Young children filled the room, most under the age of 4. We positioned ourselves at low tables while they ate rice and soup and shared other dishes. I was hesitantly offered a pair of chopsticks and the privilege of helping to feed the girls. The boys sat at a separate table nearby and some from my group helped them. The children, all with special needs, ate at a table with one adult. There was nothing personal about it. While the children were sweet and adorable, the environment was more childcare center, less family.
Who would these children call parents?
Would they have the close intimate relationship a child is meant to have with a parent?
Would they be adopted?
These are the children of Korea’s Baby Box. These are the innocent that are placed in what I can only describe as a receptacle, painted with a rainbow and a note that says “Jesus Loves You.” The hatch is opened, the child is placed inside the heated cushioned box, and the hatch is closed. A signal informs the workers inside another child has arrived.
I climbed the steep stairs leading to the box, snapped a few pictures, and paused. As a mother to two young children, I attempted to put myself in the mindset of someone abandoning a child in this way. How could a mother carry her child up those stairs knowing what she was about to do? How quickly could someone, besides the mother, make it up those same stairs in order to eliminate a “problem”?
While the bright painting surrounding the receptacle is intended to welcome visitors, I felt nothing hopeful. I thought about all of the children I had just met inside: the little girl who reprimanded me each time I added something to her rice bowl, the boy with Down’s Syndrome who played peek-a-boo with another group member, and the joyful little boy who was blind but smiled from his soul. The sweet happy children would never know families of their own, life outside an institution, or why they had been left there.
At the beginning of the visit, Pastor Lee Jong-rak insisted that we tell him our lives as adoptees were good. I felt certain that he did not want to be informed if they had not been. We were told that he wanted to know if he had opposition there. I did not know enough about it at the time to understand the motive behind the questions or his feelings.
The concept that love is the motivation behind relinquishment is shared with most adoptees. “Your birth mother loved you so much that she sent you to live with us because we could provide the life for you that she couldn’t offer.” I heard this often and in a myriad of ways. If I give adoptive parents the benefit here, I would believe that this is done to offer comfort to the child, a sense of purpose for all she or he has lost, and a feeling of gratitude for a life that would not have been possible if that loss had not taken place.
While some believe the Baby Box is a good alternative to certain infanticide and that the pastor is not the problem, he is keeping these children from families. They will likely never know their birth families or be adopted due to the absence of birth registration information required to legally relinquish a child. I am an adoptee in search of my past and my birth family. I seek answers to the questions I have regarding my abandonment, my life before, and from whom I inherited many aspects of my personality. As an adoptee searching, I cannot view the pastor’s work as admirable but a theft of a child’s family, history, and hope.
~ SuLyn Weaver