Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A non-update

Just an update to say that there is nothing to update.

We heard from our social worker about a month ago. She was asking a question related to our initial application (that should have been destroyed when we filled in a new form following our AEP). This is a question that we've answered at least three times over the years. No one who ever asked the question felt like making a note of it so we keep having to answer it. Over and over.

And that's it.

But wait. Don't feel sad. We're doing just fine. We have children in our lives and we love them and spend time with them. We are taking on some hobbies and also hoping to take a trip next year. When we started the whole adoption journey we really wanted kids. But over the past few years our lives have continued and we've grown and changed and we're not at all sad about where we are right now. We are exactly where we're supposed to be.

We also have a lot of trouble trusting the system. There are great adoption stories and situations that work out wonderfully. There are also times when the lack of information, assistance and safeguards for families and children seem completely overwhelming. Nothing is quite like it was supposed to be. For example, we were told at the AEP that we wouldn't receive pictures or real names in an initial proposal package. As you may have read before we received all that information and more without having to prove who we were. The idea of this lack of privacy for this child makes me feel sick. If something as simple and important as this wasn't taken care of, what other issues might we run into?

Right now our profile is out there and some social worker could consider us as a family and we'd take our time to figure out if we can be that person's parents. We hope to move into a larger but less expensive place in the coming year and plan on doing respite foster care for a while.

I think the biggest thing that I've had to deal with is feeling guilty for being happy where I am. I have felt like a bad person because I'm not actively trying to adopt by checking the bulletins and hounding our social worker. Wouldn't a "good woman" do everything she could to bring home all the abused children she could? Shouldn't I feel ashamed for even thinking that I could be happy and fulfilled if our home just houses the two of us? Letting go of that shame has been difficult but liberating.

I feel bad for all the people who have been following this blog and waiting for all the good stuff... the pictures of our family, the blogging about nightmarish days, the quotes from the kids as they start to create secure attachments. I feel bad for the people who started reading this because they thought it would help to inspire them in their own adoption journey. To all of you folks, I wish you everything that your life is supposed to be but want you to remember that whether you adopt or not, you are still  worthy human beings who can grace the world with love. Non-parents are people too. And they can be damn good people.

We may adopt, we may foster, we may start an animal rescue for a thousand unwanted rodents, we may become religious hermits, we may make a floating home out of pop bottles. We've learned that we don't know and that for now, we can be completely happy and satisfied with not knowing.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

whoa... new people are reading this

Hi new people! 
A lovely blogger re-posted (re-blogged? I don't understand all this) a thing (article? post? essay?) I wrote a long while back for offbeat families. Because of that some new people have become interested in our weird family-making process. 

I forget that while we talk personally with our closest family and friends, all you internet people don't actually hear from me! 

So let's go back to November. In November we were told about an actual, real proposal. We picked up the proposal package in December and read the whole thing. 

This child was older- almost a teenager. We'll call this child "Jo" cause it's gender neutral and we're all about privacy. I had asked some very specific questions about past any past abuse or trauma that Jo might have experienced, about current manifestations of mental health issues and about pre-natal exposure history and assessments. The first red flag was that our worker nor Jo's worker could answer some of these questions. But most of the answers were given a fairly positive spin. 

We picked up the proposal package (a very large binder with medical records, government records, assessments and family history dating back to Jo's birth) and read it very carefully all the way through. The first thing we noticed is that Jo's real, full name was used and we knew the neighbourhood Jo lived in and the school Jo went to. This concerned us because we didn't have to show any ID to get the package and the receptionist who gave us the binder had never met us. We could have been anyone and suddenly had a lot of personal information about a vulnerable young person. 

As we read through all the information we realised that a lot of the questions we had asked had very different answers than what the worker had told us. We also saw over the years where Jo was continually failed and not provided with therapy and counselling because workers and caregivers changed and issues weren't followed up on. 

It broke our hearts but we realised that Jo might have more special needs than we are currently able to handle. We told our social worker we wouldn't proceed with this proposal and she was very understanding. 

So we got to thinking (as we do from time to time) about what it was about adopting Jo that didn't feel right. We both thought that we would have pursued this further if there was some kind of guaranteed assistance for providing therapy for Jo (we don't have a whole lot of money and private therapy can cost over $100 a session). We thought we might have pursued it if we felt like Jo's guardianship worker had known more about Jo's past so that we could have made more informed decisions about helping Jo in the future. Eventually we decided that Jo was a person we could imagine fostering but not adopting due to the legal and financial implications. 

Then we had an Aha! moment. We called our social worker and asked what she thought about us applying to become foster parents and she thought we'd make great foster parents and told us who to call for information. 

So we are still approved to adopt (but no more proposals have come our way). We have taken some time to really consider fostering and all the implications of that choice. We are pursuing more information. We are also considering making some changes to our living arrangement to save money and live in a situation where we would have more community and support around us. 

As always, we're learning and learning and learning. Who knows where we'll end up but we're still enjoying the ride. Also our darling, bonny, braw God-son was born last fall so we are getting plenty of fun time with him and feeling all the love.

PS... I just found the button to justify this post and it looks ten-times nicer and cleaner and more professional. I told you I know nothing about blogging.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

one step forward two steps back

Our social worker called me at work today.

We had a meeting planned for tomorrow with her and a guardianship worker to discuss a possible match. That meeting has been cancelled because while the guardianship worker had a couple weeks vacation, another social worker found a family who they feel is better suited to this child. So with one day's notice, we're off the table and back to square one.

I wonder if they make more money than we do. I wonder if they have a big backyard. Horses? A tire swing? A mom who is tall enough to hug a growing child?

Obviously this was not meant to be and we know that. We aren't really sad because we had so little information, there is nothing to really be sad about. But no matter how realistic I am and no matter how many proposals come and go a little part of me will always think "what if..." for each of them.
I like to think they will all live somewhere that looks like this and obviously I just can't compete!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

How tall is a ten year old?

Our social worker is back from sabbatical. She came over and saw our place and didn't even ask about the fire extinguisher! She hasn't seen us in a couple years but remembered us enough to recognise that my dear husband has grown a beard in the interim. She is down to earth and sensible and.... sorry, I'm gushing. We're just happy to have someone talk with us, answer our questions with honesty and listen to our concerns without judgement.

We talked about the special needs we feel equipped to handle and that we're willing to wait as long as necessary to be the 'right' family for someone, not just the most convenient. She made a note that we feel unable to handle a lot of "big behaviours" (I like this term). She didn't make us feel like we were being too picky. She said she appreciated our honesty.

Then she told us that another social worker had read our profile and thought we might be a good family for a ten year old boy on her case load. Ten is the "top" of our accepted age range. Ten is not what we had pictured when we started thinking about adoption. Ten is an age that we decided on later, after we'd come to terms with the idea that adoption does not replace birth children. Ten is an age that we decided to go up to when we were in a healthy and informed state of mind.

So we've said yes, we want to know more because all we know right now is his age and gender and a few things that I won't share here for privacy's sake. So we'll meet with social workers again in a few weeks and I guess it will be a little bit like a job interview and a little like a first date. I will jokingly but not jokingly ask if he is taller than me (you never know...). We will wonder how he would feel about a Dad who is a dancer. After the meeting we might say no, this isn't right for us or the social worker might say no, this isn't right for him and we'll never even know this boy's name.

