Choosing Children: An Adoption Story

Archive for the ‘Talking about adoption’ Category

Helping more kids find permanent homes

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On June 1, 2011 the Ontario government announced the Building Families and Supporting Youth to be Successful Act, 2011 which they say will remove barriers for children to be adopted and result in thousands more Ontario children and youth being eligible for adoption and support.

According to the release the key compoents will be to:

  • Reduce the waitlist for adoption homestudies and establish standard timelines.
  • Making it easeir for youth to attend college or university by exempting CAS finanaical support from OSAP applications.
  • Making it easier to find information online about public, private and international adoption.
  • Working with CAS to determine an approach to fiscally-neutral, targeted adoption subsidies.
  • Working with CASs and First Nations so Aboriginal children and youth in care remain connected to their communities and cultural traditions through more frequent use of customary care arrangements.

Not all of these affect our situation in particular, or immediately. I am glad to see that they are exempting CAS support from OSAP, that just makes sense. And, given the baby-scoop of the 1960s I’m also glad to see the emphasis on keeping aboriginal children connected to their communities.

The big ticket items for us are: changes to the court-ordered access restrictions, changes to homestudy, and changes to subsidies.

Currently 75 per cent of the 9,000 kids in care have a court-ordered access agreements. These may be to a biological parent, grandparent, sibiling or other relative who wants to remain in the child’s life but cannot be their primary caregiver or guardian. These court-ordered access agreements had, until now, prevented these children from being available for adoption. These changes will increasingly allow for open adoption, something that had not easily been available in domestic public adoption previously.

The most difficult part of the adoptive process is the waiting. Waiting for information sessions, intake, home studies, and having absolutely no timeline for when thse things may be completed or should be completed. I don’ tknow if these changes will take place fast enough for Chris and I not to go through the tremendous uncertainity in the process that others have dealt with, but I hope that government action on this will mean a smoother more communicative ride for us.

Finally, there have been many stories in the news recently about families that are drowining in debt post-adoption because they have not been able to access the care their children were previously receiving as foster children. The childern’s needs have not gone away because they were adopted but the funding for those needs has. I know this is a challenge Chris and I face. We are open to adopting older siblings because we know that is where the need for adoptive parents is, however, we also know that we cannot afford private schooling, residential care, full time in-home supervision, or extensive priavate therapy. Most of the studies show that if the government extends the subsidies for care into the adoptive process then more children will be adopted, which will reduce the costs on the system of caring for these children, but will continue to support the children with the care they need.

Another news story on the need for post-18 supports and finanaical supports for adoptive parents of special needs kids:

Outlook is bleak for foster kids “aging out” of system.

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An open letter from adoptive trauma parents

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As we move into the interview stage of the adoptive process I find myself dedicating some time each day to trying to learn about older child adoption. I find this letter is a bit too heavy-handed in it’s messaging, and Chris found it difficult to watch with the different voices and the shifty camera work. But, I do think it brings out some important points.

Unlike a child that is given up as an infant by a willing mother, chances are any children we are matched with will have a traumatic past where they were not cared for (at best) and were possibly abused – physically, emotionally and / or sexually. Their biological parents and possibly other adults they trusted let them down and abused them, and likely did not give them up willingly. They will have very conflicted feelings about these childhood traumas, they will be dealing with rejection, loss, pain, hurt, anger, etc… etc… The chances of these children being able to trust and love us in any short-term future are very slim. Any trust and love these children develop will be earned, and will be very hard to earn and even harder to retain.

For me this video sends home two messages. First, that I need to constantly be aware that children of trauma will not have had the emotional development of other grade-school children. As I listen to my friends who are now mothers of toddlers talking about their children, biting, hitting, and throwing tantrums as two-year-olds that is where these children will be emotionally at whatever age they come to us. They have been given no other tools to cope socially and emotionally.

The second message is that we will need to find a way to be open about our children’s challenges and trauma’s while at the same time respecting our children’s right to privacy. Other adults: teachers, parents, friends, co-workers are not going to intuitively understand why we have a school-age child that throws tantrums like a two-year-old.

