Dutch Diplomats, a Korean Adoptee, and the Unthinkable

11 years ago

For most of us who are parents, whether by birth or adoption, the thought of "giving back" a child is incomprehensible. When considering the recent case of Dutch diplomats Raymond and Meta Poeteray -- who chose to relinquish their adopted Korean daughter, Jade, due to her failure to "fit in" -- that inability to understand is fast turning to rage across the internet.

If you have somehow missed the story, the key piece of information here is that Jade was adopted as an infant -- seven years ago. This is not a case of cold feet or even the end of an intense but relatively brief post-adoption struggle, this is a young girl being given up by the only parents she's ever known. The situation's horror is of course magnified by the fact that the parents are public figures, and the media is not holding back:

Jade was adopted at the age of four months in January 2000 by the Dutch diplomat, who was working in South Korea, and his wife. At the time, the woman reportedly believed she was infertile, but the couple have since had two children of their own. They moved to Hong Kong in July 2004 and early last year decided they did not want Jade any more and left her in the care of Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department.
Dutch daily De Telegraaf said Jade had been discarded like “a piece of household rubbish.'" The South China Morning Post of Hong Kong on Saturday carried an interview with an Indonesian woman who worked as a nanny for Jade in Jakarta, where Poeteray was posted before coming to Hong Kong, in 2004. She said the couple treated Jade quite differently from their own children and the woman rarely hugged the girl.

The Poeterays are being decried as heartless monsters who never really loved their daughter. Debates about whether Jade should remain in Hong Kong or be returned to her homeland of Korea (though she doesn't speak the language) abound. The bottom line remains: What were these people thinking? How do you just return a child who's been in your family for seven years?

Jae Ran posts eloquently on various aspects of the case over at Kimchi Mamas, including putting her finger right on the hot button:

The return of Jade seems especially egregious because from the news reports out there, the reasons seem highly superficial; that Jade's parents Raymond and Meta Poeteray had two biological children after thinking they were infertile, or blaming Jade's issue with being a picky eater. My guess is that neither of these issues were the real reason Jade was abandoned.
Jade's parents probably believed that adopting a child would make their lives complete and never thought much about the reality of having an adopted child. There is speculation that their status as a high ranking diplomat, wealthy and educated and with many connections, helped them adopt Jade. Whether or not it's true, perhaps they just felt incredibly entitled to have what they wanted and at the time they wanted Jade. But whatever reasons they had for adopting, it seems they never really truly claimed her as their child. They didn't obtain citizenship for her so now Jade is a girl without a county. They didn't attach to a child they had at 4 months old. I wonder how much pre-adoptive training this couple had. Or were they too "privileged" to have to go through training?
The Poeteray's blame Jade for the dissolution, but my guess is they were unprepared to deal with their own emotional baggage in terms of adopting transracially and internationally. Unfortunately there are a lot of adoptive parents out there who have the same misconceptions, and a lot of adoption agencies who will allow them to sit in merry little la-la land.

C.J. Redwine of The Last Word is in the process of adopting from China, and titles her post on the matter Considering Killing a Dutchman:

[W]hat I found telling was the father's comment in an open letter to a Dutch newspaper: "We are Jade's parents. We feel responsible for her well-being."
You feel responsible for her well-being? What about love? I can promise you that I do a whole lot more than feel "responsible" for my children's well-being. I feel responsible for my plants. I feel all-consuming love for my kids.

She continues on to point out how this high-profile situation impacts every hopeful adoptive parent:

This is a tragedy for Jade and a blow to the cause of international adoption. Stories like this make the news where all the millions of success stories never do and an outcry goes up from the child's original nation and officials begin to cut off adoptions (Guatemala) or make them prohibitively expensive (Russia) and where does that leave the millions of orphans who have no one to love them?

And in closing, she makes a bold statement and the Poeterays:

That is abusive parenting. That is NOT adoption.

Bo at 8Asians calls for legal action:

This story is horrific and outrageous! What kind of monsters must these people be to mindlessly give away the child they had been raising for nearly eight years with no regard to her future well being. This couple had the girl from the time she was four months old. It’s not like she was a fully formed child with possible abandonment issues. Any issues the girl had with bonding and building relationships is a direct result of the care, or lack there of, given to her by her adopted parents. The diplomat and his wife scared her and ruined her and have now decided that she is no longer wanted. Isn’t there some sort of child-endangerment law that these people can be prosecuted for?

Bo also suggests that at 4 months of age -- Jade's age upon adoption -- an attachment disorder is unlikely, if not impossible. Any attachment issue Jade has must've come from the Poeterays themselves, she says.

And what about that? Does Jade suffer from the most extreme of bonding difficulties, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)? We may never know, although the Poeterays have certainly implied this was the case, and have been quoted as saying the family went through "intense therapy." Interestingly enough, the only blogger I found being even slightly sympathetic to the Poeterays is herself the parent of a so-called RADish (a child with RAD).

Cyn Pip Pics sees this as a case of RAD making world news, and unlike most everyone else, she has no trouble mustering some sympathy for the Poeterays:

So, I don’t know the details of this case, and I obviously don’t know any of the people involved, but if they are truly dealing with attachment disorder, I feel sorry for the family. What makes this case difficult is that they adopted when the little girl was four months old. At four months it is possible that the child is already affected by RAD, but at four months the therapy would not be as difficult to help the child attach—versus therapy for an older child. Unfortunately, if the family is unaware of the disorder, it would be difficult to deliver the right types of treatment.

She talks at length about the incredibly difficult position parents of RAD-affected children find themselves in, and also how misunderstood they often are. Her post is very moving; it reiterates that such situations are a tragedy for all involved. At the end, she concludes:

I sincerely hope that they tried everything and that the family and the girl all find peace and happiness in their lives. I hope that those who judge this family without fully understanding the situation learn more about the circumstances and the challenges. Most of all, I sincerely hope that this family is not misleading the public, using attachment disorder as an excuse to relinquish their obligations to this girl when there is really something else going on. They would do a horrible disservice to anyone associated with adoption or anyone working through attachment disorder.

Whatever happened here, I will be keeping Jade in my prayers... and the Poeterays, too. Regardless of the details, this was a tragedy all around.

Contributing Editor Mir also blogs about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda and Cornered Office, as well as sharing the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.

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