New Adoption Policy Backfires

12 February 2010

02-12-2010 18:04

New Adoption Policy Backfires

Korea is trying to reduce the number of adoptions overseas to burnish its image but the new policy is leaving kids with special needs out of the loop.

/ Korea Times

By Bae Ji-sook

Staff Reporter

The government has approved a policy that reduces the number of babies eligible for overseas adoption but the plan is showing signs of backfiring, depriving children with special needs of chances to be placed with qualified parents.

According to social welfare officials specializing in adoption, the current system needs to be changed to increase the opportunities for children with special needs to be taken in by parents overseas or domestically.

They say the system was introduced to improve Korea's reputation when it comes to adoption that it sends many children overseas.

But considering Koreans' long-held reluctance to adopt, the plan was ill-conceived, they say.

The latest statistics, filed by the U.S. State Department, show that Korea is fourth behind China, Ethiopia and Russia in terms of foreign adoptees in the United States since 1996.

Under the current system, children up for adoption should stay in foster care for five months while waiting to be placed with suitable new families. If no Koreans apply, then the child becomes a candidate for overseas adoption. Thanks to the system, the number of overseas cases is shrinking at a dramatic pace ? the government is planning to reduce the number of overseas adoptees by 10 percent every year.

However, insiders say the system is effective when it comes to the adoption of female children, but works against the rest, especially those with special needs.

About 97 percent of children with disabilities or serious illnesses were taken in by overseas parents, reflecting the fact that Koreans still prefer children without such challenges.

"However, due to the system, even when the process is complete, they sometimes have to wait a year to meet their new parents," a social welfare planner, who asked not to be named, said.

Despite the government's encouragement for domestic adoption, the number of children taken in by Korean families is not growing as fast as expected. The government provides incentives to families who adopt Korean children. Still, 1,314 children were given new homes in 2009, a fall from the 1,388 in 2007.

"It is true that these children are less likely to be chosen even after the five months. The longer the process takes, the longer it takes for them to get adjusted to their new life," the welfare planner said.

Bae Tai-soon, a professor at Kyungnam University, said, "We have constantly been talking about this issue but the government seems not to be listening. It is best for children to be brought up in a stable family. We need to allow the special-needs children to find new homes, even if it is abroad."