Making It Work

I am sharing my story in order to raise awareness and get to know other adoptees.

I was born in Seoul, South Korea where I lived with a foster family for the first few months of my life.

I then grew up in Pennsylvania with my adoptive family.

I was adopted at five months old.

I still daydream about searching for and finding my biological mother, but haven’t made any steps toward that just yet.

When I was younger, kids used to make fun of my features. Their jokes made me feel out of place and made it challenging to feel like I fit in anywhere.

I used to compare myself to celebrities, such as Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston, and get so frustrated that I couldn’t morph myself into the “ideal” Caucasian build.

I have been trying to overcome some of these challenges by connecting with other adoptees, joining Facebook groups, getting involved with projects to raise awareness of adoption-related issues.

I've always felt that there is more to it than, "You're so lucky to have been adopted, you could have had a terrible life."

The first few years with my adoptive family were a bit rocky.

My parents divorced, and I lived with my grandparents for a few months so my mom could figure out important stuff like where we’d live. Eventually, things got better, and I have a great stepdad.  I also have developed a strong relationship with my first adoptive dad.

This is the life I have always known, but I often wonder what life in Seoul would have been like.  Would it have been as terrible as people say it would have been, growing up as a child to a young, unwed biological mother?

I went to college at Penn State, lived at home after graduation for about a year and then moved out so I could get a cat.  I chose to stay nearby my adoptive family.  We are a close family so I bought a house in the same town about 10 years ago where I live with my husband and two cats.

I am really proud of graduating from Penn State, having a good work ethic and not totally messing up this whole adulting thing.

I have ups and downs, but so does everybody else.

Just making it work, and working on myself is something to be proud of.

Prior to being adopted, I wish someone had captured a photo of my biological mother for me to have so I could actually know who I look like.

As far as plans for the future, in ten years I want to be a Licensed Professional Counselor working with children and adolescent adoptees and their families, specializing in overcoming adoption trauma, attachment problems and helping adoptees overcome those issues.

The Unknown

I am sharing my story because there is no single adoption narrative. All of our stories are different.

I was born in Seoul, South Korea.

At five months old, I was adopted.

At the time, I did not have a choice whether I wanted to be adopted or not.

I often think about what my "alternate life" would have been if I stayed in Korea.

In the U.S., my family primarily consisted of my parents and myself.

After a few years of city life, we moved to the woods of rural Connecticut, where I became more familiar with chopping wood and wildlife than concrete and culture.

I was happy.

I didn't think much about my surroundings or the relative racial isolation.

My adoptive mom was from Taiwan, so I was exposed to a bit of Chinese culture growing up. I tried hard to attach myself to it, maybe an unconscious longing to be a part of something.

Once I got adopted, there were multiple challenges I had to overcome, including loneliness.

There's a difference between being the only child and a lonely child. I don't think having a sibling would have solved my loneliness. I still feel pangs of loneliness as an adult; even though I'm surrounded by people who want to spend time with me. I feel conflicted between wanting to spend time with people, even when it's emotionally draining and pushing everybody away.

Over the years my perspective of adoption has changed from being grateful that I was adopted to a more critical view of the system and the inadvertent erasure of culture that can happen despite people's best efforts. 

Everything changed once I got adopted. It's hard to explain to others what being transplanted feels like when you can barely describe the soil you came from. The contrast between Korea and the U.S. is vast.

I am proud that I followed my intuition.

I've always been a strong-minded, stubborn person.

I pursued a degree and a career path that not only fulfills me, but also makes me happy.

I was once asked, “What is currently holding you back?”

I answered, “My self-esteem will always be my greatest enemy.”

Survivors

I am sharing my story because it may be able to help others who are also in the process of healing or discovery.

As orphans and as adoptees, we are particularly at the mercy of fate.

But, we are also survivors.

Being abandoned at about the age of one in the back of a truck parked next to Kwong Wah Hospital in Hong Kong, without any form of identification, both my place and date of birth can only be guessed.

I was later placed at Po Leung Kuk and lived there for almost five years before being adopted and flown to the other side of the globe.

In retrospect, it seemed almost as if us adoptees were just goods being shipped. Even at the age of six, I didn't know what the heck was actually going on.

