You worry a lot about making a good impression when you are trying to adopt. During the homestudy phase the drive home after every social worker meeting was a detailed dissection that would rival any CSI Autopsy. Did we say the right thing? Was wearing jeans too casual? I wish I had remembered to turn off my mobile ringer! And so forth.
We were lucky to work with a very good social worker, but it’s still a difficult process. You can’t help but keep in the back of your mind that someone is looking at every aspect of you to decide if you can parent a child. It’s daunting, to say the least.
You also agonise over a lot of forms and applications. Some border on the obtuse like, “On a scale of 1-10 how desirable is a speech impediment? Autism? Sexual Abuse?” (seriously, the word used is “desirable”) or “Which of the following conditions would you be willing to accept – AIDS/HIV, Asthma, Lice, Cleft Palate, etc.” The lice question still perplexes me to this day.
It’s hard not to develop a bit of a wicked sense of humour. In one of the many essays we have had to complete, under the question “Why do you want to adopt?” we gleefully drafted an entire response that ranged from, “we are bored blaming all of our farts on the cat” to “I would finally have an acceptable response for why I have the TomKat app on my iPad” to “Starbucks isn’t going to fetch itself on Sunday mornings, you know?”.
At times, it feels like you are marketing yourself as parents, and it just isn’t easy. This week, I threw away all of those tendencies. I went full throttle for answers.
I’m not sure I did the right thing.
Last post I wrote about a boy from ARE. The fact that no progress had been made on his profile quite frankly haunted me. I couldn’t sleep, and if I did, I was awake within the hour thinking about him. Random thoughts like it’s August already, so he will have to not only join a new family, but change schools. If he transitioned over the summer, he would have had a better chance. I could not let it go. So, I called back the director at his CAS, leaving a voice message that I probably re-recorded eight times.
When I didn’t hear back for two days was when I began sending my postcards from the edge. I emailed anyone, and everyone, I could find associated with this particular CAS. I struck gold when I found online an old PowerPoint presentation that had several Board of Directors’ email addresses. I contacted them and where possible, also tweeted to them. I emailed the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS), and MCYS. It was a bit like a cyber “bombs away!!!!”.
As you can imagine, things moved pretty quickly at this point. One Board of Director Member took my concerns very seriously (thank you, thank you). We finally received an update the next day – no, we were not shortlisted for this boy.
It’s a heartbreaking message to hear and one we have encountered more times than we like to admit. Even when you know the chances are remote to none, hope still digs in. There are tears every time.
Speaking of hope, what I do have are personal assurances that this boy’s case is now being seriously looked at and monitored for progress. I wish for his forever home to be found soon and he has a chance to thrive.
I’m hardly suggesting I am some patron saint to foster children. I’m not a social worker and I’m an outsider looking in on this system. Ultimately, it is still CAS that has to do all of the hard work. But, with no oversight, no independent body like the Ombudsman to answer to, CAS has no accountability. And things DO fall through the cracks, which is a dangerous state when children are involved. For example:
My email to OACAS also earned me a hasty reply from CAS Z about a young girl we had also never received a reply about. The good news: there are now two families selected for her and the matching process is proceeding. The bad news: CAS Z says they never received our Expression of Interest (EOI).
When you submit an EOI, it is done via the AdoptOntario website. We received email confirmation that our EOI was forwarded. This morning, we called AdoptOntario who indeed confirmed the time and recipient of our EOI form. Yet CAS Z says they never received it. Just another tumble down the rabbit hole.
I don’t quite know where we stand now. I already know from conversations that my name is damn recognizable around Ontario CASs – which is an achievement I will not proudly add to my CV.
Did I do the right thing this week? In questioning the system, have I placed a scarlet letter on our profile? I have no clue. Maybe this blog isn’t even such a good idea.
But, as I told one CAS worker – If I will advocate this hard for children we’re not even matched with, imagine what we would do for our own child?
I suppose it’s time for an update, although there isn’t too much to share from Adoptionville. Things lately are a little bit like the TV shows Lost, The Amazing Race, and Let’s Make a Deal. No idea what’s happening, but we have to clear a gazillion crazy hurdles to get there, and no guarantees for what’s behind doors #1, #2, or #3.
