Here are some of my suggestions for improvement to Post Adoption Services…
KCARE is the government-funded institution set up to eventually become the “Central Authority” – supposedly an independent body – to satisfy the Hague Convention’s requirements in regards to protecting adoptee identity. It replaces GAIPS, the previous failed attempt to centralize services for adoptees. Essentially, it is the same as GAIPS and uses the same inadequate database and methods. The only thing central about it is that it supposedly contains information on all adoptees in one location. However, the contents of its database tell the adoptee nothing they don’t already know: the adoptee’s name, the adopting parent’s name, birth date, adoption date, the country the adoptee was sent to, and which adoption agency facilitated the adoption. Case workers who handle Birth Family Search requests for adoptees can do nothing more than ask adoption agencies for an adoptee’s records. On occasion, individual workers have advocated for adoptees by being persistent when information was withheld, but those individuals no longer work there.
Problems that need to be addressed and how it needs to be improved:
Adoption advocacy is impossible – with no power to directly access files, case workers must maintain friendly relationships with adoption agencies because any sharing of file information is a gift of cooperation from the adoption agencies. Therefore, adoption agencies can continue to arbitrarily withhold information when it suits them. All power over adoptee identity is held by private corporations, and the good relations required to maintain cooperation weakens advocacy attempts in contentious cases.
Outreach is terrible – none of the agencies or organizations refer to KCARE, so there’s nothing central about their “authority.”
Their website user interface is terrible and no instructions are given for adoptees to follow on basic information, such as how to conduct a Birth Family Search or how to get your case posted in their on-line registry. Like many websites in Korea, they utilize images and programs which render the Korean language portions of their websites untranslatable by machine translators such as Google Translate.
Up until just recently, Korean families registering their searches for their lost children were LEFT IN KOREAN, so adoptees couldn’t access the information, destroying any effectiveness or even the point of having a registry. As of this update, only 2 pages of 6 have been translated into English. Many adoptees who have registered have yet to have their cases even posted. Translation services and website entry are obviously understaffed.
Services are not central – Take Birth Family Search away from adoption agencies. The search landscape is splintered, confusing, and arbitrary.
Birth Family Search (BFS) is that portion of Post Adoption Services (PAS) that the government subsidizes. Because International adoption negated the need for the Korean government to include adoption as part of social welfare programs, the government can only allot grants to parties (adoption agencies and organizations) who propose to care for our welfare.
BFS funds can be better spent – agencies manage their funds poorly and provide weak services. In the past they have misappropriated funding earmarked for BFS as well. Holt spent BFS money on pro-adoption campaigns recently. Despite receiving large sums of money, when adoptee searches extend for upwards of nine months, they complain that the blame is in lack of funding.
I say it’s THEIR RESPONSIBILITY, and it (and other post adoption services, such as culture programs and counseling) is part and parcel of pronouncing a child adoptable. If they can’t provide for their responsibilities towards a child subject to adoption, then they should get out of the business. I feel taxpayer money to private interests – especially with such a history of mismanagement and misappropriation – is tantamount to corporate welfare.
Now, adoption agencies claim they must control adoptee files in order to insure protection of those parents who they signed relinquishment contracts with. Holt used these arguments with me to rationalize not giving me my full records, even though I was abandoned so there never was a relinquishment contract. They also used this argument to rationalize why they don’t send an adoptee’s full file to their partner International adoption agencies. I and many other adoptees subject to being denied access arbitrarily feel that the government is the only institution we can trust to arbitrate our cases fairly for the best interests of all parties, as they have no conflict of interests.
Culture Programs are part of Post Adoption Services and were instituted to give adoptees a sense of Korean identity. It has been argued in the past that this was done as part of the counting of all diasporic Koreans to strengthen the relevancy of Korea politically. Whatever the reason, it has resulted in subsidizing of culture camps and homeland tours as mandated by the Korean government of the International adoption agencies.
Programs for adoptees who choose to live here are nearly non-existent – They are not much better than for average tourists. Fulbright scholars get much richer, more in-depth cultural experiences than adoptees do, as well as home-stays and job opportunities. Korea could create a program like Vista where we could actually directly help improve Korean society while learning about it and getting enough to survive on.
Language programs are a serious need for adoptees, as we are not given the same amount of grace that non-native foreigners receive, and some of us may end up living here permanently and/or becoming full citizens. However, instead of increasing funding for these programs, they are being cut.
Programs are too overwhelming – In addition, language programs scholarship are arduous full commitments that don’t allow adoptees enough time or attention to support themselves. I, personally, have no desire to learn language to the level of being able to write a scholastic paper in Korean. For me, I needed (still do) classes on basic survival Korean, do-able with m and it would have been great to have had that when I first got here, so I could have gotten off to a running start.
Programs discriminate against age – The NIEED scholarship has a cut off age of 40, so older adoptees (who have many valuable years left, I might add) are left out.
Finding Employment in Korea is, as my readers know, challenging. One of the few jobs available to foreigners is language education, and adoptees are consistently passed over by Caucasian foreigners or Korean foreigners who are bi-lingual. Our non-native English speaking European/Scandinavian brothers and sisters are especially effected.
Our talents are unrecognized and we are undervalued. A lot of adoptees come value-added and we waste our skills here in Korea. A civil servant at the Employment Office should be assigned to adoptees and hopefully match us with businesses that could benefit from our skills. Copy-editing is always in need of improvement here and we could be very valuable as consultants for businesses as Western consumers.
In general, I told everyone that I am socially minded and liberal yet fiscally conservative. I don’t think the government should create a billion new programs for us, but that they should make the programs they started for adoptees work and incorporate us into existing programs already serving Korean citizens. They should protect our interests and safeguard our identity documents; get out of adoption agency welfare and serve us directly.