Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I was the baby in the box.

Recently, photographs of the Korean baby box flooded my Facebook newsfeed. While the intentions of those who posted were innocently well-meant, I felt wounded by them.

The story seems on the surface a human interest story of love and compassion with the Christian twist. There’s that warm, fuzzy feeling of babies, love, acceptance. But wait …

Here’s what you should know. While there are babies, love and acceptance, there are also mothers, hate and rejection. Take off the bandage and let the healing begin. Understand these things.

Single women in Korea are pariahs. There is no support. As reported in November by Korean media:
“The only government assistance currently available to unwed mothers is a child-rearing subsidy of 70,000 won (US$66) a month. Even that is an increase from what it was before - last August, it was raised after remaining at 50,000 won (US$47) for eight years. No recourse is available for when children are sick or injured. No unwed mother can afford to raise a child on government assistance without the help of her family or a private facility.”
Add to the poverty, the shame of being an unwed mother. One blogger found herself in this predicament. In her words:
“The fact that I had spent the last 2 years building a good reputation among my employer, students, and Korean friends and I would have to start making up a lot of lies to keep it, because telling them I was an unmarried pregnant girl would not be acceptable at all. 
The fact that I was not economically where I wanted to be and having a college degree means very little in the job search in America…and how could I ever be a good mom when I can barely support myself some days? 
I would lose my job, lose face, lose my reputation, and be out a lot of money for leaving my job and housing lease early… just because I was an unmarried pregnant girl in Korea.”
Surprisingly, the Christian faith is about love and the family unit, but all too often, “family” means a man, a woman and the child with no exceptions. In the Korean society this has been taken to the extreme by choking the financial life from a single mother. It is her punishment. 

The Christian Baby Box works much like the Catholic convent in the Philomena Lee story with people of God separating children from their mothers, demonizing these mothers and shaming them. The Baby Box only reinforces a stereotype of women.

Blogger peaceshannon writes:
“[sic]opinion is couched in the deep stereotypes against unwed mothers and as someone who has worked for many years with both unwed mothers and parents who have lost their children to adoption, i don’t believe that. i believe that if the church didn’t give them this [Baby Box] option (which is painted as a saintly deed by the church and a mother’s ‘final act of love for her child’ in the korean media) that these women would either  
1) realize that maybe they have the right to raise their child or  
2) choose to go through the proper, ethical procedures for the adoption of her child NOT leave them to die in the street. 
this line of thought is based on the notion that these women are inhuman, moral-less women who are just trying to get rid of their baby in any way possible. again, as someone who actually works with unwed mothers on a close, regular basis - i don’t accept this line of thought.”

Many have been deceived and have funded the efforts of these boxes. Please know the facts before you donate money. At TRACK, the researcher, Jane Jeong Trenka, shows you not only reasons not to put your money there, but also the facts and figures on the Baby Box’s impact.

Others have made unsubstantiated claims. Shannon Heit takes on these false claims in her post and then leaves me with the words that have affected me personally:
“Over the past 60 years, Korea has sent over 200,000 children for adoption, and many of our birth records, like mine, were falsified or altered. Because of this, the success rate for birth family searches is a mere 2.7 percent. Is Korea going to repeat this record of human rights violations or work to ensure that this never happens again?  If the intention of those arguing to revise the Special Adoption Law is truly in ‘the best interest of the child,’ shouldn’t they be listening to the voices of adoptees?”

Thank goodness, I am not alone in asking for my voice to be heard. I am that baby in the box. I implore you to arm yourself with the facts through the linked text in this post and comment on those “well-meaning” Baby Box posts on your newsfeed.

When you look at this very first photograph of me, what do you see?

I see a baby that is searching for her mother.

Also, we ask you to join Koroot, a group that supports Korean adoptees, and tweet the facts about the Baby Box. Use #BabyBox and #BuildFamiliesNotBoxes. The more we inform, the better life will be for the women, children and families of Korea.

Feminist columnist, Rosita is a transracial, Korean-American adoptee. She is married to a Brit who refers to himself as an Anglo-American and is a mother to two multiracial children. Rosita was adopted in 1968 at the age of one through Holt International. Her road has been speckled with Puerto Rican and Appalachian relatives and her multiracial sister, the natural child of her adoptive parents. While quite content with her role as a “Tennerican,” her curiosity has grown recently as her children explore their own ethnic identities. She considers herself a lost daughter, not only because of the loss of her birth family, but also because of the loss of her adopted mother, who died in 2001 as she became a first time mother. Rosita has recently started her search for her natural family. With the help of G.O.A.’L., she visited Korea in August 2014. When she is not supporting her children on their individual paths, Rosita spends her time as an art educator, ceramicist and an art photographer. She also shares her adventures as an adoptee and parent on her blog, mothermade.