I didn't really know the reality of the nonbiological relationship that I was going to have with this couple I was calling, 'Dad' and 'Mom'.

They were working class folks who immigrated to Vancouver, Canada during the 70s. They couldn't have children of their own, so they chose to adopt. They were honest and hard-working people although they were somewhat traditional and conservative. They did what they thought was best for me. But, they were also strict and always played the safety card.

This had an everlasting impact on me growing up because I was always struggling to obey my parents while just being myself.

My personality was one of openness to ideas and possibilities.

My approaches typically challenged what was presented to me, as I would often seek possible alternatives.

At the time, I also had nobody to talk to. As such, I felt very alone and I have often felt at fault.

As an adult though, a more mature mentality dictated that I should be thankful to have been adopted. Canada is big, the air is fresh, the water is clean, and I’ve obtained a university-level education.

All this would have been quite a contrast to the life at the orphanage. I was too young to have any lasting negative effects from the orphanage, and my memories of life there were generally of childhood innocence and joy.

Nonetheless, the battles inside my head have raged for most of my life, as I often run into situations that tell me how I could have done better if my parents had raised me in a way that was better for me as opposed to what they thought was better for me.

It is only in the past couple of years when two things happened that I was beginning to feel like I no longer need to be burdened by blame or guilt: 1) I had found my passion in life and discovered something truly worthy of my energy, and 2) my parents were ageing and I wanted to do what I can as a son.

Secret

It took me 55 years to find out where I was from.

I first heard it from my mother, a few days before she passed away.

At the time, I did not fully understand what I was being told nor wanted to believe such information.

It happened again in 2015, this time it was my father telling me that I was from Greece, not Romania.

I wish I knew the truth since day one.

I was born in Arkadia, Greece.

Based on what I’ve been told, I was brought up in a caring and loving family; however, a few months after my birth things changed and I was given up for adoption.

It was difficult being separated from my birth parents. I loved them.

When I was one year old, a family from the United Kingdom adopted me.

At the time, I did not have a choice of whether or not I wanted to be adopted.

Since being adopted, I’ve overcome multiple challenges. I was mischievous, unsettling and difficult to deal with. 

I still struggle with fitting in at times.

I am sharing my story because it may help others who are experiencing similar issues.

I Chose To Be Happy

Life is not all rainbows and butterflies.

I’m sharing my story because I want other adoptees to know that they’re never alone.

I was born in South Korea.

Based on what I’ve been told, my family was middle class. Our community was primarily made up of farmers.

I entered the orphanage at three months old. It was difficult living there, I am glad I got out early.

At five months old, a family from the United States adopted me.

Fitting into a new family was difficult. My mother battled severe depression and my father had problems of his own. At first, we were far from being a close-knit family.

Recently, I’ve been trying to reconnect with my roots; however, my birth mother passed away when I was 19 and my father is nowhere to be found.

I wish I knew more about my past.

Since being adopted, I’ve had to overcome multiple obstacles, including the feeling of being alone, not knowing my purpose in life, multiple cases of sexual abuse and racism.

Despite all of the obstacles, I’ve been able to find happiness. I got involved in activities including running, drawing and creating close networks of friends.

I am happy to be on American soil.

I'm proud of my roots and heritage.

This is my story and nobody can take that away from me.

Unanswered Questions

Most days, I am terrified of finding answers.

Last week, my mom and I stumbled upon a box of home videos, and we decided to watch the one labeled, “Kira’s Homecoming” just for fun. The VHS (ancient, I know) opened to a shaky film of an airport. Overhead, my grandma narrated that they were anxiously waiting at the airport to meet me, their new granddaughter. My grandpa filmed every single person stepping off the plane, and I find it endearing that he kept his camera cued for almost fifteen minutes, recording stranger after stranger, so he wouldn’t miss me.

When my parents and I finally arrived, everyone was beaming. My parents excitedly recounted their journey to China. My grandparents cradled me in their arms for the first time. I released a strange little baby laugh, and then I’d chew something that wasn’t supposed to be chewed (usually my grandma’s fingers).

