Looking forward, looking back


Sheryl Salloum
Focus on Adoption Magazine
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As we approach AFABC’s 40th anniversary year, we’re reflecting on four decades of family. We’re also saying “thank you, and see you soon” (not goodbye!) to Sheryl Salloum, our long-time copy editor, who’s on to new adventures both on and off the page. Sheryl has been involved with AFABC since its early days, and has contributed to Focus on Adoption for almost as long.  We’re honored to share her thoughtful reflections with you.

AFABC founders

Time to reflect

With the holidays over and the children settled into the rhythms of the new year, spring is a time for reflection. With some surprise, I realized I’ve been involved with adoption for approximately 35 years. First came our decision to form a family through adoption, followed by many years of waiting, and finally the joyous arrival of our daughter.

At the time (late 1980s), resources on adoption issues were spotty at best. The Internet didn’t exist yet, and research was difficult to source. I remember searching for a children’s book on the topic and could only find one, a publication that had to be ordered from England.

One day in the early 1990s, I excitedly discovered the existence of what was then the Adoptive Parents Association (the name changed to Adoptive Families in 1999). I immediately joined. The staff was small but passionate. Their main means of communication was a newsletter that soon became Focus on Adoption magazine. That publication kept me abreast of significant topics in adoption, and I learned new things each month.

Growing together

As the number of fiction and non-fiction books on adoption-related issues grew, I began to contribute reviews and articles. One of the first was on openness in adoption, which was still a controversial concept at that time. Another AFABC member contacted me; she needed to discuss openness, especially her fears of giving her adopted child information that she thought might negatively affect their relationship. I shared my views and suggested that she contact AFABC for more information and support.

That ability to discuss topics with others, to attend workshops, to source new avenues of information, to hear a friendly and supportive voice, and for parents and children to join groups and participate in events has always been an extraordinary aspect of AFABC.

As our daughter grew, everything we learned from AFABC’s various resources helped our family over the inevitable bumps we hit and guided us when we felt lost or unsure. As AFABC suggested, we instituted an Adoption Day festivity that we still (and always will) celebrate with a special family dinner.

Resources for all seasons

In addition to workshops, webinars, education programs, and Focus on Adoption magazine, AFABC also provides a library of books and DVDs for adults and children. AFABC now facilitates a Speak-Out Youth group and publishes their newsletter annually.

Focus on Adoption now comes out quarterly instead of monthly. Its issues are longer and more in-depth, and its articles are available online as well as in print. AFABC now has a website and a Facebook page and continues to expand its social media presence.

A legacy of love

The association has evolved, and I applaud each new stage. However, AFABC’s main purpose remains the same: helping families form loving, lasting relationships.  AFABC’s founders and their successors challenged and changed perspectives, and helped adoption become open and accepted. For example, single-parent adoption, which was still rare in the early 1990s, is now  common. Multiracial, international, and LBGTQ adoptions are also widely accepted. Support for adopting children with disabilities or health issues has increased. Most recently, AFABC has focused on older children and on Indigenous adoption.

Today, AFABC and its members continue to be hardworking and uncompromisingly committed. They are always learning, always evolving, always challenging, and always dedicated to children and families. The void that existed when my adoption journey began has filled with the voices of parents, extended family members, adoptees, social workers, medical practitioners, ministry officials, and professionals.

I have stepped down from my long role as the proof-reader and copy editor of Focus on Adoption , but I look forward to the ideas and resources I will continue to discover. I’m most grateful for all AFABC has meant for me my family, and I wish all of you a similarly rewarding relationship.

Sheryl Salloum is a freelance writer and the author of three books: The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton, Underlying Vibrations: The Photography and Life of John Vanderpant, and Malcolm Lowry: Vancouver Days.