I know I exposed a lot in my last post; ripping open a vein that cannot be sutured. Many of you reached out to see if we are okay, to offer encouragement and love. I have personally been doubled-up over all of the kind words and support. Thank you. And to my wonderful mother, who after reading said, “it doesn’t even sound like you”, which made me really take stock of where I am right now. Time for a sanity check.
Anger is a perplexing emotion. I’ve always perceived it as an irrational, unbecoming, state that no one particularly wants to be associated with. After a long time of soul searching, I can concede that yes, this anger is uncontrollable and uncontainable…but it is also an energy. I’m harnessing it.
Today a reporter, Lorna Dueck, had an interview with His Excellency, Governor General David Johnston, about the “adoption crisis” in Canada. According to her statistics, there are 30,000 children and youths available for adoption in our country. I’m not sure of the validity of the numbers, but the notion that there is a shortage of available homes is a truth (link to interview).
Now, Lorna Dueck brings a specific Christian slant to her reporting, and I’m not personally comfortable with the role the Christianity movement plays, at times, in adoption rhetoric. But I do not fault her, as an adoptee and reporter, for raising awareness. I encourage her.
So, how is it that we are AdoptReady and have to search outside of Canada to find our child when there are so many children here? Likewise, why do so many parents who want to adopt, give up on the system? I cannot speak for all, but here are my observations…
Last May, we attended our first Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE). This is a twice a year event where Children’s Aid agencies across Ontario share profiles of available children. It’s a sobering experience to see profile after video clip after medical report.
I’m going to make an uncomfortable observation here that I hope does not reflect badly on how I strongly believe in diversity….the truth is, we are white and European. Many available children are either Native/Aboriginal, or of a multi-ethnic background. For that disparity, we are considered “not the best” match family. Despite speaking multiple languages, both immigrants ourselves, each having lived abroad and with an extremely diverse group of friends, we are not “ideal”. Which is true.
Yes, adoption should first be about the rights of the child. I know how important cultural identity is to positive self-esteem and a sense of belonging. Maybe it isn’t ethical to place a child with parents who don’t have the same skin colour?
We have registered for ARE this year, which means we can view profiles of children, online and in advance of the event (a great progress – kudos!). My heart sank when I saw some of the same profiles from last year. Is it better to be long-term in foster care, or matched like a paint chip? Yes, it sounds crass, but remember, I am Angry Lori these days, and I’m harnessing it.
So back to the 30,000…it is very difficult to adopt in-between provinces (something I have never quite understood) and the majority of Children’s Aid Societies do not communicate with each other or have a common database. Now, Adopt Ontario is making efforts to build a database to match families with children, but CAS and CCAS are still nebulous organisations to try and work with. This is not blame – they are underfunded and overburdened. This latter fact is also why getting a Home Study done by CAS takes so long and why many families pay for private – word in our circle of adoption is CAS is 3 years for AdoptReady. That’s a mighty long time and many families cannot afford the thousands for private.
It takes an incredible effort to become AdoptReady. The Adopt Ontario website describes it as a two-step process, which is grossly misleading. Basically, you start by completing PRIDE – this is a 27-hour course on everything from the process, to case studies, to adoption triad issues. Ours was an excellent experience and very informative. We’ve heard from others that theirs was not as positive.
The more complicated part is the Home Study, or Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE). We did our SAFE privately and it took us a full year, which is considered fast. But that doesn’t mean the task was any less onerous. Every aspect of your life, relationship, and family history will be under scrutiny. Your hobbies, habits, routines, diet, etc. While we had an excellent social worker, it is still incredibly emotional. Hurdles pop up out of nowhere. For example, I have taken a medication for 15 years that millions of others take – that’s a negative. We are estranged from one family member – yellow card. I’m turning 40 – that’s another strike. Martin runs his own business – they don’t like that either. The list goes on.
Then comes the paperwork…In addition to the usual identification, we also needed, in no specific order, Police Clearance, Interpol Clearance, Polish Police Clearance, translated and notarized Polish Clearance, (same for Martin, who is German), notarized birth certificates, marriage certificate, financial statements, CRA records of assessment, Canadian Citizenship papers, full medical report, employment records, full family tree, fire escape plan (yup), home assessment, housing records, veterinary report (for the cat – she wasn’t immune), library list of the books and reports you have read on adoption, how many visible minority friends you have (true), how culturally diverse your neighbourhood is, record checks from the CAS, CCAS, Aboriginal Child and Family Services, and one from the CAS in Kingston (where I went to school). There’s more, but I think the point has been made.
Then the two parts of SAFE that I personally found hard:
- Humbly asking five friends to write letters on your behalf to vouch for your character (a HUGE thank you – you know who you are)
- The final visit test – this is when you are put into a room separate from your partner and have to answer about 10 pages of questions on topics like whether there is a history of abuse (alcohol, drugs, sexual, physical), up to grandparents, and your own histories (remember that joint in university? Yup, you have to fess up). We passed.
These few paragraphs only give the highlights and certainly don’t include the emotions, the waiting, and the fear. It’s the reason why so many couples simply give up. And I truly believe we need to make it more reasonable for parents to adopt.
Notice I did not say easier – no compromise on the safety of a child. But reasonable so that parents are encouraged to become AdoptReady, instead of jumping through every hoop (really, being vegetarian is a problem?).