It is difficult to explain that twenty years later, I feel the pure joy radiating from an old VHS tape. 

It is difficult to know, in the back of my mind, that my birth parents suffered unimaginably for the exact reason that my family was rejoicing.

I was adopted from Zhongshan, China, but my birth parents had held onto me for several months before leaving me on a public walkway near a bridge. I was taken to a hospital before being brought to a crowded orphanage. There was more than one baby per crib. 

Most days, I am terrified of finding answers. I would rather live in ignorance than learn that my birth parents had wanted to keep me, but when I got sick, they couldn’t.

I don’t like to think about the gut-wrenching moment that a woman knew she was looking into her baby’s eyes one last time.

She had to leave her baby for a stranger to find and then walk away. The government didn’t give these women a choice.

Some days, I wonder if she thinks about me.

The life I have in the United States is the only life I have ever known. Sometimes, I feel guilty for not honoring my birth mother’s sacrifice in some way. Most times, though, digging up my past seems scary, depressing, and unproductive.

Should I search for my birth parents? Would they even be happy to see me if I did? Are they dead? Should I even return to China for myself? Should I spend more time learning Mandarin?  Am I losing touch with my cultural roots? If I was, does it even matter?

There are times when I plague myself with questions, hoping that the “right” way to handle this will hit me. I worry that one day, I will resolve to find the answers, and I won’t be prepared for what I discover.

Even as an adoption activist who has delivered numerous speeches, I still face uncertainty in my identity. I am a happy, well-adjusted person, and I acknowledge my privilege in many areas of my life. Thousands of adoptees have suffered greater than I, and we each have thousands of unanswered questions.

When I speak about adoption, only one statement remains true in each speech: the past does not define you. Regardless of how many days it haunts you.

For now, the past that I cherish is the one that lies in my VHS home videos. In videos of my parents feeding me my first piece of cake, of my siblings running around in the snow, and of my first Chinese dance performance. There are mysteries in my history, and I will face one at a time, as I am ready.

Most days, I am terrified of finding answers about my past.

Every day, I am blessed to have a family who is my future, and I would not change a thing.

Stay Strong

Sharing my story is important because every story is different. There is always someone out there who may be going through the same exact experience as I am.

I was born in Guangzhou, China.

At 14 months old, a family from Texas adopted me. I’ve lived there ever since.

Based on what I’ve been told, my mom's family was all missionaries and my dad’s side; they were all immigrants from Germany.

Prior to being adopted, I was in an orphanage. I don't have many memories of being there; however, I do remember being sick a lot, primarily because I wasn’t getting enough love, or being held.

Since the time I was adopted, I have been able to attend multiple adoption-related camps and meet other people who are going through the same exact issues.

I cherish moments like those.

Since being adopted, I had to overcome multiple challenges, including identity issues, separation issues, abandonment issues, anxiety, and inability to trust people. I was scared that if I got too close, people would realize the real me and abandon me again.

I hope that one day I will get over most of my challenges.

I will always stand up for others in similar situations. I know what it’s like to be alone.

I Am Not Alone

Shanghai is one of the most prosperous cities in the world. It has nearly 24.5 million people, with each person having his or her own unique story.

One of those stories is mine.

My story begins not when I was born, but when I was found abandoned in downtown Shanghai.

I was just a few weeks old when I lost my family and identity.

For me, being adopted has always been difficult.

I was an only child within my family.

I grew up among mostly retired people and had little exposure to children near by. 

I also had very little exposure to other people of color and Chinese people.

During my childhood years, I’ve experienced a lot of prejudice and ignorance due to my ethnicity. People used to ask me why I was with an all white family. Others were shocked when I introduced them to my parents. 

In high school, students complimented me on my English. I was constantly being asked why I didn’t have an accent.

Guides at museums or heritage sites would hand me Chinese guidebooks without even asking me.

On certain occasions, strangers used to stop by and shout, “Ni, Hao” in my face, even after I told them to go away. 

These events led me to believe that even as a child, I was always seen as an outsider.

For me, being Chinese symbolized being different and not fitting in.

The positive aspects, including culture, family, language, traditions, community, and food were all lost.

