This is part two of our story on how we became a family through adoption. November is National Adoption Awareness Month and I encourage you now, this month, to ask the questions you have been wanting to know. Also if you have ever thought about changing the life of a child by becoming a foster care provider, then pick up the phone and call your local Children’s Aid Society.
When we really were ready to pursue adoption, we knew nothing was going to stop us. But which type of adoption and where did we go and how best to approach the topic? Well, luckily for me, an investigative journalist, I had a few resources. And I was stubborn too. We did a brief look at private adoption and international adoption and quickly discounted both as costly. Plus I knew beyond a doubt there were hundreds of children, babies, teens in the London area needing homes. So I picked up the phone and dialed the London-Middlesex Children’s Aid Society. I have no idea what I said at the time. It might have been “We want to know more about adopting.” And although it was well over 10 years ago now I know that the message I got was less than receptive. I am certain that what I was told was something along the lines of: “Well if you are looking for a healthy baby, look elsewhere.” But, as I said I was stubborn and I knew always in my heart that this was where my child was. It was as simple as the fact that there were 24 hours in a day, or that the sky was blue. For me, this would happen. I knew it with every ounce of my being. After all they didn’t call me the badger for nothing.
So I said what I needed to say to get through the front door, a practice I learned from journalism school. And I got us into the loop. The circuit. The path that would eventually lead to us becoming parents. The first step was getting past that gatekeeper and the second was a series of trainings. Six weeks and it ranged on various topics like how to parent a child who has been sexually abused. It touched on foster care, medical challenges, special needs, openness and the court process. My husband and I went vigilantly each Wednesday night and we absorbed what we were able to, sometimes listening with only half an ear because the information was often profoundly disturbing. It ripped my heart out to read what essentially amounted to victim impact statements from children so violated, mistreated and abused. On Wednesday nights we often left that building on Oxford Street saddened and dispirited. Our home study couldn’t be started with any depth until we completed the course. We kept going, determined to finish. Again and again we heard the same line from all of the social workers that took turns speaking and facilitating. There are no healthy babies here. We don’t get healthy babies at Children’s Aid. If you only want to adopt a healthy infant then you are in the wrong place. I wondered how many people dropped the course when they heard that. (Now many years later as a parent who also runs a post-adoption support group and a non profit advocating for adoption and adoption awareness, this is an issue we singled out and noted as needing improvement. The role of a gatekeeper at an agency is huge and if it means the difference between one child staying in foster care versus finding a forever family, well then these individuals need better training in how to recruit and encourage people into the building, not barricade them with obstacles.)
I heard what they were saying each week and we would eventually complete the course and fill the papers out indicating that we were open to accepting a child upto the age of two. But in my head I was certain they couldn’t be telling the truth. It was a tactic, I assumed to weed out couples who were less flexible or determined. A Darwinian approach, I guessed. We met a few other couples waiting to adopt or foster, but we were so insular and new to London at the time that we didn’t connect. There was something so surreal about sitting in that room too, all in competition for a baby, a child, a sibling group. It felt awful some days. And when a family showed up with their already existing child, a biological boy or girl, now eight or nine, I couldn’t help thinking to myself – Why are you here? You already have your child. Greedy, I thought. We just wanted one. We just wanted a chance to be parents, to spoil a child at Christmas and hug them and get the family pictures done every year. We wanted a chance to be able to hold that amazing little person close and watch them flourish. We wanted the first day of school and the first solid foods and the first steps. And sometimes we still felt robbed, and angry. Mostly we waited and we watched the rest of our friends becoming families and welcoming babies and having baby showers. I was happy for my friends, my sister-in-law, my husband’s friend’s wives, but I couldn’t bring myself to attend their baby showers and if I had the option I chose to work through those events, sending presents and ducking out. You can think what you want of jealousy and pettiness, but unless you have been waiting to become a parent through adoption, then you cannot know the constant grief, apprehension and the emotional roller coaster. While we were waiting, baby showers were torture, Christmas was empty and baby stuff had the power to make me cry. It caused a near physical pain in those days to go to certain east end malls in London and witness teenage girls walking around pregnant, when we were not able to become parents in that way. We had a lot to give. Some days it seemed like we might not ever have the chance. After six weeks of meetings, we were done. We knew what a crown ward was and we were ready to start filling out the Home Study. It would be a few months before we were approved yet. But we were committed. A highlight of the process was meeting a local foster mom who had been fostering kids for 20 years or more and knew more than a few tricks that only come from therapeutic parenting and the process of needing to think outside the box. We didn’t connect with her then, but a few years later our paths would cross and our lives would be oddly bound together as strands of a braid.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post and I received no compensation to write it. Jockey has offered one of my readers a Jockey Being Family Bear. I am passionate about family and the many ways in which families can be formed and I choose to write about adoption because it has given us everything.
1. To enter to win a Jockey Being Family Bear (open to US) visit last week’s post:
2. I want this one to go to (open to Canada) one of my little friends who has been adopted or is in process of being adopted. Leave me a comment here or on any one of my November Adoption posts. I want you to tell me who the bear is for. Parents – this could be a great tool for discussion with your new child. I will draw for both on Nov. 30th.
Next week: The Home study and Getting the Call