Excerpt from Margaret A. Valk, “Adjustment of Korean- American Children in Their American Adoptive Homes,” 1957

Another very common reaction frequently mentioned in reports is the child’s need for quantities of food. In Korea these children rarely had enough to eat; in order to satisfy their hunger, they had been given a starchy, bulky diet, mainly of rice. As a result many had distended stomachs. Many of these children had a fear of not having enough food.

During his first months here, Charles, 5½ years, overate hugely. (He ate as much as eight slices of bread between meals.) Now his appetite has tapered off. He eats well, but not more than any healthy youngster.

At first food was so precious to Laura, aged 3 years, that if she dropped as much as a crumb of toast, she would not take another bite until she found the crumb.

The morning we visited, William, aged 4, came down the hall toward the door with a box of cornflakes in his hand. He was on his way out to join a little friend just a few houses down the street. The parents told us that this business of carrying a box of cereal began shortly after he arrived. He is generous about sharing, but will not willingly part with the package. In fact on the first Sunday, when they took him to church, they had to provide him with something similar, so they put his cereal in a plastic bag which wouldn’t rustle too much. . .

Korean friends and students, however, can be of great help in describing their country, its history and folklore, to the parents and in telling them about the customs and habits the children may be used to. ISS has provided them with a simple Korean-English word list, which is probably more useful before the arrival of the child, as a morale builder, than as a practical help. Obviously, there are advantages if parents are able to recognize and pronounce a half dozen important words.

The rapidity with which the children learn English is frequently remarked upon by parents and workers alike.

I think the rapidity with which Soonee, 2 years and 3 months, is learning English and with which she is becoming happy and secure, is amazing. It is certainly a tribute to the adoptive parents as well as to Soonee’s intelligence.

Amy, 3 years, knew three English expressions when she arrived six months ago—“gum,” “ice cream,” and “hello baby.” Now she chatters in English in the same way any alert little girl does, and has forgotten all but a few Korean words.


Source: Margaret A. Valk, “Adjustment of Korean-American Children in Their American Adoptive Homes,” Casework Papers (1957):152-154.

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