I didn’t have access or the means to keep these connections in rural England.

It took me a long time to come to terms with these thoughts and emotions. It was only then that I realized the greater impact I could have as an adult.

However, coming to terms with some of these thoughts and emotions was a struggle of its own. I struggled with feelings of neglect.

I struggled to find a sense of community or belonging.

A few weeks after I was born, I was placed in an orphanage in Shanghai. I remained there until I was adopted at nine months old. 

I do not know much regarding my time at the orphanage. I can only refer to photos and videos of when my parents went to visit, nine months after I was born.

I used to fantasize as a child that I was the undiscovered leader of some great Kung Fu clan, or the last heir to an important business that needed saving (Hollywood movies really had me). However, it has dawned on me now that this fantasy is the closest I’ll get to knowing the truth.

I have now come to realize that it is not necessary to fit into a molding.

I may never be able to completely fit into the rural British culture, nor can I relate to the British-Chinese culture.

But, it does not mean that I am alone. I am still a whole person, despite the missing information in my past.

Despite all of the challenges, I am still part of communities and can share my experiences with people.

I am still figuring out what it means to be a Chinese adoptee and Chinese, I am content in knowing that I am just happy to be myself.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to find different communities of other adoptees.

Speaking with others has helped me quite a bit; as they can relate to my feelings.

In 2016, I decided to share my story publicly.

I’ve started a YouTube channel, “The Here and Nao” to document my journey and speak up about adoptee related issues.

The objective is to show the real adoptee experience, and not the Hollywood dream that we are constantly being told.

My goal for the channel is to reach others in similar situations.

I want them to know that they’re never alone.

I want to reach parents, so that they can understand what their kids might be going through.

I want to shed light on issues adoptees face from day to day.

The response so far has been amazing and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive questions, comments, support, and praise from people around the world. It seems that the issues raised by adoption have affected many. I even had one of my videos go semi viral on Weibo for one weekend and interviews from Resonate Voices. Resonate pinned me as one of the inspirational women that they interviewed in 2016. 

I am committed to my project and helping others in the same situations as me. I want to change perceptions of adoption as this perfect image and show how the real situation can be; raw, emotional and as always a journey.

You Are Not Defined By Your Past 

I am sharing my story because I want to erase the stigma adoption has and encourage people who can't have children of their own.

No child should be left behind.

I was born in Perm, Russia.

My family history still remains a mystery; however, I am trying to change that.

I was sent to an orphanage at the age of two. I don’t remember much of my time there.

At the age of three, a wonderful family adopted me.

Despite having wonderful adoptive parents, I am still interested in finding my birth parents.

I would like to ask them the same question I have been asking myself for years.

“Why did they give me away?”

To date, I have been able to overcome that fear of abandonment.

I no longer feel alone.

I am sharing my story because I want others to not be ashamed of their past.

We are not defined by our past.

After I was adopted, my perspective on life changed. Some say that life happens for a reason and even though I may not fully understand my story yet, I am much stronger now.

I am proud of how far I have come.

Developing Your Inner Strength

I am sharing my story because what does not kill us makes us stronger.

I was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

At the age of three, an American family adopted me. I am very blessed to be raised by an amazing family.

Prior to being adopted, I lived in an orphanage; however, I do not remember much of my time there since I was so young.

Based on what I’ve been told, my birth mother refused to take care of me. Then, I was immediately placed into a baby home.

Once again, I don’t remember any exact memories of living in the orphanage, but based on what I’ve been told, I had toys and other kids to play with. The only real problem was the lack of food.

My worst memory prior to being adopted is not knowing my birth mother. I have a lot of unanswered questions regarding her and the type of person she was.

On the other hand, my best memories after being adopted are those spent with my family. I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to obtain a quality education and create a close network of friends.

Today, I am still trying to overcome multiple challenges in life, including not knowing my birth mother.

I am also constantly battling anxiety. It has been very difficult to deal with, but I know that I will get through it one day.

I am proud of the fact that I come from a different country.

Unexpected Challenges

I’m sharing my story because I want other to know that no matter how difficult your life may be, there is always someone else who has it worse.

I was born in Fountain Valley, California.

