Choosing Children: An Adoption Story

Posts Tagged ‘Adoption

Trapped in time.

with 2 comments

The decision by CAS to suggest that I undergo counseling for a rape that happened 17-years ago has gone from slightly unbelievable to comically bad.

Let me first be clear about what I believe is reasonable. I believe counseling, for any person who has outcomes they want to address with a counselor is beneficial. I believe that victims of violence, including rape, will generally benefit from psychiatric and/or psychological treatment. I recognize that mental illness is disproportionately high among rape victims.

Specifically, with regards to adoption I believe that CAS has a duty to ensure that the prospective parents they are screening are sane, safe and healthy. To that end I agree that it would be reasonable to ask any prospective parent who has disclosed a traumatic past to undergo a psychological or psychiatric assessment to determine if they are suffering from trauma, or PTSD.

As I mentioned in my last post I have undergone counseling on several occasions for my past trauma. I was given crisis counseling immediately following the rape. On my own I sought out peer-to-peer counselling during my undergraduate and later became a peer-to-peer counselor. I have spoken in public, to large audiences about my experience in support of increasing supports for victims and against organizations, institutions and policies that blame the victim. When I was concerned that my masters degree, which focused largely on the experiences of women who were raped as part war crimes, was bringing up old trauma I sought counselling.

In each and every case counseling concluded when I and the therapist agreed that I had addressed the issues I came to address, that neither of us had any issues we thought I needed to address, that I was functioning and coping well and meeting success markers. No counselor is ever going to tell a patient they are “cured”, it’s not how it works. In my experience counselors will encourage a patient who is leaving to return to counseling if they feel they need it. In my case they would always suggest that I may feel that I need counseling if I have a child that reaches the age that I was when I was assaulted.

When CAS suggested that I undergo six months to one year of counseling because I disclosed a rape history, I was disappointed, but not surprised. I found it a bit excessive, but again, I was not surprised. We asked CAS three questions with regards to the counseling:

  1. Could we do the counseling concurrently with the adoption process, or was the counselling a prerequisite to moving to the next step of the process (PRIDE training)?
  2. Could we provide an psychological or psychiatric assessment by a psychologist or psychiatrist of their choosing, or one of my doctor’s choosing, as opposed to long term counseling?
  3. If we cannot provide the assessment what outcomes would I need to meet in counseling for it to be viewed as a success by CAS? What do they need to know about me and my trauma to feel confident that my past trauma is not going to be a negative influence on a child I am raising?
Last Thursday (September 8) we got a “reply” to our questions.

It is evident that you have received support for the traumatic events of your adolescence several times throughout your adulthood: following the rape, peer-to-peer at university, and later in response to your topic of study.  The counselors/psychologist/psychiatrist each recommended that you receive further counselling at the point of parenting.

In order to be the best parent possible, be it biological or adopted, it is important to take the time and learn to recognize and understand the impact of past trauma in your own life.  Doing so will help you to be able to recognize and become more sensitive to times when your reactions are coming from a place other than the immediate child/parent experience.  Re-experiencing past trauma is common when parents are placed in a stressful environment: and parenting is both joyful and stressful!

A child who has come into the care of the Children’s Aid Society and who is placed for adoption has experienced one or more traumas of their own.  Even a child who has come into care at a very young age has experienced an early loss of his birth mother and father.  Parenting such a child can be very stressful and can take its toll on the best of parents.   For a parent who has experienced their own childhood and/or adult trauma, it can be particularly difficult.  Preparation for this role, in your case through an examination of your past trauma in the context of your potential parenting role through biology or adoption is an important task at this time.

As I mentioned in our meeting, it is recommended that you seek counselling/therapy at this point in your life as you pursue parenting through adoption.  The PRIDE training sessions would likely start in January, so the intervening months would be the perfect time for you to engage in this process.  I think your preference was to seek a professional therapist who is experienced in trauma therapy through the **** Clinic with a referral from Dr. ****.  The length of the process would likely be determined by yourself and the therapist.

I phoned the same day to clarify the reply, I now wish I had e-mailed instead to be able to have the responses in writing.

When I phoned there were a lot of things I wanted to address. I wanted to address the statement that said:

The counselors/psychologist/psychiatrist each recommended that you receive further counselling at the point of parenting.
To me, this feels like a willful misreading of the psychological assessments that I did provide them. In my experience no psychologist or psychiatrist will ever indicate that no future counselling is ever going to be necessary. All counselors will encourage any patient who is leaving counseling – even with the recommendation to leave by the psychiatrist / psychologist – to be open to future counseling, and cite some times where it may be worth considering counseling. Every assessment I have had has indicated I am a fully functioning adult with no signs of PTSD or difficulty coping.

