Choosing Children: An Adoption Story

Posts Tagged ‘Children

Hanging In…

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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.

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Written by BeagleSmuggler

August 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Declined, for now. Crap.

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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.

Application – wholy crap that was a lot of work!

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That’s it, that is our application finally going into the envelope. I remember when I first saw it I couldn’t believe that it took people six months to do this. I do bureaucracy for a living, I figured we’d fly through it… but no, there are all these small details that you need to go get and it did take us six months to complete the package.

Now I’m nervous about the stuff that was completed at the beginning. Since many of the check-ups and letters need to have been completed within the last six months there’s a small chance depending on when the package is processed that some could be invalid. Don’t need that.

C. shipped the package through work (yay free shipping!) which makes me sleep easier with the chance that Canada Post will be on strike as of tomorrow.

The next step is to confirm with the Adoption Worker that they have received the package. After that we should be paired with another Adoption Worker who will do six to eight visits with us. Some in-home, some together, some separate and this is the “homestudy”. We will also need to complete PRIDE training… which I originally thought would have something to do with diverstity training, but is something about Parenting Resources for Information, Development & Education.

If we make it through all of that then the Adoption Worker writes our assessment and we are ready for placement. That is where the real hair-pulling mind numbing waiting may begin.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

June 14, 2011 at 9:00 am

Profile Picture

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One of the items we have to submit with our package is a profile picture of us as a couple. The advice from the adoption worker is not to stress about it, pick something casual and not go all out. I have a mild to moderate phobia of cameras, so this did not make choosing a profile picture easy. The first problem is that I don’t like any of the photos of us, and the second problem is that there are maybe 3-5 photos in existance of us as a couple (see camera phobia). C. would have been happy to use a random photo from us on vacation wearing bad hats in Mexico, I decided we needed something that actually showed our faces… and had less bad hats.

The end result was that I hired a friend of ours Saajid “Sam” Motala to do the family photo thing. A recent gradute from George Brown, Sam has an excellent eye for fashion photography, so foisting two dogs who ran rampant around his studio (including into the underwear drawers), and two humans who generally freeze when a camera is pointed at us made for a challenging shoot.

Getting all of us to look at the camera and smile at the same time was near impossible, I think the above shot is the best of the lot, we are both genuinely smiling and the dogs actually look kinda cute.

These were some of our other choices:

This one is kinda good but my hand is weirdly positioned under Jenkin’s muzzle and he looks freaked out by it.

We finally got the dogs to sit still at the end of the shoot and C. and I couldn’t manage to both smile in the same shot – d’oh!

We could submit a shot that is just the two of us, but I like submitting one with the dogs.

And, as usual most of the shots were Mr. Brown stealing the show.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

May 31, 2011 at 9:00 am