by Brad Nam, translated by Gloria Cho
On May 20th, a Sunday afternoon, I visited Soo and Matthew’s house in Muncie, Indiana. Their house is located on a street near downtown Muncie. “Ding Dong,” rang the doorbell, as a mischievous girl welcomed us with a roaring voice, “Hello, hello,” with the pronunciation of a baby.
Matthew was born and raised in northern Indiana, very close to Chicago. Soo is from Los Angeles. Matthew and Soo are parents of three children, seven-year-old Harley, five-year-old Joshua, and two-year-old Paige. The reason I visited them was because of the interesting union of a Korean second generation woman, Soo, and an Indian second generation man, Matthew. I also wanted to meet their youngest, Paige.
Soo and Matthew are both devout Christians who met as missionaries in East Asia. While working together, they naturally became close. Even after getting married, they served in the missionary field for two years before they finally returned to the United States. At that time, they had two boys, Harley and Joshua. They both had the same idea that they would like to adopt a child in need of a helping hand. In fact, the process of adopting is much more complicated than we think, and there is a lot of documentation to prepare. The couple tried to adopt a child in another country, but due to circumstances, decided to look into a foster child in the local community. That is how they met Paige.
Unlike in Korea, the foster care program is very active in the United States, where relatives, other families, or godparents can take care of children who have family problems or lack of care. The caretaker becomes a foster parent until the child’s family can afford adequate care or until they find a new permanent home for the child. Not everyone can become a foster parent just because they are in a position to help. Potential foster parents must acquire education and licenses. They must attend ten hours of training such as first aid, CPR, and general crisis training. An additional fifteen hours of training must be taken annually to maintain foster parent licensure. Licenses are valid for four years and are reviewed annually by local foster care specialists.
Being a foster parent is a very important decision, requiring devotion and dedication. Unless you are prepared to serve and sacrifice, it may be difficult. Soo had a clear commitment to become a foster parent. She immediately submitted documents as soon as the agency requested them.
A program built to help children in difficult situations does not always have good results. Indiana has twice the US average of children in need of foster care. There are those who take advantage of the government funds for foster parents by getting the required education and licensure, yet do not give proper care to the children. Instead, these children may experience neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse, when they are in need of warm love and comfort.
When Paige first came to Soo’s house, she had behavioral developmental issues. Later they found out that Paige was abused at her previous foster home. These foster parents took in many children, just to receive the government funding. They didn’t properly feed the children, neglected and physically abused them. They also sexually abused the female children, until one of the siblings caught it on video tape. The foster parents were immediately arrested and the children were transferred to the state run shelter. Paige grew up in such conditions where she could not eat and sleep properly, which caused her behavior developmental issues and she was unable to sit still. From a year ago, when Paige first came to Soo’s house, she has received proper care and treatment which have helped improve the symptoms. She also physically grew a lot, so much to say as a she couldn’t only be a two-year-old. Paige is friendly, likes to eat, and likes to talk to people. Her bright laughter and lively personality isn’t comparable to any other two-year-old.
Whenever we move to a new place or are looking for a place to raise a child, we always look for safe neighborhoods, low crime rates, and good school districts. However, this family moved to a somewhat tough neighborhood in downtown Muncie, about half a year ago. Matthew says one of his life’s goals is to reach out to those in need. In order to do so, they decided to join the community and become a member of it. It will not be easy reaching out to the homeless, communicating with the low-income families, and preaching the gospel, but this couple does not worry about it.
Soo and Matthew have a great love for Paige, a blonde haired girl with Korean and Indian parents. To this family, the outward appearances don’t matter. The couple also has memories of previous difficulties of their own. I send blessings and wishes to a family that does not hesitate to stretch out their hands to help those in need.
For more information on the foster care of Indiana, please visit their website. https://www.in.gov/dcs/2983.htm