The Gathering of the First Generation of Adult Korean Adoptees
"Many of us were from the same orphanages. Many of us came over the same flights. Many of us were adopted into predominantly white, Anglo-Saxon communities, many rural. Many of us considered ourselves white trapped in Asian bodies. Many of us realized the significance of this event, that this was the first meeting of Korean adult adoptees, that we are the first voice...We wanted to share the same experience, meet people who had shared the same experience, not to have to educate people about our experiences, but to listen..."
- Kurt Streyffeler, adoptee
The Gathering of the First Generation of Adult Korean Adoptees was the first of its kind. From September 9-12, 1999, nearly 400 adult Korean adoptees, adopted between the years 1955 and 1985, gathered in Washington, D.C. They represented over thirty states in the United States and several European countries. This first generation of Korean adoptees became part of their adoptive families well before international adoption became the broadly accepted practice it became in the 1990s, and the majority of the participants and their adoptive families did not have the benefit of the many resources currently available. At a time when interest in intercountry adoptions is at a high point, there are questions about how well this group of individuals has fared - questions that can best be answered by the adoptees themselves.
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, in conjunction with Holt International Children's Services, undertook a survey of the participants in The Gathering to gain greater insight into the experiences of Korean adoptees since they began arriving in the U.S. and Europe in 1955 and to utilize these insights in the planning of The Gathering itself. The three day event further enriched the understanding of Korean adoptees' experiences as they shared all that had happened in their lives, clarified the lessons learned, and lent advice to the field of international adoption.
This report contains an historical overview of the international adoption of Korean children; the results of the survey that was conducted prior to The Gathering; a synopsis of the discussions in which adoptees participated at The Gathering; a synthesis of the observations of the professional facilitators who worked with each of the adoptee discussion groups; and a discussion of the implications for international adoption policy and practice. The experiences and insights of adult Korean adoptees can provide important guidance to the field of international adoption - both in understanding the impact of past practice on adoptees and shaping international adoption practice for the future.
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute gratefully acknowledges the expertise provided by Dr. Mary Ann Jones and Michael Botsko in the analysis of the survey data.
Reprinted with the permission of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. © 2007 Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. All rights reserved.
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