Posts Tagged ‘Korean adoption’

Essay by Min Matson, on being adopted, Korean, transgender, and an adoptive dad

Friday, November 18th, 2016

A friend who lives in Korea shared this powerful essay by Min Matson, a transgender, adopted, Korean-American father of an adopted Latino-American son. If you scroll down after the essay, you can read an update on Adam Crapser, the Korean man adopted at age 3 by US parents in Michigan who abandoned him in Oregon, and readopted by an Oregon couple who assaulted him and other children in their care. (Crimes for which they were later convicted.) No one secured citizenship papers for Crapser, and after a felony conviction, he was deported and returned to Korea.

From Min Matson’s essay:

Sure, I had always known that I was adopted from Korea in the way that we know we have a spleen, but don’t really understand what it is, what it looks like, or what it means. I had always understood that my Caucasian parents — of Dutch and Norwegian decent — had chosen my sister and me from a place called Seoul (that’s where babies came from), but I never understood that the child others saw was not the one I saw in my dreams of becoming president of the United States.

When I think back, my heart breaks for my eight-year-old self who, in that moment, understood the reality of the words from my classmates, teachers, and strangers over the years — “g—k,” “ch—k,” “flat face,” “your kind can’t see as well as others” — and other cruelties that my parents unsuccessfully encouraged me to ignore. That moment shaped the years to come of what I understood as my destiny to “stand out” and never truly belong.


NY Times article on Korean adoptees returning to Korea

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Maggie Jones is the adoptive mother to one child born in Guatemala and another born in the US to mixed-race parents. She writes often and well on adoption issues. In this article in the NY Times, Why a Generation of Adoptees is Returning to Korea, Jones reports on the wave of adults born in Korea and adopted to the US and other countries, who have moved back to Korea.

I think it will be interesting to see how our Guatemalan-born children continue to respond to adoption issues as they grow older. Many of us maintain contact with birth families, visit Guatemala, live in diverse areas, and count among our friends many adoptive families. Yet with all this, our children still must endure profound loss–that of their (birth) mothers. Will there be an exodus to Guatemala by our children? If my children wanted to move to Guatemala, I would encourage them. (That is, if I haven’t moved there first.) In the years we’ve been in contact, some members of our kids’ birth families have migrated to the US. Will the reverse also be true?

Here’s the link to the Times article. If for some reason it doesn’t work, Google “Maggie Jones Korean adoptees return to Korea New York Times” and you will find it.


On being a “super adoptee”

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

My friend, Cindy Swatek, founder of Moguate and the Affording Adoption Foundation (about which I’ve written here and here), shared this very interesting essay by Michelle Li, What’s Stopping You from Being Super?: Ramblings from a “super adoptee,” posted by the large and established adoption agency, Holt International.  What I love about Li’s piece is its boldness and candor, evidenced from the first paragraph:

Parents may be surprised to hear how some adoptees talk about one another. My friends categorize us as either angry adoptees or super adoptees. It’s certainly not scientific, and it’s definitely not absolute. In fact, it’s just an opinion. However, it could lead people to a good discussion.

Right there, Li tells us she cares about this subject, and through her forthright approach, convinces us we should, too. Li continues:

I didn’t come up with the term super adoptee; it found me on a balmy summer day in Korea in 2005.

I remember sitting on the balcony of a hotel in Gyeongju with a Korean adoptee I had met just days before. We were participants of a birthland tour and thrown together because of our age. As young professionals, it seemed like a good pairing.

My new roommate’s name was Mary… Mary had a life anyone would envy. She was gorgeous, graceful and carried gravitas. It was hard to believe we were the same age. After attending NYU, she moved to Tel Aviv to live an eclectic, intellectual life with her boyfriend. She appeared extremely confident, and I remember even feeling a twinge of jealousy because she seemed so put together.

But sitting on that balcony that day made me realize Mary was envious of me.

“You’re so lucky you know your birth family,” said Mary.

“Why do you think that?” I asked…

“You just seem like you’ve found closure,” Mary said.

