Orphanages or Adoption?

My response to the question over at Third Mom:

This has been an interesting and long thread. As an transnational adoptee from Korea, I am not going to answer the question because it’s an unfair one that posits me having to take sides. I can not speculate on the "what ifs." I am sure for the many adoptees I know who were abused by their adoptive parents that yes, an orphanage would have been preferable. There are also many adoptees who would say unequivocally that international adoption is better than orphanage. But for myself, I won’t answer that question.

That said, I will say that in my particular country, I have found out that orphanages do not exist for children like myself – those meant for adoption. In Korea, for the past 20 years or so, children for adoption have lived in foster homes. The true orphanages don’t house "orphans" they house children whose families have temporarily placed them there for other reasons – usually divorce or death of one parent – with the intent that the child will return to the home. Often, these children do go in and out of the orphanage at various times in their lives.

This is not true for all countries, and each one has a different system. Again, the reason I say that one can not make blanket statements. There are countries where parents send their children to boarding schools for years and there is little "parenting" done. Are we going to analyze ALL institutions or just those where it’s clear that there are "legal orphans" since some countries have very few literal orphans.

It’s a complicated issue, and so my response is let’s work on changing the way societies deal with the social welfare problems that create this discussion in the first place; lack of adequate health care, lack of reproductive rights for women and warfare.

Until those three issues are addressed, we might as well continue to stick the chewing gum in the hole in the dam and hope it holds.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

6 thoughts

  1. Thanks for linking to Third Mom’s post about this. I didn’t read through all the answers. But I do think the question creates a false dichotomy.

  2. Here, here!
    Ugh, I’ve been over that one already. The question is flawed, presumptive and unanswerable.
    For one thing, how do you choose between what if’s. For another, it frames adoption in a very narrow light and suggests there are only two options.

  3. Some of the comments were very frustrating to read. I thought the comments that asked for adoptee input, or worse, made assumptions about how an adoptee feels about this topic
    showed a lack of understanding of the issue.
    I think the topic boils down to adoptive parents trying to justify adoption itself and why they are right.
    I am so glad you posted about this. Thanks.

  4. This is a question that sets you up to have to say adoption, because the very word orphanage raises Dickensonian images. There are certainly a variety of options for children without functional families in every society. We do not have orphanages in the US, for instance.
    Group homes such as the one my second child spent his first three years in and my first spent a few months in after her orphanage was closed are perfectly adequate IF THE HUMANITARIAN MONEY IS SPENT ON THE CHILDREN. Often it is not, but these issues cannot be resolved by international adoption. Issues of corruption have to be resolved internally. And as long as international adoption provides massive amounts of dollars to corrupt systems, those problems will not be resolved internally.
    So really one could say AP’s outside the sending countries, with our apparently bottomless resources, are contributing to, rather than resolving the problem.

  5. Jae-Ran, I appreciate your response. As always, you offer intelligent commentary and helpful information.
    I hope it’s OK to clarify: My purpose in asking this question as I did wasn’t to be presumptuous, nor was it to generate a “vote” one way or the other. My intent was was to provoke thought and encourage discussion, the kind of thought Jae-Ran has provided in her post.

  6. I should let everyone know that I tried to post this comment on Margie’s blog but my work browser wouldn’t let me. That’s why I posted it here instead. So, thanks for the clarification, Margie.
    I should have been more clear in setting up my response so readers would know the context.

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