American Adoption Congress: Educating, Empowering, Evolving Donate

AAC Guest Blog


By: Nikki Pauls DeSimone, LMSW
“Mommy, do you still have those America papers?”
“Of course I do,” I respond – and pause. “Do we need to look at them again?”
And so we look at them and my daughter continues talking. A diatribe turns into a conversation about race and immigration, limited to her knowledge about these issues and limited by her English speaking capabilities for a child who has been in the United States just three years.  The end result is that even though she says she knows her citizenship is permanent, she knows we’ve traveled back and forth to China again in 2016 with her US Passport, and she says that she knows she is safe, I hear doubt in her voice. The doubt of a child who is wise enough to be able to say, “but I’m brown and I’m from another country. How come it’s ok for me to stay here?” And it’s then that, for the first time, I find it hard to convince even myself that she will be ok. My mind goes to the black and white photos of other Asian faces, Japanese faces to be exact, behind barbed wire.  US citizens, put into camps behind wires and bars (that quite frankly look like cages) not so long ago and remembered all too well by one of our favorite Star Trek characters.  
So I keep the Certificate of Citizenship in a drawer next to my kitchen pantry, so she can open the drawer and look at it any time she needs. It should be the safe deposit box at the bank, but for our purposes, it can’t be that far away. Because I don’t know when the conversation will begin again and I don’t know when doubt and uncertainty will crop up again in my daughter’s heart and she will need to see her “America papers” again. 
It has now been 4 years since my daughter’s adoption from China. We’re currently making plans for her 15th birthday party. She has asked for a traditional Hispanic Quinceañera, so we’re doing our best to make it as authentic as possible, without making it a mini-wedding (and therefore breaking the bank!) My daughter loves being part of a mix of cultures and knows how much we value and appreciate her birth culture. There is nothing I can do to change her past, nor take away her childhood trauma. What happened to my child during her first 10 years of life, being in and out of families and institutions in China, was horrifying and resulted in significant trauma to her brain. I can’t change it and I certainly can’t justify it.  But I have an understanding of things being how they were and being able to see the good parts in making her the amazing girl she is today.
But when she and I see footage of children in cages, we can’t but question how we can be inflicting childhood trauma upon these children who have parents.