Four long-time staff members—Karen Madeiros, Dianna Mortensen, Anne Melcombe, and Jen Hillman—reflect on their years at AFABC.
What’s one of your favourite memories from AFABC’s early years?
Karen: I joined AFABC before I adopted. Later, I joined the board of what was then our Vancouver branch. We spent our time organizing monthly information evenings and family socials. A few years later I was lucky to join the staff. The last 22 years are full of with memories. I’ve been blessed to meet so many prospective parents, to watch so many children grow over the years, and to have enjoyed many staff potlucks with bright, committed co-workers.
Dianna: Eighteen years ago we had just adopted our first daughter, and despite having read all the books, I knew I needed to connect with real people who understood what made my role as a mom different from that of my friends. When I first started working at AFABC I was impressed with how it felt to walk into the Surrey office and know that everyone was welcoming and inclusive. My previous work in the corporate world never felt that warm and friendly. Now my oldest daughter is in her first year of University, my other two teens are in high school, and I still need to connect with others who understand our ongoing challenges, struggles, and successes.
Maggie: When I first started with AFABC in the 90s, my kids were in elementary school. We were still printing membership lists and manually checking for expired members. The library was a wealth of parenting information. Even as adults, my kids still mention some of the books that I read to them.
Anne: I got involved with AFABC when it was still the Adoptive Parents Association, back in 1992 when was just exploring the idea of adopting as a single parent. They were so supportive and encouraging. A highlight was when participants brought pictures of their new little ones to chapter meetings, or brought the babies along! It was a wonderful, hopeful time for waiting parents like me. The day I got to introduce my first child was amazing! I also met two other parents of African American kids, who have remained my friends for all these years. We started the African Canadian Adoption Network, the Akoma support and mentoring group for African Canadian children, and the Rainbow Camps that ran for several years. Our kids grew up together.
I joined the staff of AFABC from 1998 until 2001, and then came back in 2006. I’m starting to think about retirement but I have a few more years left in me. AFABC is such a great place to work!
What’s something that has really changed?
Karen: Almost everything has changed over my 26 years working and volunteering in adoption. A few big changes include open adoptions, shrinking inter-country options, and the reality of teen adoption.
Dianna: Technology! It allows us to connect with each other no matter where in the province we live. Back in the day, education could only be provided in person. Support groups were limited to monthly meetings, and one-to-one support was only available in person if you lived in the Lower Mainland. Today AFABC is a leader in using technology in a variety of creative ways to connect adoptive parents wherever they live, whenever they need it.
Anne: The biggest change is in the population of children available for adoption. There are few infant adoptions at this time so the focus is on older children in the foster care system or from orphanages in other countries. There’s an increased understanding of the challenges faced by children and families who are joined through adoption.
AFABC as an organization has grown in many ways. We have an active youth program, a child specific recruitment program, and para-professional services including phone and in-home services for families. We also have an amazing website and an education department offering high quality educational programs.
What’s something that has stayed the same?
Karen: The love, commitment, and hard work that adoptive parents do daily for their children.
Dianna: The need for families to connect with each other, and the genuine commitment from AFABC staff to welcome and include all families.
Maggie: Lunch time [at the office] remains a daily ritual where conversations range from the very grave topics to the most amusing. It’s our bonding time and we all cherish it.
Anne: The thing that hasn't changed is the support from people who truly get it because they walk the walk and talk the talk.