CONGRATULATIONS to the Widen family! Photographer and mom Shonnie Widen won 1st place in the 2019 Faces of Family 2019 Photo Contest with this gorgeous image. Below, Shonnie shares her family's adoption story in her own words.
We're the Widens: Matthew, Shonnie, “J” and “H."
Matthew and I have a bit of a unique story. I am Australian, he is from Northern British Columbia (Smithers), and we met, got engaged, and were married in the Himalayan country of Nepal. We found in each other a shared love for different cultures, travelling the world, and a strong desire to adopt. I am not sure where my dream to adopt came from, I feel like it has always been with me since I was little. Matthew's mother was adopted and always knew that she was a chosen and cherished member of her family, so adoption was already a part of his family legacy.
Photo: Shonnie Widen
Shortly after we were married we began to look into adoption. When I first came across the AFABC website and read about Canada's Waiting Children, I knew that this was it. We learnt that there were over a thousand kids waiting to be adopted in British Columbia alone, and we knew that we could be a family for one, or two, or three, or even four of these kids.
On a holiday to BC while visiting family I called the AFABC adoption support worker for the interior region (Sarah Gibson) and she immediately put us in touch with a local MCFD social worker. We met with the social worker, filled in an application form and signed up for an adoption that day. Matthew and I decided that this is what we wanted to do with our lives, and so we packed up our things in Nepal, and we moved to BC making a nest for ourselves in the Okanagan.
We loved every part of our adoption process. We feel like we learnt a lot out of the Adoption Education Program, and felt very comfortable with our social worker throughout our home study and waiting period. In the fall of 2017 we attended Kelowna's Adoption Resource Exchange, an event designed to help showcase some of the children waiting to be matched with adoptive parents. During the event our kids’ guardianship worker approached us, and we were introduced to J and H. There were some stops and starts in our matching process, but in January 2018 J and H came home, J was then 22 months old, and H 6 months—biological siblings. Their adoptions were finalised in February 2019.
Matthew and I couldn't be happier or prouder parents. Our adoption journey was really positive. We felt really supported and cared for by our ministry social worker, our kids’ guardianship worker, and our kids’ incredible foster family. We met so many incredible people along the way, and have developed a really positive relationship with our kids’ birth mom (we have an open adoption).
Today our son is an inquisitive three year old. He loves to find out about how things work and is fascinated with anything that has wheels and an engine. He has a great sense of humour with a streak of cheekiness. He is becoming sweeter every day, is very gentle, and is an incredible big brother. Our daughter is almost two now. She is spunky and loves to cuddle. We call her our little koala bear. She loves being around people, and melts hearts everywhere she goes with her dimples, blue eyes, and bubbly personality.
We feel strongly attached to our kids. For the first three months after our kids came home we hibernated for three months, to cocoon and focus on letting the attachments go deep. We have never regretted our decision to slow life down and just focus on bonding in those early days. When the time was right, we took our kids travelling so that they could see the world with us. J and H have now joined us in visiting the United States, Australia, Nepal, Thailand and Maylasia. You can watch some of our adventures on our YouTube channel: Matt Shonnie Widen.
Our family has settled back in the Okanagan. We feel like our kids have adjusted so well. We feel like we have the capacity to open our family up again, and this summer are reapplying and updating our home study to adopt again.
We love our family’s story, and are looking forward to what is coming next.
The 2020 Faces of Family photo contest will open in March 2020. Stay in the loop by signing up for our enews!