Archive for September 2008
For four decades I never cared about searching for my birth mother.
In fact, the very mention of it made me stiffen, and I would quickly find some way to dismiss the idea and try to steer whoever was asking back onto a more comfortable topic.
My comments changed over the years, from:
I already have parents, I don’t need to look for more
Why bother, it’s impossible
Why would I want more drama in my life?
Then my parents, who I’d been estranged from since I was 17, both died. Then I was raped. Then my best friend abandoned me because she blamed me for the rape. Then I fell in love with someone very young and was abandoned because of our age difference. Then another friend abandoned me because I would do something so reckless, because she couldn’t understand my value system. All this abandonment and heartache in the course of two years. Unrelenting.
I had a nervous breakdown; just stayed in a permanent fetal position for two months and fought off the continuous waves of pain. It was so physical, so piercing, I just wanted it to stop. I love my kids and I’m a good mom, but all I could think about was ending this pain, making it stop forever. I realized my childhood abuse had made me withdraw, permanently disadvantaging me in being able to communicate with people and live comfortable in society. Maybe this was why people always left me.
I went to a therapist who specialized in incest. It helped a little with the child sexual abuse. But it didn’t help with the grief I felt about all the people I’d just lost and I didn’t think I could ever trust anyone ever again. Perhaps I still don’t. So I looked elsewhere on how to deal with the grief. I’m still looking. But one day, everything came full circle and I realized I had been adopted and that maybe being abandoned at an early age had everything to do with everything.
I know, I know – it’s so obvious. But when your life depends on making the best of a bad situation, on doing whatever it takes to be progressive, to not be destroyed by your circumstance – then sometimes you have to distance yourself from the obvious. It’s called denial. Others call it the adoption fog. And when you’re abused, taking care of yourself – your emotional self – requires you to push the real you down deep, far from harm’s way. So far even I couldn’t access it, couldn’t identify my own emotions, wants, needs. I just blindly moved always forward, guided by an impossibly rigid moral compass, superhuman.
But one day I woke up. I realized the glue that held me together was gaseous. It was a thin vapor of some remote early self esteem. Little molecules of self esteem moving slowly through a soupy void of concentrated grief and abandonment, which had been there since earliest memory. I’d never isolated the grief because it was my constant companion, my waking state of being. So it wasn’t just the recent string of losses, but a back catalog of grief, stuffed inside too small a container. How did I make it to so many birthdays? Could those little molecules of self esteem have been enough to have pulled me through an entire childhood of abuse, and the handicap that created as I tried to make a career and a life for my two babies? And where did that self esteem come from? It certainly didn’t come from my sterile and repressed mother, or my cowardly self-pitying father, or anyone else in my post adoption household. It came from some far off place, in a distant land, from some far off people.
It was time to search.
After my parents’ death, I received a box with some papers in it. Inside was a baby album and some documents. I’d never seen the documents before. Naturalization papers and some correspondence with Holt adoption agency in Eugene, reminding my parents that I needed to be naturalized, as well as some courtesy replies to unsolicited updates from my mother, and supporting documents from my grandmother who assisted getting my parents approved for adoption.
In the baby book was a treasured photo of me and my foster mother. She looked equal parts caring and tough, this thin wrinkling woman holding the fat baby. To her, all my gratefulness and longing for mother was directed. I simply HAD to find her and thank her for giving me whatever it was that kept me going all these years.
My parents told me very little about my adoption, mostly only about the stress they underwent as my flight got repeatedly delayed due to bureaucracy and then bad weather, and how they had to drive from Detroit to Chicago twice to pick me up, one time empty handed. They told me I was fat and well cared for, thanks to my foster mother. They told me they had no further information.
So all my life I thought I had been given up at birth, and this woman had taken care of me for almost three years. I WAS fat and happy – once – and I owed it all to her.
So I took the big step and emailed Holt, and then my whole world went sideways…
I entered the passive registry, paid the $25, asked for my child records from Holt International in Eugene, and also inquired about contacting the foster mother, whom they said they could forward information on to.
Turns out that wasn’t necessary, as the papers reveal I was at Holt’s orphanage, and that if I had a foster mother, it was only for a very short time:
Instead of being admitted at birth, I was admitted at 2 years of age. Instead of living in Seoul, I came from a small town sixty miles away from Seoul. Instead of having a foster mother my entire infancy, I had A FAMILY for two years! The medical reports state the nurses say I made friends easily and was cheerful and obedient. No mention of foster mothers. The woman in the photo was probably a nurse.
Knowing I had a family changed everything. In tandem with this search was also an exploration of adoption and what it means / what it does to children. The more exchange I had with Holt, the more incensed I became at the violation of our rights as adoptees – both at the time we were being shipped all over the world to now, as adults.
Return Email from D. at Holt:
Photos are not required when registering for the VAR. Photos and a letter are to be included with an Assisted Search application, which can only be submitted following a favorable file assessment.
After reviewing your file here at our headquarters, it appears that you were abandoned and that there is no other information regarding your birth family. Unfortunately, this means that there isn’t enough information for Holt Korea to begin an assisted search.Also attached to this email is some information regarding conducting an independent search which you might find helpful. I am going to request an assessment of your file from Holt Korea in the fall, just to confirm that they have no additional information. I will be holding your file until September, and will let you know what the response is to our request. It is extremely rare that Holt Korea would have additional information that has not been passed on to us, but I’d prefer to confirm this.
from Yonhap News
혻혻 By Kim Young-gyo
GOYANG, South Korea, May 8 (Yonhap) – A daughter of Harry and Bertha Holt, who founded South Korea’s largest adoption agency in the aftermath of the Korean War, has been following her parents’ path of encouraging adoptions of abandoned children.
