Thank you!

As Adopt4Life’s 30 Days 30 Stories Awaiting Parent campaign comes to an end, we would like to reflect back on what has been learned and summarize the important recommendations our awaiting parents and youth have made.

November is Adoption Awareness month and in support of this many Adopt4Life awaiting parents and youth bravely shared their stories of challenges and triumphs, allowing us to learn from their experiences. We certainly heard that whether adopting internationally, publicly or privately, building a family through adoption is a lengthy and complex process, requiring immense patience, persistence and commitment.  Those families that embark on this journey do so because they have incredible desire to love and parent a child or children.  To become adopt paper ready, prospective adoptive parents must prove they are able to provide safe, loving and nurturing homes where their children can reach their full potential.

There are 7,000 children and youth in care in Ontario awaiting families and according to the OACAS over the next 12 months, over 1,000 youth will “age out” of care in Ontario. Leaving government care without a lifelong family, the outcomes for these youth are poor. Yet the Dave Thompson Foundation for Adoption tells us that, ‘by every measure, children adopted from care have better outcomes than children who age out’.

We know from our outreach and membership that there are many adopt ready parents longing to welcome children into their hearts and homes but are waiting years to become adopt ready and matched with their children. We also have heard that the process can be so lengthy and difficult that we are losing qualified parents who give up on the system.  Ontario can do better! How can we match in a timely manner these awaiting children and parents so that all of Ontario’s children have ‘a family to grow up and grow old in’?

The stories this month spoke of families obtaining private homestudies and PRIDE training to become adopt paper ready more quickly but that not all Children’s Aid Societies (CAS) recognized their private homestudies even though the homestudy assessment tool (SAFE) and the parent education curriculum (PRIDE) are supposed to be the same whether adopting internationally, publicly or privately.  Our awaiting parents would like to have the government mandate portability of SAFE and PRIDE and that this be consistently enforced across the province.  This would save agencies money as they would not need to dedicate resources and time to redoing the lengthy and intensive homestudy assessment process where families have already completed theirs privately.

Of great concern are the families that are giving up on the adoption process because of inaccurate information, lengthy waits, lack of timely responses and education, and challenges navigating the complex adoption process.   To improve upon this, awaiting parents recommend the government create a centralized adoption application intake and set timelines for SAFE and PRIDE, allowing for data collection of AdoptReady families in the province, provincial matching of families with awaiting children, and a central authority for having concerns addressed.

Finally, it is important to look at what CAN go right and how families can be built successfully through the public adoption system.  Melissa and Joel’s story gave evidence to how 3 Ontario initiatives working together helped bring their daughter home to them - AdoptOntario, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, and Portability of Public/Private Partnerships.  There is sound reason to promote and support these evidence-based child specific family recruitment programs that already exist in Ontario. Funded by the Ministry of Child and Youth Services, AdoptOntario exists to support the critical connection of Ontario families with waiting children.  The program is currently underused and undervalued despite having demonstrated that it can support both families and CAS adoption workers effectively and efficiently, finding permanent homes for children. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) Recruiters exist in only 4 Ontario CASs.  Funding to support at least one WWK recruiter in each CAS would be money well directed in the successful placements of waiting children, particularly older youth.

One thing we have seen for sure this month, adoptive and prospective adoptive parents are finding their voice as a positive and influential body for change in Ontario. November 2014 has been a momentous month; let’s keep the momentum going with continued dialogues and action towards understanding the problems and bringing about improvements that will mean #AHome4EveryKid! Ontario can do better but we must do it together, working with our partners in government and all stakeholders in the adoption process! Adoptive and prospective adoptive parents and adoption professionals are invited to join Adopt4Life - membership is free! We know that the larger our numbers, the louder our collective voice. You can help us help Ontario do better for our adoptive families and awaiting children by being counted!



Loss of trust prevents them from continuing pursuing adoption

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Martin and Lori began their adoption journey in 2012 with a call to their local CAS. In their first phone call, they were informed that due to their culture and age of child they were seeking (under 6yrs of age) they would be unlikely able to meet the needs of any of the children at CAS. They were advised to consider international or private adoption.

Lori and Martin decided to invest in a private homestudy and completed their PRIDE training. They became “AdoptReady” in February 2014 and were working with an international program. Since Lori is of Polish heritage and her husband German, they selected Lithuania as it has an excellent adoption program and is the closest country geographically to their own heritage to allow international adoption. They both know the importance of cultural heritage and felt this would make it possible to maintain healthy ties.

