Today, people will spend the day with their children, or their parents. Some may celebrate new births, a few may go out for dinner, sledding or to the movies. In our family we often take the afternoon to go skating on Family Day. It's a fun tradition here at our house, one my daughter reminded me of today.
I spent a lot of time thinking about family here lately, and policies that impact family. On Family Day I want families and politicians to use the occasion to take stock of the new normal and realize that families have evolved dramatically over the last 30 years. Take a look around your children's schools this week. Take a look at church, in Pilates class at the YMCA, or at your workplace this week. What do you see?
I see families that are often sandwiched and multi-generational caring for children while also extending their care to their aging parents. I see evidence of a growing number of adoptive families and, a sprinkling of foster care providers. I see a growing group of special needs parents and I see the people who are waiting ,struggling to grow a family. This year, since becoming involved with a group called Conceivable Dreams, I am increasingly aware of the families who have become family, with help, through IVF. I see a lot of families succeeding, and I see many struggling too. But the point is family is no longer the thing we envisioned 30 - 40 years ago when politicians made many of the current policies that impact us all. It is a rainbow. It is a dynamic entity. It is the cornerstone of our society and an economic engine. It is also floundering. Fertility rates are plummeting and families are in jeopardy. We are no longer, in Canada or the US, producing children at a rate of 2.1 per home.
On Family Day, take a moment to think about why.
Thirty years ago adoption was uniform. The majority of adopted children were domestic adoptions. They were placed most often as babies, healthy infants born to teenage mothers. Happy stories. Very seldom were children coming to their families with extreme emotional and physical baggage. Prenatal alcohol and drug exposure was rarely heard of, and never spoken about. In 2013 that picture is drastically different. Adoption is ever evolving. International adoption has grown and special needs adoption is, in fact, the norm. Many estimate that 80 % of domestic adoptions involve children that have special needs. And yet, policy that supports families formed by adoption, has not kept up. We need, to build families for every child, that are successful. Families with special needs children need a higher level of service and support. Adoption subsidy needs to be expanded and consistently applied in this province to help children succeed in adoptive families. Services need to be made adoption friendly and education must grow to embrace differences and build abilities for all children.
Twenty-five years ago: In 1978 Louise Brown was born becoming the first baby ever born by in vitro fertilization. Now, IVF, is no longer a rare occurrence. In Australia, where in vitro fertilization is funded, almost one classroom in every school is full of children that have been born as a result of assisted reproduction. Quebec is still the only province in Canadadwhere IVF is funded. In many areas of the western world one in six couples struggle to conceive. The same is true here in Ontario.
Here's where I think we fail, as a society right now. If you look with your 2013 lenses on you will see multiple family shades, sizes, formations, shapes and, even those who are waiting to become family. Unfortunately too many are still applying 1978 lenses to family policy in Ontario. Family Day should be a time to celebrate family in all its forms. If you believe families need support then write Premier Kathleen Wynne. email@example.com or visit your MPP and share this message.
Dear Premier Wynne:
On the occasion of Family Day 2013 I'd like to ask you to build stronger families for all of Ontario. In vitro fertilization should be funded by the provincial OHIP system like other health conditions. To build healthy families in this province we also need to reconsider the child welfare system and support adoptive families by giving adoption subsidy to all crown wards with special needs. Let's return to the recommendations in the Expert Panel report on Infertility and Adoption, Raising Expectations. Let's make Ontario strong for all families and let's build healthy families for the future of the province.
Happy Family Day!