Adoption Stories from Adopted the Movie - A Feature Film by Barb Lee

May 6, 2008

Domestic Adoption in Korea Exceeds Overseas for the First Time

Filed under: Adoptee Articles,Articles,Korean Adoption — Tags: , — Catherine @ 10:37 am

From The Korea Times:

The number of orphans adopted last year declined from a year ago, falling for the sixth consecutive year. But a greater number of orphans found a new family here than overseas for the first time.

Also, about 77 percent of elementary, middle and high school students studied at cram schools and other privately run learning institutes, spending a monthly average of 220,000 won. It took 11 months for high school and university graduates to land a job.

According to the National Statistical Office (NSO) Sunday, the number of Korean orphans adopted both at home and abroad stood at 2,652 in 2007, down from 3,231 a year earlier. It has decreased for the sixth straight year since 2001.

But more orphans were adopted by local families than by foreign ones last year for the first time. Local households adopted 1,388 orphans, accounting for 52.3 percent of the total, while 1,264 orphans, or 47.7 percent, found a new home in foreign countries.

Read the full article here: Domestic Adoption Exceeds Overseas for 1st Time

January 22, 2008

3 Sure-Fire Ways to Alienate People of Color at Your Meeting

Filed under: Adoptee Articles,Adoptees,Articles,For Parents,Race and Identity,Racism — Tags: , , — Catherine @ 7:05 pm

From Race In The Workplace:

The next time you plan a meeting — whether it’s an internal meeting or a full-blown conference — take a minute to think about how people of color will perceive your efforts.

It may not seem as if diversity plays much of a role in meeting-planning, but you’d be surprised.

Check out Association Meetings magazine’s cover story this month, titled “Bias? What bias?”, in which the editor was kind enough to include some of my thoughts on the subject.

So, what are some things you should not do if you want to make people of color feel included at your meeting?

1. Create a discussion panel that is a veritable diversity ghetto
Another common way associations attempt to diversify their meetings is to include what Carmen Van Kerckhove, co-founder and president of New Demographic, an anti-racism training company in New York, calls “the panel of marginalized people.” This is a panel that features, for example, a black person, a Hispanic person, a young person, and a person with a physical disability put on display to discuss their issues as members of a specific group. Instead of creating “the ‘diversity ghetto,’ planners could include those issues in the main topics of the conference.”

You have no idea how many conference organizers have asked me to be on their diversity ghetto panel. And this doesn’t just happen at conferences where the organizers are mostly white — Asian-American conferences are often guilty of this too. Many a time I have found myself, The Half-White Asian, on a panel along with The Bisexual Asian and The Disabled Asian. Of course no one used those labels explicitly, but it’s what the audience was thinking as they looked at us.

2. Force the person of color to talk about race and nothing else
And include minorities among your mainstream topic speakers, she adds. “It’s more powerful if you have a panel of top executives that includes a person of color discussing a business issue, than it is to just plop that person of color up there to talk about their race.” The Association Forum of Chicagoland, Chicago, is very attuned to this, says vice president and COO Pamm Schroeder. But, she adds, it takes more work to find new, diverse voices than it does to just fall back on speakers you already know and have good evaluations for.

Organizations have a tendency to think of diversity as a thing that is wholly separate from the day-to-day matters of business. So instead of thinking “Joe has some great ideas about where our industry is headed, let’s make sure he speaks,” the meeting planner thinks: “Joe is black, let’s show some diversity by having him speak about what it’s like to be a black man in this industry.”

3. Don’t reach out to people of color because you assume that your industry “just isn’t that diverse”
…Another common misperception made by dominant-culture planners, says Van Kerckhove, happens when people look around at a meeting and, seeing that there are few people of color, assume that it’s because there are few people of color in the profession or interest group the meeting serves. In fact, it may be that “many of the people organizing the conferences haven’t stepped out of their comfort zone to do a more thorough search to find people who are different from the mainstream” of attendees, she says.

Just because there was little diversity at every other meeting you’ve been to doesn’t mean that there’s no diversity in the industry. It could be that people of color are turned off by the meetings and opt to stay home. It’s up you to create an environment that’s inclusive to all people.

Read the original article here:

January 7, 2008

Stories About Home, by Leonie Simmons

Leonie Simmons was born in Vietnam and adopted to an Australian family. Five years ago she returned to the place of her birth. This thoughtful and carefully written paper describes her journey and her efforts to deconstruct taken-for-granted ideas about culture, identity, family and home. It will be of relevance to anyone interested in ways of making home and making family as well as to those connected to the issue of intercountry adoption.

This is a story about my life. It is a story about identity, culture, belonging and families. To me, for the most part it is a story about Home. Making one, finding more, leaving many and taking them with you when you go.

