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Creating Our Family Through Korean Adoption

Family Adoption Stories Korea South

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  Written by Scott and Leah on 21 Oct 2014

The aroma of warm cinnamon enveloped us as we approached the corner. The ho ddeok vendor looked up from her work as we approached. Taking in our family, myself and my wife Leah very obviously Western, and our four children, perhaps even more obviously Korean, she grinned brightly greeting us “Annyeonghaseyo!”. Always having room for the soft and sweet treat I stopped and indicated that I would like to purchase two, please. Acknowledging my order and taking the W2,000 I offered she quickly wrapped six ho ddeok in paper and placed them in a bag. Handing me the parcel while smiling at my confusion, she looked to our children then back to me and simply said “Yeoseot”, six.

Her simple action had clearly defined what words have so difficult a time conveying. The “I” that had been me had become “We”. I have Korean children, they are a part of my family, but they are also a part of Korea. This connectedness on so many different levels, this jeong, is something I will never truly know, but it is palpable when I spend time in Korea. Our first exposure to this aspect of Korean culture was when we traveled to Seoul in February of 2003 to adopt our first child, Jacob.

While I was still in university Leah and I decided to begin our family through international adoption. Unsure where to begin we trusted in God to make His will known and started with a program from China. Proceeding diligently we were surprised when that proved unavailable to us. Moving to a Cambodia program didn't last long as it soon closed. We were then directed to Americans for International Aid and Adoption and their Korean program through Social Welfare Services. Through them we discovered Korea's wonderful foster care system and modern healthcare for orphans. As we moved through the process and learned more of Korea's history and culture we became excited not only for our new child, but for the chance to become connected to this unique country.106

Jacob was seven months old when we traveled to Seoul to welcome him into our family. The process from application to travel took only nine months. We met him in his foster family's apartment while he was napping on the yo. During our visit it was abundantly clear the amount of love his foster mother had for him. Along with the support the social worker gave to both child and foster mother it was perhaps our first look at the commitment to each other, the jeong, we would witness so often over the next twelve years in our relationship with Korea. Described as observant, intelligent, and sensitive by his foster mother, Jacob has proven true to all those things as he has grown into an alarmingly tall twelve year old! From his exceptional abilities in school to his dedication to achieving his black belt in Taekwondo, Jacob has proven his foster mother correct. We have been blessed to meet with her each of the four trips we have taken to Korea. Jacob was with us in the Spring of 2014 to visit her for the first time since 2003. The love on her face and the lightness of heart upon seeing Jacob were proof of the very real connection she has maintained with him for these many years. In their embrace there was a validation of the quiet, diligent work she has done for so many children. And at her departure there was a regeneration of spirit to continue the work for many more years in the hope for more of her beloved foster sons and daughters to find families and perhaps, one day long from now, return so that she might embrace them again.

Having completed our first adoption through Korea and getting our first taste (often literally!) of the culture, we knew that Korea was now intertwined with our family and that God allowing we would welcome many more children from that country.

Our daughter Lily was born in 2005. You might think it impossible for a child through adoption to be a surprise, but in fact she very much was! We had not indicated a gender when completing our paperwork, but made an assumption that our second child would likely be a boy. When Leah called me in happy tears to tell of our surprising referral I was stunned by God's goodness to give us such a beautiful daughter. The time between our paperwork being submitted and our travel was 15 months. I had graduated university and we had moved to a different state by the time of our second adoption. In doing so our future adoptions would now be going through a new agency WACAP and Holt Korea. In September of 2005 we happily boarded a flight for Seoul. This second trip to Seoul in the warmer weather allowed us to experience a broader geographical area as we toured surrounding sites such as the Korean Folk Village and Namsan Tower. Many of our days ended with Leah and I some distance from our hotel with smiles on our faces as we anticipated our meandering path back home for the night. The joy of seeing what is around each corner, feeling safe in a country that has respect for each other, and, again, the overwhelming sense of community, made our exploration delightful.

