How Adoption Is A Metaphor For Refugees

How Adoption Is A Metaphor For Refugees

This morning, I was talking with my thirteen-year-old about how a ban on refugees is a metaphor for a ban on adoptions, particularly adoptions from foster care.

“How was I like a refugee?” my daughter asked.

“Do you think you wanted to leave your first home?” I asked her.

“No,” she answered.

“You had to leave because, at the time, conditions were unsafe, and you needed to go somewhere that would be safer. There are people who are living in unsafe places, like Aleppo, and they don’t want to leave their home, but they have to go somewhere safe,” I said.

She listened and nodded.

“Do you think about your birth family? Do you miss them?” I asked.

“All the time,” she responded without missing a beat.

“Right,” I agreed. “Because they are part of you. Just like a refugee who comes to America will always be part of two worlds, you are part of two worlds. A refugee from Syria will hopefully come to love America and feel connected, but at the same time, that person will always feel a little different and long for his or her roots.”

“So, imagine that when you were in foster care, as we were making plans to adopt you, there was suddenly a ban on adoptions. Even though all of our paperwork was in order — and you were declared an approved candidate for adoption, and we were declared approved parents – you were detained in foster care. You couldn’t come home with us. And you couldn’t go back to where you came from. You were just trapped.”

Understanding crossed her face.

Several months ago, I wrote the following words, and I stand by them today:

Let’s say each family represents its own nation. We have our own rules and our own possessions. We speak a language filled with inside references and jokes. We work to bring in money; we educate our young, and we defend ourselves against attacks from others. We have a vibrant culture and our own holidays, be they birthdays or anniversaries or special milestones.

Our family’s nation is different from many others, because our children don’t all come from our nation. There was another nation, and it was in distress. It was torn apart by war among its people, by poverty, by illness and mistreatment. This nation’s leader sent one of its precious members to us and entrusted us to open our borders and help our new family member grow, learn and thrive.

Now our nation is forever connected with our child’s first nation. Rather than viewing each other as threats, as enemies to hate and fear, we choose to view each other as allies. Some people do not agree with our decisions. They think we have made the wrong choices, but the truth is, they are not being harmed by us or by how we live our lives. Our decision to love this other nation shouldn’t frighten them so much.

It has been many years. Our nations are very different in measurable ways: our members have vastly different appearances; we practice totally different religions; we eat different foods; we hold different jobs; we have different levels and types of education. But those differences tell only part of the story.

What we have in common is our human hearts, our love for our citizens, our desire to be respected and valued. We view other nations as collaborators over competitors; we do not mock the citizens of another nation, not if they weigh four hundred pounds, not if they are female, not if they are aging and infirm, not if they have a disability, not if they have hair or skin that is darker than ours, not if they were born into a nation that has fewer advantages and privileges than ours.

I will always believe in the value of embracing differences within our nation rather than cultivating a climate of racial discord, sexism and fear.

I choose to believe in hope. I choose to believe in diversity and kindness, in prosperity and access, in lifting others up, in relying on our actions and not our privilege to influence others. May the Force Be With Us all.


Carrie Goldman is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter

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