Agencies and Society Needs to Invest in Adoptive Families

Help our children move beyond their dark pasts and into bright futures.

Several years ago we adopted a large sibling group. It was a significant challenge from the get-go because of severe problematic behaviour. The children lashed out, screamed for hours, hurt themselves and hit us, ran away, and damaged our belongings. These otherwise lovely children could no longer cope with their past trauma, and they didn't have any ability to process the volatile emotions that were overwhelming them as they were forced to start a new life. Again.

Trying to help children with traumatic backgrounds can be an emotionally depleting experience for a parent, and it is a giant challenge trying to hold together "normal" lives while things are in chaos. What is disheartening and demoralizing is that often no one else knows what families endure, that they face great strain every moment of the day, and there is no one to offer help or even empathy. Friends and family often have no experience with foster and adopted children and can be unable to offer any respite as they simply don't have the tools to manage extremely difficult behaviour. 

As time moved on we were blindsided by numerous diagnoses and (dis)abilities. We had no idea that the effects of in utero drug and alcohol abuse had caused intellectual complexities, sensory issues, physio needs, and caused other delays that made developmental progression slow. The children needed non-stop supervision because of poor impulse control or inability to foresee consequences. This greatly complicated the emotional healing that needed to be priority.

If society and state remove these children from birth families because they are at risk and will fare better elsewhere, then society also has a duty to provide the funds necessary to care for the children's well-being, whether through counselling, tutoring, or offering respite to families who desperately need a break so that they can continue to love and nurture the children.

If society and state remove these children from birth families because they are at risk and will fare better elsewhere, then society also has a duty to provide the funds necessary to care for the children's well-being, whether through counselling, tutoring, or offering respite to families who desperately need a break so that they can continue to love and nurture the children.

It is so important that adoptive families be offered the help and guidance of professionals who can normalize the children's behaviour, who can offer correct diagnoses so that proper care can be offered, and who can offer empathy and support for parents as they know full-well the daunting task the parents face. Just as importantly, funds need to be available for families to access these professionals. It is absolutely unjust for agencies to walk away after handing over the most vulnerable, explosive, or terrified children in society to well-meaning parents who may be entirely unprepared. If society and state remove these children from birth families because they are at risk and will fare better elsewhere, then society also has a duty to provide the funds necessary to care for the children's well-being, whether through counselling, tutoring, or offering respite to families who desperately need a break so that they can continue to love and nurture the children. Agencies and society needs to invest in these families so that in fact the children do fare better than they would have if left in their homes. This is how people become good members of society.

In our case we were immensely fortunate. Our agency gave us the financial support required to hire counsellors, respite care, and tutors. They also pointed us in the direction of community resources. We were not left hanging. In the end it cost the agency no more than if the children had remained in foster care, yet it made all the difference between a successful adoption and a disaster. We truly felt like our children's workers cared about their outcome and were willing to help our family in any way they could. Because of that added help (help that no family member could offer us) our children have thrived and healed. There will always be large challenges because of significant disabilities, but we are on the right track because our family was offered the vital resources needed to help our children move beyond their dark pasts and into bright futures.