From the ICAR2 Conference in July 2006. Thanks to Professor Lee for sending this to me.
Open Adoption in a Traditionally Closed Society: Problems and Needs for Post Adoption Services
Kosin University, Dongsamdong 149-1, Yeongdogu, Busan, Korea
Adoption itself has been rare in Korea. When it occurs, it has been the norm for a sterile couple to adopt a boy confidentially. Recently, adoption is seen as an alternative and a few families have adopted children openly. These revolutionary changes imply that adoptive family groups will be growing in Korea, and the support systems and research for adoptive families are needed. Adoption is a developmental process that lasts for the whole family’s lifetime. Therefore, long-term approaches help us to understand adoptive families’ adaptation and family development. Despite this, there has been little research on adoptive families in Korea. There is a strong demand for the research to be focused on the developmental changes of adoptive families as time goes by.
This pilot study attempts to assess the current status of open adoption, analyze problems faced by open adoptive families, and identify their needs for post adoption services. The purpose of this study is to gather preliminary data of the longitudinal research about Korean open adoptive families. It also aims to provide ideas for building effective support systems for open adoptive families based on the results of this study.
The subjects of this study were 32 open adoptive parents. Sixteen were fathers and sixteen were mothers. They were members of a self-help group. Through interviews with these parents, their current status, problems and needs, and self-help group experiences were examined. Frequencies and percentages were used for the analysis of the collected data.
The current status of adoptive families
The main motive of adoption was sterility. Some parents adopt a child because they don’t want their first adoptee to feel lonely. Others felt more confident after they had adopted the first adoptee. More than half of the parents have their biological child. Many parents have two children including the adoptee. Their biological children were frequently distributed from 19 to 24 years old. Typically parents adopted one infant, but a few couples adopted a child over 6 years or adopted more than 3 children. More girls than boys were adopted and mostly distributed from 2 to 5 years old.
When parents adopt a child they got positive responses from others, but there were still negative responses. Most were satisfied with their adoption and would like to recommend that people adopt a child. About half said there was no particular problem related to their adoption, but some pointed out the unreasonable laws for adoption, the problems related to open adoption, the maladjustment of adoptees, social prejudice, and the deficiency of postadoption services. They want more consolidated legal systems, financial support from government, developing post adoption services, and activation of domestic adoption.
The problems faced by open adoptive parents
These families adopted a child openly because they thought there was no reason to keep the child’s status confidential. They feel better for adoptees to know rather than being shocked when the adoptees learn about their status suddenly. More than half still did not let their adoptee know, and they have conflicts about the timing and process for telling them. Some parents already told their infant and quite a few adoptees came to know their status naturally from the self-help group.
Most were very satisfied with their open adoption and would like to recommend that people adopt a child openly. Open adoptive parents feel free from the burden of confidentiality, and they could get positive feedback from others. However, they worried that they might have problems including managing the traumatic experiences of their adoptees, the public’s negative view of open adoption as “showing off”, and treatment of these adopted families either with special favours or prejudices.
Self-help group experiences
Almost all parents needed self-help groups. They got to know or contacted this group through other adoptive parents, mass media, and community groups such as churches. They participated in their self-help group activities once a month. They were very satisfied with their self-help group and would like to introduce their group to other adoptive families. The main activities consisted of adoptive family’s case presentation, parent education, and sharing intimate information. Parents evaluated it positively because of the emotional support, useful information, and friendly relations between the adoptive families. However, they evaluated it negatively especially for the non systematic program, limitation of time and place, and the difficulties of attracting members. They needed more diverse, systematic, and specialized programs and more active publicity for self-help groups.
First, there is a demand for consolidation of support systems based upon the current status of adoptive families. Versatile support is required from diverse resources like adoption agencies, community services, and government departments. There was no serious maladaptation of adoptive families from this study, but their developmental continuity should be examined, and post adoption services for those should be prepared.
Second, there is a demand for counterplans for open adoptive families in Korea, a traditionally closed society. We cannot be sure if openness has similar effects as in many western countries, because developmental challenges and tasks are varied with the sociocultural contexts. We need further studies in this area and diverse support systems to help open adoptive families get over their problems.
Third, there is a demand for activating self-help groups based on the adoptive family’s experiences and needs. It was shown that self-help groups were very effective resources for open adoptive families. Therefore the strong points of these groups should be included as a core part of the program. At the same time, their weaknesses must be overcome when we make more advanced programs.
Fourth, there is a demand for activating further studies which support the adoptive family’s adaptation. Further studies should deal with pre and post adoption matters through family life cycles, adoptive family relationships or dynamics, factors leading to a successful adoption. Larger, more diverse research is needed with greater links to international comparative studies.