Barb’s Story

I was born in Korea and was the oldest of four children born to my Korean birth parents.  When I was eight years old, our mother died and my father, unable to take care of the four children and out of shame that his oldest daughter was born with a physical disability, made arrangements to have me placed at the Holt Illsan Orphanage.  My youngest baby sister was placed in another orphanage.  My three year old sister was taken to relatives and the five year old brother stayed with our father.  I lived at the orphanage until Harry Holt found an adoptive family in rural Nebraska.  In my adoptive family, I had four brothers and later, my parents adopted two sisters. 

Due to abuse, I was removed from the adoptive home and the State of Nebraska became my legal guardian.  I lived in number of foster homes and in a group home.  

I aged out of the foster care system at the age of 18.  I feel very blessed to have had the support and care from Social Services.  Social Services provided total financial support for me to attend college, enabling me to gain employment and to achieve further educational goals.  My stay in an orphanage in Korea was only for few years and I did not have to age out of an orphanage.  The same cannot be said for my Korean biological sister who lived for over 17 years in an orphanage.  She never had the opportunity to finish high school or to attend college.  While she is not technically an orphan now, the stigma of shame and secrecy still remains with her.  The fact that she grew up in an orphanage is a closely held secret.  Her only friends and those she closely socializes with are those she grew up with in the orphanage. 

I found my Korean family and have reunited with my birth siblings and with my father.  I maintains a close relationship with all my birth siblings as well as with my adoptive siblings.  It has been an amazing journey of getting to know my Korean family and in-spite of not speaking Korean, we have a lot of fun being together.  I am also a mother to three children and six wonderful grandsons. I feel very blessed to have all my families.  

I have devoted my life’s work to those who have experienced abandonment and trauma at early-developmental ages.  I believe it is possible for everyone to find an adulthood of success and purpose.  Rising from poverty, disability and abuse, I was able to fight discrimination and disadvantage to become the first to graduate college in my adoptive family, birth family and from a group home.   I have decades of experience fighting for the rights of the disenfranchised in healthcare and adoption.  

I have three degrees from the University of Nebraska and University of Nebraska Medical College.  My professional experience includes 20 years as an adoption social worker, including 11 years with Holt International Children’s Services, and over 30 years as a registered nurse specializing in hospice care.  I am actively involved with, and now serves on the board of directors of Love Beyond the Orphanage, whose mission is “to provide love, hope, independent living programs, empowering young adult orphans in Korea as they transition out of the orphanage”.

Currently, I share residences in Namyangju, Korea with my youngest biological sister, in Kent, Washington with my daughter and family and have a home in Omaha, Nebraska.