Adoption quota causes backlash
Wait becomes longer for foster parents, adoptees
By Kim Tae-jong
The state-imposed annual quota on overseas adoptions is drawing
complaints from potential foster parents as they have to wait for as
long as one year even after which child they will adopt has been
During the wait, the children are raised by institutes or parents
designated by adoption agencies until a new quota is created. The
Ministry of Health and Welfare introduced the quota in 2007 as part of
efforts to encourage domestic adoption and reduce the number of
children adopted overseas.
Experts say the quota only puts more orphans on the waiting list and
causes other negative side-effects, while having no substantial effect
on boosting domestic adoption.
Local adoption agencies also argue that the quota deprives orphans of
chances of finding new homes at an early age.
“What is actually happening now is that adoptive parents in other
countries have to wait longer, up to almost a year, to adopt a child.
The quota has simply increased the number of children on the adoption
list,” said Hong Mi-kyung, official from Holt Children’s Services. “As
children waiting for adoption grow older, adoptive parents and
children experience more difficulties. ”
She suggested that if the government maintains the adoption quota, it
should exclude adoptions by Koreans living in other countries.
“I think the quota needs to be lifted for at least Koreans living
abroad,” she said.
According to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs
(KIHSA), the adoption rate decreased to 27.5 percent in 2008 from 44.5
percent in 2000, with only 2,556 orphans out of 9,284 finding new
homes. “The quota hurt the adoption rate, while the domestic adoption
rate growth stagnated,” a KIHSA official said.
A Korean housewife living in the U.S., who has been waiting to adopt
through a local agency, said abandoned children should be adopted as
quickly as possible to help heal their “trauma” and better adjust to a
“A baby has been chosen for us to adopt, but an adoption agency said
but we have to wait for a year just because the overseas quota is full
this year. Does that make sense?” she said.
But the health ministry said adoption agencies should not accept
applications from adoptive parents overseas when the quota is full to
make it work in positive and desired ways.
The ministry also admitted that the quota led to the decrease of the
adoption rate in general, but it is more important to find children a
new home in their own country.
“The underlying issue is we believe babies should be preferably raised
in their mother country,” said Lee Kyung-eun, an official from the
health ministry. “We also think it is a transition period to increase
domestic and reduce international adoptions, and it is consequently
producing undesirable results. But we will try our best to increase
the overall adoption rate and help children find new homes here.”
Celebrating Adoption Day, which falls on May 11, the ministry is
running a campaign to encourage Korean families to adopt a child and
plans to come up with more supportive measures.
The nation had a notorious reputation as an “orphan exporter” as
thousands of abandoned children here were adopted by foreigners,
mostly Americans and Europeans. From 1953 through 2006, a total of
160,242 children were adopted overseas.
To rectify the situation authorities have reduced the quota for
overseas adoptions by 10 percent every year and offered incentives to
domestic adoptive parents such as exemption of adoption commission and
subsidized childcare fees.
Statically, the measures have worked out well.
The number of domestic adoptions surpassed that of overseas adoptions
for the first time in 2007, recording 1,388 and 1,264 respectively.
Meanwhile, the number of domestic adoptions has shown no marked change
— 1,462 in 2010, 1,314 in 2009, and 1,306 in 2008.