Wait becomes longer for foster parents, adoptees
By Kim Tae-jong
The state-imposed annual quota on overseas adoptions is drawing complaints from potential foster parents as they have to wait for as long as one year even after which child they will adopt has been decided on.
During the wait, the children are raised by institutes or parents designated by adoption agencies until a new quota is created. The Ministry of Health and Welfare introduced the quota in 2007 as part of efforts to encourage domestic adoption and reduce the number of children adopted overseas.
Experts say the quota only puts more orphans on the waiting list and causes other negative side-effects, while having no substantial effect on boosting domestic adoption.
Local adoption agencies also argue that the quota deprives orphans of chances of finding new homes at an early age.
“What is actually happening now is that adoptive parents in other countries have to wait longer, up to almost a year, to adopt a child. The quota has simply increased the number of children on the adoption list,” said Hong Mi-kyung, official from Holt Children's Services. “As children waiting for adoption grow older, adoptive parents and children experience more difficulties.”
She suggested that if the government maintains the adoption quota, it should exclude adoptions by Koreans living in other countries.
“I think the quota needs to be lifted for at least Koreans living abroad,” she said.
According to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHSA), the adoption rate decreased to 27.5 percent in 2008 from 44.5 percent in 2000, with only 2,556 orphans out of 9,284 finding new homes. “The quota hurt the adoption rate, while the domestic adoption rate growth stagnated,” a KIHSA official said.
A Korean housewife living in the U.S., who has been waiting to adopt through a local agency, said abandoned children should be adopted as quickly as possible to help heal their “trauma” and better adjust to a new environment.
“A baby has been chosen for us to adopt, but an adoption agency said but we have to wait for a year just because the overseas quota is full this year. Does that make sense?” she said.
But the health ministry said adoption agencies should not accept applications from adoptive parents overseas when the quota is full to make it work in positive and desired ways.
The ministry also admitted that the quota led to the decrease of the adoption rate in general, but it is more important to find children a new home in their own country.
“The underlying issue is we believe babies should be preferably raised in their mother country,” said Lee Kyung-eun, an official from the health ministry. “We also think it is a transition period to increase domestic and reduce international adoptions, and it is consequently producing undesirable results. But we will try our best to increase the overall adoption rate and help children find new homes here.”
Celebrating Adoption Day, which falls on May 11, the ministry is running a campaign to encourage Korean families to adopt a child and plans to come up with more supportive measures.
The nation had a notorious reputation as an “orphan exporter” as thousands of abandoned children here were adopted by foreigners, mostly Americans and Europeans. From 1953 through 2006, a total of 160,242 children were adopted overseas.
To rectify the situation authorities have reduced the quota for overseas adoptions by 10 percent every year and offered incentives to domestic adoptive parents such as exemption of adoption commission and subsidized childcare fees.
Statically, the measures have worked out well.
The number of domestic adoptions surpassed that of overseas adoptions for the first time in 2007, recording 1,388 and 1,264 respectively. Meanwhile, the number of domestic adoptions has shown no marked change ― 1,462 in 2010, 1,314 in 2009, and 1,306 in 2008.