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Helping Adopted Kids Find Their Birth Families Has Its Rewards

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When Kate DeLosso led her first tour of adopted Americans to their native Korea last summer, she discovered an exciting niche in selling travel and completed a personal life circle that started 20 years ago.

DeLosso, a travel agent with Liadis Travel in Newtown Square, Pa., adopted three children - all nearly grown now - from Korea and the Philippines. Twenty years later, with one of her two daughters willing to return to Korea and brave the cultural and familial questions that face a child adopted from a foreign country, at least one circle of life was complete.

"We wanted her to experience her birth country, and we felt very strongly that she should see it," said DeLosso. "We visited the orphanage she came from. We even found they had a phone number for her birth mother."

While her daughter chose not to seek out her birth parent, she knows the information is available. And she knows a little more about where she came from.

That whole experience gave the two-year travel agent an idea.

Advertising in a magazine titled Adoptive Families, DeLosso found 12 Korean-born adopted children willing to pay the $3,000 price tag for a two-week trip to discover their roots. Included in the deal were airfare, accommodations, tours, interpreters and meals.

Since this niche is highly specialized and not for just any agent. (DeLosso has experience traveling to Korea, is an adoptive parent, and serves on the board of directors of an international child welfare organization.) She is happy to cut other agents a commission on future trips. One such trip is slated for Korea in July and one to Vietnam in September.

DeLosso said on her first trip, most clients simply wanted to see where they came from. Even that experience is eye opening for the clients.

"My daughter was the one that brought it to my attention that it was very odd to be somewhere where everyone looks like you, but you can't talk to them," said DeLosso. "They expect you to speak to them, but you can't."

Then there were those who wanted to find out who they came from. With help from staff at the Pearl S. Buck Foundation and from a tour operator specializing in adoption trips (Holt Travel Service in Seoul), three of her clients were able to find their birth families.

Although an exciting prospect, finding a birth parent is also very emotional. To prepare her clients for such a possible reunion, DeLosso recommends a list of articles and a book about searching for birth parents. The tour also is limited to children over the age of 14; a parent must accompany those under 18. The experience of finding a birth parent can be traumatic.

"I think what I found repeatedly, in the case where the birth family was found, the child feels `they just gave me away,' " said DeLosso.

Credits: Doug Oakley

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