Missing family… the pain of separation and the choices we make.

When you live half a world away from your family missing them is a permanent undercurrent of life. Mostly sitting below the surface, sometimes it pops up and surprises you. Other times it can feel like a physical ache. This past Sunday was Mother’s Day in Australia and yesterday (May 15) was International Day of the Family so, not surprisingly, my family has been on my mind.

The missing them is balanced with the tension of knowing this separation exists by my choice – one of those difficult life decisions Dan and I had to make when we chose to be a family unit of our own. I’m very conscious that our choice was made easier by the resources available to us, resources that allow us to travel back to Australia every year or two and to see and talk to my family frequently online.

As I’ve counted my blessings and recognised my privilege, my thoughts have drifted to the children and families I’ve worked with in the past and those SFAC’s partner organisations work with every day.

So as I miss my family this week, I, along with my colleagues here at SFAC, want to acknowledge the millions of other families around the world who are experiencing far more painful separations…

To the mother in Uganda who reluctantly agreed to release her son into the care of an orphanage director believing he would receive an education she couldn’t provide. Only to discover, perhaps too late, the director was planning to sell her boy to an international adoption agency…

We see you.

To the father in India considering selling his daughter into domestic slavery in a desperate attempt to provide for the rest of his family…

We see you.

To the boy living on the streets of Lesotho because he’s terrified to return home to an abusive parent…

We see you.

To the parents in Mexico who placed their child in a children’s home because they’re both working 12 hours shifts just to put food on the table and there’s no one to ensure their children won’t be kidnapped by gangs while they’re at work…

We see you.

To the Burmese girl abandoned on the Thai border by her parents in the hope she’d have a better life in Thailand than they could give her in Myanmar…

We see you.

To the Cambodian family who gave their children up years ago when extreme poverty made caring for them feel impossible and is now feeling apprehensive because they’ve been told their children might be coming home. The orphanage has learnt children are better off in safe families and decided to reunite families where possible. Now they’re realising they’re not quite sure how to be a family anymore… and how will they provide for them?

We see you.

To the new foster parents in Morocco looking after a boy with a horrible history and struggling to know how to best care for him and themselves.

We see you.

We see you all.

We will tell your stories.

We will be changed by them and motivated to act.

We will work with decision makers, policy makers, with carers, with social workers and psychologists, lawyers, judges and government officers.

We will use the resources available to us and do our best to reunite your families, to strengthen them and find support. Where that’s not possible or safe, we’re working to help people in your country establish foster care and domestic adoption programmes, and, in some cases, very small, child-focused children’s homes. We want to ensure that separation occurs only in situations of abuse and neglect, and that when this happens the children removed are still given the opportunity to experience love, care and a sense of belonging and connection to someone special.

This photo was taken last year at SFAC’s 15th birthday celebrations when my parents flew half way around the world to surprise me and Dan. I love it because it captures the joy, love and connection of that moment – a moment of family.

To children everywhere, we will do our utmost to uphold your right to grow up in a safe family1 so that you too can experience these moments and thrive.

  1. Article 9. UN Convention for the Rights of a Child

Photo: Taken by Walter Young, embellishments added by me to send to Mum for Mother’s Day.

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