29 April 2014

Only two pieces of paper

Forty-five years ago in Japan, my parents began and finished their adoption experience while living in Tokyo.

Today, I finally received word back from Holt. A couple of months ago,  I received a few pages from my American Holt file. Since that time, I have waited to hear from Korea. The email today said this:

“Attached is a copy of all the information about you from your file in Korea.  A copy will remain in our files for future reference.  Let me know if you have any questions about these documents.  
Unfortunately, the staff of Holt Children’s Services of Korea was unable to locate enough information regarding your background to begin a search for your birth family.  We regret that Holt Children’s Services Korea and Holt International Children’s Services cannot assist you in a search but will be happy to help you plan an independent search.  We received the following email: 
According the child report from you, and also the release paper in the file, the adoptee was placed in CBH from the Chong Yang ri police station on May 24, 1968.  She was later referred to Holt adoption program by CBH on the same day which was in cases of abandonment.  
I am afraid that there is no addition information to learn more about the background. Cheongyang ni is the correct spelling now, and it is a neighborhood located in Dongdae mun gu, Seoul city. 
Once admitted to Holt, 숙현 was placed in the care of a foster home, but there is no information about the foster mother in the record. 
The attached is a copy of the adoption file (only 2 pages). The adoptee’s current contact information will be updated in our file, and she may feel free to leave photos in the file for the future reference. 
I’m so sorry that we aren’t able to assist you with your search.  Because we want to support you any way we can, please feel free to contact us to talk about this assessment with one of our post adoption counselors.  Having a good support system, through friends and family, as well as Holt, is very important.  There may be many terms or references that are unfamiliar to you within the assessment, so please don't hesitate to contact us with questions or if you’d like additional information regarding the history, culture, or record keeping practices of the time.”
While Holt may have some sympathy for how I am feeling, I am baffled by an adoption that occurred primarily overseas but leaves only two small sheets of paper. See for yourself.

How can an agency place a baby with a foster family and have no record of said foster family? I like to think Holt vetted its foster families, and if so, that they had a record of what babies lived with which foster families. They had an address and names, because the couple who kept me those months before my adoption, took photographs of me, fed me and loved me. They cared enough to take photographs of my first birthday and portraits of me in my hanbok. They sent these photographs via the adoption agency to my parents … and yet, there is no record.

I am saddened by Holt’s response (and that I paid $25 for so little information), but I am determined now to seek more answers without Holt’s assistance.


frogmomma said...

I came across your "Lost Daughters" blog and you had made a comment in regards to a "mommy and me" journal. I couldn't find any more info in what that looked like for you. I am a white adoptive mom of 5 Hispanic children.... It is almost ironic I came across your blog at the time I did because I have been trying to figure out a way to make sure my children do not lose their identity in a "white" world. We just happen to be blessed to live in an area that is predominately Hispanic. HOWEVER, I do not speak Spanish well, my husband can "get by" and my oldest child does speak Spanish...I don't want him to lose this....so we're going to invest in Rosetta Stone and learn together...allowing him to "teach" me Spanish. He seems to be very excited about the idea. I told my oldest daughter I needed to celebrate Cinco de Mayo....her question was why. I told her I wanted her siblings to know, understand, and appreciate their heritage. I never want to err on the side of making a mistake with my children. While I want them to feel completely and totally a part of our family....a "this has always been my family" type feeling. I realize that this may never be the case. I do want them to feel secure in their identity as a person...who they are and that they are deeply loved. Could you share more with me in regards to the mommy me journal?

mothermade said...

Thank you, frogmomma, for your honest sharing. I am humbled by that. I love that your son will be teaching you Spanish. My son is taking Spanish in school and has now surpassed this mama en español! It is empowering for your son to share his skill and heritage with you. Just beautiful.

In terms of learning about their heritage, check into adoptee culture camps where your children can make friends with other children like them. That is the one thing I wish I had had growing up. My own children also ask me about our Korean heritage, and I am ill-equipped to help them. So, in a lot of ways, I am just as you are!

The “Mommy & Me” journal is a journal that is passed between me and my children (separately; both have one of their own). We began this because my children had insecurities and worries at bedtime. Many of those times, they feared sharing these feelings. So, I had them write down their fears and worries in a journal. After writing, they place the journal on my bed. I promise not to read it until they are sleeping. Once they are sleeping, I read their entries and respond in writing. This also gives me time to read what they have said and think about it before I respond. I then place the journal with my response back in their beds for them to read when they awaken the next morning.

I have many journals from my childhood. I was a writer then too. My writing has always served as a therapeutic exercise. My childhood journals helped me express myself safely and privately; I read over it later to analyze my feelings. I wanted to gift that to my children. My children don’t use it as frequently now because they are able to speak to me rather than write me. The fear has fallen off.

Per Cinco de Mayo celebrations, depending on your children’s backgrounds, it may mean very little to them. As a Puerto Rican, I do not observe Cinco de Mayo because it is not part of this puertorriqueña. Also, there are far more important celebrations that are revered in Hispanic/Latino cultures but not in the US like Cinco de Mayo, which is more of an American holiday. The other thing I would suggest if you are at all able is to visit your children’s country of origin with them, and experience being the minority in a culture you are not physically connected.

I hope this helps. Thanks for reading here.

frogmomma said...

Thank you so much for your response. It helps quite a bit. We actually adopted through the foster care system...so our children are actually local..... However, prior to them coming to us, most of their foster placements had been predominately Spanish speaking. My sister-in-law is from Mexico and fluent in Spanish... so my son is able to "practice" every now and then. My two boys like Menudo...not necessarily something I can bring myself to eat. :) However, my sister-in-laws mom makes it regularly and we have planned to have her cook for the boys soon. As a momma of 8 (we adopted 5) I want to make sure everyone feels loved and special. I want each to be secure in who they are as a person in this world. Thanks again for your response. It sounds like your doing a great job with your little ones. Being a mommy is such an adventure. I never cease to be amazed and am always learning something new.

Anonymous said...

Hi mothermade, I came across your post while trying to find information about the adoption agency my father reportedly lived at before he was placed for adoption. It seems there are many similarities between the story you were told by Holt and the story we were told in our quest for information. My father was also allegedly placed by CBH to Holt Children's Services, and I received the following email from Holt after requesting documentation. We received a few more than 2 pieces of paper but still, nothing conclusive. I work at an adoption agency myself now and am disheartened by the lack of documentation but also the lack of compassion I feel from the workers releasing the information.

mothermade said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for reading and commenting. Feel free to use the contact box at the bottom right of the page. That is the best way to “talk” to me one-on-one. You and your father are experiencing a very similar conversation with Holt as I have had. While I haven’t written more about my dealings with Holt Korea, I can say that those instances are frustrating and triggering. Please take care of yourself and your father. Best to you both.