Thirteen years ago today, November 3, 2002 a precious baby boy was born! We didn’t k now this as Larry and I started on our incredible life journey and began collecting pertinent documents to begin the home study for an International Adoption. The seed was planted in our hearts and would continue to bloom. We were to become parents eventually. Having ventured onto an unchartered path, my husband and I entrusted our lives, personal information, fingerprints, bank account balance, police checks, FBI/Interpol checks, reference letters, all necessary documents to be forwarded to our Adoption Practitioner, Ministry of Youth and Children Services and a copy to Children’s Bridge in Ottawa, Canada. We exhaled after completing the first part of the home study. It was necessary in order to become a father and a mother. After the “hurry up and wait” scenario, holding your breathe and praying for that once in a lifetime phone call, it finally arrived!
Initial contact with our son happened when he turned one and we were matched as a family. We began our rapport with him and his foster family via Skype, phone calls and photos. We were in awe and everything seemed surreal. We were parents, yet we had no baby to physically embrace. We had to be extremely patient and try to go about our days with some routine and normalcy, in order to not succumb to the perils of the waiting game. In the meantime, Larry and I hired a private tutor to teach us the Thai culture, language, cuisine and the do’s and don’ts of a very proud nation. We received more than a teacher, we gained a life-long friend and family member who continues to be in our lives.
Six weeks earlier, I stood, broken-hearted and holding back my tears, whilst offering a eulogy to my beloved Grandmother Lee (RIP), who peacefully closed her eyes forever at 98 years of age. At her funeral service, I boldly asked a favour, that my grandmother, who conversed with her Thai grandson only by phone, needed to ask God to get the government authorities to allow us to travel to Chiang Mai, Thailand to meet our son for the first time. Six weeks later to the day the phone rang! Our greatest joy was bestowed upon us when we arrived at the Chiang Mai International Airport on the 15th September 2004. Our eldest son Chayodom was born from our heart and placed in our arms! Our lives became enriched and our forever family was born.
Throughout the Adoption Process, there was not a single thing that went wayward, off the path or backfired, everything went smoothly from the moment we started the home study to the day we arrived in Thailand. The waiting game was the only invisible hurdle. From the time we landed in that exotic locale to the day that our son received Canadian Citizenship two years passed.
On the contrary, the adoption process within Canada took a different spin with our youngest son. My husband and I thought that we had mastered the approach and that it would be similar, if not the same, with the subsequent adoption. Little did we know! Murphy’s Law kicked in, right from the beginning and continues to play a pivotal role in our youngest son’s status in Canada. Having been to Thailand several times and experienced the adoption process for both sons, be it in their birthplace or in Canada, Larry and I can boldly say, that there are glitches and road blocks within the Provincial and Federal Government in regards to international adoption, especially involving Thailand. We started the adoption journey thirteen years ago, one that embraces two beautiful, precious sons. With a unique perspective of dealing with the Department of Social and Development and Welfare (DSDW – Bangkok, Thailand) twice and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC – Federal) and OHIP Card (Provincial) twice, our greatest challenges have been with our own country!
Throughout our youngest son’s adoption process, never did we feel that we made a mistake to have Chayodom share life with a younger brother. We felt we needed to move through the process and learn from the experience. Having acquired unwavering support from our adoption practitioner (Patricia Fenton MSW, RSW – former Executive Director of the Adoption Council of Ontario) who helped us both times, we quickly realized that the Canadian process for adopting internationally became a continual hiccup our second time around. Our medical records were lost had to be re-done, police check not received, had to be re-done; then documents were submitted for Part One of Homestudy. We were already parents of Chayodom, who was around 3 years old. In the meantime, as we became more familiar with the process and learned who were the people behind the scenes, orchestrating and matching the families in both countries, we began to take note and learn the process from a different perspective. During this time, Larry was granted a temporary assignment in the Middle East. Prior to accepting a job offer in the Arabian Gulf Peninsula, we had to ask permission from Friends for ALL Children Adoption Agency (FFAC), Bangkok, Thailand and Hope Adoption Agency (HAA), Abbotsford, BC - who was the Canadian Facilitator between Children’s Bridge (CB), Ottawa and FFAC Thailand). At this point, we took direction from FFAC, HAA and our Adoption Practioner Patricia Fenton. We were transparent and everyone knew about the job offer abroad. Miraculously, we received the okay from all involved with an agreement that, as soon as FFAC and HAA received the official word that we were matched with our youngest child, that Larry, Chayodom and I would return immediately to Toronto! In March 2008 (Kuwait City) we received the second most important call of our lives and we prepared to pack up and move back home to Canada. Our beautiful son Natanael was born on the 22nd November 2005 and living with a foster family in Chiang Mai, Thailand. As soon as we found out that we were matched, we began bonding with our son and his foster family via Skype, photos and phone calls. We connected with a voice and fell in love with a beautiful, radiant smile, allowed us to continue on the path of building a stronger and expanding Forever Family. We managed to forgot about all the hassles and headaches of lost documentation that did not find its’ way to the Homestudy Folder(s) for the various Adoption Agencies. Notwithstanding, Natanael’s Adoption had proven to be challenging in more ways than one.
