Almost all people cite childhood suffering—such as families split by divorce or being an only child—as some of the most difficult times in their lives. For Katya Fouts, senior, and Caleb Underwood, junior, however, their life stories differ because they are adopted.
Underwood and Fouts were born in Korea and Belarus, respectively. They are two of the few adopted students in Leesville’s otherwise diverse student body. They stand out as champions of both cultural and personal struggles to succeed in a society dominated by non-adopted people.
Fouts started life in Belarus, one of two children. When she was six or seven years old (her memory is hazy), Fouts visited the U.S. with a program called “Children of Chernobyl.” The non-profit organization claims to “provide respite and relief to the Children (sic) affected by the Chernobyl nuclear explosion of 1986.” The program, initially designed to last six weeks, introduced Fouts and her brother to their future parents.
After mountains of paperwork, an experience shared by anyone wishing to adopt a child, Fouts’s new parents eventually adopted Katya and Yuri, her brother.
“When I moved to America, I was 11 years old,” she said. Surrounded by a new culture and foreign people, she felt confused. Learning English at an age when most American children are entering sixth grade was the most difficult task in Fouts’s transition to American life.
“At first when we moved over, my family had a translator,” said Fouts. “Over time, though, my mom helped us learn English, and it really helped that she is an English teacher.”
Fouts’s story is not entirely unique; many other American children call a foreign country their first home. According to adoption website adoption.com, over 1 million Americans are adopted, and “2 to 4 percent of American families include an adopted child.” Included in this statistic are foster children and children adopted by a stepparent.
Unlike Fouts, Caleb Underwood has known his adoptive parents for most of his life. He has still had his share of problems, though. Underwood’s parents adopted him from South Korea at a young age.
“It was harder when I was younger because some people didn’t understand why I was Asian, especially since my middle school probably only had three Asian students,” said Underwood, who fought with other students because of racial slurs.
As with most adopted children, Underwood wants to visit his biological parents someday. He knows they were young when he was born, but he would still like to meet them–for one reason especially, which most people take for granted. “I have no medical history, and all I can do is hope for the best,” he said.
While most people have the chance to work preventively for their health, Underwood can only hazard guesses about his likeliness to contract genetic health problems, such as the risk of heart attack or diabetes.
Despite this medical inconvenience and his Korean background, Underwood feels that he fits in with most Leesville students. He said that high school, overall, has been a more enjoyable experience than middle school because students are more open-minded.
Here in America, Underwood feels at home. “Of course, I will always have some national pride for the country I’ve never known but is still a part of me,” he said. “But I will always love my adoptive parents for taking me in and raising me.”
That overwhelming thankfulness is something immediately apparent in both Fouts and Underwood; their unique circumstances taught them to appreciate the love and devotion their parents have spent in raising them. Fouts, a child originally destined to grow up in radioactive Chernobyl, and Underwood, a South Korean whose parents were too young to raise him, both avoided an uncertain future through adoption.
Fouts’s parents and all the world’s adopted children probably would have agreed with her when she said, “Overall I think adoption is a wonderful thing.”
Pierre Lourens served for The Mycenaean in 2008-2009 as a staff writer. In that year, he took on the project of creating the first online edition of The Mycenaean. The following year, he was a co-Editor-in-Chief with Amy Kreis.