Our biggest challenge right now is dealing with Children’s Aid Societies. I realize I risk quite a bit by speaking out about our experiences with them, but I also don’t believe in silence. Yes, there are many people there who work hard and don’t have an easy job. I can’t even begin to imagine the situations they witness. Still, I have questions.
There is no independent oversight of CAS. There is currently an effort in Ontario (Bill 42) to place CAS under the review of the Ombudsman, but that is still in debate. For more information about Bill 42 – click here.
At the last ARE (Adoption Resource Exchange), two profiles looked like good matches for our family. We eagerly submitted our interest via our social worker….in May. We heard nothing back until I lost my patience last Thursday and called CAS X directly to determine our status. (Note: I’m withholding all CAS locations in this post). This phone call was a bold move and I put my Mamma Tiger on full throttle. I was passed from person to person, and then to a supervisor (for anonymity, I’ll call him John) who seemed to have some appreciation that four months was a very long time for a response.
My conversation with John was quite enlightening, in the way that you call learning not to place your hand in a pot of boiling oil enlightening. Basically, he did not know the status and no, we could not register with CAS X as you can only deal with the CAS that matches your postal code. So this begs two questions:
– Why were able to apply for this particular child at ARE, no matter what damn address we have?
– The AdoptOntario database is supposed to match children with families across the entire province. So what difference do our GP coordinates make if we might be a great match for a child less than 20 KM away?
Within five minutes of speaking with John, the phone rang. It was a social worker from CAS X. She informed me that no efforts had been in the case of the child we expressed interest in. I was told that the person in charge of the profile had been on leave and now on vacation, but that fourteen families had submitted applications. She did not have a timeline for when the cases would be reviewed.
This little boy is considered a “hard to place” due to his age and other factors. Yet, there are FOURTEEN families interested in finding out more about him. A homestudy is about twelve pages. Multiply that by fourteen and it’s about 170 pages of reading. Of course there are many, many, more steps taken before a match is considered, but I also know that the longer a child is in foster care, the harder it is for them to adjust to a new, permanent, home.
The cynical part of me doesn’t really believe the explanation for the delay, which I know is harsh. But take into consideration the following: we also applied for a young girl in another region at ARE. Do you think anyone has called us or our social worker back? No. Likewise, only one of the families that we are connected with from ARE received an update. CAS is supposed to respond to all applications, even in the case of a decline. So now you know why I’m doubtful.
Back to our local CAS. I have to be fair and say that after getting past the dragon at the gate who answers the phones at CAS (the one who basically said don’t bother, we aren’t interested, and you aren’t the right race, and you wouldn’t be able to parent any of our children anyway) the woman (I’ll call her Grace) who manages adoption in-take made a considerable effort to get in touch and answer our questions. This was greatly appreciated and has been extremely helpful. Still, individual efforts can’t change the fact that (to quote another show, Laverne & Shirley) this is still quite the schmozzle.
CAS does not accept our current SAFE homestudy that has been approved by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services. According to the dragon, CAS takes at least another year to complete an additional homestudy. Luckily, this was clarified by Grace as a misnomer, but that yes, additional homestudy elements are required. Our current SAFE homestudy isn’t enough.
Secondly, adoption in-take is only twice a year, and by invitation only. If the need to place children is so great, then why isn’t more of an effort being made to enroll parents more often than every six months? Likewise, if MCYS has approved our homestudy, which is extremely comprehensive and took a year to complete, why does CAS require more investigation? Yes, we ALL want to operate in the best interests of the children, but something just doesn’t seem quite right.
The next CAS in-take meeting is in October and we haven’t received confirmation that we are eligible to attend. Until then, I’ve discovered another hobby – contacting any political representative I can about Bill 42. There needs to be impartial, independent oversight of how CAS operates in Ontario.
If you’re in a similar situation with adoption in Ontario, please reach out via comments, or drop me an email. If you are interested in changing adoption in Ontario, please reach out to your MPP and urge them to enact Bill 42. You’d not just be helping us, but the thousands of families and children caught up in the system. Thank you.
In other news, we had to update our RCMP Interpol clearance. Here’s hoping I get a better photo.