The Young Boy I Met

In May I met a 14yr old boy at an adoption party. He was awesome, but I was holding out for a sibling group. I decided to look into him again recently and just today discovered that he’s been placed with a family. It is always bittersweet to hear about placements of kids you’re interested in – but I’m so glad he has a home now.

I’ve inquired about lots of kids over the past several months. Most of them from the public website. None have panned out yet. The trouble is that the kids on the website are the “hard to place” ones, who’ve been resorted to marketing tactics to find them homes. We don’t get to see files for the majority of the kids in care. We as adoptive parents have to leave our lives in the hands of a social worker – a stranger – and hope that they’re doing everything they can to match us with a child and expand our families.

It’s hard not to feel like you’re just another file sitting on someone’s desk. Usually, you are. I contact my social worker once every couple of weeks to ask questions and make sure we’re making strides in the direction of our end goal. What is that saying… the squeakiest wheel gets the grease.

In the meantime, I sit and I wait and I hope for a child to bring noise and laughter and life into my home and into my heart.

It’s Almost Go-Time!

I’m really quite excited to start my life as a mom. It’s taken a long time to get to this point (my best friend calls it “the most overdue pregnancy ever”). I first applied to adopt in April of last year (2013), but I had spent my whole life thinking about it first. It took six months to receive the first phone call saying that they had finally reviewed my application. After that things thankfully seemed to go faster (though they really didn’t). I’ve been through two very long weekends of training, filled out massive amounts of paperwork (repeatedly), I’m now onto my third social worker (intake worker, home study writer, and now the permanent adoption worker), and last month I was finally approved to adopt!

In between all of the appointments and paperwork, I’ve painted both of the kids rooms, the laundry room and the basement. I’ve torn down and re-built a fence and a deck, I’ve attended several meet-ups with other adoptive or prospective parents, and I’m managing the blog for a new non-profit organization started by one of my new friends. Things have been really busy preparing for my new family; I guess you could say I’m nesting (and drinking more coffee).

My social worker said that my file has been getting a lot of attention due to my wide age-range, so I don’t think it will be very long before I’ve found a “match” and will get to bring them home. I’m spending the interim period saving up for my parental leave and trying to finish off a few projects around the house. I also have a couple of weekends planned at the lake for good measure.

Wish me luck, and keep your eyes open for big news coming soon!

Confidence as a Parent and Expectations of Traumatized Children

As I inch my way closer to becoming a parent, I find myself struggling with feelings of inadequacy and a lack of self confidence. For years, I’ve been listening to my friends talk about raising their children. They’re so far ahead in the game that I’m not sure how I’ll ever stack up as a new parent. I know it’s not about comparing my successes (or my children’s) to theirs, but I feel as though I’ll struggle with the unsolicited advice and explaining to those around me how raising a child who has been neglected or abused is so much different than raising a child born to you.

I will likely have lower expectations of my children then I would a biological child. For a traumatized child, even the basic acts in life can be a challenge. My expectations need to be reasonable and achievable. There simply isn’t any comparison between a child who has been adopted and one who has not. For an adopted and/or traumatized child, feeling secure in a family, managing emotions and trying to understand why “this” happened to them take up the majority of their plates. At the end of the day, there isn’t much time left over to be the star basketball player or humanitarian of the year. Making it through each day without a meltdown is a success.

I will need to learn to trust my gut. To keep my confidence as a parent high, expectations of my children reasonable, and to shut out the voices of the people around me who think they know how it should be.

Lack of Advocating, Oversights or Outright Lies?

There’s this diagnosis a child can have called “Reactive Attachment Disorder” and it has the potential to be pretty terrifying. RAD is typically found in traumatized children and may result in a defiant or dangerous child (as with anything, there is a spectrum of seriousness); but this post isn’t really about RAD – directly.

I’ve heard a few stories now, one in person and several I’ve read online & in blogs, about social workers (government representatives) not being entirely open or honest about a child’s potential diagnosis’s or history. In pretty much all of these stories, adoptive parents were told that their child did not have RAD or FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) when they very much DID. In another instance, adoptive parents were told that one child did and one child did not have FASD. As it turned out, it was the complete opposite. This misdiagnosis or lack of information has provided in some really difficult situations for parents who may have chosen not to parent a specific child had they been given full disclosure.