We just received our confirmation to attend ARE with a request to build a printable profile to hand out. It explained, “this small effort can go a very long way towards making an impression with an adoption worker recruiting for a waiting child”. Yes, we also have to market ourselves. Pick the right photos, font, and phrasing. There are actually business who will do this for you professionally. Welcome to Adoptionville.
I have written this post not only explain the process, but also to engage in dialogue to challenge a change in the system. To people like His Excellency, Governor General David Johnston and Lorna Dueck, I do applaud your efforts. Still, this machine is broken. If the criteria for adoptions is so extreme and the process lengthy and intense, only to end in heartbreak, then there will not be more homes available. It’s time for a sanity check.
I haven’t posted in awhile – a few months, to be exact. At first, I tried to tell myself that I was busy. This evolved into what I defined as “procrastination”. It was not until recently that I could be honest enough with myself to acknowledge what was really going on.
I am angry.
Not just upset, or frustrated. I am raw. I am raging, furious, and seething. I want to scream, run, and empty out all of the anger I feel inside. And I can’t.
Anger is not an emotion I am at all comfortable with. I have always approached obstacles with a stubborn resolve to figure it out, come hell or high water. So I’ve kept much of this inside because I really don’t know what to do with it.
Yesterday I was on twitter browsing my adoption feed. It’s Foster Awareness Month in the US, so there were loads of tweets encouraging foster parenting and adoption. Of course, this is a good thing. There are thousands of children needing homes. But my anger bubbled up to the surface and if I could go beyond the 140 characters in a tweet, this is what I would’ve replied:
“Congratulations on making the decision to foster/adopt! You’re ready to open your hearts and home to a child. Here are just the highlights of your next 18 months. Let’s start with the paper-work, which will not only take you months to collect, but will have to all be verified, notarized, apostilled (you can look that one up), and cost you thousands. That’s done. Okay, now you will spend hours with a social worker over the next nine to twelve months to whom you will have to divulge every detail of your life, personality, heartaches, and secrets (we were lucky to have a great social worker, but other couples, not so much). Your home will be inspected, your medical history examined (good luck if you are taking any sort of medication), and financial/tax records placed under a microscope. Phew! After a year you’ve hopefully made it to the submission phase – this is when the Home Study completed by your social worker is sent to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. Then you wait. In our case, our Home Study was sent back with the following (paraphrased) – Since Lori is vegetarian, we are concerned whether she will be able to adequately provide proper nutrition to a child. We responded with a lengthy declaration on every possible way we would feed a child and all of the resources we would consult on nutrition and the multitude of methods that we would use to nurture our new toddler. Home Study now approved, that’s Phase 1 complete”.
Yup. Phase 1.
Pause for a moment. All of these procedures are done to ensure the safety of the child. But, having gone through it, one does ask the question of whether it is all too much? Likewise, we did our Home Study privately, so we were Adopt Ready in just under a year. This comes with a large cost. If you go via CAS, the timeline is much longer, due to few resources and funding, but it does not have a fee.
I can name three couples who have all given up on fostering/adoption because of the process. And these are good, strong, people. The UK now has a programme to push potential adoptive parents through the process in under six months. They are not cutting corners on the Home Study, rather, they are streamlining the process to get waiting children into available homes because they know that the longer a child is in care, the higher the risk long-term.
So back to the anger (the black slurry in the space behind my temples that keeps me awake at night and churns my stomach).
Six months ago, I was on a website for adoptable children in Eastern Europe. I came across a profile that completely blew my mind. I was so drawn to this little girl. I showed the profile to Martin and wrote an email requesting more information. Instant reply: she could only be adopted by Evangelical Christians living in the U.S.A.. Denied. I’ll write more someday about my thoughts on Christianity movements in adoption, but the moral of this story? That little girl is STILL on that website looking for a home.
At a holiday party, we had a fantastic conversation with a social worker from Hamilton. We explained our situation and she said that there has been a recent influx of children in her region, particularly newborns (although we are approved up to five years of age and aren’t set on newborn). Exciting news! Not really. We are in GTA and not eligible. Their goal is to keep children near to families. Hamilton is 40KMs away. We have the wrong postal code.
Our adoption practitioner gave us the call we had been waiting for – there was a profile of a child that had been selected for us. To say our hearts swelled would be an understatement. For privacy, I cannot share details, but I can say we fell in love. We wrote our letter of intent to Lithuania and allowed ourselves the dangerous emotion of hope. For the very first time, we dipped our toes into the possibility of parenthood. I bought the first books to start their library, and an elephant stuffed animal to put on the shelf – even though I knew it was too soon.
And it likely was too soon. We have since been told by our practitioner that this profile has also been shared with other potential parents, so it is a selection process. It’s been six weeks since we have heard anything. Six weeks of being tethered to email. Six weeks of looking at the same four pictures. No reply. We’ve been told to keep hoping. Me, I’ve put the books and elephant away on a back room shelf. I can’t look.
So yes, I’m angry. Irrational? I don’t think so. My point in all of this is that enough isn’t being done to shorten the time from foster to forever home. Yes, the child’s interest should be at the centre, but I sometimes wonder if we haven’t swung the pendulum too far and we have gone way off-centre from practical.
I know I have so many supportive friends, family, and readers – if you do want to help, write to your leaders, your MPs, and well, maybe not our Mayor Rob Ford.
For more information on the UK process, there are several new documentaries airing: