Achieving Post Permanency Stability
In October 2012, my husband and I attended our first ARE (Adoption Resource Exchange) to explore adoption possibilities, and we never expected to discover our children that very day. Our hearts were immediately stolen when we saw three children, all siblings, ages 9, 13, and 15.
Although we didn’t plan on adopting three children at once, we couldn’t stop thinking about them. In less than two months we discovered we would be their lucky parents and after thirteen weeks of visits, our children moved in with us.
Nothing prepared me for the anger that “moved in” with the children. Within days, I was feeling completely defeated. My children resisted my attempts to bond, screamed that they hated me, and showed us over and over that they didn’t want to be part of our family. All I wanted to do was love them, and when every attempt was met with hostility, I felt lost. I needed to know that what I was going through was normal, because I began to think our children could never attach. We did have the support of our Adoption Practitioner who was supervising our children during our “Free Home” status, but this help wasn’t sufficient. There should have been a system in place from the start that was designed to support us so we could better help our children.
Had we been immediately matched with another adoptive family who could normalize the struggles we faced and offer help and support to overcome the challenges, our transition would not have been nearly as devastating. Books are helpful, but it isn’t the same as being validated by experienced adoptive parents.
I wish our Children’s Aid had offered respite services to help us transition. Building a family with traumatized children can be hugely stressful for a couple, no matter how strong the relationship. The rate of divorce amongst adoptive parents is the highest. Without support a marriage can break down or the adoption process could be terminated. People trying to work through the strain of non-stop turmoil can only take so much.
Because of my professional expertise working with those with disabilities and those struggling with mental health, I had anticipated some difficulties and already had my youngest added to the HincksDellcrest Centre's waitlist, a child and youth mental health service provider. Adoptive kids are often severely neglected or abused, have experienced incredibly traumatic events, and routinely suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. It is impossible for the average person to imagine what these children have been through.
It is inconceivable that there is no system in place to help these children begin healing once in a permanent home, and it is unconscionable that we expect inexperienced parents to handle a child’s previously endured trauma skilfully. It is no wonder so many families simply cannot cope and give up on the process.
My family’s veil of darkness slowly lifted once our CAS understood our crisis and supported our needs for a subsidy. Each child benefited from a $5,000 subsidy, which have been used for therapy. It also affords us the services of an attachment therapist who gave my husband and I the knowledge and understanding needed to cope with the trauma our children were expressing, as well as helping me to work on my own personal story that came to play when the children moved in.
Love is not sufficient to heal traumatized children, but as it stands in our current system, that is all parents are expected to offer.
Families desperately need help. Without it, far too many children are at risk of being returned to the system, losing yet another family and a chance at stability—something which causes irreparable damage. Many adults who might offer loving homes simply don’t because of the fear they cannot manage, and in truth, most families are not equipped to handleforseen and unforeseen complexities that may arise. Our government needs to understand the need of Post-Permanency Support so that children and families can thrive.