Three years ago, Rebecca Viot and her husband brought home their adopted daughter Ruby from South Korea. They knew that Ruby would face a number of unique issues as an interracial adoptee. They also knew that as parents of an internationally adopted child, they would have questions and concerns as well.
So the couple decided to form Seouls Engaged in Everything for Our Sons and Daughters, or SEEDS, to provide a resource to families with adopted children from South Korea.
“It goes back to being a Korean adoptee myself,” Viot said. “I didn’t have anybody when I was growing up that I could talk to, confide in and vent with about my struggles and my world as a Korean adoptee. So when my husband and I were committed to becoming parents of an adopted child, that was one of my concerns. And in the forefront of me being a good parent was to provide for her a source because I knew that I couldn’t apply my struggles and my journey to her and that she would have her own.”
SEEDS sprung out of an Internet forum provided for families who were adopting children through Children’s Home Society and Family Services (CHSFS), a nonprofit organization based out of St. Paul, MN. Among its other services, such as early childhood care and family therapy, CHSFS offered a rudimentary network that connected people in the same stage of the adoption process. Viot took it to the next level with SEEDS, a much more involved group that brought families together for in-person gatherings.
Christa Pullen was one of the first families to participate in SEEDS three years ago. She lives in Golden Valley, MN and she has two children. Her 6-year-old son, Ben, is her biological son and her 3-year-old daughter Claire was adopted from South Korea.
“SEEDS offered a support network for the parents and for kids in similar situations,” Pullen said. “It was important to us to have peers that our children have something in common with.”
Renee Lampert and her family live in Plymouth, MN. Like Pullen’s family, Lampert’s family was also one of the families involved in SEEDS from the start. Lampert has one biological son who is 5 as well as a 3-year-old adopted daughter from South Korea named Olivia.
“We were definitely looking for a group with families that looked like ours and we wanted to build that adoption connection and also the Korean connection so that we could bring more culture and knowledge into our family,” Lampert said. “It’s really given me an opportunity to learn about Korean culture with a group that’s not threatening and learning as well. There are some who are Korean and adopted or Korean in general so it’s given me an opportunity to learn from everyone and infuse that into my family on pace with other families who are doing the same thing.”
SEEDS provides a place for families affected by adoption to learn about the adopted child’s culture, to discuss general parenting concerns that may arise and to also discuss challenges and topics unique to raising an Asian child.
SEEDS participants were able to discuss the findings of an adoption study with University of Minnesota researchers who worked on the project. The study, called The International Adoption Project, involved a survey of all Minnesota families who adopted children internationally between 1990 and 1998.
Since its inception, SEEDS has grown from eight or nine families to about 30. SEEDS has started to segment some into smaller groups that offer a more intimate feel. Viot and the other Minnesotan participants have greatly valued the friendships and resources the group has provided for their families.
“You have to reach out,” Viot said. “I knew what I needed. I knew what I wanted. I’m not that unique so I know that if I’m having a thought, there’s somebody else who has that same thought. I’d definitely encourage people to start a group like SEEDS up in their community. It was a life saver on many occasions where I just didn’t know what to do. And not just with regard to adoptive issues but just with general children issues too.”