In The Matter of Cha Jung Hee, a September 14th POV presentation on PBS, is a powerful and beautifully poetic film that documents a distressing reality—the switching of one child’s identity for another in a South Korean orphanage in the 1960s. This is an important story because Deann Boshay Liem is not the only child to whom this has happened. I have met several adult adoptees who have recounted similar experiences. Deann examines this reality in a very balanced manner, expressing her sadness and anger but still being able to demonstrate an understanding of the good intentions that were behind the choices the adults around her made. The film reminds us that adoption, although a wonderful gift that brings parents and children together, also involves loss… loss of a birth parent, loss of a culture, loss of a history and perhaps even loss of an identity for a child.
For me, this film highlights the mistake we adults often make—that children are blank slates, that they have no memory, and that experiences when very young don’t matter to them. They do remember because who you are in the world and what your history is does matter. These are particularly important things to consider for those of us involved in older child adoptions. For reminding us of this by recounting her story and journey to uncover her own history, I applaud Deann Borshay Liem.
Rita Taddonio, LCSW
Director, Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Resource Center (ARC)