We had our luggage packed with numerous gifts and items to remain in Thailand for a period of six weeks. We felt that a healthy, “minimal stress” scenario would be best for Natanael, his foster family and for Chayodom who would have to share his mom and dad’s love with a sibling. By now, our eldest was 6 years old and Natanael was 3 years old. On the eve of departure, at 20:00 Friday evening with a 10:00 AM Saturday morning flight for Southeast Asia, we received a phone call from one of the agencies, advising that the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok would require an additional $200.00 CAD to release our son’s Canadian Ministerial Visa Permit (attached to his Thai Passport). Furthermore, our Family Class Adoption Sponsorship would no longer be one of Permanent Residency, but a Temporary Visa Permit! No time for questions and no need to stress out, we had 24 hours of flying ahead of us and travelling with a young child to meet Natanael. We arrived in Chiang Mai (“New City”), a beautiful, international city, with several Universities and Embassies, exquisite cuisine, beauty and an array of bright colours. A destination, a birthplace and a second home away from home, which was filled with a mélange of Hill Tribes, Thais and Expats! Arrival in Chiang Mai, offered us a sense of serenity, happiness and eagerness to embrace our family of four! Our six week vacation/transition and obligatory visits to the DSDW for the official Registration of Adoption, seemed to have moved rather smoothly, despite a major City Wide March and a Barricade that almost made us loose our window of opportunity to attend a very important meeting on time.
Immediately after receiving the Thai Government’s Stamp of Approval to proceed with Natanael to the Canadian Embassy to obtain his Thai Passport. Nerves of steel play a pivotal role at this point. With Canadian cash in hand, we paid the additional, required fee without any viable explanation as to why any of this is happening. We were told to go back to Canada and speak with our local politicians. We learned that their office misplaced the last and final document that belongs to our son’s medical records. After counting the tiny dots on the ceiling and pacing the floors and watching all the other adoptive families enter one by one, we finally were told that one piece of paper was found. Furthermore, the Granting of Temporary Residency for an International Adoption was the game changer and where our story will have to be paused. This was just the tip of the Iceberg, as to what the Canadian Government had in store for us! We returned safely home to Toronto on the 2nd of November 2008 with two awesome sons! Our Forever Family was finally together!
Albeit the misfortunes, glitches and some tense moments, Larry and I try to see the world through the eyes of a child and continue to love and cherish Chayodom and Natanael. Seven years ago Nate the Great set foot on Canadian soil for the first time. What a Defining Moment! It has also been a journey of enlightenment, as well as frustration with CIC and Service Ontario. During this Journey, I have morphed into a mother with a mission who uses her voice. I continue to struggle with both levels of government in order to obtain Canadian Citizenship and acquire recognition of our surname on his provincial paperwork with proof of ID and names using his federally issued document. I now advocate and continue to bring awareness to MPP’s/MP’s. Empathy has been omitted from the rapport between the government and the adoption community, be it international or domestic. Documentation for entering Canada is different, depending on where the child is born and the waiting times for receiving Canadian documents also travels at a snail’s pace. Moreover, the Provincial and Federal Governments need to converse and find a symbiotic method of dealing with the issues, flaws and omissions, find a solution that empowers rather than hinders, one that includes rather than excludes. Children are children, regardless of their place of birth.
Our families allow us to be held together by an invisible strong thread, one that will give us strength, courage and wisdom to protect our children, and to make a difference in our society.