And yet, we'll now be connected by a spidersilk-like thread because there was a chance that we're a family.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

We took the summer off

Last time you read this we had been told about a couple of Caucasian boys in a very short email.

Following that message, our Government Social Worker emailed us back and asked why we were even requesting a proposal when our home study hadn't been "signed off" yet.

First of all, we didn't request a proposal. We requested information on two girls on the public adoption bulletin following the advice of our Private Social Worker. Second, it was the Government Social Worker who suggested that we find out more about the boys, not us.

I didn't know how to answer this so I called the Private Social Worker who emailed the Government Social worker explaining that we had done nothing wrong. Soon after we signed off on our home study which would be sent to the Government Social Worker and we were to hear from the office within a week with confirmation. Well guess what. We never received confirmation; we never heard from any social workers through the whole summer.

But we're not complaining. We didn't try to contact them either. We took the summer off of "adoption". We went on vacation, we read books, we dreamt dreams, we welcomed our beautiful new God-son, we spent time with family and friends and we didn't try to contact any social workers. We needed some space. Sometimes we have to step back to gain a little perspective.

In mid-September our previous Government worker (the one who had been away on sabbatical) emailed to ask if either of us smoked (even though we've told them multiple times on multiple forms that neither of us smoke). She had some other questions for us as well so we've scheduled a meeting for her to come and see our home this week.

At this point, there is nothing really exciting about this step. We feel that no matter what we say, no one will listen. No matter what questions we ask, no one will answer them. We will have a meeting, show our underwhelming apartment:

"Yes, we know it's not toddler proofed, we will toddler proof if we adopt a toddler"

"No, we aren't planning on buying a house"

"Yes, we will buy a fire extinguisher" (my baking soda trick isn't good enough for the ministry) 

"Yes, if we adopt two siblings, they would share a room (just like millions of kids all over the world)"

Then nothing will happen for many months or too much will happen all at once.

I keep asking myself why we ever got involved in this whole thing. We're happy. We love each other and make a good family, just the two of us. But that is exactly why we're here; we are happy, we have a strong, loving family and we can offer that to someone who needs it. What better way to give thanks for what we have than to share it?

Friday, 6 June 2014

everyone needs an advocate

When I last left off (my last post) we were waiting to hear from the MW about the girls on the adoption bulletin- not with any real expectation but just wanting to know if this was something we could pursue.

 Last night (26 days after first asking about the girls) I got an email from MW saying that she sent an email to their social worker but didn't hear back. She was able tell me that the girls live at the opposite end of our province. She then said that she was looking for a home for two boys around the same ages but the only other descriptor she gave me was that they are Caucasian. I don't know what she is basing this potential match on as she has never met us and hasn't yet seen our home study. The fact that they are Caucasian doesn't really matter to us- we are more concerned about their special needs and their interests and how we would be prepared to meet those special needs and interests. This email also seemed to imply that if we wanted more information then we had to act fast as she is trying to match children to other couples as well. 

This is the kind of stuff they don't prepare you for in the Adoption Education Program.They make it sound pretty straight forward: your social worker meets with you, does the home study and will eventually propose children based on the information they have about your family. At any point along the way you can ask your worker questions or ask about profiles of waiting children. 

Instead we have had a home study done by a private worker who we will never see again once our home study is approved and we are being proposed (well not quite proposed... "softly proposed"?) children by someone who doesn't know much about us. The communication breakdown between ministry offices is absurd (we have heard this from other adoptive parents as well) and the communication between the office and families is lacking as well. They also tell you that they do not try to find children for couples- they try to match children with the family who will best suit the needs of the child. I mean, permanency is obviously the end goal (however it is arrived at) but all parties are better off if the match makes sense.

Ok... I have typed out all my frustration and it feels better.

Now I have to remember a few things:

1. I have to believe that everyone is doing the best they can with what they are given. 
2. This is a learning experience wherein we grow stronger by learning how to find advice, support and advocacy and also how to be support and advocate for our family. 
3. Sharing my frustrations is not about shaming or blaming anyone. I share because a) it is cathartic and b) it is important that folks understand just how difficult this system is to navigate. Hopefully some of us will take this information and use our votes and our voices to try and improve the situation for families (birth, foster and adoptive), for social workers and other ministry staff.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

postmaster says undeliverable

With our home study complete and our profile almost done, our home study social worker from the private agency (we'll call her Private Worker- PW) suggested that we follow up on a sibling group that we saw on the on-line adoption bulletin (a website with profiles of "waiting kids"). With an understanding that the on-line bulletin is often very out of date, we tried to email our adoption social worker (we'll call her Ministry Worker- MW- because she works for the government ministry*). Now I will share with you what it is like communicating with an over-worked, under-funded system.

May 12- Send an email to MW. Email gets bounced back (twice) as the email address I was given for this worker is wrong. Try calling the number I was given to reach her. She now works "upstairs". Am given a new number. By some fluke I actually get through. I explain that we wanted to know if certain sibling group was still available and that the email address I had wasn't working. She says that the wrong email was given out to everyone, gives me current address and tells me to email then hangs up. I resend the email.

May 13- Never received confirmation that new email address worked. I send another email asking for confirmation of receipt.

May 15- Receive an email saying, "Are you First Nations?". I email back saying that we are not but explaining that I've completed the course required to potentially adopt First Nations children. We receive a reply saying that she will ask about these children.

May 22- I email to ask if there is any more information.

June 4- Still no reply. I write this because I don't know whether to keep badgering this woman or not and I feel like venting about the whole communication issue.

For contrast, when I email PW I usually get a detailed reply within an hour (sometimes within minutes). If she can't answer a question right away, she emails and tells me that she's looking into it. Sometimes she even calls me on the phone to clarify!

Can we get some money put into the Ministry of Children and Families please? I know that it is important to pay for fancy government ads about how awesome natural gas is and how I should be training to work in the trades but maybe we could also hire an extra social worker or two and get some permanency plans in place for a few kids.

*To my lovely, American readers- a government ministry has nothing to do with religion. It's just our fancy Canadian (British) term for a government department. I just wanted to clear that up for ya'll :)

Thursday, 15 May 2014

studying us pt 2

Unbelievably, our home study visits are all done. Our home study social worker was contracted from a private agency to work with us and after she writes up our profile, we won't be working with her any more. We will really miss her humour and enthusiasm and especially her prompt replies to any of our questions. We are now back to dealing with the government office swamp where questions are left to rot in inboxes. It's not the fault of the government social workers, I'm sure they are doing their best with what they have. It's just that after working with a cushy private agency, we've seen how smooth it can be!

Now, I promised some tips. Here are the two most important from my perspective:

Tip # 1
Have your relationship all figured out and be on the same page with everything.
We have a great marriage (yeah, I went there). We talk about everything and can't keep secrets from each other (even birthday presents). This may make us sound annoying but it was great for the home study. We never had to "do home work" because we are already very comfortable with each others needs and values. There wasn't a questions that we weren't prepared to answer. So tip number one is to talk with your spouse about everything in the world before you start the home study. It's worth it because you get to hear praise on how solid and awesome your relationship is which feels pretty great.

