Ok, first off, let me just say that I have a lot of respect for the Korean government and I will be forever grateful that they have allowed me to parent one of their beautiful children. Having said that, I'm a little angry at the Korean government today.
Here's what's happening with Korean adoption right now. Over the past several years international adoption has become a bigger and bigger issue in Korea. The Korean people (rightfully so) are not happy that so many of their children are being adopted overseas. I can totally understand that. As much as I love Clarissa and I'm so glad that she's a part of our family, I do agree that a Korean adoption in their own country would be the best thing for those orphaned children. Korea is not a poor third world country. They're a very self sufficiant wealthy country full of strong families who could provide for orphaned children.
The problem is that Koreans place a lot of value on their bloodlines and raising a child that doesn't carry on their bloodline is considered shameful. Adoption is not widely accepted in Korea. I have read articles where they talk about couples adopting in secret, women wearing fake pregnant stomachs so that no one would know they adopted, one man telling his family that their adopted child was the product of his affair because an affair is less shameful than an adoption, etc. If it is known that a child is adopted in Korea they usually live difficult lives. It can be harder for them to marry, to find a good job...so many times it is kept a secret from them and from everyone else.
The other problem is that single mothers who choose to keep their babies receive absolutely no help from the government. It's not socially acceptable to be a single mother in Korea so if they decide to do it they're on their own. Without government assistance most single women feel that they have no choice but to place their babies for adoption.
So due to the fact that there are an abundance of babies placed for adoption and the fact that few in Korea will adopt them, the government has no choice but to send them overseas. Korea has one of the oldest and most respected international adoption programs in the world. One of the reason we chose to adopt from Korea is because their adoption program runs so smoothly and for us it did go smoothly. From start to finish our experience with Korean adoption was wonderful.
But in recent years the Korean government is getting more and more flak from the Korean people about their international adoption program. Many in Korea are calling for an end to it completely. Honestly, I would love to hear that the attitude towards adoption in Korea had changed so much that international adoption was no longer necessary. Change is happening in Korea but it's been slow. The Korean government has programs in place to encourage adoption and they're working hard to make adoption more accepted and less shameful and it's working. The number of domestic adoptions in Korea is rising every year.
Unfortunately it's not rising fast enough and the government is feeling a lot of pressure to do something about their overseas adoption program. Their solution has been to introduce the dreaded quota. People adopting from Korea right now fear the quota, and for good reason.
In order for the Korean government to show their people that they are sending less and less children overseas, they came up with an Emigration Permit quota for adoptees in 2007. Children leaving Korea to be adopted overseas have to be issued an Emigration Permit (EP) to leave the country. The Korean governments big idea was to grant 10% fewer EP's every year starting in 2007. They only allow so many children to leave the country every year to be adopted overseas and once that quota has been met the remaining children have to wait until the next year to be issued their EP. That looks great for their numbers. Now whenever there is an report on Korea's international adoption program the government can pull out their numbers and show everyone that there are fewer and fewer children being adopted overseas every year. Well, yes, technically it's true. Fewer children are being sent overseas every year but that's only because the children that don't make their numbers look pretty are waiting until the next year to leave.
The first few years it worked fine enough. Clarissa's EP was issued in July of 2009 with no problem. The EP quota wasn't really even on my radar of things to worry about. The available EP's are divided among the international adoption agencies. We worked with the biggest agency in Korea, which gets the most EP's allotted to them. The smaller agencies are allowed fewer EP's. For a while the EP quota seemed like kind of a myth. Something terrible you heard about but never actually saw.
But pretty soon the cracks in the EP quota plan started to show. The smaller agencies started to run out of EP's before the end of the year. At first it was close enough to the end of the year that it wasn't really a problem and the delays were slight, but it got worse and worse and eventually there was a huge backlog. What used to be a 3-5 month wait after referral to complete the paperwork and bring a child home became a six month wait. And then an 8 month wait. And then the backlog was so big that when the new EP's were issued starting in January they had to use the majority of them up just to clear up the backlog from the year before.
Last year the second largest adoption agency in Korea ran out of EP's in April. This year? They're now officially backed up an entire year. They're reporting that anyone who received a referral through that agency after December of 2010 will not be issued an EP until sometime after the new year in 2012. That means that people will be given the photo and info of their beautiful baby and then they will wait 12-14 months before they can actually go bring that baby, who will no longer BE a baby, home for no other reason than the fact that the Korean government refuses to grant them the permit that would allow them to leave the country. Babies are not referred for international adoption until they're at least 5 months old. If they're matched with a family at 5 months and they have a minimum 12 month wait to come home, that means that the child will be 17 months old at the very earliest before they can finally join their family. In the meantime they spend those 17+ months old in foster care, bonding with a family they will have to be seperated from.
That is absolutely unacceptable. This doesn't personally affect our adoption, of course, because our daughter came home a long time ago. But it makes me angry for all those families who are waiting month after month for their child to join their family. It makes me angry for those babies who will have to go through the trauma of being seperated from their foster families after so much time. It makes me angry for the wonderful foster parents who will grow that much more attached to the babies they eventually have to pass on to their families. Seperating Clarissa from her foster parents was one of the most difficult moments of my life and Clarissa was only 8 months old. I can't even imagine trying to do the same thing with an 18 month old.
Something has got to change. The Korean government has got to put a stop to the EP quota. In an effort to make their numbers look pretty they're making the situation much worse for the children and the Korean people really have no idea this is going on. It's time for them to stop trying to save face and start working in the best interest of the children. More Koreans are adopting every year and in time the numbers will get better on their own. I truly believe that there will eventually be no need for an international adoption program in Korea and that will be a wonderful thing, but it needs to happen naturally, not because the Korean government forced the numbers.
Truthfully I don't really know what I can do about it, other than rant about it on my blog. The Korean government certainly doesn't care what I think of their EP quota. But I think people need to know what's going on. I think the Korean people especially need to know what's going on. Orphaned children need homes and if there are homes available to them they need to be placed in those homes ASAP. There's no time to discuss whether those homes should be in Korea or overseas when there are actual children waiting for families.
I pray for those children waiting for families and for the wonderful people waiting to adopt them. I hope that the Korean government recognizes the problem and works to correct it and those children can join their forever families soon. Something has got to change.