The parents of biological children know their child’s prenatal history and most of what we might call their medical inheritance. Adoptive parents, even those who adopt “healthy newborns,” usually have far less information. They must take a leap of faith that all will be well and, that if the child has unexpected disabilities or challenges, that they will adapt and cope.
Adoptive father Andrew Melton, 42, did everything the adoption text books suggest prior to adopting his child. He and his partner, Claire, attended an adoptive parents support group for over two years. He participated enthusiastically in the MCFD education program and in the home study process, and he took parental leave when two-year-old Greg joined the family this summer. Despite all this, he wasn’t prepared for what was to come.
More and more adopted children are arriving home between the ages of one and three, and many of these toddlers have been wrenched from a familiar setting, are grieving the loss of a known caregiver, have experienced neglect or other forms of abuse, and/or have experienced multiple disruptions in their short lives. Toddlers who have resided in orphanages have typically experienced both environmental impoverishment and extremely inadequate care.
Aleisha and Garry Jenkins adopted their first child, Sadie, as a newborn from the US. Two years later, they approached the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), hoping to adopt two older children. They were surprised when the MCFD proposed a sibling group of two: Elliot, a little boy of 18 months, and his sister, Maya, three years old. Though they didn’t expect such young children, the couple pursued the adoption.
Around the time of his third birthday, my son John started urging me to adopt a baby. He launched a relentless, unequivocal campaign. He has always been a determined individual, and he had made up his mind. He was going to have a sibling.
The Decision to Adopt
Kathy and Rick Miller already had four birth children between the ages of nine and 16, when they decided to add a sibling group of two to their family. "We enjoy children a lot," said Kathy, who has a degree in Child and Youth Care. "We have lots of parenting experience, and we felt we had a lot to offer as a family." She and Rick, who is a teacher, wanted more children, but felt that it was better "to expand our family by adding children who genuinely needed a home, rather than biologically."