February, Family Day’s month, has come to an end, and with it, Adopt4Life’s 2nd social media outreach campaign. Once again Adopt4Life’s community of adoptive parents have bravely and poignantly shared their experiences to promote positive change to the adoption system for the benefit of awaiting children in care and children already in their forever families. The total of 29 stories provides strong irrefutable evidence of the need for permanency support for all families formed through adoption, kinship, or customary care.
This month we heard of the struggles families have experienced early in their adoption parenting journey, feeling left isolated and alone, and of the families further down the road that found themselves unprepared for challenges presented and no supports available because so much time had passed. Conversely families shared with us how having emotional and financial supports for their family and children made the difference between successfully forming their family and watching their children heal and grow, versus disruption and losing their children back to the system.
We have learned support can come in many forms. As such, a variety of readily available permanency supports are needed around the province that can be individualized to meet the unique needs of children and their families. In terms of emotional support, knowledge sharing and normalizing the experience of adoption, CAS workers, adoption practitioners, foster parents, and peers were all described as making the difference and enabling families to be successful and help their children. Government funded services and programs are a great resource for our children but accessing them can be a problem due to lengthy waits and may not be sufficient because of resource constraints on the amount of service that can be provided to any given child. Private assessments, counselling, and therapies are in most cases extremely costly but absolutely necessary to help our children heal from past traumas. Some families are fortunate to have insurance coverage through work and this is a great way for employers to compensate their employees, helping them to attract and retain top talent. However, Ontario cannot rely on families having insurance coverage when it comes to the complex needs of traumatized children adopted from care. Unfortunately only some CAS agencies provide subsidies to their families post-permanency, and in some cases only some of the time, which is leaving many families without the financial support they need to help their children heal and reach their full potential.
Experienced adoptive parents and foster parents have not only spoken out about their experiences, they have made important recommendations for change. They told us they want to see support groups established throughout the province, with one year mandatory participation for all new adoptive parents, enabling these new families to establish valuable peer connections and to normalize their adoption experience. They have also said that all children in foster care should receive trauma therapy and that therapy should continue as they grow up – adopted or not. As well, they recommend that all new adoptive parents take mandatory attachment training or therapy once they are matched with their child(ren) so they can better understand the behaviours of their adopted children and how to foster attachment which is foundational to their children’s wellbeing and ability to have healthy future relationships. When it comes to our older youth in care, any financial disincentives to being adopted should be removed so that no child has to decide between becoming an official part of a family and losing their college bursaries or not being adopted and keeping the bursaries and extended care agreement. Finally and importantly, all families need financial support through subsidy agreements for therapy, medical, and dental needs so they may provide their children with timely and qualified assessments, counselling, therapies, and treatments that go beyond public services and programs in order to help their children overcome past traumas and not just survive but thrive.
With all of the stories and recommendations, it is clear that having a network and ongoing support ensures all children are better prepared and able to reach their full potential. Timely and accessible #Support4EveryFamily is invaluable to children, their families and ultimately society – strong families create contributing citizens, engaged communities, and an economically stable society. From peer support to financial support for therapies, Ontario can help families come together and stay together, so that all children have a permanent, loving home to grow up and grow old in. With more than 7,000 children in care and 1,000 about to age out of the care, Adopt4Life believes that proper #Support4EveryFamily will help ensure a #Home4EveryKid, making Ontario a leader in building families by adoption.
In less than one year, adoptive parents have seen their association rapidly grow to become a positive and influential body for change. February 2015 has been another momentous month for awaiting children and adoptive families in Ontario; let’s keep the momentum going with continued dialogues and action towards understanding the problems and bringing about improvements that will mean #AHome4EveryKid with #Support4EveryFamily! Ontario can do better but we must do it together, working with our partners in government and all stakeholders in the adoption process!
You too can help us advocate for change! Adoptive and prospective adoptive parents and adoption professionals are invited to join Adopt4Life - membership is free! By joining Adopt4Life, you help us help Ontario do better for our adoptive families and awaiting children by being counted - the larger our numbers, the louder our collective voice!
Permanency support is at the heart of what Adopt4Life does in addition to advocacy work at the government level. If you are in need of peer mentoring, help in establishing a peer group, or assistance in advocating for your child(ren) with CAS, mental health professionals, school and the like, please contact Julie Despaties or Sylvia Gibbons (contact information is on our website). We are here to help you!