As we live in the warm, sunny and long days of summer it can be that time of year where we relax more and enjoy activities outdoors, go to the beach or just take a stroll through park or forest. This summer is different with some restrictions from COVID-19 being lessened. Public health still tells us we need to be careful and that our social distancing, hand washing and the wearing of masks to protect others is critically important.
Wearing masks seems simple … when you wear one you are statistically less likely to pass COVID-19 on to someone else. A caring and respectful action for others …in a time where it seems that caring and respect should be everyone’s priority.
And yet it is during this time that the world has also witnessed horrendous violence and systemic racism. I want to acknowledge this reality and send my personal sadness and compassion as well as that of the Board and staff of the ACO, to all individuals of race, cultural and ethnicity who live with fear, intolerance and racism.
As I watched the protesters yet again have to mobilize to action, I was not only sad but angry that this is not just their fight. It has to be the fight that all of us take on. Systemic racism and violence leaves people living in fear for their lives and experiencing a sense of shame about who they are. Shame about the core sense of self can result in feeling invisible to who you are.
Invisibility is not acceptable and racism is intolerable…
We all have a commitment to work together to change this reality. As professionals, individuals and families our work starts within adoption.
We have work to do to ensure that children living in permanency are not made to feel or be invisible. When we omit original families from the lives of children in adoption and permanency, we render those children invisible to whole parts of themselves and their history. If those children are black, indigenous, multi-racial or multi- cultural, they are also rendered invisible to that part of their race and cultural identity and may learn to be ashamed of it.
The sad truth is that all of that can occur without us ever having to say a word. Children know what invisibility says and means…. And they know what racism is and how it changes their lives. It can be another form of secrecy in multi-racial or ethnically or culturally diverse families in adoption that is not seen or given voice to.
We at the ACO have our work to do ….
As we expand our lens to be more inclusive of original families and adult adoptees, we must do it knowing that we cannot ask them to fit into our organization but rather how we can see and make them and their needs visible within the ACO. We must look at the structure, make up and approach of our organization and listen to the voices and perspectives of all races, cultures and ethnicity to see and hear their needs and the ways we need to change and respond.
On behalf of the Board, staff, volunteers of the ACO and those living their lives in adoption and permanency, we make this commitment.
Executive Director, Adoption Council of Ontario