The second and third paragraphs really made me angry and frustrated:

In order to be the best parent possible, be it biological or adopted, it is important to take the time and learn to recognize and understand the impact of past trauma in your own life… Parenting such a child can be very stressful and can take its toll on the best of parents.   For a parent who has experienced their own childhood and/or adult trauma, it can be particularly difficult.

I agree that if I had not received counselling and not dealt with my past trauma that I may be out of touch with how it might affect me, in which case, I would not be able to recognize or understand the impact of traumatic incidents on my life and this would make raising a child who has themselves experienced trauma particularly difficult.

That is however not the scenario we are dealing with. I have undergone counseling, on multiple occasions. In each case the counselor has found that I am meeting all of my success markers, that my behaviour and coping mechanisms are not being influenced by past trauma.

I deeply resent the implication here that a person who has had past traumas (and really, how many of us have not?), is out of touch with the impact of that trauma (if they are not currently in counseling), and will not be the ‘best parent’ possible because we are essentially damaged goods. We are broken people who cannot be fixed, trapped in time by our trauma never to recover without continuous outside help.

I kept my mouth shut, on the issues above. I’m still not sure if that was the right thing to do. Instead, I focused on our three questions.

Question 1: Could we do the counseling concurrently with the adoption process, or was the counselling a prerequisite to moving to the next step of the process (PRIDE training)?

The PRIDE training sessions would likely start in January, so the intervening months would be the perfect time for you to engage in this process.  I think your preference was to seek a professional therapist who is experienced in trauma therapy through the **** Clinic with a referral from Dr. ****.  The length of the process would likely be determined by yourself and the therapist.

Does this mean we are in the January session? That we have to complete the counseling before the January session? That I need to start the counselling session before the January session?

The first time we were told there was a PRIDE session we were told it was in September, when the worker arrived she told us that one was full but we might make the October session, then we had the problem with the financial forms and were told we could get into the November session, and when we re-filed those we were told November was full and we might make December. This is why simply being told there is a session in January does not fill me with hope that we will actually be in that session.

When I asked the worker if our file was being moved forward to the January session she told me she didn’t know. I asked if the file being moved forward was contingent on me being in progress in counselling or having completed counselling, she told me she wasn’t sure. I asked if there was anyone I could ask, she told me she didn’t know who I could ask. I asked her how we would know if we were in the January session she told me we would get an invitation. I asked who would send the invitation, she told me the admin person would send it, I asked if I could follow up with the admin person, she said I could, but the admin person would only get our file if it was moved forward and that would not know anything until then. I went around on this merry-go-round a few times with no satisfactory answers.

Question 2: Could we provide an psychological or psychiatric assessment by a psychologist or psychiatrist of their choosing, or of my doctor’s choosing, as opposed to long term counseling?

As I mentioned in our meeting, it is recommended that you seek counselling/therapy at this point in your life as you pursue parenting through adoption.  I think your preference was to seek a professional therapist who is experienced in trauma therapy through the **** Clinic with a referral from Dr. ****.  The length of the process would likely be determined by yourself and the therapist.

In this letter the adoption worker has removed the reference of six months to one year of recommended counseling which was her original recommendation. Unfortunately it has been replaced by a vague statement about determining the length of time with the therapist. That could have gone well, but it didn’t.

When I asked her about providing an assessment, either by a therapist of CAS’s preference or one that I source through my doctor she was strongly against this. Strongly. Against. It.

This is what I don’t understand, and where I really wish I had conducted the second conversation in writing instead of over the phone.

The meetings with this adoption worker have had an extremely patronising tone. For example, she asked a few standard questions about what our own childhood family lives were like. I said I had a happy childhood, with kind loving parents, that we weren’t rich – in fact we were poor – but that they did a great job giving us all that they could. She immediately probed into the “poor family” bit and each time would make this “tsk” noise and then lean in as she said “tsk, awww that must have been very hard” in the same tone one might use with a child who is frightened.

Her demeanor has been much the same with regards to this whole counseling and rape business. She seems to be convinced that she is doing this not to ensure that I am an adequate parent for the children in care but because she has my best interest at heart and she is saving me… perhaps from myself. She asks me to look at this as an opportunity to build a strong life long relationship with a caring therapist who can assist me with these very difficult traumas throughout my life.  When I have brought up that I do understand that people who have been abused are statistically more likely to be at risk of being abusers and I would understand CASs need to conduct an assessment to determine that I am not likely to become abusive to children she has acted shocked and told me: “That is not at all what I was thinking, I don’t want you to think that is why we are asking for counselling.”

