Thirty years ago, I was adopted from South Korea through the Kentucky United Methodist Children's Homes (KyUMH) adoption program in Owensboro, Kentucky. My older brother Andrew was also adopted from South Korea through a different adoption agency two years prior. We grew up in a unique situation we were children from different families in Korea, brought together by adoption, who grew up in a loving and supportive new family. Our parents celebrated our adoptions, and they answered any questions we had about our adoptive histories and heritage.
Andrew and I never once thought that we were different from our parents because they raised us as a family. Just because we knew we were adopted did not change the fact that our mom was our mom and our dad was our dad. We may not look like our adoptive parents, but we definitely inherited their personalities. Andrew is outgoing and a social butterfly just like our mom. I'm more reserved and introverted like our dad.
However, that does not mean we never experienced any negativity about our adoptions. Throughout our childhood, we frequently encountered hurtful comments and were treated unfairly in public. I distinctly recall an incident at a small-town restaurant where the server refused to serve our table because we were "yellow." Growing up, my friends were able to look at pictures of their parents and figure out who they looked like. My brother and I always joked that we looked like each other. These types of experiences can make you feel alone, especially growing up in a predominately Caucasian population. However, we relied on our parents and on each other. We never felt alone in our negative experiences, but instead were encouraged to celebrate our heritage and empathize with others who may be experiencing the same types of situations.
Our mom worked hard to build a community with other adoptive families. She began working for KyUMH shortly after my adoption, where she was employed for almost 20 years. I grew up watching my mom work with numerous people to connect children with their forever homes. Through KyUMH, we connected with other adopted Korean children at the annual KyUMH adoption picnic and the local multicultural fair. My mom collected all kinds of informational and folklore resources. We learned as much about Korean culture as we could.
The relationships we've made through KyUMH are timeless. I strongly recommend that adoptive parents connect with each other and build relationships, not only for their children, but for themselves. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to watch your child experience discrimination and prejudice. My mom was so helpful to other families by sharing her experiences, and I pray that other families can continue finding this type of support through KyUMH.