Adoption: First Choice

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Today a childless-by-choice (CBC) friend of mine re-called my attention to an article she had posted last week titled “My Uterus is Officially Closed for Business and I Have No Regrets“. I say re-called because I ignored the posting when she first sent it. The reason I ignored the posting is that I thought it was another “isn’t it better to have a life without children” article and, while I do celebrate womens choices to not become mothers if they do not want to be, I find it increasingly difficult to occupy the space between the “bio-moms” and the “childless-by-choice” camps.

It took me three attempts to write my friend back about why I did not read the article in the first place and what I thought about the article after I had read it. This got me thinking that it might be a good exercise for me to find an outlet for my thoughts, and possibly my partner’s thoughts, as we go through this process. At worst this blog will be a place for us to articulate our thoughts into the vast emptiness of cyberspace, at best we hope to find others going through this journey and share with others our experiences in the hope that they may be of some small benefit.

One of the biggest challenges for me in this process is feeling like we don’t fit. It’s almost like being back in high-school struggling at cross purposes of finding my own identity and at the same time wanting that identity to be accepted by others.

The high-school rebel in me (which I was), hates acknowledging the fact that I do want acceptance. Needing acceptance for me is not about needing validation for my choice. I am confident in my choice. It’s about reducing the obstacles that my children will face as adopted kids. It’s about knowing that parenting is a community activity, and feeling accepted into that circle.

The article above and many similar articles have made the point more eloquently than I will here that any woman who chooses not to have biological children is bucking against the social norm and in doing so will find themselves in a position where they constantly have to explain and justify their choice in a way that women who follow the status quo of marriage + kids never will.

As a woman who is entering my 30s having declared that I will not be having bio-babies, I feel a lot of solidarity with the women who have chosen to be “childless-by-choice”. It takes a lot of self-introspection and conviction to continually affirm that I do not have a biological kick to have babies, I don’t smell something “wonderful” when I hold a newborn or infant. Choosing not to have biological children means accepting that I will miss a very important milestone in most people’s lives – producing children. There will always be a very common experience that I will have no knowledge of. And, this will inevitably cause a certain distance between myself and some of my peers.

The fact that I don’t go ga-ga for babies doesn’t mean that I’m a late bloomer it means that I don’t want a baby of my own, and I think the best thing I can do as a human is to honour that.

While I do not want a baby I do think that human life is enriched by being a parent, a mentor and a provider for another human being. So, unlike the “childless-by-choice” (CBC) set I do plan to have children, but by adoption.

In find the bio-mom’s just don’t understand this choice. Which is fair, it is not their choice. What I resent is their reaction. They don’t simply accept or congratulate as they would another bio-mum announcing a pregnancy. When a woman announces a choice to be childless, or to adopt the automatic response seems to be to question, or to assure these women that they will change their minds.  I want to think the best of these women, but I can’t help but think I didn’t question their need / want to have a biological baby.

The problem with the questions is that I don’t think the bio-mom’s understand how judgmental these questions are.

“My friend had issues with infertility, and they saw this doctor, I can get his number for you.”

“So, why are you adopting?”

“But they won’t be your ‘real kids’.”

Sometimes the most judgmental questions come phrased as compliments:

“You’re such a good person taking in troubled kids.”

“Wow, I can’t believe you are doing this, I really would, but I just couldn’t.”

I notice that the news that we are adopting is never greeted the same way a pregnancy is “OMG, I’m so happy for you, when are you due?” There seems to be an implicit assumption that adoption is a second choice. That it means an inability to have biological children or that adopted kids will by definition be deficient as compared to biological kids.

I can’t complain too much though because I really did expect this reaction from the bio-baby set.

The gap I find most difficult to occupy is actually within the adoption community. There are reasons that people adopt and I find we don’t fit into some of the traditional categories:

We are not infertile.
We are not in a same-sex relationship.
We are not religious.
We are not looking to adopt an infant.
We are not carriers of any significant genetic disorders.

I find a significant proportion of the adoption literature, websites and forums that I have found are dedicated to couples who would have their own babies but for one reason or another cannot and therefore turn to adoption. Of the families that don’t have this reason many of them seem to be coming from a religious background.

I have found some resources for older child adoption but most of the families I have come across so far are either from a strongly religious background, have experience with infant adoption or have biological children before entering older child adoption.

I’m looking for others who are choosing adoption first. Adoption before biological, children who need homes instead of infants. So far it seems like an empty space. I am sure we are not the only ones who think adoption first, and I’m looking forward to meeting others.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

April 12, 2011 at 7:27 pm