My childhood years were very different from what most children experience. I had to grow up quickly.

At the time, my father was a marine and my mother was a stay at home mom.

I also had an older sister.

Things were normal until my dad started drinking.

It was sad seeing my family fall apart.

I used to cry, hoping that things would change.

My father did not like to see me cry. In fact, whenever I cried in front of him, I would always end up with a broken bone.

I remember being taken to the hospital with 22 broken bones and fractures scattered throughout my body.

At 11 months old, I was placed in foster care and I got shuffled through the system because I was in a full body cast and nobody wanted a baby in a cast from neck down. 

A few days before my fourth birthday, I was finally adopted.

However, a short time later, the couple got a divorce.

My foster dad disappeared. Supposedly, he ran off with another woman. My foster mom started drinking. I still have memories of her drinking a 12 pack per day.

Every day, she would verbally abuse me.

There were multiple challenges I had to overcome since being adopted, including understanding who I was.

At 17 years old, I was kicked out of her house.

I haven't looked back since.

Now, I live with my biological family.

I'm proud of my thick skin. I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years.

Overcoming Adversity

I am sharing my story because I want other adoptees to know that no matter how difficult a relationship is with your adoptive parents, they did want you, even if, they have a hard time showing it.

I was born in Dzerzhinsk, Russia.

In April 1996, a family from the U.S adopted me. I was only thirteen months old when I left everything behind.

Prior to being adopted, I was in an orphanage. Based on what I have been told, I entered the orphanage at six days old and remained there until my adoption.

I’ve also been told that my birth mother used to come to the orphanage; however, she only did that until I was six weeks old. I wish I knew more about her.

Living in an orphanage was difficult. Every day you would hear babies crying. In fact, that is all you ever heard.

Today, I deal with multiple challenges since being adopted.

I have a hard time accepting certain holidays including Mother's and Father's Day.

I am very fortunate to have two mothers and two fathers.

Once I was adopted, everything changed.

For the first ten years, I’ve been the only child. In the spring of 2006, my adoptive parents brought home another child. She was adopted from China.

I was excited.

As a family, we began to incorporate the Chinese culture into our lives. We spent each Chinese New Year at festivals, took Mandarin lessons, and much more.

I wish we did similar things to celebrate where I was from.

After a few years, things took a different turn. My adoptive parents started telling me that they wished they had brought home another girl instead of me.

It felt as if my closest support group had disappeared.

Over the years, I’ve dealt with multiple problems including anxiety, depression, and mood disorder.

In high school, I was continuously criticized to the point of harming myself.

I could not understand why someone who wanted me so badly would treat me with such hatred.

It was hard to find who I truly was.

Today, I am proud of the life I have created and the relationships I have built.

I'm proud that I am much more than what others thought I would be.

Never Give Up

You are never alone. Life is full of hope. Never give up.

I was born in Bryansk, Russia.

I was adopted a week before my eighthh birthday.

Prior to my adoption, I lived in a family that loved me, but absolutely hated each other. The household was made up entirely of women. I loved it.

However, things took a different turn when both of my parents passed away. I was three years old. It was hard.

Under the given circumstances, I was forced to live in an orphanage. It was difficult living in a place with daily physical and emotional abuse.

I will always remember the day when the caretaker’s son sexually abused me.

Survival was your top priority.

We were always punished. Whether it was for waking up caretakers, going to the bathroom at a “wrong” time or wetting one’s bed.

To make matters even worse, you were never allowed to defend yourself.

The worst memory prior to being adopted was the day my grandmother buried my mother. I loved her.

The best memory prior to being adopted was the time I spent with my grandmother. I still remember the days when we went to the park, baked fresh bread, walked around Bryansk, saw historic sites, but most importantly spent time together.

I never wanted those times to end.

Since being adopted, some of the biggest challenges I had to overcome include learning how to accept a different set of parents.

My adoptive parents were and still are very controlling of my life. It is difficult to live in a household where you are not able to make decisions of your own.

In addition, I had to learn a new language and convert from Orthodoxy to Western Christianity.

I overcame a lot of the challenges by creating a support group of my own. At school, I was able to connect with other adoptees and befriend them. They became my family.

