Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Another day in Seoul

Yesterday we met with some of the Korean Women's Development Institute researchers, who are working on research related to unwed moms. KWDI has just released two important research studies. One examines the attitudes to unwed moms ( the research study is available on their web site and on the KUMSN website as well). Not surprisingly the attitudes are complex. We were pleased there was support for social welfare for unwed moms, even if it isn't a top priority, and saddened by the continued prejudices. The other research study examines the effects of international adoption on unwed moms, examines the national statistics regarding unwed moms and finally looks at comparative welfare supports from several countries. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the national statistics is how much unknown or simply unclear, given how Korean births are registered. We deeply appreciate the professionalism and depth of these research studies which KUMSN funded.

In the afternoon we returned to the Seoul Hanbumo Support Center to discuss the parent child center model and in particular the alternative education program. At the Addison Parent Child Center there is a Learning Together Program that serves around 40 single parents a year, mostly young single moms. Everyone in the program does the following:
works in the childcare rooms taking care of babies in conjunction with professional staff
takes parenting classes
is working on the next step in their education ( tutoring, finishing high school, getting special supports, starting college)
participates in counseling - individual and/or group
attends group meetings of all participants.

While the parents engage in the program, their children are taken care of in high quality, early childhood education programs. This allows the parents to concentrate on their other work. Through these activities all parents learn good parenting skills. They advance in their education, which might mean finishing high school, getting their GED certificate, starting high school, or making progress in basic literacy and mathematics skills. As they progress they also engage in vocational training and eventually can do an internship and get help with finding a job. They have opportunities to work on emotional issues. They develop strong group bonds and help each other get through the challenging times, celebrate together their success, birthdays and other happy moments. Most moms after a year or two in this program will have completed high school and found a job.

The presentation was useful to the Hanbumo Support Center as they will be opening an alternative education program in September of this year - just next month. They are already offering some educational programs for the children of single parents and are able to offer not only the new education program but counseling, arts and crafts, and various other activities. The Hanbumo Support Center hosts the developing self advocacy organization of unwed moms. We are impressed with their facilities, and with their good thinking and plans for the future. The center is newly opened and we look forward to returning next trip to see how it is flourishing.

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