Disabled Orphans Neglected in Adoption
By Bae Ji-sook
The percentage of Koreans adopting orphans is rising, but so-called minority adoptions of disabled children are very low on their priorities.
About 500 disabled children were adopted last year but most of them went to overseas couples as domestic parents shunned them.
Only 40 handicapped children were adopted domestically last year, just 2.9 percent of all domestic adoptions.
Han Yeon-hee, the representative of the Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea, said domestic families who also had handicapped children adopted most of the disabled orphans.
``By fostering the two handicapped children ― one adopted and one biological ― parents can rear them more easily and less painfully,'' she said.
There are many disabled children waiting for domestic adoption but most Korean families are reluctant to embrace these orphans.
``They require 24-hour-attention, extra care and parents have to deal with the frustration that no matter how hard they try, the child's disorder may not get better and they will always need to be looked after,'' Han said.
Han, a mother of four adopted children, including one mentally retarded child, said government support was necessary.
``People do not adopt children to get support from the government but when a state subsidy is available, they will feel less of a burden in rearing a disabled child,'' she said.
The government pays 551,000 won a month per child till he or she reaches 18, and 2.52 million won for medical expense. But this subsidy is far below the real cost of taking care of a disabled child.
For mentally disabled children, counseling and rehabilitation costs often exceed a foster family's income. Han also said she spends more than 1.2 million won per month in private tutoring for her adopted children.
``If these parents could get discounts from social and educational facilities, bringing up adopted children will be less burdensome financially,'' she said.
A mother who adopted two children with Down's syndrome alongside her biological child with the same disease, said she is exhausted after taking care of the three children all day. She said she needs a state subsidy to hire a helper who can assist with the three.
She and other foster parents said unlike Western countries, it is quite costly to take care of adopted children, especially when they are disabled. In countries such as the United States and Canada, parents have little difficulty in adopting challenged children as long as they have love and faith. But in Korea, the social system is not geared for parents adopting handicapped children, she added.