The best sense I can make out of this is that they are not interested in me pursuing an assessment because they think I am somehow broken (despite the positive assessments I have provided) and they see an assessment as something temporary whereas if I were to choose to engage in counseling then I would be getting  longer-term, more in-depth help that they have determined I must be in need of.

Question 3: If we cannot provide the assessment what outcomes would I need to meet in counseling for it to be viewed as a success by CAS? What do they need to know about me and my trauma to feel confident that my past trauma is not going to be a negative influence on a child I am raising?

In order to be the best parent possible, be it biological or adopted, it is important to take the time and learn to recognize and understand the impact of past trauma in your own life.  Doing so will help you to be able to recognize and become more sensitive to times when your reactions are coming from a place other than the immediate child/parent experience… Preparation for this role, in your case through an examination of your past trauma in the context of your potential parenting role through biology or adoption is an important task at this time.

The first part of the counselling request is something I believe can be established by an assessment. But, as noted above, they are not interested in the assessment. Their assessment is that I am out of touch with my trauma and am unaware of how it is (not might be) impacting my life and I need to get in touch with that so that I know when I am (not might be), re-experiencing trauma that is a result of my past and not child/parent related.

On the phone the worker repeated that a good therapist would be able to help me discover how I will be as a parent, and what parenting will be like for me with respect to my trauma, and how I am likely to react to the actions and emotions of a traumatized child.

Maybe this is my own ignorance of therapy, but what sort of crystal balls do therapists have these days?

Is it really realistic for me to march into a therapists office and say:

“Hi, I’m a rape victim, please tell me how this one event that happened 17-years ago is going to make me a potentially unstable parent, then help me to trouble shoot that so that I don’t become that unstable parent, and along the way can you please predict the things that this hypothetical traumatized child of mine will to do trigger my own trauma and how I should prepare for that.”

I actually said that on the phone. Not my most diplomatic moment. But it was still met with the pitying tone that if I was simply under the care of a good therapist they would be able to help me with work on all of these issues.

Even more shocking to me was when I tried to get clarity on the desired outcomes from the adoption worker. She would routinely fall back on her not being able to decide that for me and assuring me that a good therapist could help me with that. She suggested that I give the therapist the carefully written  letter above and that this could be the guiding point for our discussions.

I bottom lined it that I don’t want to waste my time or money or CAS’s time by pursuing outcomes that CAS will not see as moving my file forward. After being pressed she finally came out and said that she hopes that I will take this opportunity to establish a lasting relationship with a therapist. She suggested that if I find a good therapist then they should be able to help me at this point in our adoption process, then again as we go through PRIDE (because apparently people find that difficult), and again  during placement and then I will have established a solid relationship with a professional that I can depend on throughout my life.

Life!

Incredulous I barely kept my voice out of the upper shrill registers as I asked…. “So now we’ve moved from an original recommendation of therapy for six months to a year with no outcome to a successful outcome being that I sign myself up for life long theraphy!?”

Very pleased with herself she said “wouldn’t that be wonderful!?”

I chocked out that I did not see opting for life long theraputic care as a positive outcome. She told me she was saddened that I didn’t see what a wonderful opportunity this was.

I am effectively trapped in time by this one incident in my life. CAS has been very careful not to require this counseling of me. I could opt not to take it. My concern is if I do not engage with the therapy that I will be seen as uncooperative and even more dangerously as someone who is not supportive of therapy. This second is even more dangerous because most of the children in CAS care will likely need theraputic supports, so they are highly unlikely to consider placement for a parent who they see as refusing needed therapy. Even more concerning is my uncertainty about how I am supposed to engage in the therapy. I feel that I can say with some confidence that I am not currently influenced by my past trauma, I am also not hiding from it. But, unless I show some signs of trauma they will see me as an uncooperative patient who is in denial about the impact of trauma on my life.

In an attempt to play nice, I have made an appointment with my doctor for a referral. I am not optimistic about the outcomes. My doctor is great at referrals and gives them freely, but I have called around to Toronto General, Women’s College and CAMH and all of their trauma counselling is completely full with long waiting lists. So even if I do get the referral, it is unlikely I will be seen in the next year, especially since I am not a crisis patient (and why should I be taking up a space a crisis patient needs anyways). I have also contacted Toronto Family Services to put myself on the waiting list for a psychologist. Even though CAS’s preference is for a psychiatrist.

