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.