I watched this video recently, and as heartbreaking as it is, it offers a very accurate depiction of the issue of children languishing in foster care. This video is from the UK, but is reflective of the same issue children in foster care face here in Canada, as well as the US. There are a myriad of components contributing to why children stay so long in care, but in this video, we see two of the main reasons; waiting for children to be emancipated from their birth parents and become legally available for adoption, and the challenge of social workers to find homes for older children and siblings.
The hardest part of watching this, is probably the realization, that these beautiful little souls are three cases of thousands in just their country alone. If you’re considering adoption, perhaps you could also consider being the happy ending to a story like these.
A mini Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE) on Saturday, June 8th for those in the London Ontario area. It’s a very small ARE; only 17 children will be profiled from 4 area agencies. Not surprisingly, although the age range spans from 4-16 years old, the majority are older children. The need for families willing to adopt older children continues to be a growing need everywhere.
So if you’re in the area, or willing to make the drive, check it out. Your child might just be waiting….
So now we’re at the point, where I’m not so patiently waiting for the weekend to pass after seeing three siblings on Adopt Ontario, that I had called and requested more information for. I’m still torn if we’re ready to embark on this journey, but at the same time, I keep looking at their profiles, hanging on our fridge, and I’m desperately excited and drawn to these three little ones. I’ve spent the last 48+ hours picturing us with two sons and a daughter in all kinds of family scenarios. It feels right. They are the first thing I’m thinking of when I wake up and the last thing I think about at night. At the same time, I’m trying incredibly hard not to get caught up in my thoughts and dreams in case it doesn’t work out. My heart isn’t really in agreement with me on that mission though, so it’s a bit of a struggle.
Fast forward to Monday. I managed to survive the weekend. I was off work that day and trying not to watch the clock. At around 11am, I got a text from E asking if I’d heard yet. I told her I hadn’t and her next question was did I call back yet. I told her no, and she more or less asked what I was waiting for. We agreed I’d email instead and try emailing a couple of her contacts in case the person I contacted wasn’t in. The nerves started to build and I was drawing a total blank on Carter’s name. So I went to Adopt Ontario to look them up. When I did, my heart sank. They were gone. I told E, and finished the sentence typing, “Gasp!”. She told me not to panic, that perhaps they just had to make an adjustment to their information. Worst case scenario someone had expressed interest in them, in which case, legally they have to take their profiles down. But she assured me that it didn’t mean it was over. So I sent the email, now a million times more nervous than before.
I had to wait a couple of hours, and I think it’s pretty obvious the answer I received, but here it is….
There is a family that is being explored at this time for these children. I am sorry that this is the news I have for you. Please keep checking in on the site as there are always children coming up.
Everything in me deflated. Such a disappointment. I texted E, and she told me not to give up hope, that just because a family was being explored, didn’t mean that they were the right family. Their profiles could reappear, I could still be their Mom. As I said to the contact at Adopt Ontario, as sad as I was to receive that answer, I was happy for them if they were on their way to their forever home. Ultimately that was what was most important. It just surprised me that a sibling group of three disappeared that fast, being they’re one of the hardest to place categories of children right now. So naively, it didn’t even enter my consciousness that there would be other families that quickly.
In my heart of hearts, since this experience, I don’t think these were our kids. I know from hearing other’s stories that just because there’s a connection, it doesn’t always lead to adoption. I wouldn’t be disappointed if I were wrong. Well, let me rephrase that. It would break my heart if I saw their profiles go up again, knowing that it didn’t work out with the other family. For both the kids and the potential parents. I still would selfishly be happy to have another chance, but that still wouldn’t mean we’d ultimately be chosen. And we’d still have to do some soul searching to see if we were willing to make the changes to find a new home so we could take these little ones in if it got to that point.
For now, whenever I go to bed, I put a little wish out to the universe that these children did find their forever home, and that they received the adoptive parents that they need and deserve. I tell the universe that our paths are meant to cross, so be it, but that I hope they’re happy and healthy with their new family. Ultimately, I know I can’t keep hoping they’ll find their way back to us. Not only because it wouldn’t be fair to them to make them wait longer than they already have, but also because I also can’t call a halt to the journey before we’ve started. I know if I focus on these little ones, I may be overlooking the children we are meant to find. Avery, Matthew and Carter made a huge impression on my heart, and I know that won’t change regardless. If they are meant to be ours, they will be. If not, that means our children are still out there, and meant to be with us. Whatever happens, I will never forget these three. So I keep a little place in my heart for them, and I’m pretty sure I always will.
Now these kids weren’t the ones, and I must admit, if they garnered that reaction, it kinda scares me what kind of disaster I’ll be when we find the kids we actually end up adopting. And if I’m that bad when I see a picture, God help me when we actually meet them for the first time!
So as I said in my last post, I was really disappointed at not being able to attend the ARE. But for some reason my disappointment lingered over the weekend. At first I wasn’t understanding why I was so upset, other than I’d been waiting for months, and would have to wait months again to attend the next one. But still. I felt kind of silly putting so much weight on this. But as I thought about it, I came to the realization is that my disappointment was probably compounded by something that had happened earlier in the week.
My husband and I drive to work together with me dropping him off and picking him up. He’s finished an hour later than I am, so I usually just stay at work and plug away at whatever I’m working on. This particular day, I didn’t feel like working any more, so I decided to check out a website that profiles children up for adoption within the province, called Adopt Ontario. I go on this site daily; once in the morning, and then usually again later in the day to see if any new profiles have been added. (Yes, I’m obsessed, lol!) This afternoon, there happened to be 3-5 additions which is a lot, so as always, I got excited to see who these new little faces were.
So I started scanning the familiar profiles looking for one tagged “new”, and came across a light brown haired, beautiful little girl with a gentle smile and a ribbon in her hair. I’ll call her Avery. I noticed as I was clicking on the link for her full profile, that there was also a sibling link on his page. I clicked on that one to open in another window while I read Avery’s profile. She was five years old, loved girly things and art. The whole profile sounded really good, so I excitedly clicked on her sibling’s profile and found a boy with freckles and a sweet smile, that I’ll call Matthew. His profile also sounded great; he was seven years old, was getting straight A’s in school, bonding with his caregivers, both very happy children who by all accounts were adjusting well to their foster home. I was definitely interested, when I noticed on his profile, that the “sibling” link, actually said “siblings“. I clicked it, surprised that there was a third child. This was the first time I had seen a sibling trio on the site. When I clicked on the final sibling link, there was a tiny little brown haired boy I’ll call Carter, with a mischievous air about him. He was three and again, had a very positive sounding profile. All the siblings were said to get along and play well with eachother. The fact they were bonding with their foster family was great, because that signals that if they’re bonding with them, they’ll be capable of bonding/attaching to others, specifically their adoptive parents. Attachment is a huge issue in adoption, for obvious reasons.
Upon reading the profiles, I immediately texted my friend E. She adopted her son, and volunteers with CAS. My text was something like, “Omg! If we were adopt ready, I would express interest in three little ones on Adopt Ontario right now! They’re gorgeous!” That was it, no prefacing it with a “Hi, how’s your day?”, or “Hey E!” Nope, my words spilled out as quickly as my emotion was about to….cue the tidal wave. As soon as I sent that, all of a sudden, I started tearing up, my heart was racing and a whole spectrum of emotions hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, and it was freaking me out. I tried to stifle it, because if I let go and laughed, it would have been this psycho freakishly scary laugh, and if I full on cried, it would have been a serious ugly cry. One of those ugly cries where it’s SO ugly people can’t tell if you’re happy or sad. It was not an attractive moment for me, and I had to shut my blinds to the hallway. I was terrified of someone walking by and seeing me bawling amidst my facial twitches I was sure I was having as my muscles wrestled between frowning and smiling. (Thank God it was after hours and there weren’t many people around!)
Meanwhile, E’s response to my text was exactly like this: “DO IT!!!” (Have I mentioned before that I love her? Lol!) I wrote back that we didn’t have room for three, or I would in a heartbeat. I was a mess, so I had to share. I told E that I didn’t know what was happening, but that I was completely overcome with emotion and couldn’t contain myself. It was all rather unsettling. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced emotions that sudden and that conflicting before. I just kept telling her I was a mess and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. She put it totally in perspective: I’d made a connection with these kids. She told me something about them just clicked and that’s what happens when you see a child or children that you can really identify yourself potentially parenting. Really??? No sooner did I ask myself that, than I realized that’s exactly what was happening. I honestly didn’t think when I saw a child or children and I thought may be ours, that it would garner that reaction. I envisioned it as you being drawn to them, requesting more information, and just being able to see yourself with them and feelings growing stronger, the more you got into the process. I never imagined it being this powerful and immediate!
A few months after we decided to adopt and I’d been looking at profiles, I’d come across two little brothers that I just couldn’t get out of my head whenever I thought about adoption. I must have looked at their pics and re-read their profiles a hundred times over, even after learning they had an allergy to cats. Their allergy was a definite no, because we couldn’t part with the two cats we have. They’re our first babies, so we need cat friendly kiddos. That was the only thing that held me back from requesting more info for us. Eventually, I saw their profiles come down, and I had mixed emotions. It seemed foolish because we couldn’t adopt them, so obviously I should have been completely happy to see their profiles come down. I was very happy that they were potentially being adopted, but selfishly, I was going to miss those little faces. Up to this point, I really thought that I had a strong connection with them, but my reaction to them was absolutely nothing in comparison to these three.
So after E made sense of my breakdown, lol, we kept talking about the possibility of adopting these kids if we were really interested. She said “Do it!” and “Just do it!” about a dozen or so times, while I kept giving reasons why it wasn’t feasible. First it was that we didn’t have two spare bedrooms; the boys would have to have a room and Avery would have to have one, as per CAS they can’t room together after a certain age. E told me that CAS may be willing to assist us if we were to rent a bigger place temporarily until we could buy a house that fit a family of five. Then it was, well before I go expressing interest, I really should talk to Mike about this. We talked about adopting a sibling duo, but I didn’t know how he’d feel about three. (Had I even really considered three?!?) So yeah, I’d talk to him and see how he felt and then if he was on board, I’d email for further information. E had an answer for that, which I’m sure you can guess what it was. Then before I could even express concern about financially taking on 3 children at once she had an answer for that too, telling me that there could be subsidies for these kids being there were three. She kept encouraging me to request further information, and I really wanted to but something was holding me back. What was it?
I think it was a combination of the emotion catching me off guard, the fear of my requesting info and it not working out, and just the fear and excitement that this could potentially be the start of our path to our kids. E of course said all the right things and asked what was the worst that could happen? We would either move forward in the process, or be told we weren’t going to be considered. There was no mystery, we knew the possible outcomes. And she brought up the point that if she were in my position, she wouldn’t be able to not inquire and always wonder, “what if?”. I knew, like her I would always wonder, so I agreed to call. E had contacts there, so she told me who to get in touch with. So my fingers nervously dialed the number and as the phone rang, I just kept thinking, “This could be it. Oh my God! This could be it!!!” Of course, as if I weren’t anxious enough, I got her voicemail. It was Friday afternoon, and almost 5 o’clock, so it was to be expected. I just was not looking forward to waiting the entire weekend to see where this would go. So I wrapped up with E, with promises to text her the minute I heard anything on Monday, and I was on my way (profiles in hand), to go pick up Michael.
We left his parking lot, and I think we drove a block or two before I said at the stop light, “So I did something today….”, as I reached into the back seat for their profiles. Michael starting looking at them and said, “Yeah they’re really cute, and they sound healthy.” Surprised that there was no comment about them being a trio, and noticing that he hadn’t yet looked at Carter on the second page, I said, “There’s three of them.” All he said was “Yeah.”, as he kept looking at the profiles. He flipped the page and still nothing. I then told him they were siblings, and I had requested more information. He said, “You did, yeah?”, then there was a pause and he said, sounding somewhat alarmed, “Wait, there’s three of them? They’re all siblings???” And once again, my eyes welled up, and all my emotions started tumbling out of my mouth in a big jumble as I recounted my reaction, and my conversation with E. I told him I figured he would think I was crazy inquiring about three, but I just had to. Once again, wonderful and amazing as always, he told me that he wasn’t concerned about there being three. He said it would be a challenge, but he knew we were capable of it. It was just a matter of us having room for three. My heart had a big exhale at those words. So I recounted my conversation with E, and we agreed to wait to hear from Adopt Ontario on Monday. He just added that he didn’t want me to get my heart set on these little ones just in case. I assured him I wouldn’t, despite my reaction I was still not all in just yet.
