always inspiring. These stories cover the gamut of life experiences – from stories about searching for identity and belonging; to stories of love, loss, and discovery; to questions about “who am I” and “how did I get here?”

Geographies of Kinship presents a small handful of the amazing stories I’ve heard from around the world. We meet, for example, Estelle Cooke-Sampson, a bi-racial adoptee who revisits the orphanage where she grew up until she was adopted by an African American soldier at the age of seven. She wonders how the nuns felt about having a black child in the 1950s. Emma Anderson is a Swedish adoptee who visits Korea for the first time and unexpectedly reunites with her birth mother, discovering family secrets along the way. Meanwhile, Michael Holloway is in San Francisco when he meets his birth family via webcam on a live television show. He is shocked to discover he has an identical twin. These, and other riveting stories, serve as a springboard for exploring the history of transnational adoptions from Korea, from the 1950s to the present.

We have already started development of the project, collected some archival material and shot some interviews. I was thrilled recently to receive development funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities which is now enabling us to complete archival footage research, write a script, consult with scholars and experts, and edit a fundraising reel. We will be done with these important steps in the Fall.

We are now asking for contributions via Kickstarter so that we can continue our momentum and complete the production (shooting) phase of the film by following our film’s participants on their individual journeys. Your support will help us get all the elements we need for the film so we can actually start editing and make what I know will be a fantastic film.

I just received an update on the project, and it’s coming along beautifully.  Their Kickstarter fundraising is over, but they can still use donations.  You can go to this link to donate.

Lots to share with you on the status of Geographies of Kinship! Time is flying by and we’ve been hard at work on the film, collecting visual material, translating and transcribing interviews and much more. Here are some of our recent activities:

• Completed a script for the film and submitted for funding to the National Endowment for the Humanities.
• Edited a 10-minute fundraising sample reel.
• Filmed Single Mom’s Day in Seoul, including a Human Library event where birth parents, single mothers and adoptees shared their stories.
• Conducted interviews with adoptees and spent time with adoptee organizations Korea Klubben and Adopterade Koreaners Förening in Denmark and Sweden, respectively.
• Researched the early years of adoption at the Social Welfare Archive of the University of Minnesota.
• Collected, translated and transcribed Korean news footage related to the IMF crisis in 1997 that led to the phenomenon of “IMF Orphans.”
• Collected news footage of President Kim Dae Jung meeting in 1998 with Korean adoptees and offering an apology for sending away Korean children overseas.
• Researched the impact of the changes to Korea’s adoption law in 2011.

I can’t wait until I actually get to see this completed project and enjoy the film!

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