|A Tale of Two Adoptions
(This is us holding Ainsley for the first time.)
It was Christmas every morning for the first two years of life with our new baby. I sprang out of bed each day to see Payton. She woke up smiling and sometimes singing. And she was a much needed ray of sunshine. I raced to the closet or the bureau of drawers to choose her outfits and loved every second of that. She was delightful and quick and bright and alert and engaging. From the time she was two she was on the go and she had a huge vocabulary. Payton rarely stopped talking, and when she did it was because she was doing something crafty or sitting and reading with one of us. The girl loved books.
We finalized her adoption in August when she was one year old. We were at the beach and I had asked our wonderful social worker Wendy to call us when she knew the court date because my Mother-in-Law had been sick with breast cancer and we wanted her to be there in Happy Court for the pictures. I was afraid she would pass away before we had the chance to solidify that final moment of becoming an official family of three. So when my phone rang on the beach I knew it was Wendy and we raced back to town. The next day in court, I was nervous as could be. In my head I still had a vision of the judge suddenly saying: Whoops. Big mistake! Or seriously – look at your bank account. No way can you afford to be this child’s parents. But he didn’t. Instead he said some lovely words about how fabulous he thought it was that we had opted to take time to get to know our new family member and how great that I was at home with her guiding her and bonding with her.
I knew almost from the first couple of months with Payton that we would adopt again. There was something so magical about the whole process and, despite the hard parts, it was worth it times a million that first Christmas when she was the focus of attention and recipient of too many hugs to count, and even more presents. We were to wait 18 months. That was the law at the time. So we did. You had to wait 18 months from time of finalization to apply again. Two years went by and I wanted the timing to be right and we wanted to be ready and then it seemed the second thing out of Payton’s mouth every day also was: “I want a baby sister.” The time was right. And so we initiated the process again. The paperwork was the same. The home study was a bit shorter, but really despite the fact that we’d been parents already for two years, we had to prove again that we were fit.
We waited this time what seemed like forever. Both times we were in agreement that we wanted to pursue straight adoption. And straight adoption takes time. More often children become available with visits to their birth parents or grandparents and eventually they are free for adoption. Payton turned three and we were still waiting and she knew we were waiting. It was every bit as difficult as that first time around. But this time we were trying to let Payton see the process and become a bit familiar with adoption. She already knew details of her own adoption. But for a little person it can be very hard to comprehend why, when all of your friend’s Moms are getting pregnant and having babies, you have to wait to get a baby brother or sister. We told her it would happen when it happened and that we would meet our new little person eventually and yet it seemed to be taking far too long. For me too. So I picked up the phone and called around about Fostering. Foster with a view, is a sort of concurrent planning process, which may sound harsh to adoptive parents who are waiting. But from the child’s perspective it is, in some ways best. It means that the child can go immediately into a foster home, hopefully one that is prepared to adopt that same child. But at the same time the process of reunification is also underway. So the child is also maintaining visits with birthparents. These are clearly cases of children who have been apprehended from their home of origin. Meaning that the state saw need to remove them for reasons of safety or poverty of resources. If the birthparents continue to make the visits and do parenting courses and perhaps get treatment or counselling for drug or alcohol abuse then the child may end up returning home. Now before everyone starts hollering about birth parents being unfit, it is in fact a condition of our family court system, that families stay together. That is reality. When they are able they stay together. Therefore babies and children aren’t taken from their birthfamilies without very good reason.
Anyways suffice it to say that we chose to foster for this reason. We thought we were in a position to do that the second time around and if the baby went back to birthparents then we had still made a difference. I was also given solid advice from several foster parents not to jump at the opportunity to have a child move into our home if that child was still doing three or four visits a week with birth family. They advised us then that those were the cases where reunification was common.
A couple short weeks after we chose to do foster with a view, we got the call that changed our lives the second time. This baby had a very rocky start, but she was doing well and she lived with a local foster parent. She was four months old. She’d had visits with birthparents and then they stopped. It was perhaps one week after that call that we were sitting in a room at Children’s Aid meeting our new foster baby, with hopes she would become our second daughter.
Two weeks later Ainsley had a big sister and Payton had the little sister she had hoped for all along. Sisters by heart. Right from the start. It was about two months later that we knew they were sisters alright. When Ainsley rolled clear across the room to grab her sister’s doll and Payton yelled: “You can give her back to her foster Mom now.”
Ainsley was a sweet baby. She was ravenous. She couldn’t stop eating. She was never full. It was odd to me, but now that I know more about foster care and have done a lot of research and training over the years, well I know that it is common, even for the babies to be absolutely starving when they are placed in a new home. A nervous response or survival instinct. In fact babies react one of two ways often, ravenous or entirely unable to eat. Ainsley needed some medical interventions and follow up and a fair number of tests and blood work. She came through them all and she was tough, strongest baby I’d ever met. She would be having blood taken at seven months old with veins like threads and she wouldn’t make a peep. She would bonk her head against the side of her crib and not flinch. It was peculiar, but not alarming. Over the first few years we worked to show her appropriate responses to pain. “Ow that must have hurt.” Mostly we tried to give her some words to talk about things that might have hurt. She was a busy baby too. With a frantic energy, rolling all over the room and ready to run before she could stand. She was comical. A friend of mine took to calling her Two foot tornado. And it fit.
With this particular child, I knew that birthparents, or even grandparents could come forward and claim her if they met the required conditions and that would be enough. Because we were foster with a view. We knew it, but we never believed it really. Luckily for us we were back in a court just before Ainsley turned two, crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s and we were officially a family of four. Once that adoption is complete and finalized in court, it is a done deal.
Over the last four weeks I have been writing about our journey to become a family of four by adoption. Every adoption is unique and every child is unique. But, at any given time in the province of Ontario alone, there are 9,000 to 10,000 children available for adoption. That’s close to 10,000 kids in care in Ontario this year who may be in foster homes safe, but still waiting for a forever family.
If you have ever thought about fostering or adopting, pick up the phone and call London-Middlesex CAS 519-455-9000 or click on the ad on the side of this page by AdoptOntario.
Adults can wait to become parents, but children should never have to wait to get a family.