My understanding is that a psychiatrist’s role is to assess, diagnose and prescribe. It is unlikely, I am told by friends who work in the field, that a psychiatrist is going to undertake any form of long-term talk counseling with me. To that end I hope that being pro-active and going to a psychologist will be helpful.

Here’s where it gets a bit more complicated. If I am referred to a psychiatrist it is covered by OHIP. Assuming I can get seen by a psychiatrist, and that I am also wrong and a psychiatrist will do counselling long term I suspect that OHIP will not let them keep me on a long-term counseling when I am not a forensic or crisis patient. After all, why should the tax payers be paying for therapy that is not required by CAS (only recommended) and that I, the patient, don’t think I need myself, and when I am not a threat to myself or others? If I go to a psychologist then I have to pay out of my own pocket, and therapy, especially long term therapy is expensive. I can’t help but wonder if CAS is having us run down our savings, or increase our monthly costs so that we yet again won’t meet the financial criteria.

In short things are a mess right now, we don’t know if our application is proceeding, we have little guidance on what outcomes we need to show from therapy to proceed, and we have no timelines. I feel like we are not the people that CAS wants to consider for adoption and they are simply finding hoops for us to jump through to discourage us from attempting to move forward in this process.
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Written by BeagleSmuggler

September 15, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Rape Victim is not who I am.

with 10 comments

It has been one week and two days since CAS told me that as a result of a rape over 16 years ago that I should pursue counselling for 6-months to a year before Chris and I will become eligible for adoption. We are appealing to let the counselling go forward concurrently with the remaining process. We have not yet received a response.

I’m angry. Increasingly angry. Frustrated. Mad. Disappointed.

I believe in counselling, I believe in psychiatry and psychology, I believe that psychiatric medications can be extremely helpful at the right time and for the right people. I have received counselling with respect to my rape, I have received counselling for other reasons as well, I found counselling helpful during those times in my life when I felt I needed it. I am open to resuming counselling again if, at anytime, I feel that I need it.

What I am angry about is that CAS is reducing who I am and my capacity to be a parent to a single incident that happened over 16 years ago. This problem is bigger than me, my interest in adopting a child and my personal feelings. There is a very real problem with how victims of rape are viewed in our society.

The rape victim exists as a label, as fragile ticking time-bomb, stripped of personality, agency and voice. In short, the rape victim is not a person, she* is a victim.

Alice Seabold writes in her semi-autobiographical novel “Lucky” that her capacity to be believed as a victim was augmented by her youth, her middle-class status, her whiteness and that she was a virgin. This is the prevailing image of the rape victim that we choose to see as a society: young, white, affluent, innocent. This is a construct all women (and men) should be wary of. It serves to perpetuate the idea of woman as frail, at risk and in need of external protection. In short, less capable and less deserving of self-agency than man. In fact, any social idealization of a rape victim identity serves to delegitimize the experiences of many, and focus evaluation and criticism on the victim identity rather than the perpetrators.

The rates of sexual violence are still shockingly high, even in Canada the rate sits at 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, over half before the age of 16. Sixty per cent of these women will be assaulted more than once in their lifetime. Rape remains the most under reported crime where 93% of sexual assault survivors do not report to the police**.

With the virginal purity image it is little wonder that so many women do not report. We still, very much, live in a “blame the victim” society when it comes to rape. From GOP candidate Ken Buck’s assertions that prior sexual consent waives a woman’s claim to being raped over a year later, to 15-year old Tina Anderson whose pastor forced her to apologize to her church congregation after she was raped (and made pregnant) by an older congregation member, to the “don’t dress like a slut” comment by a Toronto police officer that prompted the “slut walk” earlier this year, not to mention the thousands of cases that a simple Google search will turn up of women and girls (as young as 7 years old) who have been blamed for a sexual assault against them because of what they were wearing or because they became intoxicated.

What all of this victim-blaming means is that we construct a culture that looks for a near-impossible standard in a rape victim and when she fails to meet that standard we say there is something “wrong” with her, we tell her that it was her fault, her actions, her choices. On the surface level what we tell rape victims is that the way they dressed, what they said, the drink they had, the trust they placed in a boyfriend or male brought the rape on themselves.