As excited as I was, I just wasn’t sure if we were willing to potentially pack up and move to a temporary rental accommodation, sell our house, and look for a larger house, while trying to help these little ones adjust to us and us to them, while we all adjusted to a new life? It would also mean likely moving to a house in the future because on average, it takes about a year for families to form the basis of attachment, and for the kids to adjust. Moving is also traumatic for foster kids because they’ve had the experience of moving out of their childhood home, and often, moving through multiple foster homes. So we would have to play it by ear and see how it went if were indeed to be chosen for these children. That in turn conflicted me because I was thinking that if I wasn’t willing to move for these kids, was I really the best choice to parent them? Shouldn’t I be willing to do anything right from the start? Then I felt I was getting ahead of myself. Ultimately, we were interested in these children, but we really didn’t know much about them yet, nor did we know their story and how they came into foster care. A lot could change. But I still couldn’t stop my heart from smiling and whispering, “But what if???”
Well we’re gearing up to head out to our local or regional ARE here in Ottawa this coming weekend. Just realizing as I write this, that I should have posted this long ago in case anyone who checks out my blog might be within range to attend. Darn. It wasn’t well advertised, but thanks to some insider information, I managed to find out about it. I promise to let everyone know as soon as I find out about the next one.
As for this weekend’s details, I’ll post the info at the end of this entry for anyone who might be interested. The deadline to register was October 26th, but if you call, they may still accept a late registration. This is a semi-annual event, so if you miss this one, you won’t have to wait a full year before the opportunity to attend arises again. The next one will be sometime in the Spring.
Okay, so some of you are probably asking, “What’s an ARE?” Well it’s an expo of sorts where local Children’s Aid offices present children they currently have in their care that are awaiting adoption. Children are presented by pictures, video and written profiles. If you are a “waiting adoptive parent” or “adopt ready” (meaning you have completed your homestudy and PRIDE training), you will have the opportunity to submit an “expression of interest” for any children you’re interested in, to be potentially considered as the adoptive parents.
The larger of these events is held in Toronto, and includes Children’s Aid offices from all over Ontario. At this one there is also the opportunity to hear guest speakers talk on various topics pertaining to adoption. It was held earlier this month, but if you missed it, it is a semi-annual event as well.
The idea behind this event is to profile some of the harder to place children currently in Foster Care. Hard to place children can mean a variety of things. They could be children who have behavioral, mental, medical, or physical challenges which range from mild to severe. There is a common misconception that children in Foster Care who have these issues are all on the severe end of the spectrum, but this isn’t actually the case. Older children and siblings also fall into the hard to place category. The desire for an infant is still strong with public adoption applicants, and Children’s Aid is flooded with applications for this age range. Their real need is for adoptive families for children ages 7 and up. They are also in need of people willing to take on more than one child, in order to keep siblings together.
This will be Mike’s and my first visit to one of these. From all accounts, this is not an easy event to attend. This really brings to the forefront the heartbreaking stories of children who are looking for a forever home, and therefore can be quite overwhelming. There is another level of heartbreak beyond the static computer profiles most of us view online. This sort of brings the children to life, and make their stories that much more palpable.
I was talking briefly about it with my friend E, who has attended as both a waiting parent and an adoptive parent/guest speaker. She said it’s definitely an emotionally draining, especially when you hear and see the profiles that are presented. Even worse she informed me are the profiles the older children write themselves. *Mental note: Be sure to take an ample supply of Kleenex.* Despite the warnings though, she encouraged me to attend. You never know where you’ll find your child(ren), and many families find theirs this way.
