Tracy and Keith recently adopted a little girl through the Ministry. While the ecstatic parents were enthusiastic about telling their story, we cannot use their real names until the adoption is finalized. Otherwise, all information is accurate.
Describe Your Family
Tracy: We live in the country on an acre of property with a creek in the backyard and lots of space and trees. My husband and I have been together for 12 years and married for six years. We have an active relationship, enjoying sports and the outdoors. We have lots of fun and laugh a lot.
Keith: Me, my beautiful wife, and our exceptionally beautiful daughter, live in a semi-rural area, only a few minutes away from conveniences, yet have space to run around and farms and horses only blocks away. We’ve lived here for about three years, and love it.
Melissa was 15-months old and diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome when we brought her to her new home. She has been with us for five months.
What inspired you to adopt?
Tracy: It was like a calling or fate, something I’d thought about all my life. I asked my husband to take some AFABC introduction courses to see if adoption interested him as it was a scary thought at first. Then it all seemed to fit into place. We originally hoped for one biological and one adopted child to make up our family, whichever came first. So here we are. We will re-visit our next family step in a few years.
Keith: About two years ago, we decided it was time to add to our lives and our family. We had bounced the idea of adoption around for a few years. I had never given adoption much thought. We researched and found out about the large number of kids in BC waiting for adoption. Growing up, I had always "assumed" that the way to start a family was biologically. I learned a lot through our research. We proceeded with both adoption education and trying to biologically have a child. We let fate decide which avenue would be the quickest.
Why the Ministry? Did you request a baby?
Tracy: We met a great social worker at the Waiting Child orientations, and she had helped us work through the Ministry’s poor reputation. She has been awesome and has really worked hard to help us build our family. I now highly recommend the Ministry.
We did not request a baby. We did not have a need to parent a newborn and knew that over 650 kids over the age of one were waiting for homes. We felt that we had enough children skills to parent an older child and are very happy we did!
Keith: When we started, we had no idea what the adoption process entailed. After talking to a couple of agencies, which we found in the Yellow Pages, we decided this route was not only too expensive, but seemed cold. We contacted the Ministry, and although T’s first conversation was less than stellar (I think she almost got into an argument) we proceeded and were assigned an excellent social worker. Our initial request was for any child, boy or girl, from the age of one up to six.
What types of special needs did you say you were interested in and why?
Tracy: We were open to mild special needs. Our social worker gently opened our minds to a larger variety of needs based on what she knew we could handle. Off the top of my head, we said yes to NAS, FAE, and diabetes.
We learned that NAS was not as scary as we thought, and something we could get through with our child. The AEP also helped us immensely to understand NAS, as did the many books we covered during our reading and learning.
Keith: We didn’t know a lot about certain special needs such as FAS and FAE, but with the help of our social worker and our own research, we discovered that we could probably handle most of the special needs identified, with the exception of some of the more extreme cases. We felt that with our commitment to understanding the effects and challenges of these special needs, in addition to our ability to share our love and compassion, we could overcome the majority of obstacles that confronted us.
How long has it been since you made your initial call to the Ministry and the present?
Tracy: It seems all so long ago. Here is the timeline:
- March 2000: Adoption Orientation by AFABC and the Ministry.
- April 2000: Application filled out and met with the Ministry.
- Sept 2000: Adoption Education Program
- Oct 2000: Homestudy began
- Dec 2000: Homestudy completed
- Mid February 2001: Call for a proposal, reviewed next day and accepted. A couple days later, we were off to see our daughter and start our visits.
- March 2, 2001: We brought her home - sigh, sniff sniff, warm and fuzzy thoughts.
Keith: Our first contact with the Ministry was March, 2000. We entered the adoption education course a few months later and completed that in October. Our homestudy took a few months and we were anxiously awaiting any type of news about the beginning of December. We were delayed into the new year because of Christmas. In mid-February, we got a call to look over a proposal. We were filled with anxiety, excitement, nervousness, joy, fear (pick an emotion and we were experiencing it). All in all its been a whirlwind year, and we’ve loved (almost) every minute of it.
What did you learn during the homestudy and Adoption Education Program (AEP)?
Tracy: The AEP was very intense, much more so than I anticipated. Some days I left wanting to throw up and cancel our application. Other days, I left flying high as a kite. I could feel our future child waiting for us, and knew it was so right. That said, my husband and I are temperamentally opposite, and rarely agree. The days I felt low, he was high. The days he felt high, I was low. Ultimately, we knew nothing was going to stop us, and that we’d be able to work through any obstacles. The AEP brought real life into the adoption process. We met adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptive families, and people from the Ministry. It was great to actually reach out and touch these people.
Keith: We learned tons from both the AEP and the ensuing homestudy. The AEP was a real eye-opener. We saw what these potential adoptive kids were going through emotionally, and sometimes, physically. The classes sparked many new discussions, but whenever I had concerns, Tracy would say "Geez that didn’t even faze me." And when Tracy had doubts, I would shake it off saying, "We can handle that, no problem." After completing the education program, we had more resolve than ever to adopt. Ditto for the homestudy. It opened up some lively discussions, and with the guidance of our social worker, we came through with even more desire to get this happening.