Tip # 2
Background: When I was 18 I was diagnosed with OCD (with a specific phobia of vomiting) and anxiety disorder. The OCD started off mild but got to the point that it was affecting my work and social life. I went to the doctor and asked to be referred to a specialist. I went once a week to a psychiatrist for about a year and learned a lot about my brain and how it had been affected by trauma and anxiety. I worked really hard and haven't needed psychiatric care ever since. My OCD 'symptoms' have been gone for years and if they were to ever pop up again, I know how to recognise them and seek help.
My doctor recommended that I not disclose this on my adoption application. He thought that I was in good mental health now and was worried about red tape. I convinced him that I wanted to be honest about my past and was not worried or embarrassed by it. I naively thought that having dealt with anxiety myself, it might make me a good candidate for parenting an anxious child.
The government workers contacted my psychiatrist (who I have not seen in about 7 years). Dr. C said that I when I left I was doing well but she couldn't attest to my current mental health because it has been so long since I saw her last. I must now have a written assessment completed for the sum of $175. This is not covered by healthcare or my extended medical. Even though my doctor has already signed off on my current health and our home study worker assessed me and has recommended that it is not necessary as I am stable, mature and self-aware they still want a letter from the psychiatrist I saw 7 years ago.
Moral of this story? I still believe in honesty. So my advice would be to call up any old specialists and ask them about assessments etc and get these done before the home study. Right now our profile is in limbo while the social workers figure out whether my potential crazy is worth a $175 signature on a piece of paper.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Studying Us

Every homestudy is going to be a little different. It depends on your situation, whether or not your adoption is being done through a public or private agency and whether or not your adoption will be domestic or international.

Even though we will be adopting children from foster care, our homestudy is being done by a private agency contracted by the provincial government. The social worker who has been assigned to study us is great. She understands our sometimes sarcastic tone (which is a blessing as we might jokingly say something that would be a red flag to a social worker without a sense of humour!).

We had heard so much about how invasive a homestudy would be and how uncomfortable a lot of the questions would make us. This has not been the case at all. In fact, there are probably times when we've offered more information than she wanted to hear. We are very open people who are not embarrassed easily, which is one reason why we think we will be decent adoptive parents.

Stay tuned for some tips on how to make sure that your homestudy is a positive experience. Tips that have nothing to do with memorising a list of questions or cleaning behind the fridge (they don't even check behind your fridge! You could easily hide all your rusty razor blades and meth back there are no one would be the wiser!).

Our homestudy is almost done. There are a few loose ends to tie up, a couple more meetings and then we get to look over the report on our family that will be provided to the government and will eventually be seen by the guardianship worker of our future kids. One day...

Thursday, 30 January 2014

almost to the day

Our first meeting with a social worker (in our home) should take place in a couple weeks. Almost two years to the date of our original application.

I am not really afraid of a home study. I am not ashamed of any part of my life. I am completely comfortable talking to anyone about anything.

It might be a good opportunity to donate at least two car loads full of clothes that don't even fit anymore. It might also be a good time to clean out some of the cupboards where band-aid boxes and hair gel bottles get stuffed into the darkness so I don't have to see them out on the bathroom counter.

Two years ago we felt excited and nervous. One year ago we felt frustrated.

Right now? Right now I feel a little tender. I feel like I need to re-read the attachment books. I feel like I need to get into this again because after two years of nothing at all, life goes on.

We will eventually complete a home study. Then we will start the waiting process all over again. Life will go on. In two years I will re-read the attachment books.

The thing is, no matter how long we wait, we will never, ever be prepared for what is to come. Some day we will bring new people home and I will feel the greatest joy, deepest sadness and like the most inadequate person in the world. On that day the wait will have been,  all at once too long and too short.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

spoke too soon

I did a little poking and prodding today, emailing social workers and whatnot.
When we got home this evening, a new social worker (number 5?) had left a message on our answering machine. She wants to discuss the first steps of our home study. Adam cried. I hugged him.
One step closer.

Since 2012

My advice? If you think you want to adopt "some day" get your application in yesterday.


We decided to start this journey in February of 2012. We are now coming up on February 2014. We still haven't started a homestudy. We have been moved around between 3 different social workers. We will be meeting a fourth (hopefully) soon.

Paper work has been misplaced at the office or by the postal system or left too long by us because we had research to do. Social workers have had files that were more important than ours. Social workers have gone on stress leave. Social workers have gone on extended personal leave. We're not adopting teens or children with severe special needs so our file gets pushed down the list every time someone willing to take on those kids sends in an application.

Our file is now being moved from the government office to a private adoption agency (contracted by the government). They were supposed to receive our file a month ago so they could start our homestudy. We haven't heard from them and when I asked, they couldn't find our name in their system. So back to contacting the government office to make sure the information actually made it to the agency. I will remind you, we're not trying to adopt from another country or even another province. It's just that this system is completely overburdened and a little broken.

So if you're the praying type, please pray for those who work to care for children. Pray for new adoptive parents. Pray for foster parents. Pray for the birth parents. Pray for the government to put resources into a system that may not seem lucrative in the short term but will have an immeasurable affect on lives in the long term. If you're not the praying type, send your happy vibes and good wishes. This whole mess needs a little infusion of love and positivity.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Offbeat Awesomeness

Another guest post on Offbeat Families and more lovely, supportive comments. There are many beautiful people in the world and I am honoured to be able to share this journey with some of them.
Nesting for Adoption - Offbeat Families

Monday, 3 June 2013

You gotta have faith... faith... faith

Actually, you don't have to have faith.
I do. It's the way I'm wired. I didn't grow up in church. I grew up with pretty liberal parents who created two pretty liberal kids. We didn't memorise bible verses or say grace at the dinner table. My mum was religious but we didn't really practice religion as a family.

The funny thing is, I can't remember a time that I didn't talk with God. I don't mean formal prayer. I just mean chatting and conversing. I think that it is because of this relationship with God that I eventually found more "formal" religion. Religious tradition didn't limit my engagement with the world, it became a way for me to express my relationship with God within a community.

I think a lot about the role that my faith has played in my decision to adopt. Sure, there are biblical teachings about caring for widows and orphans. I hold fast to the teaching that helping "the least" of God's children is a direct link to God. These are the reasons I continue to believe in universal health care, compassionate criminal justice programmes and rights and freedoms for all people regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. But these aren't the reasons that I decided to adopt.

I decided to adopt because I had some really important feelings about how our family should be created and  I felt our home would be the right one for a child already here, on this planet. I decided to adopt because when I talked to my husband about it, he acted like it was what we'd always planned. It was like he had the same feelings, we just hadn't discussed them yet.

I decided to adopt because God and I have been talking about adoption for a long time, I just didn't always realise it. When I opened myself up to the idea, God continued to lead me in that direction and continues to lead the way.

Now, I hope the title of this post has given you all a George Michael ear worm for the rest of the day:
Look at all that sexy chest hair...

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Where do I fit?

