Bruce | The Importance of Parental Leave

By Bruce

Looking forward to moving to London England for a job promotion, I had never thought that we’d adopt again but then the opportunity became a reality as we had been offered to parent two young brothers aged 6 and 8. Instead of moving to London, we stayed in Ontario and I managed the Middle Eastern operations of a software company from Toronto. We had the experience of adopting 10 years earlier – we were the eighth family of an eight year old. He had a very difficult childhood. He had been sexually abused and was often angry and frustrated. Although parenting him was very challenging, it also had its rewards.

We hoped by bringing the two brothers together within one family, they would feel secure and prosper in their new home. In fact, the start was anything but easy. At the age of 8, J was on four different medications. His sleeping pattern was irregular and restless. His early mornings caused chaos in our home until his medication took effect. Prior to starting school, we spent time with him reviewing his work. Although J had passed grade 3, we felt his reading was at a grade 1 level and his writing at a pre-grade level. His brother Q had fewer issues due in part to his foster family. They had raised him for the last 4 years providing stability.

It was apparent that J should not be graduating from grade 3. Prior to the start of the school year, we met with the principal with the intent of holding J back one year. After reviewing J’s work, the principal agreed. It became apparent that J needed much more care than we had originally anticipated. Over the first few months of the adoption, he started several fires in our home. We were luckily able to douse them before they spread. His bed-wetting increased likely due to the anxiety of a new environment. Most days we worked with him, once we got home from work, and on weekends but it was obvious that part time love and support weren’t enough. We were also concerned for the safety of our family.

My partner and I decided that one of us needed to quit and give J the attention he so deserved. Considering my job had recently started, we decided that I would be the best one. Since that decision, I have been on many school field trips, and many track events. I have coached the brothers and walked them to and from school on most days. We believe that much of what they needed was consistent and readily available attention. Since that time, J has stopped his bed-wetting, made the travel basketball team, come second in a cross country event of 50 competitors and is now an ‘excellent’ student.

Now that our beautiful sons have shown significant improvement, we have been empowering them with more freedoms to explore. By spending so much time with J, we have somewhat neglected Q. Now that J is in a better but still in a tenuous position, I plan to spend a bit more time with Q.

We believe that to have any significant, long-term impact on adoptees, parental leave is imperative. In its simplest terms, the lost time between adoptive parents and their adoptive children needs to be made up in quality time. Before and after work is not enough. Bonding between a child and a parent takes some time especially with older children. Being consistently there for adoptees accelerates their growth. Additionally, the insecurity experienced by adoptees must be addressed through parents being available and fully present for their child(ren). The daily stressors of work do not allow children the undivided attention that they so richly deserve. It is not a matter of making time within our schedules to spend with our children but to be on call for whenever our children need our time and love. This is the difference in the way we need to work with adoptees compared to parents with their biological children.

We strongly believe that time, as a result of parental leave, is the determinant of the mental and physical health of adoptees. This is time that is not divided but that is 100% directed to the adoptee. Only then, will our children become full, contributing members of society.