For Melissa and Sean, building a family through adoption was an option that they were open to long before they were even married. When they first met in 2005, Melissa was a foster parent to a teenage girl, and that experience gave them both an insight into how many children need a forever family, and what the lives of kids in care is like. Little did they know, however, that the road to becoming parents would be so trying and tumultuous.
When they married in 2008, they were surprised and elated to find out shortly after their wedding that Melissa was expecting a baby. However, the elation turned quickly to grief when that pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Several subsequent pregnancies ended in the same way.
With doctors unable to explain the recurring losses, and not knowing what their future might hold, Melissa and Sean decided to pursue adoption. Melissa contacted their local CAS and was told that they would not consider them as foster or adoptive parents because they had not lived together before they were married. They were told to wait another year before applying.
Not wanting to delay the process, Melissa and Sean hired a private Social worker to complete their Homestudy and went on to complete PRIDE training. In November of 2009, they turned their documentation over to the local CAS.
However, around the same time, Melissa found out that she was expecting again. This pregnancy did go full-term, and they were blessed with a healthy baby girl in the summer of 2010. But the pregnancy had been extremely high-risk, requiring Melissa to undergo emergency surgery early in the pregnancy due to life-threatening complications. Doctors cautioned them that future pregnancies would be unlikely to be successful.
While they were delighted with their new child, they knew that their family was not complete, and renewed their commitment to public adoption. When their child was 18 months old, they had their Homestudy updated and registered again with their local agency. They explained that they were open to children of any age, sibling groups, and open to exploring the adoption of children with special needs. However, they were discouraged to be told that the agency would not place children out of birth order and that they preferred to place children with childless couples. However, the hopeful couple was committed to public adoption, therefore, they decided to take their chances.
So they waited. And waited, without any proposals from their local CAS. However, in the fall of 2014, they thought their wait had come to an end, when a neighboring CAS contacted them to let them know about a sibling group that had been matched to them through AdoptOntario.
One of the pair of boys had a significant physical disability, and because of Melissa’s experience providing care to individuals with special needs, the agency felt that it was appropriate to move forward with the adoption despite the disruption of birth order. Melissa and Sean spent many hours reviewing the boys’ CAS files which contained extensive medical documentation. They connected with other parents of children with a similar diagnosis, they liaised with schools and local service providers, and began the arduous task of planning for home renovations and purchasing a wheelchair accessible van.
But only days before the boys were to come to their home for the first time, they were blindsided by a call from their worker — the boys’ current foster parents, who were also extended family members, had changed their minds about permanency. They had filed a CFSRB complaint asking that the agency allow them to keep the boys in foster care, rather than placing them in a permanent adoptive family.
In the end, the boys stayed with their foster family. The agency was unapologetic for completely disrupting Melissa and Sean’s life and causing them to experience yet another loss. CAS expressed that despite the fact that the foster parents had clearly told them many times that they did not wish to adopt the boys, nor that they could manage their unique needs, they were well within their rights to change their mind at the 11th hour. In the blink of an eye, the adoption was off.
It’s now a year since the CAS worker first contacted Melissa and Sean about the boys, and they are no farther ahead than when they started 7 years ago, when they first inquired about public adoption. Melissa regularly inquires about children profiled on the AdoptOntario site or at AREs. She is continuously told that they are not suitable parents because they have a birth child and/or agencies won’t place out of birth order. After seven miscarriages, a failed adoption, and constantly being rejected as potential parents for children they inquire about, Melissa and Sean are considering throwing in the towel.
“It’s completely demoralizing,” says Melissa. “We keep hearing about all the kids in care, how they need homes… but we’re constantly told we’re not good enough.”
The long wait to adopt children from CAS is not always necessarily a delay on the awaiting parent’s side. Sometimes, it would be best to evaluate the system and the process before rejecting perfectly good applicants who have opened their homes and their hearts to adopting another child into their family.
Ontario can do better. The adoption process is a long journey. With so many children in foster care, considering awaiting parents who have children is just one of the ways to help those children find forever homes sooner!