Lily was a truly special child to her foster mother. The photos and gifts show the heart of a woman that had bonded with this girl very deeply. She told us of Lily's very shy personality, of her delicate ways, and her special love for her foster mother. And as with Jacob's foster mother, she was right. Lily has been Leah's special gift from the moment they met in Korea. We have been so happy to see Lily blossom like her namesake into a beautiful and vibrant girl. She has danced competitively for years working with a smile many hours a week and also manages to excel at school and her relationships with brothers, sister, and friends. More than any of our children that traveled with us for two months in South Korea she embraced Seoul. She ran to new experiences, loved being in the crowds, and wouldn't dare blink for fear of missing something. Perhaps she most closely felt jeong as given to her from her foster family? My wife and I were in constant admiration of her spirit.

Allowing for God's provision we had room for our family to grow and began the process with WACAP and Holt Korea for a third child. Over the next two years we awaited the opportunity to travel for a third time to Korea and were filled with joy at the announcement of our second son, Nathan. In October of 2008 we were introduced to the strongest nine month old in the country! Nathan could nearly walk and already loved physical play. His foster mother had taken a child that had some feeding difficulties as a newborn and loved him into a healthy and handsome boy. She was fiercely proud of his robustness and wanted the very best for him. When we returned in 2014 and Nathan was able to meet his foster mother again her initial reaction was disbelief. She was looking for a much smaller child, not expecting this tall, strong six year-old in front of her to be the baby it seemed she had so recently held in her arms. As she hugged him tears began streaming down her face when her hand caressed his head and she felt the very distinctive pattern as it grew along his neckline. A lock of hair she must have brushed, touched, and looked upon many times revealed more than words that the child she had given so much love to was once again in her arms. Nathan has continued with his athletic and personable ways. Not only is he performing well in his taekwondo classes, but his ability to welcome others into his life and make everyone smile allowed him to act as ambassador for our family while traveling.

Gaining greater awareness of God's plan for our family we felt encouraged to begin the program for a fourth child. By this time many changes had occurred regarding adoption in Korea. As with all change that happens on a governmental scale it is wise to have patience and trust in the power of God over our own. That being said, it was difficult to wait more than three years and have so much uncertainty as the new rules became more clear for all parties involved. Happily, now that all is said and done, I can honestly say that I would do it again without hesitation. Our fourth child is a daughter born in October of 2011. Sophie had the privilege of spending two and a half years in South Korea. She learned the language, the food, the community, and the deep love of her foster family. More than any of our other children she learned jeong.052

As parents we had been to Korea three times. While this gave us insights into what the first years of her life were like, it was unlikely to make us adequate in her eyes! And that was truly the difference. Our other three children had been infants, but she was a toddler and she most definitely had opinions. The relationship between Sophie and her foster mother was a powerful thing. But more importantly was the desire that her foster mother had to help Sophie become a part of her new family...our family. Sophie has been home with us for an amazing one hundred days. Her grasp of English is very close to what I would expect from a child raised in the United States of America. She has bonded with extended family, enjoys playing in the backyard, has a great appetite and without any doubt she loves us.

We spent two months in Anyang, a city about 25 minutes from Seoul, and used every opportunity to learn more about our new daughter and her culture. As a family we traveled to markets, parks, mountains, shops, and museums. We learned words and cooking styles. When we had meetings with Sophie we spent every moment observing her, playing with her, eating with her. What we did was spend two months becoming connected to Korea. And I realized that we weren't taking her from somewhere, we were just making that “somewhere” bigger. That this connection we have with Korea is not ending. Because this connection has not happened from a taking, but from a giving. The giving of time and the perseverance of the Holt workers, the giving of love and tears from the foster families, and ultimately the giving sacrifice of the birth mothers thinking wholly of their sons and daughters above themselves. Even when considering the differences in cultures and the distances involved it seems that the very nature of our adoptive families, the sacrifices, the commitments made, the decisions acted upon, perhaps these are the things that give us our sense of home with Korea. Maybe in some small way it is what gives us jeong.

You can read the blog and watch the videos of our two months in South Korea at




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