Some adoptive families have t-shirts or do family photo sessions with signs that say something like “147 Million Orphans Minus One.”
Some of my acquaintances on Facebook have criticized these families. The criticism is that these families should not draw attention to the fact that their child was once an orphan. Typically they complain that either parents see their child as a charity project or simply calling attention to the child’s background encourages others to see the child as a victim.
On a gut level, I’m not completely at ease with the “147 Million Orphans Minus One” t-shirt for children. I do prefer the “Superman was adopted” t-shirts, because they are more empowering and fun. And what kid doesn’t look for an excuse to wear a cape?
Still, the criticisms seem a little harsh.
First, advocacy doesn’t mean that the child is being used. All the adoptive parents I know treat their children as the fully-fledged members of the family that they are, not as charity cases. They recognize that their children are blessed to have them, but they feel that they are even more blessed to have their children.
And second, acknowledging tragedy in one’s past doesn’t necessarily victimize that person, particularly if the emphasis is on overcoming that tragedy or reaching back to help others.
In sending the message that there are millions of children in crisis, and that their own child was once one of them, parents are announcing that advocacy begins at home. If you see something in the world that needs to be changed, you have the power to change it. And they are encouraging and allowing their child to come to terms with his past and to have compassion for others who are less fortunate at the same time.
Letting your child know that you expect him or her to be an advocate for social justice in the world is a powerful message and one that countless adoptees have embraced. And openly acknowledging where one came from is a vast improvement over the secrecy that used to surround adoption.