After we completed our PRIDE training, our worker advised it would take at least a year to match us with a child. We waited almost two years for our daughter. It was a lengthy and sometimes heart-breaking wait. We were contacted three times with awaiting children, and went to A.R.Es in Toronto during this time frame. The first child we were called about, we felt would be a great match, and the other two children we didn’t feel we could connect with; with each time, we thought, well, this could be our last chance.
When our worker called to inform us about the first child, we were so excited and felt quite strongly that she was the one. As time went on, we began to realize that there were also other families waiting for this child. Families that might be a better match, because they had other children, or because they had experience with whatever issues the child may be facing. It became quite discouraging and it was hard to remain positive.
When we were matched with our daughter it was of course a very exciting time. When we first met with our worker, we weren’t too sure whether or not we were the only awaiting family, but when we asked, we found out we were. We received some background information, but because she came from another agency, the information took some time. We were informed at the first meeting that she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), attachment issues, anxiety disorder, and had been through a failed adoption. Right away we thought it would be advisable to take some courses, and start going to the adoption adult support group that was offered by Simcoe County. It was at the group that we learned of a highly recommended therapist who was offering a course on trauma and attachment issues. My husband and I both agreed it would be a great course to take considering her background, and we also wanted to be as proactive as possible. We had already started weekend visits with our daughter, and were bonding with her when we received additional important information. We were told because of our daughter’s age, she had one of the most difficult files they had ever seen; more and more it made good sense for us to take this course on Trauma and Attachment. The course was $650, but both of us considered it a worthwhile investment. Unfortunately , Children’s Aid was not able to offer financial support for this, citing that it did not qualify as “adoption support”, but rather counselling support for us as parents instead [huh?]). We preceded to register for the course at our own expense. The course, along with the adoption support group, have given us the skills and confidence to continue on with our journey. Our daughter has been living with us for 4 months now and we are awaiting our adoption finalization.
We feel the pre-adoption or adoption process should be a three point plan:
1. Pride training: which we have come to think of as a “basic care” type of package. This is the initiation into the world of adoption, but not nearly enough to adopt a traumatized child.
2. Attachment and trauma training: this is where you will really learn about adoption issues, and how to manage them. Without this type of training, it’s like driving a car for the first time in your life and going on the 401 after only a talk about what a car is and how it works. Your adoption will be lucky to survive, and at best it will be very painful on all. Included here we recommend a mandatory book list for reading.
3. Financial support for therapies and support of educational training: adoptive parents need a dossier – a kit on what support and groups are available and who to call when support is needed. Participation in support groups should be mandatory for year 1 at a minimum, and then optional for year 2 to help support other adoptive parents. Full financial information on costs of therapists available in the area and what is covered under an adoption plan would also help families once their child(ren) come home.
Each adoptive parent is essentially becoming a therapeutic parental therapist, so the preparation and training needs to be thorough, and serious.
These three recommendations require a long-term view on adoption. We would argue that the cost of failed adoptions in the long run costs more to the provincial funds, than the three points plan above. You either pay now or pay later, and later will cost more and can cost people their lives; failed adoptees are at the risk of homelessness, entering the criminal justice system, substance misuse, further abuse, etc. The whole point of this is to stop the repetitive cycle isn’t it? For this, a longer time horizon than 3, 6 or 9 months is required.
It’s possible that those best at removing children from harm are “not” as qualified when it comes to supporting post permanency families.
We were only made aware of very critical information after our child had had already moved into our home. The file on her was not complete, and still isn’t. Ultimately between the two agencies involved, the delays in critical information has been hard to understand and accept. The situation has built questions, not trust. We are still struggling with this. Now, there are probably reasons behind the delays that we are just not allowed to know, so we march on, and do our best to work positively with the resources available to us. CAS has been supportive, but we feel their hands are tied to what support they can ultimately provide.
To better support families, things like the provincial adoption subsidy should be graduated and not stopped at the current 85k annual income qualification. That can be a disincentive for parents trying to work harder to be more self-sufficient. Make a dollar over 80k, and you lose 10k, how does that make sense to anyone? We would like to see a change to graduate qualifying income from 70k to 100k, and stop penalizing parents for working harder.
If only one single recommended change could be made to the adoption process, we would ask that trauma and attachment training following a match be made mandatory. The training should predate the first visits and “placement” by half the length of the training, so the adoptive parents get a grounding first, and have reflective support while getting to know their child. That would be an invaluable and important place to start.
#Support4EveryFamily means providing the right resources, including training