I want to believe that this misinformation isn’t on purpose. I want to believe that perhaps the diagnosis had not been formally given yet, or the tests were inconclusive or perhaps the social workers weren’t well informed enough about that particular child. But, shouldn’t they be? If a test hasn’t been done yet, or information was unknown, would that not be disclosed as a possible risk or something that needed evaluation? Wouldn’t the child’s behavior in foster care be noted regardless of any diagnosis and especially if it was not in line with a given diagnosis?

I mean, if a child has been tested and determined not to have a particular diagnosis but still shows signs of that diagnosis, wouldn’t there be further testing or some form of second opinion? To the opposite end, if a child does receive a diagnosis but does not show signs leading to it, wouldn’t that be mentioned to the prospective adoptive parents?

Shouldn’t information be shared openly, regardless of its potential to “scare off” or change the mind of a prospective adoptive parent? Wouldn’t it be better to allow a parent to make the judgment call on what they’re getting into, instead of “tricking” them into it, only to find out later that their child is really nothing like what was described to them, for better or worse?

I’m concerned about this. Being new to the game, I don’t know the right questions to ask or the right people to talk to. The social workers are supposed to be the people who I can trust to guide me through the process and provide me with the tool’s I’ll need to make the best decisions and be the best parent I can be to the right child. If I can’t count on them, then that leaves me in a pretty vulnerable place.

Already, I’m seeing some breaks in an evolving system. I’m hearing rumours of efforts to improve the process but thus far what I’ve witnessed is poorly executed aboriginal training, months on end of waiting just for a phone call, discrepancies in information provided by social workers, and a lot of excuses for disorganization. It’s pretty clear already that I’ll have to stay on top of things to ensure my file doesn’t fall through the cracks. Now I’m concerned over what I’ll need to bring to the table when a match is finally made.

Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which infants and young children don’t establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers.

A child with reactive attachment disorder is typically neglected, abused or orphaned. Reactive attachment disorder develops because the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met and loving, caring attachments with others are never established. This may permanently change the child’s growing brain, hurting the ability to establish future relationships.

Reactive attachment disorder is a lifelong condition, but with treatment children can develop more stable and healthy relationships with caregivers and others. Safe and proven treatments for reactive attachment disorder include psychological counseling and parent or caregiver education. – “Reactive Attachment Disorder” as defined by the Mayo Clinic.

After Tomorrow

There’s only another four-six weeks before I expect to hear from the social worker about scheduling my first home visit / interview. After that, I expect the process will seem to go a lot faster. I’m already feeling the nerves kick in from time to time, as I realize there’s only a month left of my life as a single girl, free as a bird. After that first contact, I think it will seem so much more real. Despite my nerves, I still feel good about my decision to adopt. A little panicky sometimes, but I think that’s probably normal when one is on the verge of making a permanent and life changing decision.

I have great news. I’ve reached the last chapter in closing out my Dad’s estate, and I will use my inheritance to purchase my own home… a home where I’ll raise my children. In all likelihood, the timing of my home purchase and adoption will coincide, and I must admit that I’m a bit nervous about taking it all on at once. I hope I have a few months to settle into home ownership before I have to settle into motherhood as well.

I’ve been doing as much as I can to prepare for motherhood. I’ve read a few books. I’ve thought about the logistics. I’ve told my family, and I’ve asked for their support. I think my mother and I have finally found a place to bond. I asked her outright if she’d be able and willing to support me (emotionally, as well as with things like after school and emergency care) and her response was an enthusiastic “absolutely!”. I’ve never heard my mother so excited about anything I’ve done. I truly believe she’s going to flourish in the role of a grandmother. We’ve had some pretty in depth conversations as of late. I’ve been able to open up to her about my fears and concerns, and about the practicalities and obstacles I’ll face as a single mother, and for once she’s actually encouraged me and provided me with support and suggestions. Mom’s never been like this before. It gives me comfort knowing that my family will be backing me fully, and that me and my children will have the supports we need. After all, it takes a village…