Four years ago, Focus on Adoption profiled Colleen, an 11-year-old girl who desperately wanted to be adopted. The staff at AFABC were touched by this child’s clear-eyed vision of what her future could and should be. Since then, we’ve kept in touch with Colleen’s progress—as you know, each year that a child waits for a family reduces his or her chances of being adopted. We were thrilled that last year Colleen and her new family’s dreams came true. Here her social worker explains how it finally happened.
I first met Colleen when she was only eight years old. She was just a little thing, wearing glasses, and full of questions. She was living with a foster family, their daughter, and a couple of other foster children. Though neither of Colleen’s birth parents was able to parent her, she did have a very devoted great grandmother who regularly visited and remained in contact.
Colleen had already been in the foster home for a couple of years when her foster parents applied to adopt her. However, before that placement progressed, very serious concerns surfaced within the home and Colleen was removed. Colleen never fully understood why she had to move, nor why she could no longer have contact with the family—she very much wanted to be adopted by them. She still grieves the loss of her "almost adoptive family."
From then on, Colleen was very clear that she still wanted to be adopted. I can’t remember how many times I sent e-mails to adoption social workers inquiring if their families would consider Colleen. Her profile was included in MCFD’s Adoption Bulletin of children available for adoption and was presented at several matching meetings with social workers. Though there was always interest from a variety of families, nothing ever materialized. It was hard enough for me to take—it was even harder to tell Colleen that I still hadn’t found her a family. That was always one of her first questions when we saw each other. My heart broke each time!
Then a new adoption recruitment initiative, ACT Now! specifically for older children and teens was launched in the spring of 2005. Colleen was referred to the program and participated enthusiastically. She was interviewed on radio, and an article was written about her in Focus on Adoption. Recruitment meetings were held specifically with her in mind.
Finally, in March 2006, an adoption social worker from another region of the Ministry phoned to say that one of her adoptive applicants was expressing interest in Colleen. The family had read about her in the Focus magazine and later in the Adoption Bulletin. I met them in June 2006, and thought they might be just right for Colleen. They were warm and compassionate. They had raised three sons and had great parenting experience. They had also known pain and suffering and had dealt with health issues. Most importantly, they felt they had something to offer Colleen, and they wanted to parent her.
The following month, when the family’s homestudy was completed, their worker handed them Colleen’s information package. On October 6, 2006, I was advised that we could proceed with the adoption.
About a week later, after making sure that she was still keen on adoption (she was now 16 years old), I delivered the news to Colleen. In all those years, her enthusiasm hadn’t diminished one bit.
Remembrance Day 2006 now has an extra special meaning for all those involved in Colleen’s adoption—on November 11, 2006, Colleen met her most cherished forever family.
We did not know what Colleen’s pre-placement process should look like, except that we would follow her lead and go with whatever she was comfortable with.
And, she went into it with gusto! She eagerly embraced this family who so much wanted her to be a part of them. They, on the other hand, were humbled by her courage to leave the familiar and welcome the unknown. By the end of the first weekend, everybody knew that this was indeed a match. Two weeks later, Colleen decided that it was time to move into her forever home.
In large part, it was Colleen’s passionate and insistent desire for a forever family that inspired all who met her to keep searching. Colleen reminds us all that there is a family out there for every waiting child. We all share in her happiness and wish her and her new family the very best.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.