A little historyIf you are like us, the only thing you know of South Korea (Republic of Korea) is from campy M*A*S*H reruns. The adoption programs from Korea did start in the early 50's as a result of American servicemen fathering children with Korean women. Korea is a very traditional culture and these mixed race children were not accepted culturally, or were left behind in difficult circumstances. Programs were developed to adopt these children internationally, and since that time, it's estimated that over 160,000 children have been adopted to the U.S., Europe, Canada and Australia.
Although no longer fathered by American GI's, having children out of wedlock is still the primary reason women choose to have their baby adopted. Korean culture is highly patriarchal and has an extreme emphasis on blood ties and familial names. This means that an unmarried mother faces extreme familial pressures, lack of financial resources, and cultural stigma. These are also the same reasons that the domestic adoption program within South Korea is not very popular. The country began making a push in 1987 to increase the amount of domestic adoptions and to reduce the amount of Korean children available for international adoption.
The deciding factors
There are a lot of factors we had to consider when determining which program to go with. We knew we were going to adopt internationally (we'll do a future post on "Domestic vs. International" adoptions) and considered about 20 countries that have solid, reliable international adoption programs in place. Every country has different restrictions regarding adoptive parents -- age, race, marital status, religion, health history, and even our weight are some of the factors that determined where we could adopt from.
In addition to the restrictions for new parents, there are also specifics about the children available. Some countries only have children with special needs for placement. Others only place children over 5 years of age.
We spent a lot of time researching adoption programs from all over the world to determine which fit our needs as a family. Here's the reasons that Korea was the right fit for us:
Healthy children who are the right age - Korea adopts healthy infants and toddlers, as well as those with special needs.
Foster family care - Children who are cared for in a foster family are developmentally on track, and healthier than those cared for in orphanages. There is less likelihood of attachment disorders since they are cared for in a warm, loving family environment. We like the thought of a child being very happy and content while his forever family is searching for him!
Record keeping - Korea is a modern, industrialized nation and they are meticulous at record keeping. We think it's important to have access to as much information as we can, for both us and our baby. The children are generally born in a maternity hospital, and the birth mothers give a good bit of information--their name, often the father's name, sometimes very detailed health/medical histories, and usually information on their pregnancy (how much they smoked/drank/etc.) This is really important for health reasons, and also we love having some family names because someday our child may want to search for his biological family.
Great medical care - Their medical system is top-notch and compares to U.S and Canada which means healthier children.
Reasonable time frames - Although this process seems long, it pales in comparison to adopting from other places. An adoption from China has a waiting period of at least 4 1/2 years! We have a 12-18 month time frame from the start to the end of the process.
We fit in - We met the age requirements, financial requirements, health requirements, and yes, weight requirements! Korea is the only country we know of that has a weight restriction--adoptive parents cannot be obese and their weight must fall into a specified range.
Bringing them home fast - The cost of travel is what pushes international adoption costs up. We will be matched with our child while we are here in the US. We only need to travel to South Korea once--to bring our baby home--and we will only need to be in-country for a week. Russian adoptions require traveling twice, and staying a few weeks each trip. Adoptions to some other countries require an in-country stay of 6-8 weeks!