"Imagine being married to someone for eight years, and then being told that you have to get a divorce and some stranger will choose your new spouse. Then imagine moving in with that person after only knowing them for a little while. What if they don’t like you, or you don’t like them — what next?"
When I met Susan Bell* in her large, Surrey home, I was immediately struck by how ordered and tidy it seemed, especially considering it’s home to several teens. I had pictured a far more hectic, cluttered place.
Susan ushered me into her equally immaculate office, and we spoke for two hours about parenting kids with FASD. Susan, an adoptive parent, is direct, honest, and she doesn’t sugar-coat any aspect of this complicated issue.
As adoptive parents who began our journey with our application to adopt almost 25 years ago, we’ve seen some changes along the way. One of those changes has been regarding the adoption of children of First Nations ancestry into non- First Nations homes.
Our first adoption was a child of First Nations ancestry, and we were given very little information about his birth mother’s community, or even about how to support his culture. Fast forward a few years and his half brother joined us.
Cathy Sarino works for Kelowna Community Resources in their Special Needs Adoption Program. Her job is to help children understand, and hopefully accept, that they cannot live with their birth parents or their foster parents. She works with the children and their foster parents to deal with the grief and loss and guide them into a state of readiness to join another family.
When I was younger I lived with my mom, my big sister, and big brother. I was the youngest. I had never met my birth father, so he wasn’t a part of the picture.
When I was four, I was put into foster care for the first time. My sister came with me to my first foster home, but then moved out shortly after. That was the last time we were in a foster home together. I have lived in five foster homes since then.
The first four times I went into care because my mom was using drugs, along with her boyfriend at the time.
Recently I received another “one of those calls out of the blue” that all social workers occasionally receive. This call was from an adoptive family that I had worked with in the past and hadn’t heard from for almost seven years, as they had moved from our region.
Life with my bio/adopt/foster family was always interesting and always changing.
My first connection to adoption was a toothy, hairless Cabbage Patch kid with a scrawling Xavier Roberts tattoo on his posterior. My second connection arrived as two-year-old toddlers – twin brothers that would be my family’s first step into the world of adoption. I stopped counting those connections soon after. More children arrived. Our family expanded exponentially. Friends jumped on board, adopting little and big ones. Even an aunt and uncle joined in. Adoption was everywhere.
WATERFORD, CT - A family portrait hangs in the living room of the Longs’ home. Taken last year at Thanksgiving, it shows Jesse and Jill Long surrounded by five children: three grinning teenagers and two much younger children. It’s an American classic. Norman Rockwell comes to Waterford. And yet the photograph is a testament to something else, a secret that only some families understand: that while love surely makes a family, determination and hard work are often needed to make it work, make it real.
Many children in foster care exhibit parentified behaviours, making it difficult for them and their new parents to negotiate healthy parent-child relationships. We spoke with Anne Melcombe, BSW, an adoption social worker and child specific recruiter here at AFABC, about parenting the parentified child. Anne was a Level 2 foster parent for more than two decades and is a single adoptive mom of three. She is passionate about the need for children and youth to have permanent family connections.
A BC film explores the bravery, determination, and humour it takes to rise above the legal systems, societal prejudices, and personal fears inherent in starting a family through adoption.
Nelson, BC-based filmmaker Amy Bohigian’s documentary film, Conceiving Family, follows her and partner Jane Byers’ journey to becoming a family, and combines personal interviews, intimate footage and family photos of four other same-sex couples to tell the collective story of what it takes build a family through adoption and through love.