I tried to find the cheesiest stock image of "the internet"- this will have to do.
The title of the post is "Where do I fit?" Get it? Hilarious...
The internet is a funny place. There are so many people. There is so much information. You would think that the internet would mean that no one ever gets lonely or feels out of place. But that is exactly how I feel when it comes to reading about other people's adoptions. When it comes to foster-adoption/public adoption there seems to be two distinct camps who do a large portion of the blogging/posting/website-ing.

There are those who have adopted children with a severe RAD (reactive attachment disorder) diagnoses or FAS/FASD (and often a combination) who post a lot on a forum that I sometimes read. These parents post about excrement being smeared all over the walls by 9 year olds, children who throw up at the dinner table every night, kids who light the family pet on fire at least once a day. They seem to try to 'one up' each other on the forum. Now these parents are amazing for taking this on. They are strong, loving people with strong stomachs! I am not one of these parents. I'm just not. I still plan to adopt because I know that not every child in the system has RAD or even FASD and not every adoption situation is like this.

The problem is that this forum seems to have been commandeered by one particular group of parents. If you were searching for information on public adoption and came across this info first, you might not continue to lean more.

When I look at blogs about adoption, I often see a different group of parents. There seem to be a lot of conservative, Christian adoptive families with profiles that mention their five children through "the miracle of birth" and their five children through "the miracle of adoption". They usually live on spacious property in an all American suburb or on a sprawling farm. Again, these have got to be some strong and loving people to raise such huge families.But again, they're just not me.

We're city dwellers living in an awesome, rented apartment. I am an ordained Presbyterian elder and we attend church every Sunday but politically we are very liberal. We are planning on adopting a foster child who will have some special needs but we can't handle every kind of special need. We are ourselves and we are not reflected perfectly in everyone's situation.

Big surprise, eh?

Now that I've written all that, I'll let you know that I have found some awesome blogs, websites and resources through sheer determination and luck. I have also found "diamond in the rough" posts on blogs that otherwise don't help me much. There is also great value in reading about different kinds of families and situations even if you disagree about stuff. The information that you need to help you learn and prepare is out there. You just might have to be patient in order to find it. A lot of this adoption preparation seems to be about patience...

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


When I turned 5 I had the only co-ed birthday party I would have until I turned 16 (worth the wait because my 16th was a 70's themed fondue party in the basement). If I remember correctly, my fifth birthday was at a bowling alley. I don't remember much of it. What I do remember is that a kid named Dillon gave me a strange and awesome gift. He gave me my first diary.

I guess Dillon and his mom had some idea that all girls, regardless of age, needed a place to put their secrets. Or they had no idea what to get me and watched too much Full House (that Stephanie was always worried about her diary!). This diary was great. It had a puffy plastic cover (like one of those toilet seats that old people have) and it had a lock that could be opened with the two little keys that it came with. At five years old, I already shared a room with my baby sister, had very protective parents and had never seen anything quite as thrilling as a private book with a lock on it!

So what did I do? I locked it and unlocked it every day. I wouldn't dare write in it. A book that special would require some kind of special secrets. I couldn't think of any secrets special enough. One day I bit the bullet and wrote a sentence about picking wild strawberries. After that, the diary lost some of it's appeal. It was like I had tainted it with my crappy story about strawberries.

It was years later before I would have a diary again. This one was filled with boys. A lot of boys. It was basically my record of every time a boy that I liked talked to me, hugged me or said something funny. Kind of like those notebooks that they find in the apartments of stalkers and serial killers.

After those scary years, I stopped writing in a diary. I went to college to try to be a writer but quit when my scholarship money ran out. This is the closest thing to a diary that I've had as an adult and the hilarious thing is that over 1700 people have read it. Not amazing by blog standards but pretty weird none the less.

So I'm going to keep rambling because this helps me organize my thoughts and helps me communicate with lots of family and friends all at once. I also hope that if you're out there and thinking about starting a family in any non-traditional way, you might learn something or laugh at something or just feel a little less alone.

It's hard for me to to feel alone when hundreds of people have snooped through my diary! Thank you!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


I'm going along, enjoying being young and awesome. Stuff like going to the museum whenever I want, going out for wings and a pint whenever I want, playing Harvest Moon 2 on the Gameboy Colour emulator on my smart phone, making super healthy juice to offset mojitos and nachos for dinner. You get the picture. Awesomeness. Some of this is awesomeness that will probably have to change when I become a parent. Not that I won't still be awesome, I'll just be different awesome.

So I'm going along minding my own business when whammy, every month I get hit with a big truckload of hormones. Hormones that make me think I'm a biological anomaly for not being pregnant, hormones that make me read all the adoption blogs in the world, hormones that make me go back and read all the materials from the AEP, hormones that make me facebook stalk all my friends and acquaintances who have adorable families.

And these hormones are awesome because they help me get stuff done. They help me learn more about adoption and parenting, they help me remember to fill out that form about my mental health (ha!), they help me want to organise the apartment (or at least complain to AH that the apartment needs to be organised).

It's not that I don't want a family every day of the month but I'm glad for those hormones that give me a little kick in the pants.

PS- It's been a year since we took our AEP and well over a year since we applied to adopt. In the last provincial election, funding for the provincial adoption program wasn't in any party's agenda (not that I could see, anyway). The province has re-elected the same government so we're not expecting the situation to change. Our advice? Don't wait to get started if you want to adopt within the next 3-5 years!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Questionnaire

 We have been sent the questionnaire to end all questionnaires. This reminds me of those email questionnaires that used to go around when I was a teenager (do kids still do those things?) but on steroids!

We're back to more forms where we tick off boxes but this time we're describing our past and current relationships with our parents, describing our parents past and current relationships with each other, describing our childhood memories, how we were disciplined and so much more!

At this time I would like to ask our parents to take a deep breath and remember that we love you all. And just in case you think that you're being singled out, I'll let you know about a few of the questions we have to answer about ourselves.

What were we like as children? Well, that's not so bad. Happy, anxious, nervous, awkward and funny seem to be a good place to start.

How did we behave as teenagers? We get choices like: rebellious, curious, immature, responsible, kind, moody and more. Umm, how about all of the above (sometimes all of the above within the course of an hour...)

But it gets worse. Describe your early sexual experiences with choices like: awkward (duh), loving, shameful, romantic, hurtful, curious, limited and more.

And then it gets even more personal when we get to describe our current "sexual compatibility": Very compatible? Compatible? Sometimes compatible? Not compatible (I have a headache?)...

So we're going to each sit down (with a glass of wine?) and fill out our forms separately and then compare, which should make for a few laughs and some good conversation. Please, don't think that because we are laughing that we're not taking this seriously. This is an important step towards our social worker learning more about us and what kind of people we are/ what kind of parents we'll be.

Luckily we're pretty open and honest folks who talk openly and honestly with each other and those around us so this process doesn't feel scary or too intrusive. If nothing else, it is a great chance to get anything on the table that needs to be dealt with before we become parents.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Soooooo Sloooooowwwwwww

We finally met with a social worker. The same one who taught our Adoption Education Program. After a year (A YEAR!) of waiting to change our adoptable age range, discuss special needs and 'clean up' our application we have finally completed another step towards starting a homestudy.

There is still no telling how long we will wait for a homestudy. We have been told that we seem like great people, that our application looks good and that we'd probably make good parents. So it's not like they have concerns that are holding up the process.

