Part Four: Pearl S. Buck
Buck with a Welcome House child, late 1960s
Because of Buck’s popularity, her article criticizing agency social workers, sectarian institutions, and the reigning matching paradigm attracted a great deal of attention, including a letter of protest from Joseph Reid, the Executive Director of the Child Welfare League of America.
Two babies came [to me] from adoption agencies, where they were considered unadoptable because it was difficult to find adoptive parents to “match” them. I was sure that there must be good families, matching or not, who could love these babies and indeed there were. . . .
Yet I continue acutely and constantly aware of the thousands of children waiting. . . . These are the citizens of my new world, the children without parents and the parents without children, pressing eagerly toward each other, and yet unable to reach each other. A barrier stands between, a high wall, and in the middle of the wall is a narrow gate, kept locked until a social agency unlocks it a little way and lets one child through at a time. . . .
Nobody knows truthfully how many children are in our orphanages. There are many kinds of orphanages but the largest number belong to religious groups. It was once necessary, I do not doubt, for religious orders to care for orphans, but certainly that day is past. Parents are waiting to adopt them. True, it would be very difficult to close these orphanages, not because of the children but because of vested interests. . . .
The rights of natural parents over children must be defined. Children are not property, but they are considered so under our laws. . . . There is no magic in blood relationship when parents alienate their children by neglect or desertion. Yet under our laws and our customs blood still takes precedence, blood instead of the reality of love. . . . The human qualities of love and understanding and acceptance alone should decide the fate of a child rather than race and religion.
Where all else is equal, of course similarity in race and religion is good but human destiny should not be based on these two elements. . . . I venture to say, were the dead hands of neglectful relatives removed, were the divisive and possessive jealousies of religious groups replaced by the spirit of true religion. . .that nearly all children, at least up to the age of 12, would be easily adoptable. No, when I think of teen-age boys and girls I see children still hungry for home and parents and I withdraw the age limitation.
And how. . .could we ever get so many children adopted when our social agencies cannot cope with what we have? I submit a controversial answer. It could be done if the red tape of adoption procedures were eliminated and only essentials kept. There are, I am sure, sincere and unselfish social workers and religious persons in the field of child welfare and adoption who honestly believe that they are doing the best that can be done, unaware that they themselves are the hindrances because they are faithful to red tape and encrusted in tradition. . . .
There is a surplus of children but the parents who are waiting are prevented from adopting them. . . . Let no small arguments be raised here. It is idle to retort, for example, that adoptive parents usually want a perfect child, that most children are not perfect, and so on. They can be helped to want a handicapped children, a child of mixed origin, or any child at all. . . . We can tear down the walls that keep them prisoners of red tape, prejudice and religious division. . . . We can refuse to accept the excuse that there are not enough children to satisfy adoptive parents.
Source: Pearl S. Buck, “The Children Waiting: The Shocking Scandal of Adoption,” Woman's Home Companion, September 1955, 33, 129-132.
The Korean War Baby comments:
Well, knock me over with a forklift, seems that this woman might have influenced Harry Holt a bit. We will have to consult Molly Holt on this, did Pearl influence Harry or the other way around. Some have mocked the “Christian ideology that inspired Holt” to start the Holt Adoption Program and go against Social Welfare standards in the USA against adopting what is known today as “TransRacial Adoption.”
Some have put the blame on Harry Holt for TransRacial Adoptions becoming the norm. It is true that Harry Holt received TV and Newspaper massive coverage that seemed to give him most of the credit. However, there were many other organizations in Korea before Harry Holt came in 1955 to adopt eight Korean Orphans. In “Seed from the East” Bertha Holt tells how Harry was given credit for bringing a group from Child Placement Agency, a quasi-government organization that later became privatized as Social Welfare Society (SWS) in 1970.
CPA actually helped process the Holt’s first group of 12, that left on May 21, 1956 but spent until the 11th of June in Toyko, Japan because of chicken pox quarantine.
Departure May 21,1956 (on left side) Admitted Jun 11, 1956 in Honolulu, T. H. (Territory of Hawaii)
From the Korean War Baby’s Passport, I was Holt Adoptee #A-20, Jun Yong Soo, soon to become Donald Gordon BELL.
Harry Holt has been ‘demonized’ by a few who do not quite understand the WHOLE history of those times. Holt became the scourge of some who are seemingly completely against TransRacial Adoptions.
Not Angry Adoptees vs. Happy Adoptees
We must stop comparing Angry vs. Happy Adoptees. We are all victims of life and suffer abandonment, separation, attachment difficulty, personal problems of lack of trust, etc. It is NOT US and THEM.
Those who had ‘bad experiences’ in adoption are not all “angry adoptees”, something that the Korean War Baby has learned personally, because he joined groups such as ASK (Adoptee’s Solidarity Korea) and TRACK (Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea). He found ASK and TRACK adoptees and Koreans as honest, diligent, sincere people. Hey, they were NOT even Angry, well most of them, but even the ones who are angry have SO much to be angry about, it is from the roots of deep sorrow, pain, wounding of their spirit.
Some have had huge problems seeking answers and getting complete files from Adoption Agencies. These are issues that are being addressed by improving the Post-Adoption Services. Western minds understanding the Korean ways of doing and thinking can often clash.
The Korean War Baby found ASK and TRACK members seeking answers on a wide range of issues that he also agreed with to certain degrees. Such as helping prevent pregnancy, increasing support from the Korean government for Unwed Mothers, promoting Domestic adoptions in Korea.
In seeking truth and viewpoints from all, we must know what each other believes. There is much common ground that we can all stand on and accept on putting the welfare of the child first. I believe that only small issues exist where disagreement may compel us all to seek better answers and possible compromise.
Again, the Korean War Baby feels that as long as children are born and given up by mothers willingly, they should be then adopted by if possible ethnic Koreans, both domestic or living abroad Koreans, then part Koreans, then Korean Adoptees, then by families of “other ethnicity”. Whew! There is a pyramid or tower of order of what is “idea” to the next best thing. That is life, yes?
Mothers must NOT be not pushed, tricked, coerced in any way, etc. The Hague Convention should and must be signed by Korea and strictly enforced. By working together, perhaps fewer children will be parentless, fatherless, abandoned by divorce (OH, there is another huge problem here in Korea in the recent years). The world is not perfect but we can work to improve it. Can anyone disagree with that?