John and Jane went to the Adoption Resource Exchange in hopes of becoming parents and were intimidated by the process. The whole experience of watching videos of children, walking into a room full of workers talking about children in their care, and gleaning information from summarized cards was emotional and daunting. The ARE is a bi-annual conference hosted by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services where adoptive families and Ontario’s children who are waiting to be adopted are matched. It is for adoptive parents who have already completed all the paperwork and clearances required in order to adopt. It looked like a marketplace and it took them some time to get over their feelings they had about this process. This all changed when they came across a video of an 8 year old boy. They quickly went and found the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) that he was attached to and began the process of identifying their interest.
John and Jane were very conscientious and wanted to know more about this little boy. A meeting with the CAS was set up so the needs of the child could be explored in more depth. John and Jane walked away from that meeting knowing that this child had experienced a very tragic past. At the same time, they felt that with the proper supports he could, in time, heal and become healthier. John and Jane felt they were up to the task and wanted to be his parents.
The process of moving their son into their home was a whirlwind experience of social worker visits and medical appointments. In all of the literature that John and Jane read, there is often a “honeymoon period” with the new child in the house. This did not happen for Jane and John with their new little boy. He was a very angry child who had been hurt with multiple moves and two disrupted adoptive placements prior to being placed with them. The child had been split from siblings and he had been sexually abused in care. John and Jane really struggled. They desperately wanted to make this work but they knew they were on the road to disruption if they did not get some help. The hopeful adoptive parents approached the CAS for support and were told that they do not provide post-adoptive supports. It is up to adoptive parents to find those supports and to fund them. The CAS was not their local Society for the jurisdiction where they lived, and the workers told John and Jane that they wouldn’t know what to look for in their community even if they could support them. John and Jane were better to look for themselves; they felt very alone in this process. Family and friends did not understand what they were going through and it broke their hearts to see their son struggle. Feeling like they were abandoned by the CAS, it was hard on their personal relationships and it was financially draining. For years, John and Jane had been encouraged to look to the Children’s Aid to grow their family and they expected that they would be supported once their child was placed with them; much to their frustration and surprise, this has not been the case.
Ontario can do better! We can’t leave families to struggle alone. Empowering families to help their children is necessary if we wish to reduce the likelihood of disruption; this will increase the likelihood of children reaching their full potential. Research shows that providing peer support, as well as funding therapies, to help children of trauma heal is far less costly than the alternatives of foster care and group care. Statistics show far greater outcomes when children are raised in “forever” homes. Together we can ensure #AHome4EveryKid with #Support4EveryFamily !