I knew where this conversation was headed. I had been on the receiving end of this talk before. The most unpleasant experience happened in 1998 when a fresh-faced Korean social worker went rogue and contacted my birth mother without my knowledge. If it hadn’t been for her, I would not have this “closure” Mary assumed I had. When I reunited with my birth family, it not only opened a new can of worms but also put me on the defensive with some angry adoptees who thought I sold out.

“You just make me feel so far behind,” Mary continued. “You’ve gone to Korea camps,  you know things about Korea. You even know the language. I know nothing, and I’m so overwhelmed.”

“You’re not behind–”

“You’re like this super adoptee!” she interrupted.

And there it was. Though I had talked with adoptees about this before, Mary was the first person to call it like that. Super? It didn’t sound like a compliment. And, it’s not like I had been trying to be anything in the years leading up to that moment.

Also wonderful about Li’s essay is that it addresses her reunion with her birth family. As a writer, I often long to write in detail about the relationships our family has with our children’s birth parents. As an adoptive mother, I respect that the details of those stories are not mine to tell. Thus, for now, I write in generalities. But as an adult adoptee, Michelle Li can talk about her experience with specificity, and she does:

“If you think finding closure happens when you meet your birth family, you’re wrong,” I said [to Mary] reassuringly. “In fact, sometimes it complicates things and can even be more confusing.” I went on to tell her about my failed attempts to get medical records or learn much about my family history. To this day, I still don’t know my exact birthplace. If you know anything about Korean people, you know they’re pretty good at avoiding awkward conversations. It’s just the culture, I suppose.

I told Mary how my Korean family lovingly added extra Korean pressures on me – whether it was to lose weight, send them money, or date a Korean boy. They even wanted me to get rid of the mole on my face because they thought it was ugly. Something else to learn about Korean people – they’re proud of you, they just don’t say it. And, they never beat around the bush.

Even after our reunion, it took a couple years for my Korean family to even tell their extended family about me. They were too ashamed to tell everyone right away. I understood, but at the same time, it sort of felt like another rejection.


As I told my story to Mary, I could see a lightbulb go off in her expression.

“Wow,” she said. “I had no idea how hard it would be for someone like you, too.”

I told her then, that sometimes I thought it would’ve been easier to not know anything.


Personally, “closure” is a word I like to avoid when it comes to adoption stories. I don’t feel like we ever really get it because our stories never end. We feel differently about it as we reach a new milestone. Yet, for me, post adoption services, like camps and support groups help me navigate my feelings and give added confidence. 

Michelle Li’s perspective is not the “only” perspective on this topic, but it’s a considered and insightful one.  I appreciate her allowing this reader to look into the mind of at least one person who is adopted, and to see how she thinks.


Call for participants in study on transnational adoption

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Lisa “Charlie” de Morais Teixeira (adopted from Korea) and her adoptive mother, Karen Benally, are writing a book on adult transnational adoptees and their American parents. To date, the two women have collected close to 200 surveys regarding the transnational adoption experience from Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Germany, Columbia, and Mexico. In addition, they’ve set up interviews to collect oral histories.  

Lisa and Karen reached out to me because they would like to include information about families who have adopted from Guatemala, as well as other countries. If you’re an adoptive parent to a child who is now age 18 or older,  or if you are an adult over age 18 who joined your family through adoption, please ensure your voice is heard by participating in the study. Feel free to forward this request to any organizations or individuals who may be interested.  Thanks so much.

Research Study focusing on Adult Transnational Adoptees and their American Parents
Korean adoptee Lisa “Charlie” de Morais Teixeira and her adoptive mother Karen Benally are conducting research that explores the manner in which adult transnational adoptees (of all nationalities) and their American parents have negotiated the complex and often thorny issues related to adoptive, racial, and cultural identity. There are two parts to the study. The first consists of surveys of both adoptees and their parents. The surveys are currently available online at:  

   (Adoptee survey)

   (Parent survey)

 The second part involves in-depth interviews that focus on the adoptee-parent relationship and on the adoption experience as viewed both from the point of view of adoptees and adoptive parent(s). To the extent possible, the researchers hope to interview adoptee-parent “pairs,” but they are also talking with adoptees and/or parents whose corresponding “partner” is either unable or unwilling to participate. The interviews began in Hawaii in April; during the summer of 2011, the research team will be traveling to locations in the Midwest, Southeast, and East Coast to talk with additional adoptees and parents. Interviews throughout the U.S. will continue into 2012.

