Unwed mothers need aidThe New York Times earlier this week carried a feature on the conflicts and struggles adoptees from South Korea endure while growing up in American families in a study of trans-racial adoptions. The study on first-generation children adopted from South Korea showed most have suffered an identity crisis either from racial discrimination or coming to terms with their ethnic origin. In fact, 78 percent had considered themselves to be white or had wanted to be white when they were children.
Some 163,000 children from South Korea have found adopted parents in other countries, mostly in the United States, between 1953 and last year. Ethnic South Koreans make up the largest group of trans-racial adoptees in the U.S.
The country has been trying to shake off the dishonor of being one of the largest “exporters of orphans.” Yet abandoned babies are still carried off overseas in search of families that want them. Most of the babies put up for adoption come from single mothers. Of 1,250 children adopted by foreign families last year, 90 percent were born to single women. Children continue to be put up for adoption because our society does not approve of unmarried women raising a child on their own. The same paper last month pointed out that most single women give up babies because Korean society eyes them almost like criminals. Adoptees and their adoptive parents instead of the Korean government launched a campaign in Korea to help single mothers keep their children.
It is a shame Asia’s third largest economy and a member of the G-20 still depends on others to help out an underprivileged group of its people.
The government has been hesitant on its aid policy for single young mothers because of social bias against premarital sex. But the population of teenage mothers has been on the rise as the younger generation becomes more and more liberal about sex. In 2007, the number of single mothers below the age of 20 totaled 3,500. At home and in schools, we need to strengthen awareness on safe and responsible sex among teenagers. At the same time, the society must provide safe shelters for young and unprepared single mothers.
It would be most important to give these women the chance to continue their studies. A recent survey showed that 85 percent of teenage mothers dropped out of school though most wanted to continue their studies. We must learn from visiting Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. She built thousands of state-funded nurseries for low-income families during her term. Some of them were set up on high school campuses to help teenage mothers finish their schooling and find decent jobs needed to raise a family. If teenagers cannot return to school after pregnancy, they won’t be able to raise their children in a proper environment. This is a country with the world’s lowest birthrate. Every child is precious to our future. Aid policy for single mothers can reduce adoptions to overseas families and at the same time help more children come into this world.