Our family began our adoption journey back in early 2011. We completed our home study and PRIDE training (Resource for Information, Development and Education) and were approved for a placement in 2012. In April of 2013 we attended the Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE) in Toronto and it was there that we saw the first photo of our son, Mike. We viewed a video of him and then went to the North Eastern Ontario CAS booth to get more information about him. We had the privilege of talking to his worker and requested more information right away. We walked away feeling we had “met” our son.
In June of 2013 we were contacted and asked if we were still interested in adopting Mike and we said of course we were. We were told that as of April he had been moved to a new foster home and there had been an increase in negative behaviors and so they wanted to conduct more tests. We said it didn’t matter what the testing said, we were willing to pursue him anyway but they asked us to wait. So we had no choice, we waited.
The week before Mike moved home, our world changed again. We received a phone call from his worker disclosing that when Mike first came into care of CAS it was thought that he might have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and so they put him on a waitlist to be tested.
In October of 2013 we were asked to have a meeting with our worker and Mike’s worker and it was during this meeting that we were told we’d been chosen as his parents. We were excited and couldn’t wait to meet him and start the process of bringing him home. We met him for the first time the last weekend of November and for the next 2 months almost every weekend we travelled north so we could spend time with him either at our home in Everett, ON or with him in Kirkland Lake, ON. We met his paternal grandmother and his foster parents and saw the area where he lived before. He met our extended families and spent time with us and our other two children in our home. We prepared for him to move home for good January. 26, 2014.
The week before Mike moved home, our world changed again. We received a phone call from his worker disclosing that when Mike first came into care of CAS it was thought that he might have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and so they put him on a waitlist to be tested. The testing had not yet occurred when they matched him with us but was scheduled for after he had moved into our home. We were shocked because this was the first time we’d heard about the possibility of FASD. His worker seemed confident that he didn’t have this condition but nevertheless encouraged us to get him tested. When we had completed our homestudy, one of the things we discussed with our worker was the type of special needs we would be willing to consider and we (along with our worker) agreed that a child with FASD would not be a good fit for our family. But we were no longer talking about a generic child, we were now talking about Mike, whom we had already invited into our home. We’d already allowed ourselves to get attached because we’d already been told he would be a permanent part of our family. How could we say no at this point? So we said yes we still wished to adopt him and that we would take him for the testing. We took him for the testing because we knew that if he did have FASD there would be more resources available to him with a diagnosis than without.
When we got the results in May it was confirmed that Mike did have Alcohol Related Neurodevelopment Disorder (ARND) which falls under the FASD spectrum. We were shocked, stunned, hurt, scared and didn’t know where to go for help. Our worker wondered at that time whether we should proceed with adopting Mike or if we should reconsider before we got overwhelmed with his needs to avoid possible disruption further into his placement with us. He still felt that we should stick with our earlier decision that a child with FASD was not for us. At this point Mike had been home for 4 months! We cried, prayed, researched, and talked at length about Mike and his needs and couldn’t see giving up on our son because of something he had no control over. The diagnosis of FASD did not change who Mike was. It just changed how we had to parent him and helped us understand why we had been having some of the issues we had been having. With this new understanding we could figure out how to better help him as the traditional ways we had been trying hadn’t worked. We made the decision to finalize our adoption with Mike and figure things out as we went along. We were in this as a family. Now we just had to determine the best way to help him and learn more about FASD ourselves.
The funding we need to support Mike’s healing and development would amount to less than if he were to remain in foster care. We know that children raised in permanent families with the right supports have a better chance than children who age out of care.
Shortly thereafter we had a telephone conference with our worker and Mike’s worker about the diagnosis, how we were feeling and where we were to go from there. Mike’s worker apologized to us and told us that she was going to work with us to request a subsidy to assist us in caring for Mike. She told us that it was CAS’ “fault” that we were in this position and that we would be fully supported with a subsidy request. For the next couple of days Google became our best friend. we researched FASD, what it was, how it affected individuals, how to parent children with FASD, what worked and didn’t work and what supports were available in our area. In our next conversation, we discussed needs for childcare for before and after school, the need for family counseling, for Mike, and for our other two children. We also discussed a desire to be directed to respite care and support groups. I also mentioned that I had found an organization that trained service dogs for individuals with FASD and that I had spoken with an individual from that organization about getting a service dog for Mike who suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks
Currently we are still advocating for adequate support for our son, Mike. We are confused as to what’s going on, scared to ask for more compensation in case they keep reducing our support, scared to not ask for support because we need help, and worried that we will be viewed as incapable and have Mike taken from us. We are not getting answers as to why the numbers are dropping instead of going up, we are confused as to why we didn’t get the support we clearly demonstrated a need for. This process was started in May and it is now the middle of September. My parental leave is up soon and I can’t afford to go back to work because we don’t have the before and after school care set up and the subsidy amounts to cover this care. I also can’t afford to not go back to work as we are trying to join support groups and paying for resources and sitters. My income through EI does not compare to my income at work. We don’t understand why it’s taking 4 months to work on a subsidy and why we are left in limbo this whole time. We know that CAS is still receiving funding for him as he is still technically considered in the care of CAS even though he’s been with us since January. We feel we have no resource and nowhere to turn. We love Mike and are fighting for him. We need to be strong so that we can be strong for him. We need to understand his disability and how to parent him to the best of our ability in a way that will be meaningful and supportive for him. We want him to have the best opportunities to reach his full potential and we will continue to fight to get what he needs! Mike is meant to be in our family and we’re so thankful that he is with us.
The funding we need to support Mike’s healing and development would amount to less than if he were to remain in foster care. We know that children raised in permanent families with the right supports have a better chance than children who age out of care. Investing in families helps children reach their full potential. Ontario can do better to ensure #Support4EveryFamily.