Something really frustrating that we've learned is that any time someone is willing to adopt an older child, they get put ahead of us on the homestudy wait list. It could be that no matter how long our file has been gathering dust, any time someone says, "maybe I'd adopt a 14 year old" they get moved up the line and we get pushed back.

Now, I'm all for teen adoption. But this system seems a little counter intuitive. Wouldn't it make sense to get some of those 6 and 7 year olds adopted before they reach their teenage years and become harder to place? Would it not be prudent to have some workers who specialise in teen adoption and some who specialise in school age adoption?

But alas, we are not in charge of the system (nor would we want to be!). So we wait.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Thank you offbeat families!

The awesome "offbeat" empire published an article that I wrote. The comments on the article have brought me to tears with their warmth and positivity! Check out the link if you want to read it.

Offbeat - choosing adoption

Thanks a lot, newspaper

Most of the time I'm pretty cool with the fact that this process takes a long time. Adam and I eat Thai take-out when we want and go to bed early when we want. We can choose to lay in bed eating chips (crisps, not french fries) and watching Arrested Development on netflix for hours. And we do do this more often then we'd like to admit. We enjoy being a family of two.

Then there are those moments when it just hits me like a truck. Today I clicked on a link to a restaurant review that lead me to the website of our city's largest newspaper. Right there on the homepage is the headline "Adoptions build families, make a house a home". Ok, grammar issues aside, this just kills me. The article is all about adopting older children from foster care. THAT IS WHAT I'M TRYING TO DO! Of course it's great that adoption is in the news. It's great if there are more families out who learn about adoption. But I was told in September that we'd get a home visit (that never happened) and in October I was told we should hear from someone by Christmas (that never happened). I'm not angry. I'm just sad. Some days I get a little sad. But the sadness makes me glad too. I'm glad that my heart and my mind are both edging me on towards the goal of bringing our kids home. I'm glad that this process that is so clinical makes me emotional sometimes. I'm glad that my sadness will make me call and ask where we are on the wait list for a homestudy.

Tonight we will enjoy the bittersweet companionship of netflix and chips and a glass of wine or two. Because we're grown-ups without kids and we can console ourselves with the fact that we can choose the most awesome of pastimes without interruption. Not that the interruption won't be welcome when the time comes.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Road Block

So we had been excited that our social worker was going to come and check out our apartment and discuss our application with us. Kind of a pre-homestudy homestudy.

Well that is not to be as our social worker has informed us that she will be taking medical leave for an undetermined amount of time. She hopes that we will hear from someone by Christmas about where we are on the homestudy wait list.

So we are a little sad. We are sad for our social worker who has had to leave her job at least for now. We are sad for all the children and families who were in her care as they will have to learn to get to know someone new. We are sad for our kids who are somewhere, waiting for stability. And we are feeling a little sorry for ourselves too.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

"Avril Lavigne" a parable

So I was reading along in my Aboriginal Pre-Adoption Training materials the other day and I came across this:

"Culture is Privileged: It is important to recognise that non-Aboriginal people may not be privy to many aspects of an Aboriginal culture such as sacred and traditional teachings. They do not necessarily need to have this knowledge for themselves – although the community will ‘privilege’ the adoptive parent with the information they need to know - they only need to ensure that the Aboriginal child has meaningful relationships, support and access to the community, including family and cultural teachings. An important way to facilitate this for the child is through the development of positive relationships by the adoptive parent."

Call me terrible, colonial and ignorant but this made me really defensive. Like, wait a minute, you're telling me that my children should have relationships with random people and go off and do a bunch of stuff that is kept secret from me. Why should culture be privileged? We are all children of this world. I believe in unity. I believe in harmony. I believe in equality. Why should I be left out?

Well this seemed like a rather unhealthy train of thought so I got a cup of coffee and went to work and mulled over it for a while. It came to me later when I was thinking about the term "privileged". Privilege is something that can create distance from people but it is also something innately important to all of us. I mean, look at hipsters; I knew ________ before it was cool.
My tie!

As a teenager, my friend gave me the tie that she had worn as a prefect in her private school. It was a great tie. Small, feminine and striped. I wore that tie to my public junior high school with wide-leg jeans, chains, hemp bracelets, black tank tops and bright red lipstick and purple hair (I was the very essence of high fashion). I looked rebellious. I looked alternative. I looked awesome. My outfit was showing the world that I was free and unique.

I wore some form of this outfit to a family dinner one night and my cousin said something that I will never forget. He asked me if I was an Avril Lavigne fan. Was I a what? No way! He thought that I was wearing my tie to try and emulate the singer of 's8er boi'?! I had worn the tie long before Avril came into popular culture. I was so embarrassed and upset and soon after that the tie was relegated to the back of my closet. The tie had lost it's specialness and appeal when it became trendy and everyone and their dog had one.

Now I'm not saying that my children's culture is on the same level as my choice of teenage apparel but it made me think about how hard it was to have something that was a part of my identity shared by the world. This is a small scale parable to help me remember that it is ok for my kids to be Cultural Hipsters. They need to have ownership of their culture and choose what and when to share.

P.S. Shout out to Luke (or your Dad, since I know he reads this). Thanks for asking me about Avril all those years ago!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

like a new species

This morning over coffee, AH and I were talking about his future business plans. In a year's time he plans on working for himself, doing what he loves. This would give him more flexibility and a more stable paycheck. But it is so hard to plan a year into the future when we have no idea what will be happening next fall. We could still be going through our homestudy, we could be waiting for "the call", we could be in pre-placement visits and (strangest of all) there is even the (extremely slim) chance that we could have children.
AH commented that if we were pregnant we'd at least have a pretty clear idea of our family's time line. I said that this feels like being some new kind of species with no idea how long our gestation period is. So we're planning on not being able to plan. It's all good.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

fall cleaning

Time to do some fall cleaning.
Our social worker wants to meet with us... at our home! She has been very clear that she is not starting our homestudy yet but she wants to go over our file and see our home. To me this sounds pretty promising as she obviously wants to get a feel for who we are and how we live.

Probably best to get our other bedroom ("the closet of hell/storage room of death") in slightly better order. It wouldn't look very good if we have G. (<--- social worker) over and refuse to let her see our second bedroom.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

more classes

Europeans were therefore legally justified in assuming full, sovereign ownership of the “discovered” lands, since Aboriginal peoples could not possibly have the civilized and Christian attributes that would enable them to assert sovereign ownership (p. 121). 
                                                                                               -Henry et al (2000)

Having kids seems to mean a lot of schooling. This is what I get for not finishing college- education karma has come back to haunt me. If karma haunts, that is.

I am taking a course through the local Caring for First Nations Children Society. You see, there are a lot of kids in the system who come from Aboriginal families (decide for your self what that says about the care our government gives to Aboriginal families). But I am not here to debate who's fault it is that a huge percentage of foster kids are Aboriginal. The fact is there are more Aboriginal kids in the system than there are Aboriginal adoptive parents. This means that non-Aboriginal parents will sometimes be eligible to adopt Aboriginal children. This is where an online course comes in.

