Families deserve equality

By Kimberly

Becoming a family is a beautiful time in any person’s life. In Canada, we are given the opportunity to take time away from our work responsibilities and focus on family.

The government provides parental benefits such a pregnancy and parental leaves which total 12 months in length. However, adoptive families are not afforded the same benefits. Adoptive families are permitted to apply for parental leave of 37 weeks and any employer based benefits including top up or additional leave time. I feel that all families, no matter how they were created, deserve equal time to focus on becoming a family and securing permanency.

I am the adoptive mother of two beautiful children. When we found out we were going to be parents, I applied for EI benefits and was eligible for 37 weeks (2 unpaid) with a small top-up from my employer. 

My children have a complicated history of neglect and trauma. They have difficulty with change and transition. So, when they first came to live with us, they needed constant attention and redirection for their safety. We spent much of the first few months as a family, only us, and rarely had others involved in their direct care. Our children have an array of behaviours and needs that many families may not experience in the first 9 months of life. We needed to access multiple community supports to process their losses and trauma.

When it was time to return to work, my children struggled. It caused regression in their attachment to me and my husband. They became more distant, their behaviours increased and life became very challenging for all of us. I tried to do a slow transition into school and daycare but it was still very tough. They were always afraid that “mommy wasn’t going to come back”. They were stressed, anxious - rightfully so with their history.

I was extremely stressed returning to work. I worked in a professional role, in a high stress position. I found it very challenging to focus on work when I was dealing with such complex behaviours at home. Usually mornings were the worst and the kids were end of leaving with tantrums that were unmanageable. I often struggled with anxiety and depressive symptoms and felt like it affected my work and my family life. I was chronically ill and spent quite a bit of time after returning to work, off on leave due to illness.

I will be honest in saying that I have recently left my position and took on a different role that allows me a better work/life balance.

I would like to advocate to increase parental leave be increased to 12 months for all families. No matter how they were created, all families deserve a chance to focus on family and permanency.