What we tell rape victims on a deeper level is that they have failed at being women. We link a rape victim’s identity and personhood to her inability to protect her sexual self. At first this seems like a throw back to the middle ages, but then consider the rationale for rape camps in Bangladesh in 1947, in Bosnia and Cambodia in the 1990s and the sexual assault of prisoners during the second Gulf War. We see rape as the foundational violation of personhood. In Bangladesh opposing sides would tattoo women who had been raped with the crimes perpetrated on them so that they would be seen as sub-human by their own communities, shunned or killed off. It worked.

Once we accept that rape is a foundational violation perpetrated largely against women who through their own lack of judgement brought it on themselves it becomes impossible to see these women as functioning people. Rape then strips the personhood from the woman. While the act of rape strips the personhood from the woman we further victimize the rape victim by evaluating a rape victims behaviour after a rape as either good or bad. Where good rape victims (who are young, white, middle class, virgins) may have a chance at prosecution and bad rape victims will have their post-rape behaviour evaluated for further reasons to victim blame. These expectations of post-rape behaviour will further limit the chances that any rape victim can truly be seen as a functioning person.

The good rape victim is shattered, fully and completely without self-agency, rocked to their core by the violence done to them, ashamed and scared, changed, for life, desperately in need of trauma counselling, perhaps life-long counselling and anti-anxiety medications. Only in the crime of rape do we reward the destruction of the victim over the ability of the victim to survive. Rape victims who are not shattered enough run too much of a risk of being penalized by the system as having “done something” to have brought it on themselves.

In peer-to-peer sexual assault counselling we’re taught that while each rape victim’s experience is unique that there are generally two types of reaction that women develop following a rape. The first, and socially accepted reaction, is for a rape victim to turn in on herself, to de-sexualize and distance herself from her own sexuality and possibly any form of sexuality. Victims may start wearing baggy figure-hiding clothing, stop wearing make-up, stop going out with friends at night, reduce friends, not accept dates so on and so forth. Some feminist authors have equated this good rape victim behaviour of shunning the sexual-self as a cultural admission that rape is a crime to punish a women’s sexuality.

The second reaction, and much less socially acceptable, is for women to become promiscuous. To increase sexual interactions often in an attempt to regain control of their sense of self-sexuality. This is the bad rape victim. A rape victim who continues to have sex, much less promiscuous sex, is very unlikely to be able to pursue prosecution in court, and on a social level has obviously not learned her lesson about what happens to women who have a sexual side.

The risks in the court and the evaluation of the goodness or badness of the victim are not the only problem with evaluating a rape victims post-rape actions. In counselling neither reaction is wrong, but both layout a stark view of a rape victim’s sexuality. That from this point forward her sexual choices will always be viewed through the lens of “rape victim” not personal choice.

The most powerful thing I learned in my own counselling was the importance of taking back my personal choice. For rape victims they run the risk of becoming victimized time and time again, in each and every social relationship they have. Women who have been raped talk about changed relationships with parents, partners and friends as their identity of “rape victim” threatens to supersede lifetime personal identity. For many rape victims the process of psychologically overcoming the physical rape is less stressful than the process of re-establishing normal relationships with family and friends who now have trouble relating to the victim as a person, rather than as a victim.

Much like in death parents, family and friends cite being unsure what to say and how to relate to the rape victim. The distance that emerges in these relationships often exacerbates the self-blame many rape victims already place upon themselves.

I’ve always found this last to be an extremely interesting point, since I believe (although I am not studied in the psychology of victims beyond rape) that there are few other crimes where people treat the victimization of a person similarly to a death of that same person. I think this serves to explain why we often celebrate the dead rape victim who fought back and died in the process and barely speak of the compliant rape victim who survives the assault.

The end result of all these social constructs around the rape victim is that a rape victim who is not young, white, affluent and virginal becomes a woman who made poor choices, who is punished through rape, and as a result becomes a different person who lacks control over her future sexual choices (possibly choices at large) and has likely damaged her primary social support relationships.

Is it small wonder then that CAS wants me to get counselling?

This is where I get angry. I spent a good portion of my university years peer-to-peer counselling women who had been assaulted to believe that it was not their fault, that they remained in control of their lives and their choices. I have spoken publicly about my rape believing that sharing my own experiences and my own choices can help give a different perspective on the rape victim. Most importantly I have chosen not to be the rape victim.

I made the choice not to be the rape victim early on. My rape happened in high school, shortly before the school year began. It was a date rape. I was voluntarily alone with him, kissed him, and I was punished for it by being raped. In a strange turn of events, high school being high school, a friend of mine at the time chose to spread a rumour that I had not been raped, that the resulting pregnancy was my boyfriends (yes, I was the bad girl kissing another guy after all). I quickly discovered that it was easier to be the promiscuous girl than the rape victim. Counselling was private, school ended, the conviction was easy and didn’t even require my testimony (DNA and all).