While nursing children at South Korean orphanages and helping them get adopted by new families since 1956 when she was 19, Molly Holt says she has always felt that a family is the best gift an orphaned child can have.
혻혻 At the same time, however, the head of Holt Children’s Services knows that not all adoptions have a happy ending.
혻 혻 “Like this family in Iowa, you know, where a father killed his wife and all his children, it was so horrible,” she said in an exclusive interview with Yonhap News Agency Thursday.
혻혻 In March, the members of the family in the U.S. were beaten to death by the father, who had been charged with embezzling nearly $560,000 from his former employer and with money laundering. He later committed suicide. All four of his children were adopted from South Korea through Holt Children’s Services.
혻혻 With tearful eyes, seemingly feeling guilty about the children’s deaths, Holt continued.
혻 혻 “I got the folder. It was this big, because there were four homestudies. Before each child was adopted they (did) homestudies again and again. Four yearly reports with post-adoption reports done every three months for a year. Still, this happens. I looked at it, and there was nothing wrong. The only wrong was that the father was too perfect. He never had a traffic ticket. He never made mistakes.”
A homestudy is a detailed written report on a prospective adoptive family, assessing the home environment before a child is placed in the family.
혻 혻 Holt, along with many Korean adoptees, attended the memorial service for the dead, which was held March 28 in northern Seoul.
혻혻 “Sometimes people think in the beginning that we didn’t have any investigating agencies, but we did. We had an agency that investigates, and we would get the reports to see if they were suitable families or not…They check their credit ratings, their police records, their backgrounds and their educational backgrounds,” Holt said.
혻혻 “We tried to find all the best families for our precious children, but sometimes they didn’t have good families. They divorced, or they abused children. But it’s amazing sometimes how wonderful the children turned out even in sad circumstances. Sometimes there were wonderful families and children ran away.”
Unfortunately some adoptive parents give up their adopted children, as in the case of a Dutch diplomat in Hong Kong who drew public criticism last December for giving up his seven-year-old ethnic Korean daughter, whom he and his wife adopted at the age of four months.
혻혻 “Sometimes they (adoptees) are brought back to Korea. We had maybe ten brought back to Korea. Some went back to orphanages, and some are here. Some are still here.”
Often dubbed “Mother of all Korean orphans,” Holt has been living at a 51.7-acre facility in Goyang, east of Seoul, where Holt Children’s Services offers a home for over 250 homeless disabled people.
혻혻 “One girl, she had several polios, she fell down a lot. She was normal mentally. She went to school. And we adopted her into another family. And she did fine,” she said. “But people are all different. You can’t say everything is perfect. But you do what you can.”
“Some did have hard times. We are sorry,” she said.
혻혻 She said she will continue helping orphaned children get adopted, both internationally and domestically.
혻 혻 When asked about her plan for the future, she replied, “To make happy families. Adoption has always been our central piece, because adoption is the very best way to have children cared for, who do not have living parents or parents that can care for them.”
Adoptions from South Korea began soon after the 1950-53 war and peaked in the mid-1980s when over 8,000 children a year went abroad, mostly to the United States, to join their new families.
혻혻 The government has recorded about 158,000 foreign adoptions of Korean orphans in the over 50 years since foreign adoptions began.
I’d say MOST adoptions are not perfect, and if MY family was any indication of their screening and FOLLOW UP skills, then Holt had a lot of improvement to do. Perfection is always suspect – the only person I’ve ever met who looked perfect is my brother, who is now in jail for murder. What kind of psychological testing did that Iowa father go through? Clearly, inadequate testing. Clearly, they do not profile psychos like they should.
Holt started operations by taking advantage of a humanitarian crisis. Yet long after the crisis was over, they continued to perpetuate their operations by creating a demand for international babies. Long after Korea had become a first world nation, they continue to encourage and promote a market for babies there.
Without this market, Korea would be forced to improve their social services and bring their backwards cultural stigmas forward into the twentieth century, to match their first world status and because they can now afford social programs. It is Holt’s easy presense and the market for babies which provide an easy way out for the government and its citizens. Holt needs to get out of Korea once and for all and let Korea take care of its own.
Above are the wrist i.d. tags they put on me for the flight to America. Old name on one arm, New name on the other. Kind of like being born, yet dying at the same time…
And then there’s the little square photo. The one we all have. The one with our orphan cattle number identifying us from all the other cattle being sold.
I’m getting this number tattoo’d on my chest, btw…
Along with the sell by date tattoo’d on my backside.
Extreme? I don’t think so…when I read accounts like Janine Vance’s critique, Saint or Sinner? you decide or when I read the statistics on somewhere between 160,000 and 200,000 children shipped out of Korea since the Korean war (that’s almost a quarter of a MILLION babies!) that staggering figure first brings me to my knees in silence, and then makes me want to scream from the mountaintops and carve my number into my chest.
I was SOLD. I had a family for two years. I wasn’t an orphan! Nobody gives up a fat, happy baby unless they are under duress. My parents were unsupported. Holt Korea exploited their weakened state. My country shirked on their duties to protect its citizens – both me and my parents – and I was purchased by a couple who wanted a new plaything.
the living doll with her new owners
I was emotionally deprived by my mother and sexually abused by my father.
Damn right I’m an angry adoptee.