This is the sentiment that made me want to write this. We are four years into our adoption journey with Girlie, who is the most wonderful and complicated 13 year old you’ll ever meet.
Let’s back up. Our path started at the October 2011 ARE when my husband and I discovered a 9 year old girl. She wasn’t part of the video presentations, and wasn’t included in the binder. Her adoption worker had travelled 3 hours solely to present Girlie, but had missed cut offs to submit her information.
And we couldn’t stop thinking of her.
A flurry of emails and meetings with our social worker ensued, and on January 12, 2012 we met our daughter. Of course, she didn’t know that yet but she knew something was up with us. Growing up in foster care means you are always on guard, and she knew there was something about us that was different. Because her foster home placement was breaking down everything was fast tracked, and she moved into our family home on March 10, 2012, only 5 short months after we knew of her existence.
We have been through so much more than anyone prepared us for. PRIDE training, the homestudy process, books about adoption, and conversations with friends and family didn’t touch the tough stuff. We thought we were prepared, but we were thrown into a hurricane. Complete with a hose gushing out water making an appearance in our living room - in March. But I digress. This isn’t a post about the ups and downs. This is a post about the only thing that has gotten us through.
Our support network of adoptive parents.
Because we didn’t know anyone in person who had adopted an older child through foster care, we thought we had to be doing something wrong. It had to be us that were the problem. We found every community children’s mental health service provider and worked with them for help. We advocated for our daughter in the school system, tried to make people understand her complicated history while respecting her right to privacy. Everyone told us that we were doing everything right, but still things were going wrong.
I stumbled upon the Adoption Council of Ontario (ACO) about a year after Girlie moved in. I’d seen their website before but had never really reached out; I knew about adoption, and the process. In desperation one day at work I called the ACO and lay everything on the line with an incredibly sympathetic staffer, Elaine. I’m certain she thought I was crazy but I prefer to think of myself as exploring all options. She told me that the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) was having their annual conference in Toronto this year and there was a possibility I could qualify for a grant to attend for free. I was all over that and received a grant to attend. I LOVED IT. I met other parents going through journeys that weren’t that different from ours. They too, had stories of bruises, property damage, and doctors & professionals that didn’t understand our children’s unique needs. I felt like I had swallowed the red pill and discovered reality after living in the Matrix for so long (my sci-fi father would be so proud of this reference). What we were going through was normal.
Since then, I have connected with adoptive parents online from around the world. Online was really the best option because when you have a special needs kid there aren’t a lot of childcare options. It also meant that at any time of the day I could reach out for support. In time, I’ve become an Adopt4Life support person for many others as I’ve been on this rollercoaster for a while now. Connecting with people who understand and don’t judge. Who can offer practical suggestions instead of sympathetic noises. We didn’t need any more opinions, we needed strategies. I still reach out for support myself, and offer it where I can.
Adoptive parents and families need support. We need to be able to access these supports in the moment. Professionals can help in many ways but they go home at night. We are living this. And it’s nice to know we aren’t alone.