Lori and Martin were selected on two occasions, for two different boys. Unfortunately in both cases, other parents came forward whom the Lithuanian agency felt would be better suited for these children.

International adoption is a very expensive endeavour. Already, the private Ontario homestudy had cost thousands, as had practitioner fees for Lithuania. Money factors aside, they were heartbroken after their two declines.

By this time, Lori and Martin had done a lot more research and talking to other adoptive families which expanded their thoughts about adoption. They were also inspired by a young girl who spoke at their PRIDE training who was adopted at fourteen. Lori was previously a high school teacher and often worked with youth who had trauma as well as developmental needs. They now felt open and excited about adopting older children.

They reached out again to their local CAS. The answer was still the same, despite now being an AdoptReady family. After insisting on speaking with an adoption worker they were told that they should attend in-take. Unfortunately, the next session was not for five months. Likewise, the homestudy they had paid for and was approved by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services was not sufficient for CAS. Updates would be required and this could not happen until after in-take.

During the wait for the next in-take session, Lori and Martin applied for two children at the Adoption Resource Exchange, as well as a sibling group of two via their private practitioner. In the case of the children from ARE: months passed with no communication, files were lost, and they were not shortlisted for either child. They were also not selected for the sibling group.

Lori and Martin have now ceased their efforts to adopt.  They no longer have confidence in the adoption system in Ontario. This is certainly not because they weren’t selected as prospective parents. While devastating, they know different parents bring unique strengths. Rather, Martin and Lori’s experiences lead them to believe that the system is bloated and broken. It is this loss of trust that prevents them from continuing.


For more about their story visit:  www.dorothywasadopted.workpress.com


Portable Homestudy Not So Portable After all

More and more, the Portability of Homestudy has become an issue for many prospective families. Slowing down a process that is already riddled with obstacles, lack of portability keeps kids in care longer then need be.

“We cannot understand why the CAS is being proprietary about our homestudy when it contains our personal and private information, including medical reports, police checks, finger prints, and references obtained to meet the SAFE requirements”

“We cannot understand why the CAS is being proprietary about our homestudy when it contains our personal and private information, including medical reports, police checks, finger prints, and references obtained to meet the SAFE requirements”

Bill* and Melinda* live in Northern Ontario, 10+ hours north of Toronto. They have been adopt ready on paper since July 2012 and have been working with their local CAS for 2+ years.  Despite having close contact with their adoption worker they have not been successful in growing their family to date. They have also been in contact with AdoptOntario in hopes of a match but after spending hours on the web site and talking to the AdoptOntario workers they have not recieved  any response back so far.  At this point they have become discouraged, coming to the conclusion that living in Northern Ontario is a disadvantage when trying to adopt a child through the public system.  
 
Remaining determined to grow their family by adoption, Bill and Melinda recently reached out to a private adoption agency to improve their odds of being matched with a child.  However, they have hit a road block as the CAS will not release their publically funded home study to their private adoption practitioner.  Without their homestudy, they are not able to explore adoption options outside of their local CAS.  After more than two years since being adopt ready, they feel they have shown their commitment to the CAS and now it is appropriate to reach further afield. In talking with Bill and Melinda they said, “We cannot understand why the CAS is being proprietary about our homestudy when it contains our personal and private information, including medical reports, police checks, finger prints, and references obtained to meet the SAFE requirements”.  SAFE homestudies and PRIDE Training are supposed to be standardized and consistently applied for international, private, and public adoptions.   

 

With 7,000 children in care in Ontario, we can do better!   

With 7,000 children in care in Ontario, we can do better!   

Not to be deterred, Bill and Melinda decided to attend the Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE) this November which was fortunately a positive experience for them.  Talking with the various social workers from the different CAS agencies across the province, they were reassured that living in Northern Ontario does not affect their chances of adopting in most cases.  Certainly, where they live there are many resources available to them to help integrate the children into their family and support the children through counselling, speech and language therapy, occupational and physiotherapy.  There is also a family health team that is very active and supportive in the community. 
 
This couple is highly motivated and have proven through their completed homestudy that they are able to provide a loving home to a child or sibling group.  It is a shame that they are having such a difficult time fulfilling their dream of becoming parents through adoption. Along with other awaiting parents, Bill and Melinda would like to see portability of homestudies across platforms mandated by the government and this properly enforced. Whether a family has their homestudy completed privately or publicly it should be available and accepted for all types of adoptions, allowing families to expand their reach in their adoption journey. In order to look out for the best interest of children unable to remain in their biological family then, Ontario should work to ensure that qualified prospective adoptive parents are able to be matched in a timely manner; otherwise we risk these families giving up on the system.