What I realized later in my own peer-to-peer counselling is that if 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted the chances of me being the lone rape victim in the room were slim to none. Yet, when I looked around my classroom, my work, my neighbourhood I could not tell by looking at the women who the rape victims were, and it didn’t matter. The women around me were intelligent, fun, sexy, bold, quiet, beautiful women who are so much more than whatever happened to them at one point in their life.

I resent the idea that a rape victim is a broken person. A victim who is forever shattered by the crime done to her, that a rape victim will never truly overcome or move beyond the experience but merely survive it. That the rape victim is not a person self-aware and self-confident, but a ticking time bomb who may, at any point, be triggered by her experience.

I am at loose ends on what I want to do about this whole situation. Part of me wants to take my toys out of the sandbox and go home. Then I think that whatever CAS is putting me through the kids waiting for adoption have been through worse. I want to refuse the counselling asserting my sense of self, that I am currently not in need of counseling that I am more than what happened to me 16+ years ago and that if at any time I believe I need counselling I will take it. But, then I think this may ruin our chances of adoption. I want to scream at CAS for answers, I want to know why C.’s experiences of household violence don’t merit counselling but a 16-year-old rape case does, I want to tell them they are perpetuating a system of violence against women, and have them understand and care and change their practices.

I am angry because I feel like the system is victimizing me yet again, sugar-coating it in the pretense of offered help, but none-the-less reducing me to an incident that happened 16+ years ago and refusing to see me for the person I am. To them I am only the rape victim.

*I’m using a female gender pronoun here not because rape against men and boys is not common and wide-spread (1 in 7 boys under the age of 17 have been sexually assaulted), but because my knowledge, both from my personal life and my research during university is limited to women.

**Statistics Canada, The Daily. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, November 18, 2003.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

September 1, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Hanging In…

with 5 comments

Thanks to C2 and A. who helped us look over our financials we re-submitted our financial paperwork showing almost $1,800/month in disposable income. This secured us a second preliminary interview which took place today (August 23, 2011).

We still do not have a straight answer on if we are approved or declined based on financials. At one point the adoption worker told us we were never declined based on financial issues an I repeated that we were told “our application would not go forward with the financial information as it was currently presented”. She agreed that was what we were told. I suppose it is semantics, but what exactly is the difference between an application not proceeding and being declined?

For the financial section the worker focused on if we had looked into the costs of child care, clothing, food. I did explain that we had done some cost compare with families we know who have children, that we are confident that we could support a biological child at this time, and the unknowns for us at the moment are cost of psychiatric care and supportive assistive care. She did indicate that CAS could help with these costs.

We moved on from the financials to our next road block. My psychiatric background, or lack thereof.

When I was 16 (almost 17) I was raped, it was a date rape, it was violent, it resulted in a pregnancy which was terminated. This had to be disclosed on our application.

I thought this may be an issue, so in the course of our medical evaluations I was referred for a psychiatric evaluation, which basically said I’m a functional adult who maintains strong relationships, holds down a job and there is no strong case to be made for psychiatric care at this time.

The status of my psychiatric care, or lack thereof, seems to be of some debate. Do I need it or don’t I need it?

I did give some background in the interview. I was given therapy immediately following the rape for 3 months at which time neither me nor the therapist thought I was going to benefit from further treatment. The therapist made a note that I may want to consider future therapy when I have children, specifically when my children reached the age that I was when I was raped.

When I was entered university I did one year of peer-to-peer counseling that I did find beneficial, the next year I became a peer counselor. I have since spoken publicly about my rape experience and survivorship.

In my last year of my bachelor’s and in my MA I studied rape as a war crime and transcribe interviews of women from Cambodia and later did my own interviews with Bosnian women who had been raped by soldiers and peacekeepers. This was a bit stressful, so I sought counseling during this year through York’s psychology department. This counselor basically thought my past traumas had little impact on what I was currently experiencing, and although not entirely unrelated, I mainly needed to deal with my work at that time. She also made reference to the possibility of needing to address counseling when I had children.

So this brings us back to my most recent psychiatric evaluation.

Apparently all this may not be enough. CAS would like me to undergo 6-months to a year of psychiatric counseling to do with my past trauma and parenting.

It’s not that I’m opposed to counseling, I think it can be beneficial. C. and I had already discussed and planned to engage in counseling as a family and as individuals post-adoption because we are strongly aware that parenting a special needs child will mean likely mean finding our own theraputic supports in addition to those that the child will need. I have always been open to counseling if at any time I feel that my past is impacting my present in a negative way.

