Our appointment with Drew’s case worker at Korean Social Service was yesterday. While they don’t have a current lead on the whereabouts of Drew’s family, but we did get a bunch more information. Firstly, we realized that we’ve been spelling/pronouncing his name incorrectly. We discovered it’s Yōng Woo, with a long O sound, rather than Young Woo (용우 instead of 영우).
Apparently, when KSS inquired in 2009 following our request, they found that in 2005, Drew’s family cancelled their residency registry in Namwon City. Which means that sometime between when Drew was born and 2005, they moved from Hongseong to Namwon. When KSS inquired again last month, his mother’s registration showed an address back in Hongseong. KSS contacted this address/phone number in Hongseong, but it turns out that the contact information was actually that of the owner/landlord of the house, not Drew’s family. In September 2011, Drew’s mother visited this address, wanting to move to Hongseong for her children’s education. She said that she would return to sign a leasing contract, but never came back, even though she registered the address as her current residency.
KSS has advised us to check back with them annually to see if his mother’s contact information has been updated with the police. The police couldn’t find his father’s information, and the social worker implied that he may not still be living. A discouraging search dead end for now, but we were able to get his case worker to tell us more information about Drew’s birth and family.
Drew was born at 3:53 am on January 7, 1992 at the Hongseong hospital. He was 2 weeks late! His medical records show that it was possibly a difficult birth; Drew had difficulty breathing because he had ingested/inhaled a bunch of amniotic fluid. So following his birth, Drew was kept in an incubator for a few days to treat the water in his lungs.
Sometime between January 7 and January 14, Drew was handed over from the hospital to KSS’s sister agency, Hongseong Social Welfare Center. HSWC used to be an orphanage, but by the time Drew was born in 1992, it had become just a social service agency. On January 14, KSS took custody of Drew and he was transported from Hongseong to Seoul.
While in Seoul, Drew was cared for by a foster mother. We had actually gotten to meet his foster mother back in 2001 when we visited. As I recall, she had fostered something like 42 children over the years and Drew was the first to return. We asked whether it was common for multiple babies to be placed in a single foster home, and the social worker said that usually one child is placed in a single home, unless there are more babies than participating foster homes. Then, occasionally, there would be 2 children in the home, but most likely, Drew was the only baby in the foster home at that time. We found out that his foster mother had lived at the same address in Junghwa-dong in 1992 when she cared for Drew and in 2001 when we met her at KSS. They don’t have current contact information for her, however.
We were able to get the social worker to tell us that his birthparents were Catholic (which is interesting, since my Omma is Catholic as well). His father was possibly blood type AB, and his mother type O. In 1992, they had 3 sons, aged 12, 10, and 7. This is probably in Korean age, so in U.S. reckoning, they would have been 11, 9, and 6. Which means that the 9 year old and the 6 year old would be the same age and Erica and me.
And we got names! Drew’s eldest brother is named Yong-eun (용은), his middle brother is named Yong-min (용민), and the third brother is named Yong-ho (용호). This was the biggest information find for Drew, and I think it helped offset the disappointment of not getting current contact information.
So advice for adoptees doing birth searches or record reviews with their agencies: Keep pushing, keep asking questions. In the first 2 minutes of our meeting, the case worker told us that they couldn’t contact his family, and was ready to leave it at that. We kept asking questions, however, and were able to get more information, piece by piece.
We asked if there were additional papers in his file that we could get copies of.
No other English papers.
Were there other papers in Korean?
Yes, but we couldn’t get copies because they had confidential registration numbers.
Could she read the Korean files to us, without the registration information?
Oh. Um. Yes, she supposed that would be okay.
Our two-minute meeting stretched an hour, and we were able to gather the scraps here and there to puzzle together a more complete picture. Write everything down! Even if it seems insignificant, that piece could connect to another piece and open up a whole new area of information.
I asked Drew how he was feeling after our meeting, and he seemed okay. He was in high enough spirits to almost win me a plush banana in an arcade claw machine. Drew met up with his friend, Yeji in the evening. I hadn’t realized that this was the first time they had actually met in person! They’ve been having Korean lessons over Skype for over a year, and Yeji’s an art student at the other art school in Michigan near Detroit. For some reason, I was under the impression that she had been an exchange student at Drew’s high school. Actually, they connected through Drew’s adoptee friend, Desiree, who he went to high school with, and also attends CCS in Detroit. Drew was out with Yeji until past 10:30, and he said he had a lot of fun. They went back to Insadong, and Yeji took him to Myeongdong.
Tonight, my Omma comes to Seoul. We’ll meet her and Gayoung at Seoul Station this evening. I think Im Sook Imo and Imo Halmoni are coming as well. It will be good to see them again, and I’m looking forward to having Drew meet the amazing women of my family.