Today, being adopted means an end to a life I was given at birth. I wish I could be with my birth family once again.

Hope is all I have.

Independent

Your past does not determine your future.

I was born in Moscow, Russia.

I was placed in an orphanage, Filatov #13, immediately after my birth and remained there until I was adopted three months later.

At the time, I did not know whether or not I wanted to be adopted.

My adoptive parents were always open about my adoption.

As I recall, my childhood was fun and memorable.

As an adoptee, I never faced many challenges after being adopted. The only challenge I am currently dealing with is finding my birth parents.

I wish I knew more about them.

Being adopted made no difference to me.

It was normal to me.

Recently, I’ve decided to take the next step forward and move in with my significant other.

People ask me, “What is currently holding you back?”

My answer remains the same, “Lack of schooling and my financial position.”

I work on my weaknesses daily.

In the next ten years, I hope to be more independent and have a career I enjoy.

I am proud of the family I was adopted into.

Fighting For Acceptance

I was born in Bulgaria.

Immediately after my birth, I was placed in an orphanage. It was located in the Romani ghetto. I ended up staying there for the first three years of my life.

I have extremely violent memories that haunt me from my time at the orphanage.

Everyday, I have to fight them.

I have neurodevelopment problems that make it hard for me to process my emotions, allow comfort, feel love, trust, and accept social interaction.

I rock back and forth constantly as a way of stimulation.

When I was adopted, there was no mercy. My name was changed to an American name.

I was expected to learn how to fit in within a family and learn a new language.

I went to physical therapy as a child, but it didn't seem to have much of an impact.

Despite all of the challenges, I am blessed that I made it to America.

My adoptive parents don't allow me to speak about my adoption and have "lost" my adoption documents.

They get angry whenever I have negative thoughts/emotions.

I wish more people understood the need to talk about it, but most people don't understand adoption, especially what it is and how it impacts everyone involved.

There is so much pressure to be the perfect child.

I’m sharing my story because adoptive parents need to understand that children must have time to get adjusted.

Don't physically or verbally abuse them if they don't understand certain things.

Be open to speaking with them regarding adoption.

Be patient.

A Blessing And A Challenge

I am sharing my story because I want other people to know that being adopted is a blessing, as well as a challenging journey.

I was born in Pitesti, Romania, a small town near Curtea de Argeș.

Prior to being adopted, I was raised in a predominantly white, upper/middle class family. They were very supportive of me, even though it may have been difficult to do so at times due to my disabilities.

I was placed in an orphanage six months after my birth. It was difficult to live in a place with constant abuse and lack of food.

Fortunately, at the age of two, I was adopted along with my twin brother.

I’m glad we left.

However, the memories will always be with us. The times we were tied to our crib, the constant smell of dead bodies and blood.

I first met my birth parents at the age of four via Facebook. Then, 21 years later, I spoke with them again via Skype.

I still maintain contact with them.

The biggest challenge I had to overcome since being adopted has been coping with my disabilities.

I lost my vision when I was three years old. I have a degenerative cataract in my left eye that can no longer be removed.

In addition, I am very insecure about myself and stubborn.

Despite all of the challenges, I am still proud of the fact that I’ve been adopted.

“We The Lees”

Lee was born in Busan, South Korea.

At four months old, an American family adopted him.

He spent majority of his life in Harrisburg, PA.

After graduating from college in 2007, he started his career working for the government.

At first, he had no interest in learning about the country he was born in or the Korean culture. His family attempted throughout his life to expose him to Korean culture.

However, everything changed when he attended a conference in 2010.

In 2010, Lee attended a Korean adoptees conference in Harrisburg, PA. It opened his eyes to adoption and a desire to learn more about his history.

In 2011, he returned to Korea for the first time since being adopted. Getting a chance to tour Busan, his birth city, along with the entire country was something that he will never forget. For the first time in a long time, he was able to fit in as he walked the streets. 

When he returned home, he developed an interest to learn as much as he could about Korea and desire to expose himself to as much Korean culture as possible.

He joined local adoptee groups and even served on the board of a local Korean organization. This newfound interest in Korean culture eventually led to meeting his wife, also a Korean adoptee, at a conference in New York.