I am learning about the history of colonisation in Canada and North America. Most of this isn't new to me but it is always difficult to learn about. Forget what you thought you knew about Pocahontas and Thanksgiving; colonization has meant millions of dead men, women and children and government sanctioned lies to cover up a horrible history. The Canadian Government has only recently started publishing statements and reports as to the extent of racist and even genocidal policies. It is important to learn about this history because the history directly effects the lives of aboriginal people today. I will be learning how to help my potential future children stay connected to there heritage. I will be learning how to provide them with positive role models, positive stories from their history and learning how to teach them about themselves without the filter of colonization. Not an easy task for a little white lady.

So I am back to reading texts and doing homework. I'll tell you one thing- it sure beats morning sickness.

Monday, 1 October 2012

we're busy and the social worker is busy

It has been a long time since I last posted.
We graduated from the Adoption Education Programme. We have certificates to prove it.  We've been enjoying the summer and keeping busy. Our social worker has a huge caseload and we're not her first priority. This is going to happen in it's own time, in God's time. We are very content with that.

Towards the end of the AEP we both discovered that we had been harbouring some rather natural yet unhealthy attitudes about adoption. The initial age range on our application had been 0-4. We kept on justifying this saying, "we're first time parents, it's only natural that we want a baby". As the course went on, we found that our minds and hearts were being expanded in a new direction. After one of our long drives home from the AEP we spoke honestly about feelings that we had both been toiling over. We both wanted to expand our age range to accept the possibility of adopting kids who are a little bit older. It seems that even though we had entered into this process by choice, we still hadn't been able to wrap our heads around the fact that families don't have to start with babies.

We are changing our application to accept children between the ages of 0-7. If a baby is proposed to us, it would have to be an extraordinary situation before we would consider accepting that placement. Our preferred age-range at this time is 3-6. It was such a relief to come to this decision. It just felt so right.

Feelings aside, there are also some practical reasons for adopting in this age range:

1.) Children who have been prenatally exposed to drugs and alcohol may have severe neurological abnormalities that can never be cured. These are often undiagnosable when the child is a baby or toddler. By adopting someone over the age of 4, we have more information on a particular child's needs and whether or not we can meet them.

2.) It is easier for a child who is verbal (opposed to pre-verbal) to communicate some of the complex emotions that they are experiencing during the adoption process. This in turn would make it easier for us to help them.

3.) The older the child is, the less "desirable" they are to potential adoptive parents. Many children stay in the foster care system just because they are 6 or older. Six isn't very old! A six year old needs a loving, stable, forever home as much as anyone but they are often over looked.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


Predictability is really important for adopted kids. Have you ever started a new job and been unsure of what's expected of you, what you're allowed to talk about, where you're expected to sit or stand, when you're allowed to go home? I've had my share of sketchy jobs and I can tell you that the 'unkown' can be pretty darn stressful!

When our kids come home, it is our job to let them know what our routine and family guidelines are (at an age appropriate level) and to stick to that routine as much as possible. Our home is a strange place to our kids and the more they know about what goes on, the less confused and scared they will be. Knowing that they will be fed multiple times a day can reduce food hoarding and eating disorders. Knowing that bedtime comes after story time will help them prepare for a time of day that can be scary for traumatised children (a lot of traumas happen at night).

You know what? I can't wait to have some routines in place and have an excuse to try and stick to them! Maybe I can convince AH to let me try making routine charts for us now... I get the feeling that might fall under the category of crazy-control-freak-wife. But that shouldn't be news to him :)

I could see these being useful for AH and I some all mornings!

Friday, 15 June 2012


From time to time this blog will get a fresh coat of paint. A little change is good for you.

I like to keep things fresh.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

invisible disability

Let's say you're at the grocery store. You walk into the cereal isle and come across a parent with a child. The child is talkative, persuasive and begging for a sugary cereal. The child is about eight years old and starts banging on the shelves and the shopping cart when the parent tries to explain that they are not buying that cereal. The child starts to have a melt down. The child is having a tantrum, the kind that you would expect to see from a two year old. This is not the way that an eight year old with an age appropriate vocabulary usually acts. Those parents must spoil this child, they never say no. It is sad that this bad child has such bad parents.

Let's say you are walking down the street. You notice that a shop has planted some beautiful flowers on the boulevard. They are bright and fragrant. A young man walks by and notices the flowers. He moves quickly and starts picking them. The shop owner comes out and tells him that is vandalism. He continues to pick the flowers until the shop owner tells him to leave. It is too bad that man feels so entitled. He must have been spoilt as a child. It is sad that this bad man had such bad parents. 

It is so easy to assume we know all about people when we see the way they act in public. What it is not always easy to remember is that many people have invisible and often times, undiagnosed disabilities. A person with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) may look "normal", may speak with a "normal" vocabulary, may have a "normal" (or even above average) IQ. What they may not have is the ability to understand consequences, the ability to calm themselves down or the ability to understand instructions.

The young man picking the flowers may have thought that his girlfriend would like them. His brain could not make the connection that the flowers were not his to pick. He had a thought and his brain said "do it". The child in the store may have started feeling upset and soon that feeling took over. The child did not yet have the tools to stop the tantrum, even though this is something that he is working on with his parents at home.

1 out of every 100 Canadians are born with the affects of  FASD. This does not mean that their birth parents are bad people. 60% of people with FASD will end up in the criminal justice system. This does not mean that they are bad people. They have a physical, neurological disorder that makes it so that they cannot always understand cause and effect. People with FASD are not stupid. They are often frustrated, they are often misunderstood and they often do not get the help they need.

The affects of FASD are caused by a physical disability
not "bad behaviour"
Not every one affected by FASD gets into trouble. Many will go on to live semi-independent or independent lives. They may successfully complete school, successfully find employment and successfully raise children. You have probably met many people who have FASD and don't even know it. You might have friends with FASD and have no idea. FASD is a lifelong disability but early diagnosis, protective measures, learning aides, therapy and possibly medical intervention may help the affected person.

We do not know exactly how we feel about being the parents of a child with FASD. There are certain behaviours that we may find too difficult. This is only because of our own shortcomings but we need to be honest about those. We also have to be open to the possibility because the child/children that we adopt could end up developing new and difficult behaviours that lead to a diagnosis years after finalisation. If this happens, we will fight fiercely for them to have everything that they need to succeed to the best of their abilities.

Whew... long post! Want to read even more (you've got nothing better to do, right?)?
Check out this publication from the John Howard Society:  http://johnhoward.on.ca/pdfs/FactSheet_26_FASD_and_the_Criminal_Justice_System.pdf 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Don't play with your food...


I promised a happy post:

These are two toys that we have already bought. That's right folks, we're going to be the parents who make our kids play with vegetable toys. As if they weren't already traumatised enough...

sad babes

Disclaimer: Here are two questions that seem to come up in conversations either with our own friends or family or on adoption forums etc. Obviously, I am just learning about all of this. I am not an expert, nor do I claim to be. These are conclusions that AH and I have come to with research and learning and prayer and conversation. Our opinions on these matters may change, but this is what we're going with right now.

