That’s the most difficult question I’m ever asked. It’s hard to hear and harder to answer. The simplest ice breaker is so complicated for those of us with complex identity issues.
Where I was born is different from where my parents were from, and where I was raised is different to both of those places. It’s taken me into adulthood to reconcile some of those confusions, and that’s as a child who was adopted at the tender age of 9 months from an institution into a very happy and loving home. My parents shared their lives, there love and their name with me, and started me off on the path to who I’ve become. When Minister Joan Burton spoke on radio last year about being adopted I was taken aback by her admission that she finds it very hard to answer the question of where she’s from. I felt the same, but had kept it to myself because it might have sounded ungrateful or pedantic. In a recent biography of Barack Obama, he recounts his identity confusion in this same way. He belonged nowhere, so moved to Chicago and became Everyman.
For the more than two thousand children in long term foster care in Ireland, they can’t yet reconcile these identity questions. They can’t go back to their original home,they probably wouldn’t want to by now in many cases. They love and live with their foster families but they don’t share their name. They have the stigma of being nobody’s child although they are nutured and loved.
The Children’s Rights Referendum tomorrow will close the gap in this sad and difficult anomaly in these children’s lives, if they volunteer to be adopted by their foster families. I can think of no greater cause to vote yes tomorrow. Please join me, and give these beautiful children and foster families an extra reason to celebrate their happy new lives forever. Identity and belonging matters, please make a difference for the children.