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Adoption stories

With my daughter, Kira, then age eight, taken in September 2004.

Eileen Thompson
Boston, MA

Birth Country: South Korea
Decade of adoption: 1950s

I was allegedly born in 1957, possibly 1958, to a Korean woman and a Pilipino, most likely military, father. According to reports in the adoption agency file, I spent my first nine months with my birth mother, but was placed in the Pusan Sanitarium for Children when I became ill from malnourishment. From the little information released through court petition to open my records and verbal accounting told to my adoptive parents, a probable reconstruction is that my birthmother was convinced to place me in an orphanage, at this time.

I came to this country in 1959 and landed in Somerville, MA, a city in very close proximity to Boston, adopted by Dorothy and William who already had three children by birth. At the time they lived in Somerville and became interested in adoption when the Catholic Parish to which they belonged made an appeal to its parishioners to participate in a drive to help Korean children believed to abandoned or orphaned in the post-Korean conflict. When I was eight years old my parents moved to the suburbs during white flight from Boston area in the 60s.

It was harder for me in the white suburbs, the level of racism was intense and I was the only non-white person, except for the owners of the Chinese restaurant in town.

It is a story that I have heard over and over again from other adoptees of my generation, as well as from subsequent generations. I only know that retrospectively, though. Growing up, I felt alone, an oddity, desperate to fit in.

I spent the next decade in search of myself, and eventually graduated from college, much later than most students. I like to think of myself as a late bloomer who developed the ability to help others bloom.

I found a sense of self and balance by my late twenties, received an MSW and got married to man who reflected my suburban upbringing, by the age of 30. In the next decade, I had two children, Matt and Kira. Somewhere in there, I began to meet others like myself and to speak about the phenomena of international adoption. As my personal connections to adoption grew, so did my sense of passion for the issues related to adoption and for others who have and still do contend with the experience of being different.

I am currently 48 yrs. old, the mother of two biracial children, and a clinical social worker at a local College in the Student Counseling Center. I am on the board of the Boston Korean Adoptee Network and am in the 12th year of advising a student-run Big Brother/Sister program at Tufts University created by the Korean Student Associate. The program matches Korean adopted children and their families with Korean born or Korean American students at Tufts. To my knowledge, it is the oldest program of its kind in the country.

I have had the good fortune to return to Korea on three different occasions, in 1989, 1997 and in 2005, for the third Gathering of Korean-born Adoptees.

My attempts to search for birth family in Korea have been unsuccessful up to this point. The search process has been an important and healing journey, despite not having found family members. It has allowed me to reconnect to my country of origin and to a way to locate myself in the world. It has provided me with sense of self and history that I now can transmit to my own children to others in the adoption community. It has also fueled the passion for my personal, professional and avocational work.

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