As challenging as it may be, there are also great things about this event. The first being that not only are you seeing profiles that may not be listed online at the various websites that profile children, but you’ll be seeing NEW profiles. And as many a future adoptive parent will tell you, new profiles are what we check for on a daily basis. So that in itself is exciting.
Another plus is that you can speak directly to case workers to learn more about the children. No having to submit a request for additional info and waiting for an email or a phonecall. You can get instant information from someone who is familiar with the child. Again, being the impatient folks that waiting parents can sometimes be, this is a welcome change. Especially for those that have found a child they think might be a potential match.
The other thing that many newbies may not realize, is that this is a good way to to make an impression on a case worker, or multiple case workers. When you see a child you’re interested in, you can talk with the case worker first before submitting your expression of interest. It may put a face to the name on the application, so to speak. Some people even prepare bio/info sheets to pass out to case workers for just that reason. Ultimately this process isn’t a popularity contest. The case workers will tell you, they’re not looking for a child for you, they’re looking for parents for their children. But if you make an impression that makes them recognize your name when they’re sifting through mounds of potential parent applications, standing out definitely can’t hurt.
As I mentioned earlier, these ARE’s are promoted for “waiting” or “adopt-ready” parents. That said, M and I aren’t technically in the waiting category as of yet, but I made it known we hadn’t even sent our application in yet when I called to register, and I ran into no problems at all. I got a very enthusiastic confirmation call actually.
Expressions of interest in children are also usually reserved for that same category of parent. However, there are some profiles you will see that say, “Parents at any stage in the adoptive process are welcome to express interest in this child.” But for the most part, they’re looking for adopt ready. That said, from all accounts, I have been told, if you see a child who you think could be a potential match for your family, do not let that hold you back. Persistence seems to be half the battle in the world of adoption, and I’ve heard a number of stories who were not adopt-ready when they inquired about children, and they were contacted as potential families, and some eventually were approved to adopt the child.
So basically if you’re hesitating at all about attending this event, or the ones in the future because you’re not adopt-ready, don’t worry about it. Even if you’re not ready to actively search for your child, I think it’s a good experience for when you are ready. And you just never know…. 😉
If you’d like to attend this weekend, here’s the event and registration info:
Date: Saturday, November 3
Where: The River Rock Inn
Address: 2808 Chamberland Street, Clarence-Rockland, Ontario, K4K 1M6
Offices presenting children this weekend: The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa, Prescott-Russell and the office of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry
To RVSP: Contact Manon Vachon by phone at 613-937-7460
Questions: Contact Kimberly Gill at 613-937-7431
Map: River Rock Inn
I’ll be sure to blog and let everyone know about our experience. If you attending or have attended the ARE for Ottawa, or one in your city or province, and want to share your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you. For those of you attending this weekend, good luck. Hope you find your family!
Alright, so now you have the blog that explains open adoption (Open Adoption 101), the blog about my feelings toward it (Open Adoption, Closed Heart), and now, you’ve reached the last installment in this series, which speaks about the positives of being involved in an adoption that’s open. If you haven’t read either of those, I’d advise you to at least read this first one if you’re not familiar with the concept. So it’s time to get your notebooks and pens out again class. Let’s discuss the benefits of an open adoption….
Those who are new to the adoption process, or those on the outside watching a family member or friend go through it, are often shocked to find out about the concept of open adoption. Once they find out what it is, their next question is usually, why would anyone want to do that??? Well read on…..
Believe it or not, open adoption is beneficial for all three parties of the adoption triad; the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the child. Ultimately though, the huge developmental and emotional benefits it holds for the child are most important.
Identity & Self-Esteem
Imagine looking in a mirror and not having a clue who you look like, or where any of features came from. How lost and disconnected would you feel?
Connection to their birth family gives a child a sense of identity and where they came from. It helps to give them a with better self-esteem, and knowledge of who they are. Identity can be a particularly challenging time for teens as they’re discovering the world, and their place in it. Couple that with being adopted and having limited or no connection to your birth family altogether, and it can become terribly painful, to the point it can have lasting effects into adulthood..