What I am less receptive to is counseling for the sake of paperwork. After laying out my history our worker did say she would find out if I could pursue the counseling concurrently with the application proceeding.

I have also requested that CAS layout what specific outcomes they need from my therapy so that I would be considered. We are also enquiring to find out if an evaluation would be sufficient or if I need to commit to ongoing therapy.

Best case scenario: I will be able to pursue the therapy concurrently with the adoption process, we can be entered into a December or January PRIDE program, be matched with an adoption worker for the other in-home interviews by April 2012 and be approved adopt-ready for September 2012.

A little more bad news, we’re now being told that placement for older children typically takes longer than for younger children – exactly the opposite of what we were told in the intake process.

Feeling pretty frustrated today.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

August 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Declined, for now. Crap.

with 5 comments

The preliminary interview could have gone better (understatement). It also could have gone worse.

I’m a “bad news first” type of girl, so venting first, solutions second, positives last. Feel free to skip the sections you don’t want to read

Whining, bitching & complaining:

The adoption worker told us that “as our monthly disposable income is currently presented, we would not be considered for adoption.”

Outch.

There is possibly a glimmer of hope however. After whining, venting, bitching and complaining to several of you (thank you) it was pointed out that I probably didn’t complete the disposable income section properly.

On the monthly expense report there are the following line items:

Mortgage/Rent
Property taxes
House Insurance
Food: home, restaurant
Clothing
Utilities
Transportation
Extra-Curricular
Loan Payments
Other (Specify)

Formula: Total net monthly income less the total of the above expenses = disposable income. 

C. and I do some very detailed monthly tracking of where we spend our money. Two things happened. First, I took the money that we normally set aside for savings, vacations, birthdays, holiday in addition to the money for entertainment and I put that into the “other” expense category.

The second problem was that I used our exact tracking from the six months we were filling out the package which included our vacation to St. John’s, a 3-day spa vacation and our rather extravagant (for us) trip to Mexico. So our vacation “expenses” were rather high during those six months. Plus two moves.

Which left us with about $100/month unaccounted for which I called “disposable income.”

To be fair to myself I did not make the decision to base our financial statements on an unusual set of expenses by myself.  I had called the adoption worker when filling out the finances and asked her if I should fill them out based on a “typical” month, or based on our actual expenses in the past few months. I did specifically tell her that our expenses had been unusual lately because of the reasons mentioned above. She told me that they should be based on the actual. I complied, in part, because I was nervous that if I didn’t go based on the actual they may check our bank records for the period and if they did and I had showed “typical” spending that didn’t match our unusual spending pattern in those months we’d be in trouble.

When we were told we weren’t accepted because of the disposable income I asked if we could re-submit (we can), and if things like savings, vacations etc… can be put into disposable income (they can — so can some other things as some of you pointed out). If we re-do our financials with things like savings, vacations, birthdays, holidays, entertainment as disposable income we have about $1,300/month (bet you didn’t know you’d get this detailed a look at my personal finances, did you? – Frankly I do think people need to talk about money more and make it less taboo).

I did do some quick math while the adoption worker was with us. I was able to tell her that if we pulled out saving, vacations, holidays, birthdays, and some other things I thought we would end up with about $1,000/month in disposable income. That is when she let me know we could re-file the form.

I asked her if it would be enough to put us in the ‘acceptable’ bracket. Her exact words were “it would be a better presentation”. She’s really good at sticking to key messages, because I basically spent the next half hour asking that question any way I could. I learned that we’re allowed to re-file our finances every 6-months, but I have no clue what it takes to be in the “acceptable” range. I have no idea where the “acceptable” range even begins. I recognize that $1,300 is a significant difference from $100, but is it enough?

The monthly disposable income is the only portion of the form they told us specifically we were declined on. And, they are giving us a re-do. However I am still nervous that we may not measure up financially. We make what I think is a middle to lower-middle income ($80,000 approx), but thanks to my student loans and the fact that we do not own property (see paying off student loans) we have a negative net worth. That said we carry no consumer debt which they were pleased with.

I’m calling this fear my “B+ syndrome” fear.

When you are applying for university there are many programs that require a “B+ average” to be accepted into the program. However, if you know that on average 5,000 people apply each year, and only 1,000 people get accepted then chances are you B+ average isn’t going to mean anything if 1,000 of the applicants have A+ averages.