Tracy: Wow. Did we ever learn a lot about each other, and our social worker. It was weird having a stranger mine your deepest thoughts and feelings. I think our worker knows more about us than our parents. We had some heated discussions, but I could see later why the social worker dug there. We also made a point of always asking questions if we were unsure about anything. Not being parents yet, we had to work on our parenting skills, and what to expect from each other. We enjoyed the time with our worker, and I found myself enjoying her visits as I liked her as a person. As well, being an Aries, I like talking about myself.
How did you handle waiting and wondering?
Tracy: We didn’t wait long, but in the month-and-a-half between application finalization and the proposal, I thought I was going to go crazy. By nature, I like to have things move quickly. To take my mind off the wait, I joined everything. I went to the gym and played volleyball. I volunteered for the AFABC, worked long hours. We also went to our first AFABC Waiting Parents Support Group, which I highly recommend. Funnily, we were complaining about our wait and got "the call" a few days later and never went back.
Keith: Looking back, it wasn’t a long wait, but it seemed to take forever, especially the period between the end of the homestudy and our proposal. Then it happened so quickly, we wondered what we had got ourselves into. In early January, we went to a Waiting Parents Support Group, where we found out that some of the folks had been waiting years. When it was our turn to speak, and we said it’s been "weeks that we’ve had to wait," I’m pretty sure everybody just rolled their eyes. A couple of weeks later, we got "the call."
Describe meeting your daughter for the first time.
Tracy: My eyes are welling. We had not anticipated seeing Melissa that day. We were in a meeting with her social worker and her foster mom, and the social worker suggested we visit Melissa right then and there. I said, "You have got to be kidding!" Before I knew it, we were off to her foster home. The door opened, and Melissa was standing at the top of the stairs in a blue and white plaid dress with pink flowers (I will always keep that dress!) welcoming us with smiles and "hellos." She was so beautiful, an angel, more charming and lovable then we could possibly have imagined. We went up the stairs, and I thought I was going to trip I felt so faint. We started to play on the floor, reading books, and we brought her some toys. After about half-an-hour, she plunked herself in my lap. My heart was leaping. I knew I could not hug or kiss her, which I was biting my lip not to do. But the physical touch was enough to start my bonding process immediately. That night we got good night kisses. What a special moment! What a special day! What a special life!
Keith: Meeting our Melissa for the first time was simply fantastic. Again, the fear and excitement were all there. We thought the day we went to the Ministry was going to be emotional enough, however, when the worker suggested we go to the foster home for a quick visit, that lump in my throat swelled tenfold. We were informed by our social worker that the probable scenario would be to see Melissa’s social worker on Day 1, and then meet Melissa for the first time on Day 2 for a couple of hours. Slowly, we would increase our time with her until we were all comfortable. We were very surprised and happy that we got to see her on the first day and then a full day with her the next day!
Did you end up adopting the little person you thought you would based on your initial idea of adopting? (Did your expectations change over time?)
Tracy: Yes and no. The smaller person we adopted is exactly our right match. Intially, however, I pictured her being about five years old, rather than a year-and-a-half. And what luck (and of course recommendation by our social worker) to change our application to a younger age, as this is a perfect age for Melissa and us to bond and learn together.
Keith: We were not overly particular regarding gender, age, and special needs, so I never really had any child envisioned. I feel that Melissa is everything and more that we could have ever dreamed for.
Did you meet the foster parents? Do you have contact with the birth family?
Tracy: They are wonderful people and did an outstanding job of raising our daughter. We also met the birth family as we are in an open adoption. It was a very difficult and uncomfortable first meeting, but, once we had our coffee and got over our jitters, it helped all of us to understand everyone’s situation. I wouldn’t change meeting them for the world, and they seemed like nice people.
Keith: We met the whole foster family and practically lived with them for the first week of our adoption process. They are wonderful people who put all of the family love and support to Melissa. On one hand, we thought this had been a fantastic living environment for Melissa. On the other hand, it seemed to make it more difficult for us to believe in our role, and take Melissa from this place. We met the birth father and his parents, which was a little awkward, probably more so for him. We also plan on maintaining an open adoption, where we keep the paternal birth grandparents updated on Melissa’s life.
Do you have any advice for prospective adopters?
Keith: Put in your maximum effort. Research, ask lots of questions, and participate in as many support groups as possible when preparing to adopt. You will definitely receive what you put in. Once you’ve adopted, try to maintain the routines and mannerisms that exist in the foster home. Familiar smells and tastes will make your child feel welcome and supported in his/her new environment. Finally, remember to enjoy this time, as it is ultimately rewarding.
Tracy: Get ready for an emotional roller coaster, that may never end, and remember, it is well worth the ride.