How old does a baby have to be to experience trauma?
Many experts agree that trauma to the mother even while the baby is still in utero can leave lasting neurological impacts on the developing foetus. After a baby is born, he has not learnt how to separate himself from his mother and therefore, sensing that his mother is in danger may cause his little brain and body to panic that he too is in danger. If something happens to mother, baby cannot recognise that he might be able to go on living without her. His little brain is telling him that if mother dies, baby dies. So even if a baby is not abused; living with abuse or danger can cause extreme stress to the developing mind. If a baby is being abused (physical, sexual, neglect), that stress may be compounded.

This is one of the many realities that must be faced in adoption. Sadly, our children are coming to us for a reason and that reason is not happy. In a perfect world, there would be no need for adoption. Birth parents would be given the supports they need to raise their children with help from the community. No one would be alone and children would be raised by "the village" if a parent was unable. When our children come to live with us and be loved by us, it is bitter-sweet because it means that they have been removed from the most important relationship of their young lives.

Should a child be told about trauma that they are too young to remember?

The simple answer is "yes". Children will ask questions about their past. They will ask questions about why they were adopted. Their past belongs to them, not me and I have no right to withhold it from them. Having knowledge about their life will help them understand some of their behaviours and fears.

We will be careful to use age appropriate language. We will be careful to consult professionals about the best ways to talk about these subjects. Luckily, anyone who knows us knows that we are not afraid of  subjects that some people may find difficult. I could have been voted "most likely to become a sex-ed teacher" in my high school yearbook (not that that was a category). Anyone who knows us also knows that we're kind of (understatement?) socialist thinkers so we won't be portraying our kid's pasts with stereotypes about "bad people". Colouring their birth-parents and situations as "bad" won't help our children. In fact, telling a child that they come from "bad" people may give them the belief that they are "bad" as well. I am thankful that AH and I are blessed with these outlooks.

I don't mean to make this entirely negative. Out of adoption can come beautiful, diverse, loving families who have a special outlook on the world. I just want to be clear that it is not all beautiful. I want to be clear that the trauma experienced by our future children, no matter how old they are, is very real. It is something personal that belongs to them. It is something that we must show respect for if we want to gain their trust. We want to gain their trust. When they trust us, they will be able to release some of their anguish and learn that the world isn't so scary after all.

Friday, 1 June 2012

personal post- the loss of the fantasy child

So far, a lot of the posts have seemed a little clinical. There is a lot of "book learning" to do and it is all really important. There are also a lot of emotions that AH and I have dealt with/still deal with. The fact is, at the end of the day, we will have little strangers in our home who are with us, for better or for worse and it will be up to us to make a family out of that situation. This is a post about one of the very personal aspects of this process.

From the time we are children, we have an idea of what our own children will be like. We think about the physical characteristics we will pass on. We think about the things that we'll teach them. We think about the way we'll take care of them. We think about how beautiful they'll be. We think about how smart they'll be. We know that the children that come from us will be perfect. When we are with our spouse, we think about the amazing traits that they will pass on- the things that we love about them.

This is all a fantasy. Any parent will tell you that no child turns out how you expect them too. In giving birth to a child, you cannot protect them from all "defects" or diseases. You cannot pick whether they get your blue eyes or your crooked teeth. But there is still a chance that some aspect of your 'fantasy child' will be realised.

Adoption is different. AH used the game Yahtzee to describe it. He says that when you give birth, it's like you've already got some dice on the table. No matter what you roll with the remaining dice, you already know some of the variables. With adoption, it's like putting all the dice back in the cup on your last roll and not knowing if you'll get a "Yahtzee" or your "chance" (not that your "chance" is a bad thing, many close games have been won on a "chance" score!).

When we made the decision to adopt it felt overwhelmingly "right" in a way that trying to have birth children never did. We are at times blissful, anxious, excited, serene and terrified (sometimes all at once); just like any other 'parents to be'. But it is important to accept the loss of the fantasy birth-child so that we can fully welcome our own children into our lives with no prejudice or presumption.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

open minds

Let's talk about "openness". When we talk to people about our plans to adopt they often seemed a little shocked and concerned when we say that we want an open adoption.
What does openness mean? It means that our child/children will have some contact with people from their past. This contact may just be a letter passed through a social worker once a year or it could mean bi-weekly visits. It depends on the situation.
Who are the people we would be "open" with? They could include our children's birth-mom, birth-dad, birth-grandparents, birth-siblings (if we are not able to adopt them), step siblings, foster moms, foster dads, foster siblings, birth or foster aunts, uncles cousins, family friends... the list goes on!
Why is openness important? Here is one reason. There are certain things that we can pass on to our children; our love for organic produce, the fact that turning on "the radio" means turning on CBC radio 1, laughing for hours at re-runs of old, BBC comedies. All the those boring things that make AH and I our own family. There are many other things that we will not be passing on to our children; our height, our eye colour, our hair colour, our genetic abnormalities, our genetic "abilities". These things will come from the birth parents, the people who share DNA with our children. It is important that we give our children the opportunity (if we can) to see where they come from so they can form a healthy identity.
Won't our kids get confused about who their parents are? The simple answer is "no". They know that they were not born to us. Even if we adopt a baby, we will make no secret of that. They will also know that families are formed in different ways. Just because I did not give birth to them, does not mean that I am not their mommy. If birth-parent information is withheld from children they will often fantasise about the "perfect parents" they never got to know. Or they might feel like they were not lovable enough for their birth parent to parent them. If kids are able to see that their birth parents are loving but troubled people, it can help them understand the situation a lot better.
Why openness with foster family or other important people? That one is pretty simple. Imagine you have lived on earth for 4 years. There are people who have tucked you in every night, kissed your boo-boos and fed you your favourite meals. They weren't able to be your "forever family" but they showed you love and you loved them very much. One day, you meet some strangers who call themselves Mommy and Daddy. Eventually these strangers take you home and you never see those other loving people again. Wouldn't it be nicer if your new Mommy and Daddy invited those people to visit, to show that your feelings are important and the people you love are important too? You'd probably trust your new Mommy and Daddy a lot more and bond with them a lot faster.
I've also heard it's nice to have the support of people who have "parented" your children before you. They can help you figure out what makes your child "tick".
So as if we didn't already have large extended families here we are adding potentially hundreds of people (once we factor in cousins and the like). Oh well, the more the merrier!

Here are some "pros and cons" of open adoptions:

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

attachment (pt 2)

So how can we combat a disrupted attachment? First, it's important to remember that the emotional age of our children could be much younger than their chronological age. If we adopt a two year old it would not be in his best interest to parent him the way one would parent an attached two year old.
If a newborn baby screams and cries, you don't put him in a time out. You give him loving touch, respond to his needs and he learns how to regulate his own emotions over time.
Unattached children need to be "re-parented" by their new parents to form a healthy attachment. In order for the child to later become attached to extended family members, they need to form a real, healthy attachment to their parents first. For many children this means that only their parents should hold them for the first couple of months. If a child tries to go to another friend or family member, they should re-direct that child to their mummy or daddy.

These are just a few strategies that have worked very well in helping children form secure attachments:

-Holding Time/Close Time - This is therapeutic touch and cuddle time. Children as old as 18 years (and possibly even adults) have found that being rocked like a baby after a difficult situation (such as a temper tantrum) and/or intermittently throughout the day will help them learn how to regulate their emotions.

