We met our daughter three weeks before her 17th birthday. She moved in with us on “adoption probation” four months later. A few weeks after her 18th birthday the judge made official what we already felt in our hearts and heads—she was our daughter.
It was an exciting time for us and it was an exciting time for the CAS that had been taking care of her and looking for her forever family. There are thousands of Crown Wards that are older teens and only a fraction of them find permanent homes each year.
We were thrilled to have found the perfect “fit” for our family and her workers were thrilled that she would not age out of care without establishing any life-long connections.
It actually came as a shock to find out that less than a year after our daughter came to live with us full time, we would no longer be provided with any financial support to assist with the multitude of educational and psychological hurdles that she faced We were told that the only support we would be eligible for would be the financial support offered to former Crown Wards for post-secondary education—a great program co-run between the provincial government and many post secondary institutions in Ontario. However, soon after we learned that this would not be the case—that if a Crown Ward was adopted, the rules changed and consequently our daughter would be ineligible for support. Another surprise. CAS offered us other options in order to allow us to continue receiving support—they wanted to make this match work-- but they all involved taking away the sense of permanency that we wanted to give our daughter, and would make her have a different “status” than our other children.
That is not what she wanted, and it was not what we wanted. Currently, Ontario is the ONLY province that ends it’s adoption subsidy support at age 18—all the other provinces continue to 19 or older.
Sometimes late at night, when everyone is asleep in the house, I think about what might have been, where and what our now 19-year daughter might be doing if we had not been matched. A pretty girl, with little education, struggling with the language and no family ties- my mind can go to dark places because I have read the statistics.
I know the struggles the kids who age out of care face because I have listened to them speak. Even of ones who “chose” not to be adopted, often because of the financial disincentives they faced compared to staying in government care. We were so lucky that our daughter could see past the $950 per month she would soon qualify for at age 18 through Extended Care Maintenance. Not every youth has that kind of foresight. She understood that having a family for life would take her further then a few years of monthly cheques and we were able to make the financial sacrifices needed. The question is why? Why should this be a decision older youth and potential adoptive families have to make in this province when we have empirical proof that by all measures youth do better in permanent families.
Then I sneak across the hall, and peek in on her sleeping under her pink flowered quilt and wish we had a bigger house, and more money, so we could offer another youth a 4ever home.