I was born in Vietnam, during a time of war, and then adopted to an Australian family. Five years ago, I returned to the place of my birth. It has taken until now to be able to find the words, write them down and and speak of the experience. In the intervening years, I decided to hide away the events of my visit to my birth place. I wanted them kept safe from analytical tinkering, uninvited interference, wacky conclusions or undisciplined thoughts. Let the past be done with, I declared. I concluded that there were more important things to attend to, to think and speak about. And I was right.

But during this time, when I was keeping the stories of Vietnam at a distance, I was also experiencing a disconnection in relating with other people. I would have the occasional meetings and I was competent, I thought, at listening, but I could not answer questions. Simple, easy, demographic questions regarding my life began to take avery long time to answer and when I did manage to reply, I stuttered and mumbled incoherently. Questions like: What is your name? Where do you come from? Where do you live? Where is your home? Where were you born? Embedded within these enquiries is a request to disclose what nationality you are, what country is your country, what language do you speak. Other questions would inevitably follow: Who are you parents? How many brothers and sisters do you have? What is your profession? Are you single, married, divorced? These seemingly simple questions are routinely asked in conversation or on forms with little boxes to indicate which simple category you belong within. Those little spaces imply that the answers to those questions are to be easy and brief. But that is not possible for all of us. Anticipating the inevitable sense of awkwardness that would accompany these sorts of questions led me me to avoid talking to people as much as possible.

ed what my Vietnamese family had intended or thought about when choosing this name for me. Feeling that I had been granted a name representative of a particular meaning, image or metaphor, evoked a soft appreciation for the people responsible and a new sense of substance began to surround my anonymous biological parentage. It was around the time I learnt the meaning of my Vietnamese name, that I began a journey on which I would meet the ‘I’ that I may have been, an ‘I’ whom I definitely wasnot, and more importantly the ‘I’ that I could possibly become.

In 2002, I traveled to Vietnam to visit my country of birth and to see Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, where my life began. I had always presumed that when the time was right, I would one day return. There were times in my life when I did not think much about going back to Vietnam. I had phases when I assumed a revisit would be an exciting adventure to pursue. And then, sometimes exploring the unknown felt a little daunting. For the most part though, there were simply other concerns, projects and life happenings to be focusing on. It was only a matter of when the ‘right time’ would arise, Vietnam wasn’t going anywhere.


January 1, 2008

Adoptee finds the missing piece of her puzzle – her twin sister

Filed under: Adoptee Articles,Adoptees,Korean Adoption — Tags: , , — Catherine @ 11:16 pm

From the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:

For five minutes, Emily Saunders was alone.

Then her twin sister was born.

Their mother, a poor South Korean woman who was not expecting twins
and gave birth out of wedlock, made a fateful decision. She would give
one girl up. That was Emily, who was adopted when she was 4 months old
by Jackie and Eric Saunders of Wyoming, Minn.

For 21 years, neither Emily nor her twin, Eunjin, had a clue the other
one existed. Their families did not tell them until this year. On
Thursday, Emily will fly to South Korea to meet her mirror image and
try to stitch her past with her present. She hopes meeting her sister
can fill a void that has contributed to turmoil in her life.

The days leading up to the trip are a mixture of excitement and
nervousness. She’s packing a lifetime of photos to share with her
sister. She also has a long list of questions for her birth mother,
who has colon cancer and told Emily she wanted to meet her before she
dies. At the top of Emily’s list, not surprisingly, is “Why?”
When the Saunderses chose to adopt Emily, they knew she was a twin.
But Jackie Saunders says the adoption agency told them the other
sister “must have died” because as a matter of policy, they did not
separate twins.

Those words, “must have,” gnawed at Jackie Saunders, who kept after
the agency. Soon they learned the truth: Eunjin was alive and living
with her mother. The Saunderses asked the agency to contact them
immediately if the twins’ birth mother ever released Eunjin so they
could adopt her, too.

Years passed, and the Saunderses did not tell Emily that she had a twin sister.

“Don’t tell her. Not now, not ever,” advised a woman who worked at the
Korean orphanage where she had cared for Emily when she was a baby.
The woman came to Minnesota for a visit. “Culturally, that’s not how
we do things,” she said.

Back in South Korea, Eunjin’s mother kept quiet, too.

Jackie Saunders, principal of North Lakes Academy, a charter school in
Forest Lake, says she and her husband wanted to tell Emily about her
sister, but all of the adoption experts suggested that they wait until
she got older. “She won’t understand, and it could mess up the bonding
process,” Jackie Saunders remembers being advised. “The books and
advisers all say that you should follow the child’s lead. If the child
asks questions about their birth information, of course, tell them.
But don’t push it on them.”

There were times when she wanted to blurt it out.

Like when Emily discovered Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and became
obsessed. She’d watch all the shows, talk about them constantly, and
want to play “Olsen Twins” with her friends. She even wrote to them.

