By *Clare, A Canadian Adoptee
I was three years old when I went into foster care and seven by the time I was adopted. All I remember from before that time is seven years of neglect, abuse, hunger and struggle. My three siblings and I had terrible instability in our birth home, with our living conditions always changing. Then after we went into foster care, we moved five times.
When I met my forever family, my brother and sisters and I had just been moved out of a home that was supposed to be permanent. We lived with a couple for a year and a half on a foster-with-a-view-to-adopt plan, and were taught to call them both “Dad.” We were told that we would be with them forever. My brother and sisters have a lot of challenges (including FASD), and we were difficult, so those parents couldn’t handle us and they became abusive. Even with the abuse, we felt that we loved them and we tried to settle in. But it was so hard for us to behave and to be calm, because we were nervous all the time and we didn’t have the skills to handle all the emotions we were going through.
Then one day everything changed. I can’t remember all that happened, because it was so long ago, but I do remember the most painful things. I remember I left the house for school that morning, that there was a new For Sale sign on the lawn, and that I was never taken back to that home again. The couple dropped us off at school, with tears in their eyes, and said “Goodbye.”
Luckily, former foster parents we called Grandma and Grandpa took us back in after school. We stayed with them for six months, until we were introduced to a man and woman and their two sons. They started visiting us, and then one day they asked if we wanted to be adopted by them. We had only known them a short while, and they were perfect strangers, but we wanted a permanent home. Before we knew it, all our belongings were moved, once again, into another strange place. Everything was new: new house, new bed, new smells and new people, including two we were supposed to call “Mom” and “Dad.”
Over and over for the years I was in foster care, I thought every home I moved into might be the one I’d stay in, but every time I was sent away in the end. Obviously my brother, sisters and I had major trust issues. We were scared to be abandoned again, to have things we’d grown to love taken away, and we had scars in our brains and souls we thought would never heal. How were we supposed to just get on with a new life?
So we tested our new parents to see if they really loved us, to see what it would take for them to send us away, like the others had. My three siblings would freak out, firing at my parents like they were cannons pointed at the enemy. They bit, kicked, and threatened our parents. They screamed and cried until they threw up. They destroyed rooms. They even threatened to kill themselves and acted like they would. I was a quieter kid, and I had terrible anxiety. Everything was chaos day and night.
So what I want people to know is that adoption isn’t all rainbows and candy for a kid. It is really scary and really hard, especially in the beginning. It took three years for our drama to die down, although the first year was the hardest. Luckily during that time my mom was able to stay home with us. She needed to because the school called all the time over problems and we had a lot of specialist appointments. Even eight years later, my mom doesn’t think she could return to work because my siblings always need a grown-up on hand, either because they need to go to see the doctor or therapist, or because she has meetings at our schools for IEPs or behavioural issues.
There was no babysitter who could manage my siblings’ running away or their self-harm. My dad took days off work here and there, but there was no one to fill in for him at work and of course with a big family there are bills to pay. Dad made sure to spend all his evenings and weekends with us, even when he was really tired. He played games with us and picked up the pieces after our explosive episodes.
Thanks to all the time they spent with us, whether it was my dad leaving work early to meet a teacher, or my mom staying by one of our sides if we were home sick, we all learned to trust and understand each other. Settling in requires a huge amount of time and commitment. I was with my last so-called “forever home” for a year and a half, so my new family had to put in at least that much time, before we could even begin to believe we might stay there. But time went on, and my parents kept loving us no matter what we did, and gradually we started to feel like this really was forever.
Kids who have gone through a lot deserve to have their parents with them most of the time, at first, so they can bond and work through their problems together. Then they can finally get the happy family they always wanted.
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.