Our adoption story began 15 years ago when my spouse and I adopted a sibling group of three aged 6, 4 and 3. Over a 5 month period, our three children transitioned into our home. These children came from an extreme history of deprivation and neglect. Due to their special needs, they had been placed in three separate foster homes with very little contact for over 2 years. As safety was a major concern, we were asked to relocate to another community, which we did.
Living in a new community with a new family we felt very isolated and overwhelmed and we had no one to turn to for support other than our adoption worker. Although we had a large supportive family and friends, we knew no other family that was experiencing what we were. We did not fully understand the impact of trauma on attachment and the behaviours that we were seeing. Due to the special needs of our children, I became a stay at home mom and have continued to stay at home to this day. School presented many challenges for our children and we often did not have understanding educators. We decided to homeschool our children to help with the attachment and to build their self-esteem. After two and a half years of homeschooling, they slowly transitioned back to the mainstream school system. I continued to bring them home for lunch in order to give them a break during the day. I volunteered at the school and this helped my children to feel safe. We often turned to our adoption worker for support and guidance. She was and continues to be such a valuable resource and was really invested in our family, so much so that she is my oldest child’s godmother.
I educated myself about trauma, attachment, FASD, PTSD, loss and grief for adoption. My CAS would often ask me to provide support for struggling parents. Eventually, I started a support group in my community as there was a need. From the adult support group, I started a youth group for adopted youth. Both of these groups provide us the opportunity to connect with other families and to normalize the adoption experience.
Over the years, we have had to advocate for our children and ask for help when needed. We have accessed therapy and have not always been successful, as many mental health professionals do not have the adoption awareness competency.
We believe that our adoption journey has been successful due to our CAS adoption worker. She remained committed to us and we were able to call upon her at any time for support and guidance. We also realize that not all families have the same opportunities. Advocating for our children was needed in order for our family to succeed.
As a peer mentor, I see the urgency for adoptive parent support groups and adoptive youth groups in every community. It is vital for our families and youth to connect and support each other. I have witnessed first-hand the benefit of connecting and sharing with other adoptive families that are facing the same struggles, challenges and rewards. Families need ongoing training to help them understand behaviours and how loss and trauma affect attachment for our children and youth (at time of placement and long after the adoption has been finalized). Many families are unable toç access or afford therapy, dental services, post-secondary support, etc.
As for our family’s adoption story, it continues to be a lifelong journey. My oldest child, who is diagnosed with PTSD, continues to struggle with poor self-esteem, identity, attachment to us, and was recently also diagnosed with manic depression and ADHD; after a four month placement in a treatment facility, my boy is transitioning back home. Following the night of our boy’s chaotic and violent apprehension and placement into foster care, the two CAS workers went off on sick leave and received therapy. By alarming contrast, our four year old child was placed in a foster home with people that he didn’t know, separated from his siblings with very little contact, and expected to be resilient without therapy or supports. While we are incredibly proud of our boys’ successes, we often wonder how they would be today if they had had therapy at the onset.
Timely and accessible #Support4EveryFamily is paramount for families to be successful and their children to reach their full potential. From peer support, which Adopt4Life offers, to financial support for therapies and respite, we can help families come together and stay together, ensuring all children have permanent families to grow up and grow old in.