By Kyla, Youth Advocate for #TimeToAttach
Growing up, I constantly struggled to find my own voice. It felt so complicated just to speak up about things that mattered to me. When I was adopted with my two siblings, I always felt that they needed all the space to be vocal about their problems and frustrations. I could not express how I felt about anything until I knew that my siblings were alright—and that took a lot of time.
Recently in my life there have been changes that have helped me make my voice heard. I had people around me that changed my perspective on what it’s like to really speak out. Once I realized that I’d finally had enough with everything going on around me and the anger had built up, I spoke out about my frustrations and my parents just sat and listened. I knew I could start to build trust with them at that point.
Life started to change for me from then on. My confidence grew slowly but surely and I was able to be vocal about anything. I knew I could discuss any issues I had about anything to anyone, if need be. This led me to want to be involved in bigger things. So I got involved with Adopt4Life as a youth spokesperson and went to advocate on the Hill in Ottawa. I felt that Adopt4Life was fighting for an important issue: the #TimeToAttach movement, which is about giving adoptive parents and kin and customary caregivers the right to 15 more weeks of parental leave from work, to match the time given to biological parents.
This cause was important to me because attaching to new people who are supposed to be your new parents is one of the most difficult things a child or teen can do. Being able to let anyone in my life know about my issues and accepting their reassurances was hard for me. So taking the time that I did with my adoptive parents helped a lot when it came to opening up and adapting to my life with a new family.
Meeting with all of the MPs in Ottawa felt like a great way to make a change and also a great way to tell my story and show why it was important. I no longer felt alone in the situation I’d experienced, because I had all of these wonderful women by my side working to make changes too.
On my first day in Ottawa, I walked into this whole thing not knowing who I was going to meet and how to act. Let’s just say that I was nervous, to say the least. But when we did meet the politicians, I felt a lot more at ease. When they all spoke, I realized they were just regular people. I was able to share my story, which was something that I’ve always found hard to do, because I had people in the room that actually took time to listen.
A few of the MPs in particular—Brigitte Sansoucy, Dan Ruimy and Bob Bratina—showed me that for the right cause, people will listen. They shared their own experiences involving the child welfare system and created an environment where it felt like things can get done. When we were talking to all the MPs, it was interesting to see that no party took a different political stance on the issue of giving equal parental leave to adoptive and kin and customary care families. They were all in agreement that this change needed to happen.
Once our advocacy mission was done, it gave me time to reflect and realize that when this change to the current laws is finally made, it will help so many other families. Kids going through similar things to what I did will have more time to attach to their new families and adapt to their surroundings, while their parents are also getting everything figured out, from arranging medical checkups to enrolling their kids in school to having meetings with teachers. School is one of the bigger things that takes so much time to adapt to, especially when there is so much going on all at once, it makes it hard to feel like you fit in. It took almost a year for to me to finally feel like I could start going to school. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere at the start.
I think that anyone can benefit from being an advocate for what they believe in. It helps make changes in the world and it helps you find your voice. You also meet many new people. This whole experience of sharing my experiences in Ottawa is almost impossible to just sum up in a blog post, because there were so many amazing parts to it that will stay with me forever. Finding a voice in this world has changed me for the better.
The opinions expressed in blogs posted reflect their author and do not represent any official stance of Adopt4Life. We respect the diversity of opinions within the adoption, kinship and customary care community and hope that these blog posts will stimulate meaningful conversations.
We're ramping up our #timetoattach campaign until April 2019, for 15 more weeks of parental leave for adoptive parents and kin and customary caregivers. To really make an impact on our mission to Ottawa, we'd like to share your experiences of what it was like helping your child to settle in and bond. Find out how to share your story.