As previously mentioned, in April I attended an information session on “How to Adopt”. It was easily the best spent 2 hours of my life. Why? I learned so much but unlearned so much more. The most important thing I learned:
Adoption is for people with
open hearts and open minds.
First, there are three types of adoption: public, private and international.
Public adoption is undertaken through Children’s Aid in Ontario and depending upon whether you are Jewish, Catholic, Aboriginal, etc… you are shuffled through to the appropriate branch.
Unlearn: Children in the public system have been taken from their parents.
Learn: Actually, some children in the public system have been “seized” for reasons of neglect, abuse and so on. But there are a number of kids who are “relinquished” by their parents to Children’s Aid.
Unlearn: You can only adopt older children (ages 4 and up) through the public system.
Learn: Well actually no. According to an adoptive mom of two (both of whom were days old when adopted) who was adopted herself, eighty percent of the adoptions that take place in the public system are of children age 2 and under. Eighty percent. This was far from what I was told when I spoke with an adoption worker at Children’s Aid.
Unlearn: As a prospective parent, you want to have as much information about your child’s medical and family history as possible.
Learn: On paper, many of us would have family and medical histories that read like a horror story. In my own background, I have incidence of heart disease, juvenile diabetes, congenital birth defects, etc… I am sure others have similar histories yet this doesn’t stop people from having biological children. Children’s Aid is legally required to disclose every bit of information included in a child or infant’s file. You have to decide what you are prepared to deal with.
Unlearn: All babies adopted through the public system are crack babies.
Learn: Not even close. Although again this was the impression I was left with when I spoke to an adoption worker at Children’s Aid. Many of the kids who are in the system are there because their parents were truly crap at raising them – due to circumstances, age, etc… Kids with severe challenges are only available to prospective parents who are truly prepared and equipped to deal with them.
Learn more: Doing your own research on the effects of harmful pre-natal exposures is key. (Although seriously can I manage to fit any more in my brain about pre-natal exposures?) For example, some might be surprised to know that pre-natal exposure to cocaine has a negligible permanent impact on a child whereas, exposure to methamphetamine and alcohol can have the greatest debilitating effects.
Unlearn: Expect the process of adopting a child (that is, the process of being matched which takes place after completing a homestudy and P.R.I.D.E. training) to take a long time (let’s say at least 3 years).
Based on what I had read from Children’s Aid and the Adoption Council of Ontario, I chose to attend the information session thinking it would be best to gather as much info now and begin phasing in pieces of the process. I expected it to take so long that by the time we would be ready to adopt, we would have at least started taking steps. I honestly expected that we would be looking at years….
Learn: Now that prospective adoptive parents are able to undertake a homestudy and complete P.R.I.D.E. training with a private adoption practitioner, the time it takes to go through the process of becoming eligible for matching is considerably reduced. Now most can complete both components within 6 months. Previously, if you were adopting through the public system, you would have to complete a homestudy and P.R.I.D.E training through Children’s Aid. This could take anywhere from 12-18 months. Following that piece of the process, one adoptive parent shared that she adopted her first child within 9 days after the homestudy was signed and her second within 3 months of indicating to Children’s Aid that she and her husband wanted to adopt a second child. Out of all of the adoptive parents she has met who pursued public adoption, most have adopted within months (NOT years) of completing their homestudy and training.
Having said all this…
My biggest question is: Why on earth is Children’s Aid trying to scare half of prospective adoptive parents from even getting into the public system? What I gathered from this information session is that they do not have the time or resources to deal with people who come to the public system looking for a pristinely healthy child with a beautifully, rosy history. They want prospective parents who come with open minds and open hearts.
There is plenty more to share. Hence, this is “part 1”. I learned a whole bunch of things about the private adoption process I wasn’t totally prepared for. More to come.