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!