Some nights, Jackie Saunders and her husband would sit up in bed and
ask each other: “Do you think it means something? Should we tell her?”

Ultimately, they’d shrug it off and say, “It is what it is.”

Meanwhile, Emily was growing up. Her teenage years were turbulent
ones. Her best friend died of cancer, as did a grandmother. Emily
developed an eating disorder and attempted suicide. She struggled in
school, but eventually graduated from Chisago Lakes High School. She
says her mother told her that during that dark period, her parents
feared that she was too fragile to handle anything else.

Jackie Saunders says they debated what the right thing to do was, but
ultimately, stuck with the advice to let Emily’s interest in learning
more about her birth family guide them.

The missing piece

Last May, in a therapist’s office, the truth finally came out.

Emily, now 21, asked her mother to tell her everything. Jackie
Saunders didn’t hesitate. “You were born a twin and your birth mother
kept your sister,” she said, finally speaking the lines she had
rehearsed for years.

Emily crumbled. Through her tears, she asked: “What was wrong with me?
Why didn’t she keep me?”

Jackie Saunders replied: “The choices she made were about her, not you.”

Feeling rejected and numb, Emily went home to her apartment she shares
with her two cats in St. Paul, accompanied by her mother. Two weeks
later, she was starting to come to terms with the news.

As a little girl, she loved to work on jigsaw puzzles with her father.

“She said, ‘Mom, it’s like I’m doing a jigsaw and there’s this one
missing piece and I’ve been shoving all kinds of crud into that
missing hole and it never fit. Now, my sister is like the missing
piece that does fit,’” Jackie Saunders said.

They started searching for Eunjin and her mother.

In South Korea, Eunjin was getting the same stunning news — that she
had a twin sister somewhere. Her mother had become seriously ill and,
based on what Jackie Saunders has learned so far, that prompted her to
reveal the secret.

Eunjin and her mother contacted the adoption agency in September and
gave the workers their contact information in the hope of finding

Soon, Emily had two phone numbers in hand — one for Eunjin’s college
dorm, the other for her birth mother’s home.

Emily sat on the edge of her bed inside her apartment, banging the
phone on her knee a few times before dialing the long string of
numbers for Eunjin.

“It rang about three times,” Emily recalled. Then a voice, deeper than
her own, answered. “She said, ‘yobo sayo,’” which Koreans greet each
other with on the phone.

“Then, I said something like: ‘Hi, I’m your twin sister. I wanted to
meet you, talk to you, see what you sounded like. I can’t believe it’s
you.’ Then I just started to bawl!”

Eunjin, who speaks only a few English words, gasped loudly. “Are you
OK? Are you OK?” she asked Emily over and over again.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Emily told her.

They hung up and she called her birth mom. The conversation was
equally brief because they couldn’t understand one another.

But later, they found a translator to help. “She told me she’s never
stopped thinking of me for 22 years,” Emily said, noting that in South
Korean custom, newborns are considered 1 year old. The twins’ birth
mom also told Emily: “Sarang hamnida.” It means, “I love you.”

Exchanging photos

Since Emily and Eunjin found each other, they’ve been e-mailing each
other and calling. They’ve also exchanged photos, current and baby

A look at the pictures reveals strikingly different personalities.
Emily says they don’t know, without doing a blood test, whether
they’re fraternal or identical twins.

“The first thing I wanted to do when I saw her picture was give her
contacts and put makeup on her,” she said. And when Emily, who swears
a lot, told Eunjin she was learning Korean swear words, her sister
gasped and told her those weren’t nice words.

While Eunjin is in college studying to be a dental hygienist, Emily
said she was laid off from a job and is considering applying to
Metropolitan State University or St. Paul College to study law

Despite their differences, the language barrier and thousands of
miles, they share a bond.

“No person can get closer to a person than someone they were in the
womb with for nine months,” Emily explained. In her wallet, she
carries a copy of the only page of her birth papers that mentions

On Thursday, she and her mother will fly to South Korea. They haven’t
planned everything they will do, but the main thing both sisters want
is to be together again.

Jackie Saunders says she is excited, too, but also cautious about
building up expectations.

“I’ve tried to develop a future version of ‘it is what it is,’” she
said. “I get up in the morning and I almost chant it: “It will be what
it will be.”

Both mother and daughter are hoping that the missing piece will help
Emily put her past struggles behind her. “It won’t fix her life but it
will lay a foundation to close out the hardest chapters,” Jackie
Saunders said.

Added Emily: “I believe it will fill some of the emptiness that I’ve
felt. Always like something was missing. We didn’t get the chance to
grow up together. There were 21 years we missed out on. I am looking
forward to having contact with her. She said maybe someday she might
want to live here.”

Read the full article here: