“A Part of the Past Puzzle”: Korean Foster Moms Reunite With Adoptees and Families

Have you ever met someone that you don’t know or remember well, but who knows you? Read more about what happened when Holt Children’s Services staff and two foster moms from Korea visited WACAP’s office last month, meeting with families whose lives they changed and children they’d cared for years ago.

“A Part of the Past Puzzle”

By M. Harrel, WACAP Communications Editor

“A lot of times adoption is uncomfortable …” says Mary Moo, WACAP’s Vice President of International Adoptions. That’s not a synonym for bad or unhappy, though. In fact, last month, WACAP hosted a reunion and networking event with Korean foster moms and social workers who’d traveled from South Korea to meet with U.S. adoptive families and their children. Reintroducing the foster moms to some of the children they’d once cared for, the event blended uncomfortable moments with recognition and remembrance … and surprises that no one could plan.

Surprise: A Cure for Jetlag Is Joy

Traveling to WACAP’s headquarters from Seoul, South Korea takes approximately 11 hours at 500 miles per hour. Jetlag comes with the territory and the flight. The two otherwise tireless foster moms in their sixties and seventies weren’t immune. Along with the two Holt Children’s Services staff traveling with them from Korea, the women embraced full agendas, including receptions at several partner agencies, among them Holt International in Oregon and WACAP’s headquarters in Washington.

On the day of WACAP’s reunion event, one of the foster moms—a woman who’d provided care to children for over 20 years—arrived looking particularly exhausted. “The time difference, a headache, and not much sleep because of a late-night wedding at her hotel!” she explained to the interpreters and staff … but she didn’t want to miss the day for jetlag. To her surprise, she didn’t have to. The fatigue dissolved suddenly that day when she was reunited with a child she didn’t expect.

Of the families and children that came to meet her at WACAP’s reception, there was a young man in his 20’s she didn’t know she’d be seeing. He’d been adopted through Holt-Oregon and because he was unable to attend the earlier events at that agency, he had asked to join WACAP’s.

While his adoption history and early background were an unknown to WACAP, his foster mom recognized him immediately when he arrived.

“He’d joined his family when he was 1 and ½, but she knew his face, and as soon as she saw him, she said her headache, and that jetlagged feeling of being run down, just went away,” recalls Mary Moo, who helped organize the day’s events. “These foster moms really remember the kids. They really, really do.”


Caregivers Energized by Love

In Korea, all the children eligible for international adoption are relinquished by birth moms. During the period that children wait to be adopted in Korea, they join foster families that provide them with individual attention, love and support at this critical developmental time. As some WACAP staff say, these children have foster parents teaching them about family and how to love, and they join their adoptive families carrying that gift.

For WACAP staff and families, meeting the committed foster moms and Holt-Korea staff who’ve played such an important role in so many children’s and families’ lives is also a gift. “I think it is really special when Holt can send some of the foster moms to visit,” says Mary, commenting on how the caregivers she’s met through the years seem to have a few things in common: their tenacity, a continued love of parenting after their birth children are grown, and a capacity to share their love.

“They recognize their biological kids are going to be leaving them, having grown up. They recognize that they won’t be ‘needed as much’ by members of their immediate family,” Mary adds. “They’re making a decision that they’re moving forward with fostering children, they feel like every child is really a gift, and it shows. This is their joy.”

Thankful for the Commitment

At the WACAP reception, the two foster moms and Holt-Korea staff had the opportunity to meet with 9 families. A WACAP staff member, an adoptive mom, and her daughter, helped with interpreting, which allowed attendees to engage casually among each other and lessened the language barriers.

For the families able to attend this year, the event provided a wonderful opportunity to connect and share in Korean culture together, as well as talk with Holt Children’s Services staff and the foster moms. And the foster moms were thrilled to be reunited with three children they’d cared for as infants, who today range from 8 to 20 years old.

Some of the adoptive families and their children were understandably apprehensive about the event and nervous about interacting with people who, in many ways, felt like strangers to them. But after the event, WACAP staff learned from one adoptee that she’d had an incredible day and hoped to be able to stay in touch with her foster mom in the future.

Mary recalls seeing the apprehension dissolve between her and her foster mom over the course of the day: “Even though they couldn’t talk directly … they still found real ways to find joy in each other. It was an opportunity to put together a part of her past puzzle.”

Thankful for the commitment of the foster moms, Mary notes that the event, and moments like that, are what stand out for her as opportunities to say thank you and be thankful for the people who give so much of their lives and energy to our children and our families: “A lot of times adoption is uncomfortable. And that outcome was such a reward …”


If you are interested in learning more about adoption from Korea, contact us at wacap@wacap.org.

mh-photoAbout WACAP Communications Editor Missy Harrel: Missy joined WACAP’s communication team in 2011. She spent the first part of her career in nonprofit program management focused on child welfare and early learning, as well as teaching in higher education. Growing up with family and friends who were adopted, she has an ongoing interest in sharing about family and the stories they create together. She blends her communications background with a love of learning and technology. She enjoys reading a poem with a good cup of coffee in hand.

Source of Images: WACAP


WACAP (World Association for Children and Parents) is one of the largest and most experienced international nonprofit adoption and child assistance agencies in the United States. Since 1976, we’ve placed over 10,000 children with loving adoptive parents and provided food, medical care and education to more than 200,000 children around the world.
This entry was posted in Adoption, Celebrations, Events, Foster Care, International Adoption, Travel, WACAP and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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