Lee's adoption story is not a unique one. So many Korean adoptee stories fall along the same lines. 

He has never met his birth family or even initiated a search. He feels extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to watch how his wife, Whitney, interacts with her birth family. Seeing this firsthand gives him a desire to search for his own birth family.

He struggles with the fact that doing a search could lead to rejection, and never having what Whitney and her birth family have.

For Lee, just having the opportunity to control if and when he wants to search is enough in comparison to searching and being rejected if his birth family does not want to meet him. 


Whitney was adopted at six months old.

Whitney's adoptive parents have always encouraged her to learn about Korean food, culture, etc. They would often ask if she had any desire to go back to Korea to visit or try to find her birth family.

However, her answer was always, “No.”

After graduating from college in 2009, the US job market was horrendous and Whitney was unable to find any sort of decent employment.

On a whim, she replied to an advertisement and applied to be an English teacher. It just so happened that the position was in Korea, of all places. She flew to the motherland about six months later to start work.

While she was living and working in 천안 Cheonan, South Korea, Whitney’s parents in Ohio started harping on the adoption thing again, “You’re just a couple of hours from 서울 Seoul. Why not go up to the agency and just look at your file?”

By that time, she was sick of hearing about it, so she contacted Holt in order to locate her parents.

In 2010, Whitney’s parents decided to fly to Korea for a visit. She was determined that it would be a good time to get her Holt visit over with.

She scheduled an appointment with the case worker in Seoul.

Whitney and her parents visited Holt Korea PAS together. She learned about her birth family’s history including how mom and dad met, how she had an older brother, how she came to be given up for adoption, etc.

However, it was the last page that had the most shocking information.

Many adoptees’ family records have little to no family information. Whitney’s was basically a genealogy. Full names & government ID numbers for parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

Her social worker at the agency explained that this was a rare case and how it would make a search relatively easy. The word “search” had never come into her consciousness before that instance. She paw-wowed with her parents, who agreed that a search just seemed like the right thing given all of the information that had been handed to them. The door seemed too wide open. Before leaving the office that day, Whitney gave consent to initiate search for her birth family.

One week after that initial search, Whitney sent a recent picture to Ms. Lee at Holt, along with a letter to give to her birth family. The caseworker responded that evening to say that she had translated it and would begin the actual search soon. She said normally it would take about two-three weeks for her to locate the family.

Whitney’s jaw dropped when she considered that she could potentially be meeting them in only one month. Little did she know…

About 48 hours later, on September 30th, Whitney went to her office at work to check messages after lunch. She was surprised when she checked her phone and saw six missed calls and a few text messages from the same unknown number. She called the number and found it was from Holt.

Ms. Lee asked, “Do you have a minute to talk?,” followed immediately by, “I found them.” Whitney stopped breathing. Ms. Lee explained that she had spoken to both Whitney’s birth father and birth mother that morning. They were, not surprisingly, shocked out of their minds. Ms. Lee also told Whitney that she had a 2nd brother…a younger one. She said both brothers were attending a university – the older in Korea, the younger in China. Neither brother had a clue about Whitney’s existence. Her birth mother said that she wanted to meet immediately, but she needed time to explain it to the boys. Ms. Lee asked, “So when can you come?”

After an afternoon of back-and-forth including multiple phone calls, it was decided. We would meet on October 1st…the very next day!

Whitney met 엄마 Omma, 아빠 Appa, and 성배오빠 Seong-bae oppa for the first time in 23 years on Friday, October 1st, 2010.

A lot has happened since that first weekend, which is how our blog, We the Lees, became a reality.

Whitney returned to U.S., met another Holt KAD, and they got married. They keep in regular contact with her birth family and go to visit them in Korea about once every two years. It has been quite the ride.

We hope other KADs will find our journey encouraging and feel a kinship. Most importantly, we want to remind other adoptees that they are never alone in the complex struggles that we each face. If you would like to learn more or connect with us, please visit our website.

You Are All You Have

Being adopted is not an easy life. But, as long as you can trust yourself that you will never give up on yourself, you are one step closer to acceptance, forgiveness and happiness.