To bring the analogy around to adoption, C. and I are on the younger end of the adoption spectrum. Most people adopting in Ontario, are on average in their 40s. Most of the people I have come in contact with who adopt are 40-year-olds with professional designations and own property.

My thinking is, if a social worker is looking a bunch of prospective families and all other things being equal (older child preference, experience with special needs, stable relationship) I can’t see why they would ever pick the comparatively lower income family.

I know C. and I could wait 5 or 10 years until we are in our 40s. We could pay off a lot of debt in that time, and put ourselves in a much better financial position. The reason I don’t want to do this is that we are capable of having biological children. We WANT to build our family through adoption, but I don’t want it to be adoption or nothing. Which means, I don’t want to wait for the adoption system so long that having biological children becomes difficult or impossible and we have no options.

We are definitely privileged in this way. I do recognize that the vast majority of people come to adoption as a choice because of infertility. For them, there is no other way to build a family. So we’re damned lucky to have a choice at all. I don’t want to minimize anyone’s struggle with infertility. However, given the choice, between children and no children I do want to be able to choose to have children. I hope that isn’t disrespectful.

What really kills me is that I know my brother and I were raised on far less money than C. and I earn (even counting for inflation). My brother and I knew we were poor and didn’t have everything other kids did, but we had a good life, went to university, made good relationships, got jobs, etc… So, I have trouble believing that C. and I are not able to support a child. I’m reasonably sure that if we were planning to have a biological child that most people we know would think it was the right time for us because of age, stable jobs and unremarkable but not terrible finances.

I have a lot of trouble believing that the kids they keep telling us have been waiting years in the system for placement are better off still in the system than considering a family of our modest means.

Solutions:

Yes, I will fill out the revised forms and send them in. I know there is a significant difference between $1,300/month and $100/month.

No, it’s not a straight “decline”. So, yes we’d better try again.

Also a big ‘thank you’ to A. and C2 who are helping us with the financial form this time round. It helps practically and also helps with the confidence levels to re-submit.

Personally, I’d just really REALLY like to know what their “acceptable” range is. If we are in the bottom 10% or even 25% I’d like to know because it will significantly reduce a probability of a match.

There was some good stuff:

This sort of feels like a kick in the nads to me after being told we were declined for financials however, it is “good stuff” that could be “better stuff” if our revised financials are accepted.

They seemed really pleased with every single other aspect of our application. Particularly they were pleased that C. was the person who initiated the decision to adopt. I know that many men in the adoptive world are really not as eager or supportive as their female partners and have a lot of reservations about “raising someone else’s kid”. So that was a huge positive.

The worker seemed absolutely blow away by the knowledge we already had on what special needs involved, treatment programs, theraputic parenting knowledge and that we were “eyes wide open” about the realities of older child adoption.

If we do ever make it past this stage they have set us up for not only Toronto, but Hamilton, Halton and Durham matches.

They were very happy with the openness that we have for risk factors and special needs, especially since we were able to demonstrate knowledge of what special needs involves and some (although limited) experience with special needs kids.

We had almost every item already in place for the home safety checklist, the only items we would need to improve are locking away our liquor.

So – yay! From a social standpoint we are the kind of people they are looking for. Which is why it feels like a kick in the nads that we may not be considered financially eligible.

I know, I know, I shouldn’t be so morose. It’s too dramatic, we have another kick at the can. Bitching and whining in a blog is slightly theraputic. This is a small set back, and a reality check. We are moving forward.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

August 6, 2011 at 9:00 am

We have an adoption worker and, a kid’s room!

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We heard back today from our intake worker that our paper work has been processed and has been given to an adoption worker. The adoption worker should contact us in the next few weeks. To set up a preliminary interview.

I’m really excited to be past the paper work and know we now have an individual case worker.

*** UPDATE ***

Just a day after we heard about the paper work we were contacted by our adoption worker. Our preliminary interview is set for July 29, 2011.

I also found out from some Google-Fu that the worker is a private adoption worker. This could be significant because usually private adoption workers are the ones who do the homestudy for people doing private domestic or international adoption. Whereas with public domestic we would be more likely to get a CAS staff person. It is the summer so they may simply be covering summer vacations, or maybe we’re being fast tracked. Hard to know.

In other news a friend of ours knew someone who was moving from a house to a condo and as a result was getting rid of a single bed, mattress, chair and dresser. We picked them all up on Saturday and spent the day re-arranging out apartment. The result: our first kids bedroom!

Written by BeagleSmuggler

July 26, 2011 at 9:00 am

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.

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.