[MINORITY VOICE]Matters of the heart

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[MINORITY VOICE]Matters of the heart

The government reportedly plans to raise its supplementary foster care allowance to an adoptive family of a disabled child from the current 200,000 won ($150) to 500,000 won. Meanwhile, the government will raise its supplementary medical allowance to those same families from a current 400,000 won to 1.2 million won. The number of disabled children who are adopted by domestic families has not exceeded 20 per year since 1996. And the number of handicapped children who are adopted by foreign families had declined from 900 to 600, due to the government's restrictions.

Though Koreans argue that we should promote adoption by domestic families, such adoption remains sluggish. It might have been caused by our moral idleness.

Our association is promoting adoption of children, including disabled children, through various campaigns. According to our survey, very few chief executive officers of major companies turned out to be an only child in their families. We are publicizing that fact in order to encourage domestic parents with a single child to adopt children. And we are paying attention to research results that say children who experience having a brother or a sister, wind up becoming a well-rounded adult, one who can more easily deal with the stresses of life. Thus, we encourage families with the only child to adopt children. But the biggest obstacle to the promotion of domestic families' adoption is the complicated adoption systems of Korea.

The member families of our association have taken care of about 300 children abandoned by their parents, as well as several dozen children whose natural parents gave up their parental authority.

If you put the word, "open adoption," in, say, the search engine Yahoo!, an Internet portal, you will find 152 Web sites. Under the open adoption system, a child's natural parents can choose the child's foster parents, after consulting the photographs and the detailed facts of the applicants' families, on the Web sites. This is different from Korea, where a few institutions choose a child's foster parents without considering opinions of the child's natural parents. The applicants whose photographs and facts are carried on the Web sites have passed rigorous examinations by welfare experts to be foster parents without any legal and moral problems. It is surprising that most countries with adoption systems allow single women age of at least age 25, as well as couples between the ages of 25 and 45, to adopt children. Without such reformative measures, the argument that Korea should encourage domestic families to adopt children will end in a mere gesture. American and European countries' open adoption Web sites provide information about where one can most easily adopt a child and the "secret methods" of successfully adopting a child they want. But perhaps of greatest interest on the Web sites are the stories of foster parents' experiences. Most of the adoptive parents say, "We did not give birth to them but they did come from our hearts." How about letting a Korean child into you heart?

The writer is chairman of the Korean Foster Care Association.

by Park Young-sook

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