For further information or to follow the results of the study, visit the project website at To participate in the oral history portion of the research, contact one or both of the researchers at or  



Korean children in foster care and the Ethiopia Adoption Alert

Friday, March 11th, 2011

For anyone interested in Korean adoption, here is an article about Korean-American children in Los Angeles who are living in foster care. More Korean Kids Ending Up in Foster Care was posted on the New America Media site on March 10, from the Korea Times.

“…According to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Los Angeles, the number of Korean children in foster homes has risen steadily in recent years, an effect of the increasing number of divorced or single parents choosing to give up their kids for adoption.


Kim is a 20-something Korean mother who left her child with DCFS a week after giving birth. An international student, Kim, who asked that her last name be withheld, says her family back in Korea never learned of the pregnancy. “I had no choice. I don’t have the capacity to raise the child and could not bring myself to tell my parents.”


In a similar case, Ms. Park, a young mother, left her one-year-old daughter with DCFS following a bitter divorce from her husband of three years. Although she was given custody of the child, the 30-year-old divorcee said her daughter would prevent her from ever being able to remarry and start a new family.

Efforts by DCFS to reunite the daughter with her father were unsuccessful, officials said, as he had returned to Korea and remarried soon after the divorce, showing no interest in taking responsibility for the child.


Chung Ja Kim, a social worker with DCFS, says it is becoming more common for her to come across young Korean mothers looking to give their kids up for adoption. “Last year I worked on 10 cases involving single Korean mothers who were unwilling to raise their children, three of whom were newborn infants,” she noted.


Experts say the issue of adoption remains an awkward one within the Korean community, where the emphasis on blood ties remains strong. Soon Ja Lee is a practicing psychiatrist in the Los Angeles area. She says that compared to other ethnic groups, “Koreans tend to lay a great deal of stress on blood relations.”

Kim with DCFS says that in recent years there has not been a single Korean family that has approached the organization seeking to adopt. She adds that many Koreans harbor preconceived notions about the nature of abandoned children.

And while there is a consensus among adoption experts that abandoned children do better when adopted by parents from the same ethnic group, statistics show that on average the number of adoptions among Korean-American families remains miniscule at best. DCFS adds that there is not one Korean family registered on their list of eligible foster care homes.”

On a separate note, as predicted, the U.S. State Department has issued an Ethiopia Adoption Alert, which announces the 90% cutback in processing adoptions that will begin today. Dawn Davenport has posted an analysis on the subject, Drastic Cutbacks to Ethiopian Adoption: Are They Necessary and Effective?, on her blog, Creating a Family.


Third PBS documentary about adoption, “In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee”

Monday, September 13th, 2010

PBS’s award-winning non-fiction showcase, Point of View, will broadcast a third documentary about adoption, tomorrow, Tuesday, September 14 at 10 p.m. Titled In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, the film was directed by Deann Borshay Liem, born in Korea and adopted by an American family. Please note: some PBS affiliates are screening the show at a later date. Check your local listings for air time by clicking on this link and typing in your zip code.

Here’s the PBS synopsis: 

“Her passport said she was Cha Jung Hee. She knew she was not. So began a 40-year deception for a Korean adoptee who came to the United States in 1966. Told to keep her true identity secret from her new American family, the 8-year-old girl quickly forgot she had ever been anyone else. But why had her identity been switched? And who was the real Cha Jung Hee? In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is the search to find the answers, as acclaimed filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem (First Person Plural, POV 2000) returns to her native Korea to find her “double,” the mysterious girl whose place she took in America. A co-production of ITVS in association with the Center for Asian American Media and American Documentary/POV.”

As always, I welcome your comments and impressions.