-Bottles - It may seem strange to bottle feed a toddler or older child but if this child has never experienced having been cared for by just one mummy, taking them back to an infantile stage and teaching them that mummy will take care of them and nurture them might be just the ticket.

-Eye contact - An unattached child will avoid eye contact with their new mummy and daddy. Playing games like peek-a-boo (even with older children) will help them learn to trust eye contact in a non-threatening way.

-Carrying - Yes, that child is old enough to walk but she might need to be carried in a carrier while she learns to attach to her parents.

-Time-in - Children who are already feeling separated from the world should not be given a time-out. Being sent away from the family (even if it's just the next room for just a few minutes) could be very traumatizing. Instead the child can sit with a parent for the duration of the punishment. They can then discuss the behaviour and end with a hug and a kiss. This helps teach a child that even though they have misbehaved, they are still loved.

For more information on attachment in adopted children, check out the website A4everFamily.org
The AEP touches briefly on these things but does not have time to give a lot of information. This website has a lot of stories from real parents and advice from professionals who specialize in post-adoption attachment.

Just reading about all this is exhausting. Sometimes, everything that we need to learn and be aware of seems unimaginable. But the more prepared we are now, the less likely we are to be surprised in the future. I'm sure that we will still make plenty of mistakes but hopefully we'll make a few less because we've done our homework.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

attachment... not just putting files on emails (pt. 1)

This week is attachment week at the AEP. I have been researching attachment for the past few months and I'm glad because the AEP didn't have time to get into everything that might have been covered.
What is attachment you ask? Well according to Psychology Today attachment is this important:
"The emotional bond that typically forms between infant and caregiver, usually a parent, not only stimulates brain growth but affects personality development and lifelong ability to form stable relationships"
Usually when a baby cries, a caregiver meets the baby's need and the baby attaches to the caregiver. This is the natural attachment cycle. The problem is that many children in the foster care system have either never been able to attach to a trusting caregiver or have attached to many different caregivers who have come in and out of the child's life. No attachment or disrupted attachments can have huge negative effects on a developing brain. When a child does not have any secure attachments and has trouble making them it is often diagnosed as Attachment Disorder or Reactive Attachment Disorder.

What are the potential causes of Attachment disorder?

Separation from the primary caregiver
Changes in the primary caregiver
Frequent moves and/or placements
Traumatic experiences
Maternal depression 
Maternal addiction - drugs or alcohol
Undiagnosed, painful illness such as colic, ear infections, etc.
Lack of attunement between mother and child

What does Attachment Disorder look like? 

•Intense control battles, very bossy and argumentative; defiance and anger
•Resists affection on parental terms
•Lack of eye contact, especially with parents or will look into your eyes when lying
•Manipulative - superficially charming and engaging
•Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
•Lack of conscience - shows no remorse
•Destructive to property, self and/or others
•Lack of impulse control
•Learning lags/delays
•Speech and language problems
•Incessant chatter and/or questions
•Inappropriately demanding and/or clingy
•Food issues - hordes, gorges, refuses to eat, eats strange things,  hides food
•Very concerned about tiny hurts but brushes off big hurts

Some of these might sound like normal child behaviours but a child who is unattached doesn't know to go to their parents for help. They don't know how to feel safe and might always be waiting for something bad to happen. They don't understand that you are their "forever family" and might try "mommy shopping" (hugging and cuddling strangers, knowing they have to be charming in order to be protected).  In public, an unattached child might seem cute and affectionate but inside (and at home) they are fighting against attaching to anyone in order to avoid future hurt.

So there you have it. Some tough stuff to mull over. It's not all bad news though. With a lot of patience and very purposeful parenting, many children are able to form very secure attachments to their adoptive parents. More on that next time.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

going back to school... adoption style

We have started our AEP (Adoption Education Programme (Program?)).
Why do we need to go to school in order to have kids? People don't need to go to school to have kids biologically (although on 16 and Pregnant they are often in school when they're having kids).
One of the awesome things about adding to our family through adoption is that it is completely different experience than adding to our family through biological methods. We're swapping morning sickness and labor for attachment disorder and a host of unknown issues. Why is this awesome? Well because not only do we get to go through some real personal growth, we also get to help a little person (or people) with some real growth as well.
With all this awesomeness comes a lot of responsibility and a need for preparation in all areas of our lives. At home this means talking about our emotions constructively and taking time for "self-care" (easier said than done with our schedule some weeks!), among other things.
The AEP is just one step in learning about adoption through the Ministry of Children and Families. We need to learn what we can expect, what we can't expect and prepare for the unknown. We need to learn about a different kind of parenting. We need to learn about the perspectives of our future children, their biological parents and their foster parents. We need to hear worst case scenarios and decide what we can handle. We need to be scared. We need to feel lost. We need to wonder if this is really right for us. We need all this to build up our strength and knowledge. We need to prepare in order to provide stability and advocacy for our children. 

So, sorry if we're unavailable for the next 9 weeks, we're busy being terrified about the implications of public adoption. But don't worry, it'll be worth it.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

a social worker of our very own

On February 17th we nervously and excitedly handed our adoption application over to a woman at a reception window.

The application requested such information as our names, birth dates and yearly income (gulp). It also requested requested that we share our religious beliefs and values and gave us about two lines in order to do this. Yeah, like the answer to that fits on two lines.

The other part of the application required us to check off little boxes as to what sort of child we would accept. Starting with age (we chose 0-4) how many children we want (we chose 1 or two siblings/twins). Then it asks you what racial heritage you are ok with (we checked them all). It goes on to have you check off various "disabilities" everything from ADD to Cerebral Palsy, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, FASD, cleft palates, sight impairment (now does this mean "needs glasses" or "totally blind"?). This is where things get interesting. It's easy enough to say yes to some of these but so many of them fall in the category of "spectrum disorders" and it is extremely difficult to answer a straight yes or no. Would we happily accept a high functioning child with Downs Syndrome? You betcha! Would we be equipped to raise a child with severe delays caused by that same Syndrome that would lead to major health complications and a life of acute care needs. No, we might not be the right family.
perhaps our feelings towards Social Workers won't
always be this rosy...
The application also asks if you would accept placement of a child who was conceived by rape or incest and/ or has experienced various kinds of abuse (but more on that later).

There is a tremendous amount of guilt when it comes to filling in this form. We are not shopping for a perfect child but ticking off these little boxes makes it feel that way. Obviously we must be honest about what we think we can handle but filling out these forms felt a little like playing God.

So after weeks of research, we handed in a very "soft" application and began waiting the two weeks it would take for a Social Worker to contact us. We looked forward to talking to the social worker and trying to explain all our concerns. Two weeks went by, nothing. Three weeks, nothing. Four weeks and I contact the office, nothing. Then on March 20th an email with the name of the Social Worker that our file has been assigned to. One little sentence and I guess that we're officially on our way!

Friday, 9 March 2012

about the title

"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference" - Robert Frost

A sigh can express love, anger, joy or frustration- all emotions we plan on feeling (and possibly expressing)
during this process. We look forward to looking back on our choice of road and knowing that it did indeed
make all the difference in the life of our family.