Children who have connections to birth parents or extended family know why they entered adoption, as opposed to it being left up to their imagination. Unknowns left to a child’s imagination, can become wildly off course. They start thinking their birth mother didn’t want them. Or it was their fault; they were an awful child (cried too much, behaved badly, wouldn’t listen), and their parent couldn’t possibly love them. Or they were so bad that people came and ripped them away from their family because of it. If they know and have positive relationships with other members of their birth family, they can see this was not the case.
Now some people would argue this point, by questioning scenarios of foster children who were severely abused or neglected. If your child was not old enough to remember the abuse, why would you want to make them aware of it? And why would you want them in touch with someone that abused them?
Children should be aware of what their history entails, even if it’s negative. To lie and put a positive spin on their history is of no benefit. Establishing trust is one of the biggest challenges for adoptive parents and their children. Especially foster children who may have been moved from foster home to foster home before being adopted. So if the child looks into their adoption when they are older, and finds their a/parent lied to them, it could potentially destroy the relationship. It’s better for the child, to reveal honest, age appropriate information to them as they grow. When the information is revealed, it’s important to impress upon them that it was not their fault, and that their parent made a bad decision. For example, tell the child that no matter how much a baby cries, and how frustrated a parent can get, it’s never okay for them to hit their baby. That was a bad decision. It’s also important never to tell the child their parent was a bad person, or the child may feel as though they might be bad too because they are born from their birth parents. Bad choices don’t make a person bad.
In most cases, if the child is severely abused, the parent will not have the right to see them, as it’s obviously detrimental to the child. However, that doesn’t mean that there might not be a healthy relationship with another member of the birth family. Having other birth members in contact, will reinforce that they are lovable and were not deserving of what happened to them in the past.
Children who do not have an open relationship with their birth parents, may choose later on to make contact with them. This can pose another challenge because they may feel afraid of hurting their adoptive parents and/or be afraid of rejection from their birth parents. Lack of contact doesn’t just occur with closed adoptions. Unfortunately, in open adoptions, there is are a lot of children who initially had contact with their birth parents, but over time their birth parents withdraw and they lose contact. In these instances, it is extremely important, that even if there is no longer a response to phone calls, emails, or letters, that you continue to maintain contact. It will make them feel more secure in searching for their birth parents if the desire arises. They won’t fear hurting or disappointing their adopted parents because they know they support them in being connected to their history. It also gives them the security of a safe place to come back to in order to process their feelings about the connection that does develop, or their feelings of rejection if it doesn’t.
A child’s birth family can supply very important information on a child’s medical background. They can supply missing links that may not otherwise be known if the only information an adoptive family has was given at the time of birth. Medical conditions that develop in the birth family may could develop over time, and may not exist at the time the child was born. An ongoing relationship could be very beneficial in a quicker diagnosis and treatment of medical issues an adoptive child may encounter later in life.
This one is probably the most obvious, but can still be overlooked by those who reject the idea of open adoption. Love is an important and integral part of raising a happy and well adjusted child. So why would anyone reject expanding the circle of love that embraces their child? Two families means twice the love, and twice the support, which can only be a positive thing. An adoptive parent can’t be naive enough to think that their love is a cure all for the painful adjustments adoptive children face, but it is definitely one of the most important building blocks. So if love can be multiplied, a child has a good foundation to flourish.
So those are the cornerstone benefits of open adoption for an adoptee. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are benefits for all members of the triad, but ultimately, it is the child’s benefit that is most important.
Despite the benefit, it won’t necessarily be easy. You don’t have to like open adoption, you just have to be accepting of it. Like it or not, birth parents are a part of your child’s life, whether you have an open or closed adoption for that matter. Your child’s life doesn’t start the day you adopt them. Like any other child, an adoptee needs to feel unconditional love, support and acceptance. That means accepting the whole child; past and all. Hell, we all come with baggage. If you have a past, you have baggage. It might be a regular suitcase, a trunk, or if you’re lucky, just a carry on. But it’s there, with your ID tag is attached to it. Whatever the size, it’s always lighter, the more hands that are there to help carry the load.
“This was what love meant after all: sacrifice and selflessness. It did not mean hearts and flowers and a happy ending, but the knowledge that another’s well-being is more important than one’s own.”
~Melissa de la Cruz, from Lost in Time