You are who you are and you should never be ashamed of it.

I was adopted from Seoul, South Korea at 19 months old.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of challenges since being adopted.

My adoptive parents divorced when I was six years of age.

I felt abandoned, again.

The biggest challenge I had to overcome since being adopted was finding myself.

I still feel as if I never will.

I struggle with abandonment, anxiety, over sharing and keeping everything under control. 

Throughout the years, I have learned to not care what others think of me.

I’ve decided to be more independent and do what I can in order to become the best version of myself.

For those who are in a similar position, always remember to:

1). Keep a positive attitude in life no matter what the circumstances may be

2). Maintain positive relationships with friends and loved ones

I understand what it is like to be different.

I know I have another culture to learn from.

I am proud of the country I was born in.

Accepting The Facts

I was adopted immediately after my birth.

Based on what I’ve been told, my birth mother found my adoptive parents through an adoption agency.

As I recall, my childhood was awesome. I grew up in the lovely Washington, D.C. area.

I still live with my adoptive father. Unfortunately, my adoptive mother passed away.

Realizing that the people who raised me weren't my biological parents was a tough cookie for me to swallow. It was even more challenging to accept the fact that my birth mother never wanted me.

I overcame that by learning that I have two parents who love me and would do anything for me—something my birth mother didn't think she could do.

I'm still learning to cope with the fact that I may never have a relationship with my birth parents.

I have little to no information on them, not even their names.

And yet, I am proud that something like adoption exists.

I think other people should know that adoption is another wonderful option.

Embrace Who You Are

I was born to an unwed mother in Incheon, South Korea.

Born out of wedlock in the 1980's, the realistic outcome of being an unwed mother was very taboo.

My mother lived with her sister during her pregnancy. When I was born, she was unable to see me for reasons unknown to her or myself. Being born with a cleft lip and palate, I was already "different" from birth.

I was given up for adoption due to my birth mother’s inability to financially support me.

I was able to find her couple years ago. She was immensely emotional when we met. She felt guilty for giving up her oldest child.

Today, we have a healthy relationship. We understand that we can't undo the years we have not been together; however, that does not change anything between us. I call her once a month.

In U.S., I grew up in a rural town in northern Indiana. My adoptive family raised me to have integrity, responsibility, and respect.

I was six months when I was adopted and welcomed with open arms by all of my parents' biological children.

My adoption day, also known as A-Day/Arrival Day/Gotcha Day/Airplane Day is January 7th. A date I have tattooed on my leg. A day I will always take time to celebrate.

At the time of my adoption, the local newspaper wrote an article discussing what it meant for our family.

According to the adoption documents, I was in an orphanage, The Social Welfare Society, from the time I was relinquished until I was adopted.

Today, the organization has multiple offices in a lot of major cities in Korea. Their goal is to support unwed mothers, orphans, and children with physical and mental disabilities.

The biggest challenge I had to overcome after being adopted was eating with a cleft lip and palate.

I've had at least eight corrective surgeries for my cleft lip and palate.

Starting from when I was eight months old until I was about 17.

Knowing that I looked different on so many levels, I was at the center of being teased in elementary school, middle school, and high school.

Negative comments regarding my facial features started in Kindergarten.

Racial comments started in middle school and high school.

I overcame the negative aspects of these experiences by having a loving family.

My adoptive family has always encouraged me to continue to laugh and learn how to accept myself for who I am.

My closest friends also played a significant part, as they didn't care how I looked.

I feel so empowered to have been adopted by my family. Not every adoption is perfect, nor is every adoptee "normal".

I can't and absolutely will not speak for others and their adoption. As for mine, I am thankful beyond words.

I'm proud of the person I am today.

My parents did a wonderful job of raising me, holding me accountable for my actions, and letting me learn life lessons on my own.

My siblings mean the world to me and they have continued to support me, as I will continue to support them.

I don't share my story unless I'm asked. I don't want to offend others. Adoption can be a very sensitive topic for many, despite their past, present, or current views.

Sharing my story is not personally important to me.

I know my story.

I embrace it.

I live it.

However, if sharing my story provides a positive influence on others, then peace be the journey.